Archive | November, 2010

Found: Human Transit

13 Nov

Human Transit is a transit planning and policy blog written by Jarrett Walker, a transit planning consultant in Sydney.

Rather than try to explain what’s so cool about HT, I’ll let the author do it:

“Much of my work has been about analyzing public transit problems to separate the technical question from the question about values.”

For all my fascination with transit, I’m not conversant with many of the technical aspects of it because I came by my interest solely through being a user. Reading HT, it’s easy to become more fluent in the language of the gears and levers that make a transit system work (well or badly).

But along with that, HT acknowledges that transit planning decisions aren’t value-neutral. When planners develop routes or schedules, or reduce or eliminate service, it’s an expression of values – values that inevitably won’t align with those of some users. That conflict – between users’ preferences and what planners see as most efficient and cost-effective – is present in every transit system, from the most modest to the most robust.

The writing at HT can feel a touch jargon-y if you’re not used to it, and it’s often not a quick read, but you’ll always come away knowing something that you didn’t before or thinking about something that you did know in a different way.


YAF exhibition at the Central Library: Come for the photos, stay for the furniture

11 Nov

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I returned some library books on time last week, just to see what it was like. As if that wasn’t enough novelty, the exhibition of selected submissions from the Young Architects Forum‘s  “Envisioning Breuer” photography competition was in the first floor exhibit space. It’s been up since Oct. 14, but it runs until Nov. 28.

The Central Library is not an easy building to photograph, but there were a lot of really creative, surprising images there. Also surprising was the Room and Board furniture that’s been moved in, making the exhibition area it more of a “place” than just a space.

The presence of appealing, modern furniture in that space does a couple of things:

  • In addition to a placemaking function, the furniture suggests that the people who chose it care about the kind of experience that the people using it have at the library – not a feeling that’s conveyed in much of the rest of the building.
  • It makes the rest of the library appear even more shoddily furnished than it already does. Continue reading

Imperial, overstretched

10 Nov

The development company that renovated the Imperial Hotel is in pretty dire straights, which could be very bad news for the people living there.

Imperial Hotel - Peachtree at Ivan Allen

According to Monday’s AJC, Progressive Redevelopment Inc. is in default on loans for six properties, the largest of which is the 120-unit apartment building at Peachtree and Ivan Allen. It’s scheduled to be sold at auction in January.

“Most of the money to rehabilitate the Imperial — about $8 million — came from low interest loans, tax credits and grants from Atlanta and the state. About $2 million is still owed to the city and the state, most of which will be lost in foreclosure.”

PRI specialized in developing residential properties for low-income residents and more than 1000 families stand to lose their homes because of the defaults, the AJC said.

“The company, ranked by the state as Georgia’s largest nonprofit developer, built or refurbished 38 projects with 4,000 apartments in 21 years, most in metro Atlanta.

PRI and a few partners owe more than $74 million and PRI is in default on at least 10 loans worth $8 million, including $5 million in government-backed loans.”

PRI already lost financial assistance from the state’s Department of Community Affairs earlier this year. DCA was the developer’s primary funding source.

It’s hard to decide whether to be concerned about the Imperial being sold. Is anyone really just itching to get his hands on a 99-year-old building that would require another renovation and an indeterminate number of years to draw profitable tenants?

It also seems unlikely that neither the state nor the city will step in before the worst happens. Allowing the low-income and formerly homeless residents of that building to be evicted would reflect badly on the state and would do nothing for Atlanta’s reputation as less-than-adept at addressing homelessness.

Finally, the Imperial sits just a block south of the Pine Street shelter, which was foreclosed on more than six months ago. Attorneys for that building’s new owner are still trying to wrestle it away from Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. The city is already defending itself against a lawsuit in which MATFH accused it of helping to orchestrate the foreclosure, so the mayor isn’t likely to want the city to be cast – again – as indifferent toward very poor people by allowing the Imperial’s residents to be put on the street.

But money to keep any of PRI’s properties afloat has to come from somewhere, and the bottom of the city’s and state’s budget barrels might have already been scraped. Measures that were unthinkable just a few years ago have had to be taken in plenty of other instances, so things could definitely go either way.

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