Sunday, December 23, 2007

omigosh, omigosh, omigosh...


What makes me giddy like a teenager?...A photoset of Hugh Ferris's sketches just posted to Flickr by Martin of KSMGRD. That was so damn nice of him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ismael writes...

Photo by Ira Lippke

Ismael emailed me today:



"dear brother i miss u i hope u r. healthy do u get marred i wish u hapyy new year mery xmas i hope to see u soon in jerusalem"



...Ah, habibi, it is always a special Christmas gift to get a note from you.
Here is Ismael's latest poem, strange for its libidinous and acurate depiction of Jerusalem. She is a warm coquette, a promiscuous mistress. She has many lovers...
BRIDE AND MISTRESS OF CITIES...JERUSALEM
Between hills it is vainglorious and by heaven amazement and coquette bride...
Adornment with the stars of heaven.
Blessed by the highest god and ennobled by the prophets.

By her name the birds responding in the morning
And in the evening the doves cooing over its walls
And dozing and the kids dozing between its bosom

My spirit united with your spirit
As the light united with light....no darkness
As the water united with water....no thirst
Death cannot separate us
Nor anyone can kill our love
Bride once more...more fondling and coquettish
Jerusalem city of lights.
By my spirit I soar to you
My feet rushing to your dooors every day
Flying high...far...far...with the breeze
Takes me the smell of incense and perfumes
In the markets...in the yards...and every courtyard.
I ascend the balconies which waves to me by the flags
Of peace...flags of love and rejoice
And promise happiness.

As the spirit carries the seeds of love to you and planted
I carry my spirit and plant its grwoth and blooms
When seen by eyes

With sunrise I kiss every piece of your land
And with evenings full moon I whisper my passionate love.
By your love I am king and you are my queen
And the queen of hearts everywhere....Jerusalem

Full of promise I will stay on your love Jerusalem
Your love is everlasting
When everything is gone everything extinct
Gay bright more and more coquettish
Bride and mistress of cities
City of prophets....city of soaring...city of lights.
Words of Prof. Isamel Obydat
Jerusalem

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What the World Eats

Above is the Ahmed family of Cairo (food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53; family recipe: Okra and mutton), which is definitely my favorite of the bunch. It looks similar to the kind of fare I could get in the market in Jerusalem's Old City, where I onced survived on $25.00/week...God, I miss that food. The vegetables, btw, are tasty in a way typical American produce is not - one of the things I actually miss the most about life in the M.E.!



Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp

Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm in a home improvement mood



Well...Back to banalities. So I walked into my still vacant living room today and thought...'Man, it's time to finally do something about this space!' First thing's first...color scheme, color scheme. My living room is not conducive to much inspiration, I'm afraid. For one, it is extremely narrow. I won't have much room for furniture (which is good in my book). For another thing, it's got a really funky, crenellated plan, which I have no idea how to pull together.


I'm thinking a bold stripe might solve the wall problem. Right now I got two options for wall color scheme, one kinda perky and bold, one more neutral:




That stripe kinda does help, but I'm not satisfied somehow. Maybe I really have to start with decor and furniture first...but man what do you do with that corner? Maybe I need to emphasize that corner in a creative way, instead of trying to soften/hide it...Any of you design stars out there have any ideas?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent Reflection


Last night, a friend of mine querried me about the meaning of some of the parables of the Kingdom, which Christ used to describe how one should approach the kingdom in an all-embracing way. The treasure hidden in the field is one example...Calling us to waste no time to get off our current life-mill to "invite the will" of God in our lives. Sadly, I cannot use the word "Torah" with my Christian friends, the Law being a enormously loaded term (a stumbling block to the gentiles?), but it was curious to me how I noticed how central Torah is to Jesus' message and how unavoidable it is to comprehension of the Kingdom Parables. I'm used to using cicumlocutions for "Torah" with Christians, but here my words faltered. Confronted with the Kingdom Parables of Jesus, at last, Torah (as the enterprise of the Jews) simply cannot be hidden, redressed or decorated.


Pondering the message of hope and light this advent, part of me is getting sick of the games of circumlocution in my church. Part of me wants to finally lay down the dark riddle to finally stammer to all my Christian friends that being born-again means being alive to the Torah of God...But I'm already averting my face from their blank stares. Curious this...Christian theology. I sadly can't avoid seeing a twinge of truth all throughout Harold Bloom's Jesus and Yahweh remarking of this irony of ironies. Myself a "Jesus Quester" (as Bloom calls me), I take great exceptions to most of what he says though I cannot remember reading a book with so much truth on the subject. I cannot help but to see his point that Christianity has so completely conquered, it has conquered Jesus. I must say I envy Bloom's Jewish childhood, and cannot but be jealous of his first exposure to Jesus in Yiddish (as a child, Bloom read a copy of the New Testament in Yiddish, which a missionary left on his doorstep). For the immediacy of Jesus' message is not averted in the language of Judaism, in Bloom's case provided via the Yiddish armature. It is only in that Synagoguic reality where Jesus demonstrates his naked genius. Indeed, Bloom writes,



"Father John P. Meier, the author of three magisterial volumes under the somewhat misleading tile A Marginal Jew (with a much-needed fourth volume to come), accurately terms Jesus 'a Jewish genius.' One can go further: Jesus was the greatest of Jewish geniuses. It is as though the Yahwist or J Writer somehow was fused with King David, with the Prophets from Amos through Malachi, with the Wisdom authors of Job and Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), with the sages from Hillel through Akiba, and with the long sequence that goes from Maimonides through Spinoza on to Freud and Kafka. Jesus is the Jewish Socrates, and surpasses Plato's mentor as the supreme master of dark wisdom."



Ah...how different our worlds are, Harold Bloom. Though you trust no covenant, belated or otherwise, in the darkness where you beat your chest I bask in its light.




Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Less Couldn't Be More




No words necessary...

Kosmograd worries that the act of building architecture is increasingly going to seem like a redundant step.

And now...The World's "BEST" Urban Spaces


bus stop, originally uploaded by kjpm.

In response to the World's Worst Urban Places and Spaces Pool on Flickr, someone has started the World's Best Urban Places and Spaces Pool.

Is it just me, or do I think some of the images on both of these pools could belong just as well to the other? This is a perfect visual commentary on why one can't really be sure what makes the 'best' or 'worst' of an urban anything. Urban is urban and it is disturbing or exciting depending on the time of day, your mood, your frame of reference.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Impoverishments of Nationalism


Vukovar III., originally uploaded by GolemG.


"The trouble with this nationhood, however, is that whereas before, I was defined by my education, my job, my ideas, my character - and, yes, my nationality too - now I feel stripped of all that. I am nobody because I am not a person any more. I am one of 4.5 million Croats."

-Slavenka Drakulić
(commenting on her experience of Croatian Nationalism during the Yugoslav wars)

poetry time


quiet, originally uploaded by ali bishop.

WEIGHTLESS AND BODILESS

Some faces we dismiss lightly, colour by colour we peel away
the stretch of pain within the eye, wearied by dousing.
We do not see the eyes of those slowly leaving,
we will not recall that they had eaten,
what they spoke of to themselves.
We ended all the tales without them.
We shall gather deep voices, waning to silence,
for those remaining, see them home,
to a neglect more sensuous.
The whole space we shall draw behind us
to weightless bodiless words, words
made rich by the first of their meanings.
In them all our abandoned landscapes grow dark and ripen,
all those beautiful properties sloping towards travellers, shadows and distances.
Now, right now, all we can do is rise and move away.
Lacking the strength to forget, even one more time.

Marijana Radmilović

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Mentally Sunny Day


21, originally uploaded by jamie mckerral.

It is overcast outside, but I'm enjoying a mentally sunny day. Which means I'm deep in thought pondering the fate of all humanity...Seriously, that is what gets me really going in the morning.

Over at BLDGBlog, a thoughtful post contemplates Server Rooms and the Future of Humanism...Seriously, they are threatening our existance (and we're not talking just mentally)!

Over at Matthew's House Project there is an interview with film writer/critic Doug Cummings on the re-release of Blade Runner...one of my all time faves. Just the kind of tasty tart in the morning to get all my apocalyptic synapses firing. In my opinion Blade Runner and ET were the last films to understand what Sci-Fi was about, prodding the depths of the human empathy bug in mankind's encounter with the Other.

But Cummings makes a more down to earth point on the difference between Blade Runner and contemporary sci-fi:

"The one thing I really noticed was what a historical last gasp Blade Runner was for pre-digital cinema. Pretty much everything in the film is either live action or props or models, and it just sort of resounds with an overwhelming physicality that’s missing from so many contemporary films that depend so heavily on digital effects. I don’t know…you watch today’s films…a lot of them have this sort of ethereal, weightless, artificiality to them, because everything is so digital..."


I couldn't agree more.

These two posts beg the question: If our history is now digital...Does that mean that it is becoming weightless? ...hmmm...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How Drivable is Your City?


Day 7: Mad Bus Driver, originally uploaded by arthur's design.

I saw this post at Sprawled Out and couldn't help having a great chuckle to start my morning.

You smart growth people need to lighten up...It was funny, ok?

Sheez....This is why I call myself a 'camp urbanist' - unlike the CNU folks, camp urbanists appreciate a sense of humor. (That and there's Plaza Central - an environment no New Urbanist could dream up).

Monday, December 3, 2007

World's Worst Urban Spaces


worst_urban_places_asb_21, originally uploaded by andreasbaeing.

Digital Urban has organized the World's Worst Urban Places and Spaces Pool on Flickr. Above is the first example uploaded showing a scene from Manchester, UK...

Looking through this photo set, I can't help but to ask myself, So, what is it about these places that I find so alluring...in fact, beautiful? Is it my love affair with failed modernist housing projects?

I doubt it. In our era of revivalization aesthetics, we only see the hope these places represent. A speculator sees artist lofts and dollar signs. An urban designer already begins composing 'Before/After' images in his mind. Interestingly, we are sublimating the primitive idealism of the original designers of these worlds in the push toward revitalizing the core...This is the new hope for the postmodern (modern nostalgic) designer: we are able to peer at the morose carcasses of yesterday's failures to recast entire cities as regenerated, glittering, Bobo New Jerusalems in the post-apocalyptic world.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Issa to Save Buffalo


Old HERTZ Car Rental, originally uploaded by KGM.

As many of us with offices inhabited by recent transplants from NY know, part of Charlotte's success has been predicated on the continuing demise of Buffalo, NY. Well, an Iraqi developer is hoping to change things around! Check it out: Buffalo's Field of Dreams.

If I were an investor I'd definitely be exploring every nook and cranny of Buffalo...Not because I believe the tide is about to change (I don't think a skyscraper will do the trick), but because I actually do believe in the power of place and the long vision of a community with staying power. It's an opportunity to get in the door in the kind of cool places that are out of reach in most cities.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's the Lifestyle Options, Silly

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal Voting with Our Feet Editorial featured Joel Kotkin's article "The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities: It's lifestyle, not lattés, that our most productive workers want".

Kotkin writes on the efforts of cities to lure young urban single professionals with lifestyle options (not just night life). Can you imagine, stodgy Charlotte, which still has never had a true 18-hour environment (except maybe for Plaza-Central...but that is counting mainly the Common Market) has made the posterchild list of successful cities! Maybe 18 hours are way overrated...what counts is affordability and a future with a bright forecast.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Urbanophobia

North Americans are deeply conflicted about urban politics. David Olive recently penned a brief article on the strident anti-urbanism of Canadian politics: A brief history of urbanophobia.


I blogged about this American tendency about a year ago, in a seemingly unrelated matter, the "DaVinci Code" mysticism we saw surface in pop-culture about five years ago - a phenomenon which I related to (9/11 inspired) romantic obsession with all things inherently Western, or "Metaphysical Westernism". But there is a good back-bone reason why we are anti-urban. North Americans shall always gaze suspiciously at the "system", or the even more feckless "man", the well-oiled cog in the system. Bureaucracies and gang cultures teem in the cities, and cities, to Americans, are beasts that belch shadowy systems that threaten our personal interest and control. The metaphysical romanticism of Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Thoreau is much better suited to our personal idealism regarding our rights and domain: we need to fence out the maddening world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

ALL ABOARD!!

Charlotte is now all-aboard on the light rail. Check out what today's Observer reports of yesterday's first public impressions:




It looks like NOW we're worried about not having done enough for the South Corridor! Some of the comments overheard: "Do we have enough vehicles? Is there really going to be enough parking at the Park-n-Rides?" And all across the city people are asking, "So, when is the light rail coming our way?" Even people at Reedy Creek are looking enviously at the South Corridor!


Well, well, well.....Am I Hearing "Fast track the Light Rail, Charlotte!"? :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day!


Buy Nothing Day., originally uploaded by C-Monster.

Austin Williams, whom I can best describe as an admiringly subcultural, urbanist crank (who also happens to be Christian), pretty much sums up what I also think on the matter of "Black Friday". I had the privilige of spending time with Austin in NYC during a screening of What Would Jesus Buy? I encourage everyone to go see the film...and rescue some long-in-coming serenity for yourself this holiday season.

You will thank me for it.

This is how I'm spending Dark Friday: I'm driving my pickup aimlessly around my city's suburban malls gawking at the mayhem, not parking at all mind you...just doing drive-by finger-flipping at every Sam's Club and Macy's I see. I'm really, really taking my time in traffic, enjoying the radio, enjoying the sights. I really love it when I slow down enough to see the veins popping out of the head of the guy honking behind me. It is fun sardonically strategizing how to manuever my pickup through intersections so that I become the jerk who nudges into the tail of a lane backup, not really caring if I stall dead center in the intersection. The funny thing about jerks is that, no kidding, we actually LOVE being pain in the asses.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why The Northeast Corridor Should Hug North Tryon - Not North Davidson


View towards Uptown over the Intermodal Yards

The Belmont-NoDa (North Davidson area) directly adjacent to the intermodal yards northeast of Uptown is an area currently experiencing rampant infill/brownfield redevelopment (and gentrification in the single-family neighborhoods). As such, CATS's strategy to plan the NE Corridor Light Rail alignment along this area might seem to make much sense at first. However, from a development standpoint, the area where I see the most development potential is on the other side of the railroad switchyard/intermodal facility along North Tryon Street. From the precedent of the South Corridor, ideal scenerios for T.O.D. (transit oriented development) spring from the availability of large, tasty brownfield morsels for developers to assemble, convert and develop easily...and this is exactly the land use fabric that lies along North Tryon Street. I have made a map diagramming the development patterns I'm observing in the city (click on the map below):




Notice all the heavy development (depicted in the map in orange) currently taking place along the South Corridor, which is opening for Light Rail service this week. Notice also that the area of Belmont/Optimist Park to NoDa in the northeast is also experiencing high development activity. Since development is already occuring along the NE Corridor on this side of the tracks, how much sense does it make to reinforce infill development (which will pretty quickly saturate from what I'm observing) with light rail service, while all the brownfield redevelopment potential lies on the North/West side of the tracks (see image below) and could probably use the generative development capacity of the light rail? It seems to me that the NE Corridor alignment needs to get over to North Tryon Street as soon as possible heading north from the 277 loop. This would open up all of North Tryon Street north of the loop for TOD/brownfield & commercial redevelopment.

(Photo: Neighboring Concepts)


If it isn't feasible to get the light rail alignment over to North Tryon before the Intermodal/Switchyard facility, then the next best option is to use the existing 30th Street/Matheson bridge (see image below) to get the light rail over the tracks and on to N. Tryon (of course, you will have to put a signal on the bridge to allow the vehicles to cross the traffic lanes). This would create ideal TOD potential on either side of Little Sugar Creek north of the bridge. I actually see a potential to land on either side of the creek, depending on development scenarios (option one - land on the west side of the creek to get more directly to N. Tryon; option two - passing closer to NoDa by landing on the east side of the creek, heading thence to 36th street and from there on to N. Tryon). Notice that there is already a flyover being proposed for getting the alignment over to N. Tryon across Sugar Creek Road, so this would immediately remove that issue. Utilizing the existing 30th Street bridge could potentially save CATS headaches up the line and tons of money, while at the same time enhancing the redevelopment capacity of North Tryon! The TOD site might also help contribute to the greenway trail expansion along the Little Sugar Creek greenway, a huge plus for the Carolina Thread Trail effort.


Image of the 30th Street Flyover Proposal, Looking North

(photo: Neighboring Concepts)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Our Future...Here We Go!!



The excellent, full-spread cover article in today's Observer has me absolutely giddy with excitement as we near next Saturday's inauguration of our light rail system here in Charlotte.
Checkout the interactive guide, the graphic describing the design components, and the video.
Can I just say that our (Neighboring Concepts) stations are looking really smart now that all the finishes are complete?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Touching the Earth Like a Leaf


Image by WhiteDesign


Our office is attempting an exciting new project: Our own office! Architects designing their own spaces are always fun commissions. Today at lunch we discussed our beginning ideas for the sustainable design to be built on a tight site located adjacent to the floodplain along Stewart Creek in the Belvedere Business Park on Rozzelles Ferry. The generative component of our design will be the leaves of trees. Above is an example I found of a building designed by WhiteDesign in the UK that touches the ground as lightly as a leaf.

I discussed using the capillary action induced by the transpiration of leaves as a concept we could carry into the building's solutions for the movement of air (and heated water?) through our building...Can we perhaps come up with an innovative structural/material analogue?
Here are some potential images for inspiration:
What can leaves do?
Of course, shade and refract light, much like these screens (we discussed the elegant veining structure of many leaves in the images we saw at lunch today):


Image also by WhiteDesign


What can leaves do?

Roast Quails (envelop and retain moisture even in the face of drastic changes of temperature):



More later! This shall have to be series for this blog...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh Gaza!


I'm actually seriously considering getting into development in areas of conflict as a result of this article. If shit can be inspiring, Sharona says, that's a good sign that providence is at work . ')

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Congratulations Tam!










This Tuesday, my friend and intrepid travel companion Tamara Park finished writing a travelouge of our zany backpacking "Sacred Bench Pilgrimage" from Rome to Jerusalem with Krista Sederwall...to be published (next year?) by IVP. Congrads Tam for not just hanging in there that last excruciating stretch trying to wrap up the last chapters but for keeping it together with your quirky and insightful thoughts throughout. A true pilgrimage, truly, never stops teaching you. I'm glad that I kept renewing my learning and appreciation for our shared experiences in life through your thoughts as I read your drafts.
Sorry if I added stress with my wordy prooftexts/teaching sections but I too have a lot to learn from you careful insistence to strike straight to the hearts of your audience...I truly appreciate your gaze and talents. Enjoy your hardearned rest and take a moment now to revel in and breathe in deeply the clear air of accomplishment!




Friday, November 9, 2007

India: Don't follow us, leapfrog us!


Thomas Friedman's excellent clarion call for mass transit. He argues convincingly for mass transit in India but I think there is a prophetic lesson here for the US:




Recently the Greenlands Flyover in Hyderabad opened to traffic to relieve some of Hyderabad's congestion. The summary result? Total gridlock at the bridge. Friedman writes,


"So what should India do? It should leapfrog us, not copy us. Just as India went from no phones to 250 million cellphones — skipping costly land lines and ending up with, in many ways, a better and cheaper phone system than we have — it should try the same with mass transit...The cost of your cellphone is a lot cheaper today because India took that little Western invention and innovated around it so it is now affordable to Indians who make only $2 a day. India has become a giant platform for inventing cheap scale solutions to big problems. If it applied itself to green mass transit solutions for countries with exploding middle classes, it would be a gift for itself and the world.


"To do that it must leapfrog. If India just innovates in cheap cars alone, its future will be gridlocked and polluted. But an India that makes itself the leader in both cheap cars and clean mass mobility is an India that will be healthier and wealthier. It will also be an India that gives us cheap answers to big problems — rather than cheap copies of our worst habits."


...Very apt and well put. A great analogy for how the developing world can excel in technological and industrial innovation (and teach the US something in the process).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Why I am happy we are nearing $100 per barrel

Terry Prather/The Ledger-Independent, via AP

Some people see an economic slump...I see a fruitful ground for opportunity. Americans finally beginning to seriously consider finding reliable and sustainable transportation options...And why not be a stylish, fleet-footed, bucking rebel while you are at it like David Davenport in Maysville Kentucky above? Seriously, think of the possibilities for new (and ancient) forms of public conveyance/expression. ')

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wow Charlotte!


Now thats a WORLD CLASS City!
Huurah Charlotte! I love living in a city with VISION.

With a margin of 70% against the repeal, transit supporters got a royal vindication last night in Charlotte. My advice to the "grass roots" anti-transit nutcases: scat your skulky asses out of Charlotte and stay the heck in Raleigh and wherever else you really are from. With a voter turnout in favor of the repeal (38,000) drawing 10,000 people less than the petition signatures (48,000) you collected to get the referendum on the ballot, this tells us just how "grass-roots" your underhanded petition drive was. But, heck, stay around if you like...Let the results of Charlotteans forward thinking and positivity blow you away. Who cares really what you do from now on. Charlotte is irreversibly joining the ranks of high-spirited cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Dallas 100% sold on light rail.
Even we pro-transit folks are stunned by this margin. Very impressed with my Wilmore friends(precint 22) showing up with 90% plus margin!
Vision Plans, CATS! Where are the vision plans!?

Ron Tober said it best this morning: planners have learned how crucial the tool of communication (and communicating a VISION) from this ordeal...Of course, get that light rail up running this month Ron. The REALITY is the best vision of all. ')

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Get out there and VOTE people!!!

We need more of these!!!

"This is the city and I am one of the citizens, Whatever interests the rest interests me." W. Whitman


If you care anything about the direction of transit and our quality of life vote AGAINST the repeal of the half-cent transit tax. (Unless, of course, you want to be the kind of jerk who wants to take away yet another source of transportation funding out of our city of 35 newcomers every day!)

My Endorsements:

Beverly Earle for mayor: She has a vision for neighborhood revitalization, is pro-transit and will get the things done that need to get done for that vision...not veto them like our current mayor!

School Board:

Trent Merchant
Liz Downing
Joe White

At-Large:

Susan Burgess
Anthony Foxx
Edwin Peacock (I'm impressed with his vision for transit)
Jack Flynn


Vote for all of the Bonds!! Quality of Life, people. Capital investments to support our (smart) growth and economy! If we don't get land bonds passed we may lose our prime natural areas to development and degrade thus not just our local beauty but our drinking water sources...We need to develop with urban infill and urbanism. And that's why I'm here and what will keep me here! ')






Saturday, November 3, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?



photos by Fred Askew



I didn't think I would live to see the day when Camp and Activism (as I like to call it, the "Avant-Camp") would come to Christianity.


Finally!!!


Check it out yaw:




Join the Movement! ... Check out the link to how to stage your own 'retail intervention'.




Among the things matthews house project list as things you can do:


• Incorporate Advent into your preparation for Christmas day.


• Consider not buying gifts this year for Christmas, and, instead, spend time in preparation - in advent - for the coming of Messiah.

• Spend time reading the Scriptures or working in a local charity during the time you would have shopped.

• Search out a better place to permanently buy your clothes and other goods:
Ten Thousand Villages
A Greater Gift
Global Exchange
Co-Op America










Thursday, November 1, 2007

Saving Land


Panorama from Catamount Mountain, originally uploaded by retropc.

Very interesting post over at BLDGBLOG over the Nature Conservancy recent purchase of prime wilderness in the Adirondacks.

I just finished a plan at Huntersville, the Beatties Ford Road Corridor Small Area Plan, to try to mobilize public and land conservancy efforts here to save our prime natural areas in the Mt. Island Lake watersheds. One of the things we did was identify all the threatened properties.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hood Improvements II: the Saga of Raw Sewage, Copperheads and Neighborhood Vigilantes Begins




Above is my result from combing the community gardens of Charlotte for inspiration for this garden proposal in the Duke powerline right of way in Enderly Park.

Enderly Park, incidentally, is adjacent to my neighborhood, Camp Greene, and my house actually backs up to this same right of way.

Last night the City and we the consultants presented the Enderly Park Neighborhood Improvement Project concepts to the Enderly Park neighborhood. About 14 or so people showed up...not as much as last time, but some colorful neighborhood busybodies made the night memorable.


Among the very interesting new tidbits of info I gleaned about my sister hood from a cantankerous local:


1) Enderly Park has more than one raw sewage problem area. Aside from ageing infrastructure (which we are partly replacing), part of the reason for this is that some of the houses are actually built on top of the old Camp Greene landfill from Camp Greene's WWI Army Base days, creating unstable soil conditions and leading to collapsed pipes. (Interestingly, the POW barracks that held German POW's was located across the street from the dump).


2) The copperhead infestation on Maury St. between Enderly and Coker Ave. (Enderly Park speculators make a mental note). Apparently, they can be found in a drainage swale in the interior of the upper block by the dozens. Of course, everybody suspects the root cause of the infestation is the man who lives about two doors down from the problem site who keeps a about similar number of pet rattlesnakes (he milks their venom). Kind of a case of association by viper.


3) Why is the park of Enderly Park so desolate? For a neighborhood where, well, lets just say pretty much every other spot is a loiterer's delight, you'd think the park would be worn-down pedestrian staple. I thought it was the hornets in the grassland of the Duke right of way (I encountered them trying to unsuccessfully photograph that end of Coker one day)...but it turns out the lady with all the cats at the end of Coker, whose house overlooks the isolated end of the park, actually has a reputation for scaring loiterers away by shooting at them!


He, he...a day in the life of hood-improving (if I tried, could I make any this up?). =D

Monday, October 29, 2007

Drive By Shooting


I spent yesterday morning driving around the neighborhoods of Charlotte visiting every community garden I could find. In the process, I finally drove through some neighborhoods I've always passed by (in auto or running). Charlotte truly has some splendid and idyllic neighborhoods. Above is a church I slammed my breaks at on my way back from the Midwood Park Community Garden. This is at Kilgo Methodist Church on Belvedere Ave, and who'd a thought a "pumpkin patch" existed here?

Funny how much is so near around us, and yet beyond our radar...I lived a year and a half in the Plaza-Midwood area and never was aware these majestic churches were tucked in the neighborhood! I'll make sure I vary my running routes from now on.

Meejin Yoon's Project (MIT prof) on BLDGBLOG


BLDGBLOG noted Meejin's Olympic installation White Noise / White Light today. Fun, fun...I remember my classmates went to Athens to help her out with the installation.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fare Free and Care Free


Whidby Island, WA, originally uploaded by islandlifer.

John Grooms has written the lucid article in Creative Loafing we've all been needed to read about the effort to repeal the transit tax here in Charlotte:

Needed: A Transit Tax 'Surge'

I heartily agree that the thing the pro-transit folk have been needed to say all along - instead of "fighting rear-guard battles" with the skulky and brainless "No More Trains" people - is to preach the vision for transit, and, preach it more brazenly brothas and sistas...Why stop at a measly half-cent, by God? Why not have the balls and vision to even go as far as suggesting we can make it a fare-free system (such as the fare free transit zone on Whidby Island - ingenious for eco-friendliness as well as tourism and economic generation, btw).

Thank you John Grooms!

Relaxing


Relaxing, originally uploaded by SKB1963.

Today is the first day of autumn in Charlotte, as far as I am concerned. Of course, it makes me wistful...for the hours of sunlight we're losing. In a way, this concentrates my gaze on the end of December when we will reverse the course towards darkness.

I love pulling out my jacket out of the closet and feeling the pockets, looking for evidence when I last wore it. I pulled out a sheet of notes from the Wild at Heart conference in the 8,000 foot heights of the Rockies , when I trekked to the environs of Denver (what a greenway system they have there, btw!). It was not that long ago after all in August...Brings back the memory of pines and clear air, which we are fortunate to have in Charlotte today after our three days of rain (thank you Abba). I suspect we'll have a perfect afternoon for sunning ourselves in the cafe terraces.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Twittering while California Burns"


IMG_2761, originally uploaded by jrzedevl.

The power of social networking in times of disaster:

Twittering While California Burns

Hood Improvements

Images by Neighboring Concepts

Enderly Park (in West Charlotte) gets a facelift. Slides from the Enderly Park NIP proposal: linear park with a community garden, interconnected sidewalk system, road resurfacing, and extensive storm sewer improvements. Simple things really count!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dinosaur Bridge


Dinosaur Bridge, originally uploaded by sftrajan.

Abba...thank you for the week and sustaining me through three straight weeks of public forums. Bless the Comprehensive Park and Recreation Master Plan recommendations and bless Mecklenburg County's recreational spaces. May we draw inspiration from projects such as these.

Bless this blog Abba.