Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ecocities Chapter 10 and weekend observations of the Commons and surrounding area


In this chapter of Ecocities Register suggests different tools for reshaping cities, some of which have existed for a long time, and some of which are already being used effectively but should be used more widely. He also suggests that completely new tools need to be created to “fill out a whole new tool box for ecocities.” The suggested tools are as follows:

Mapping of Ecocities. Register acknowledges that it is difficult to gather support for ecocity zoning, but suggests the construction of maps that are “centers-oriented” which is thought through publicly. These maps are overlay “shadow zoning maps,” as they do not represent the actual zoning of a city; “they start from what actually exists and therefore are partially implemented already.”

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). This is a real estate transaction tool that makes it possible to buy and transfer the rights to develop from one piece of property to another. Double TDRs remove structures at a “sending site” as a condition of the developer being able to build more elsewhere at the “receiving site.” Register suggests that restoration taxes would help to encourage the transfers that open up nature. A revolving fund would be helpful for “rolling back sprawl” through Double TDR, as it would be used to buy land and sell development rights that can be shifted to other parts of town.

The Ecological General Plan. A master or general plan is one of the most important instruments in shaping cities; it is made up of different elements and is a framework for public decision-making… “any ecocity General Plan worthy the name would have to adopt an ecocity zoning map; a very major step would be the establishment of an Office of Ecological Development.”

Register also suggests tools for rolling back sprawl and the foundation of an International Ecological Rebuilding Program. There is also the recommendation for having ecocity organizations that do not focus on one particular problem as many organizations do, but that examines the “truth about the relationship of the physical community to ecology and evolution.”


This weekend I spent several hours walking around the Commons during the Apple Festival and the surrounding area. After walking through the Commons I continued down W. State Street, onto N. Geneva Street, onto East Buffalo, and finishing in Dewitt Park across from Greenstar Cooperative Market.

One major asset of the Commons is the fact that it is a commercial pedestrian plaza which is conducive to business growth. It appears as though it may be mixed-use, with residences above the restaurants and shops. It is clear from being on the Commons for five minutes that it is a place which encourages sustainability, with compost bins alongside trash containers (I'm not sure if these were always here, or were just placed here for the festival). It has a very family-oriented cultural atmosphere, with children running and dancing around musicians/street performer without the threat of automobiles and abundant plant life. I was particularly interested in the fact that there are small "malls" and movie theaters tucked into/under large buildings and they are not obvious to a passer-by.

Once you walk onto W. State Street and N. Geneva though, businesses becomes less dense and metered parking calls to cars. West State Street appears to be a promising extension of the Commons, sans cars and more densely populated with businesses and housing. Although cars would not be allowed in this area, one car parking space could be given up to five bikes, a seemingly popular mode of transportation in the area. It should also be noted that in the Commons (on a regular weekend) businesses and restaurants are bustling with pedestrians, and they are not as much so on W. State Street (auto-centered).

Continuing onto Dewitt Park, the streets north of the Commons are mainly residential. The park itself was full of people gathering to relax and socialize, probably due to its proximity to the Commons. The park has potential to have more natural elements; right now the center of the park is a war memorial. Not to say this is not important, but the addition of maybe a garden or fountain might attract even more people, especially if some of the surrounding homes were converted to multi-family/low-income housing.

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