U R B A N I N T E L L I G E N C E
Once considered a radical development in urban design, shopping malls are falling into disrepair across the US. Callum Glennen talks to Bob Gibbs as he investigates their rise, their fall, and what the future holds for American retail.
Only a few years ago, cities were declaring their downtowns dead, victims of regional shopping malls, online retailers and suburban sprawl. But some urban shopping districts have come back big time. “They have what I call the X-Factor of Urbanism. Very cool, historic and filled with interesting shops and restaurants, surrounded with walkable neighborhoods,” says Robert Gibbs, an urban planner who has worked with 300 cities and teaches at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. He says vacationers spend more time shopping than on any other vacation activity, making these neighborhoods natural for travelers. He shares some favorite downtown districts with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
Twenty-five years ago, Robert Gibbs spoke at the First Congress of New Urbanism, a landmark event that helped solidify principles of "new urbanist" communities, such as conventional street layouts, a mixture of uses, walkable neighborhoods and traditional architecture.
Since then, dozens of such communities have been completed, including well-known examples Seaside, Florida, and Kentlands, Maryland. Dozens more are on the drawing board, among them Evans Farm, a 1,400-acre development planned in Delaware County's Orange and Berlin townships.
Despite the successes of the movement, Gibbs continues to find the new urbanist ship hard to steer. Read more...
Maurice Cox, Planning Director for the City of Detroit, is an urban designer, architectural educator and former mayor of the City of Charlottesville, VA. He most recently served as Associate Dean for Community Engagement at Tulane University, School of Architecture and Director of the Tulane City Center, a university-affiliated practice operating at the intersection of design, urban research and civic engagement throughout the New Orleans community.
Cox has taught at Syracuse University, the University of Virginia and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. His experience merging architecture, politics and design education led to his being named one of “20 Masters of Design” in 2004 by Fast Company Business Magazine. He served as Design Director of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2007-2010 where he led the NEA’s Your Town Rural Institute, the Governor’s Institute on Community Design, the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, and oversaw direct design grants to the design community across the U.S. In 2013, Cox was named one of the Most Admired Design Educators in America in the annual ranking of Design Intelligence.
The City of Troy's city council and planning commission have come to a consensus on a master plan for the area that involves the development of what Robert Gibbs, the urban planner and landscape architect on the project, likened to Troy's version of downtown Birmingham, fresh out of the City Beautiful planning movement of the 1920s that built downtowns around civic buildings. "The overall goal is to give Troy a downtown that they never had," Gibbs said. Read more...
Public Square editor Robert Steuteville interviewed planner and landscape architect Robert Gibbs, author of Principles of Urban Retail Planning and Development, and architect and urban designer Seth Harry, expert on sustainable commerce, on the challenges of mixed-use urban centers. Read here...