August 17, 2012

Great reason to green up vacant lots

Residents feel safer when living near a vacant lot that's been "greened," instead of glass-strewn dirt or concrete, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. And, reported crimes around such greened lots may be reduced.

Another sign that making an appealing streetscape isn't a frill; it's essential for quality of life.

June 6, 2012

People pay more for walkable communities

"Today, the most valuable real estate lies in walkable urban locations," according to this analysis in the New York Times. Values for commercial and residential real estate in the Washington, D.C. metro area

"increase as neighborhoods became more walkable, where everyday needs, including working, can be met by walking, transit or biking. There is a five-step “ladder” of walkability, from least to most walkable. On average, each step up the walkability ladder adds $9 per square foot to annual office rents, $7 per square foot to retail rents, more than $300 per month to apartment rents and nearly $82 per square foot to home values."

And this likely applies elsewhere, with examples such as Seattle, where a downtown neighborhood once priced the same as suburban Redmond is now valued almost 50% higher.

Those claiming to be free-market supporters of suburban sprawl argued against smart-growth zoning because they said Americans didn't want it. What's the argument now?

April 1, 2012

Framingham Planning Board: Stephanie Mercandetti

We've got an open seat on the Framingham Planning Board with two write-in candidates mounting serious campaigns. I'm supporting Stephanie Mercandetti. If you live in Framingham and care about creating a more livable community, I hope you'll write in Stephanie Mercandetti in this Tuesday's Framingham town election, too.

Stephanie says she supports the "Complete Streets" model of community planning. This takes a full view of design -- making sure people can move safely whether by motor vehicle, walking or bicycling. This type of planning would, say, look at a retail center and see if there's a way to design a streetscape that would encourage walking between, say, Shoppers World and the movie theater as well as making sure there is adequate traffic flow and parking, instead of designing a center where most people get in their cars and drive less than a quarter of a mile because it feels too dangerous to try to cross the streets.

She is former local affairs director for state Sen. Dave Magnani and is now economic development and grants officer for the Town of Walpole. "She favors better planning, a team approach to economic development, and a permitting process that is timely and transparent," noted the MetroWest Daily News in endorsing her.

Framingham would be well served to have another knowledgeable planning professional on the Board in Stephanie Mercandetti.