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Strong Towns, Street Plans and Stroads

The third Installment of Next American City’s liveblog of the 20th Congress for the New Urbanism takes a look at two organizations seeking to improve the fabric of urban life.

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The 20th Congress for the New Urbanism is now unfolding in West Palm Beach, Fla. With the help of three writers — Kristen Jeffers of The Black Urbanist, and Tony Garcia and Craig Chester of Transit Miami — Next American City will provide regular coverage of the Congress on our Daily blog.

Within the Congress for the New Urbanism, there’s a platform for participants of diverse backgrounds to present ideas, interact, debate and explore innovative ways to improve our built and natural environment. With speakers from groups such as Strong Towns and The Street Plans Collaborative, NextGen (short for “The Next Generation of New Urbanists”) was featured Wednesday at CNU 20.

Chuck Marohn, executive director of Strong Towns, introduced his non-profit as based around challenging the development patterns of post-war America and calling for a shift to growth models that allow for towns to become financially resilient.

One highlight from Marohn’s discussion was a pervasive feature on the American landscape that he termed the “stroad.” With its auto-centric design and drive-in commerce, a “stroad” tries to function as both a street and a road. Marohn described stroads as the “futon of transportation options” because they try to do too many things — accommodating businesses and moving cars, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users — while doing none of them particularly well.

Mike Lydon, principal of The Street Plans Collaborative, shared his organization’s project called “Tactical Urbanism,” which aims to spread ideas to improve the urban environment at a block-by-block scale though cheap, easy and often temporary projects. Some tactical urbanism projects have been deployed in cities across the country, including guerilla gardening, pop-up parks like the recent Bayfront Parkway in Miami, and “chairbombing,” or the act of making chairs out of found materials and putting them in a public space.

In short, tactical urbanism interventions use the city as a laboratory for experimentation. Via low-cost methods for urban improvement, it gets high-value returns for a community and fosters social connections. For more, the latest publication from Street Plans is available for free download.

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Tags: public transportationbuilt environmentcomplete streetstactical urbanismcommunity gardens

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