G-20′s Impacts on a City

 

Well, as the G-20 summit descends upon my current home of Toronto and protests and chaos begin, I wondered  if there are any long term effects on a host city for the G-20.  Typically, an enormous amount of money is spent on such an event and the current price tag for the G-20 summit and the G-8 summit combined (the 2010 G-8 summit is taking place 3 or so hours north of Toronto) is a whopping $1 billion.  One would think that with such an enormous price tag, there would be some kind of long term impacts.I took a look at the Wikipedia entry for the Pittsburgh 2009 summit.  Interestingly, the city was chosen due to it’s economic recovery from it’s depressing post-manufacturing days.  And while the Direct Energy Business greened the city

’s electrical usage during the two days of the summit, there was no information pertaining to the long term effects on the city.
However, one has to believe that such a massive event must have an effect on the future efficiency and effectiveness of the city’s police department for if it can handle something  as chaotic as the protests for the G-20, surely the police force must be better equipped for any possible future protests.  So as Toronto becomes a zoo of protesters over the next couple of days, I hope that the economic and social costs of such an event are outweighed by the future benefits.

What to do with the Seattle Center?

Photo couresty of Flickr user Being Micheal

 

The Seattle Center is, for many, the heart and soul of Seattle.  It is also a major draw for tourists to the city.  Yet, shockingly, the center will reach it’s 50th birthday in 2012.  Since it’s beginning as the grounds for the worlds fair back in 1962, the Seattle Center has always been a mixed use development with attractions, museums, shops and open green space.  Recently,  the old school amusement park, Fun Forest, has vacated the Center leaving a large parcel left for possible new development.  Unfortunately, since then everything has been a bit of a mess.

Firstly, a museum developed to the famous glass blower Dale Chihuly, who is from the Seattle area, was proposed.  The museum promoted the fact that it draw a large amount of tourists and would be an extremely profitable edition to the center.  However, as soon as the Seattle residents found out about the museum, they began to protest and protest loudly.  Their main argument was the fact that their public land was being turned into yet another private museum.  They certainly have a point, yet the most popular alternative seemed to be more open green space.  Apparently, someone forgot to remind the residents that the Seattle Center isn’t Central Park.

However, since then, the public has been allowed to submit alternative proposals.  So far, there has been some very intriguing ideas.  One such idea is a mystery and legends museum.  It certainly sounds like a lot of fun and it’s price tag is much smaller for a visitor than the Dale Chihuly museum.  Another proposal suggest moving one of the local independent music stations to the center.  If the residents were angry about a museum moving in, a radio station would seem like an even more outrageous idea.  A third proposal, as expected, asks for more open space.  Big surprise.

So what do I think?  I think the residents are right, to a degree.  What’s best for the center is public space that can also help contribute to the local economy.  In other words, a museum that charges a high admission fee isn’t the answer.  Neither is open green space.   One possibility is to create a new improved and more modern amusement park.  Perhaps one of the most fun aspects of the original amusement park was the fact that people were able to walk around free of charge.  It provided some entertaining people watching and if people felt inclined to actually ride a ride, they could purchase a ride ticket.  Perhaps the reason why the Fun Forest closed was not that an amusement park wasn’t economically viable in the Seattle Center location, but rather that the park was simply too outdated.  Another suggestion is an old style arcade (like the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco) where residents and tourists alike are allowed to go inside, but must pay a quarter or two to actually play or use any of the machines.  Finally, a  Chihuly museum with a far cheaper admission price tag may be able to sway over some of the current protest against it.

In the end, the debate over the Seattle Center continues.  And while the different groups can’t agree on what the right proposal is, it is still very good news to hear that after almost 50 years, the Seattle Center is still very important to Seattle residents.

Housing + Transportation Index

The Chicago based Center for Neighbourhood Technology is changing the way we look at housing affordability in American cities.  Traditionally, one would base the affordability of housing in a neighbourhood on the percent a family spends on their housing.  A neighbourhood in which the average family spends 30% or less was deemed affordable.    However, the Center for Neighbourhood Technology is redefining how we look at affordability.   The new measure of affordability takes both housing and transportation into consideration.   With the new measurement of affordability, a neighbourhood in which the average family spends 45% or less on housing and transportation is considered affordable.  While one might expect that roughly the same number of American neighbourhoods would be considered affordable under both scales of affordability, the rather alarming part is these numbers are not even close.

Under the old measurement, 69% of U.S. communities are considered affordable.  However, shockingly, by factoring in both housing and transportation, that number shrinks to 40%.  Does anyone else find this down right scary?  Less than half of American neighbourhoods are considered affordable.

One might automatically blame the high transportation costs for such a decrease in affordability.  But it seems to be more complex than that.  For instance, traditionally, the farther one travels from the center of the city, the cheaper the housing costs.  Yet, moving away from the center of a city means that the transportation costs increase, perhaps more rapidly than the housing prices decrease causing an imbalance.

However, this blog post suggests that there is good news to all of this:

The good news is that many federal policymakers understand the impact of transportation on land use, housing, environment and affordability.  First, a new partnership between USDOT, EPA and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate and invest in sustainable development is included in President Obama’s 2011 budget.   Second, Senator Dodd (D-CT) and Representative Cohen (D-TN) have both introduced livability bills that would establish offices of sustainability in HUD and DOT that would provide competitive grants for transit-oriented development projects throughout the country.  Third, the next federal transportation bill could provide even more funding and incentives to increase transportation choices and greater proximity between housing, transit and jobs.

To learn more about the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index, you can check out their site: Housing and Transportation Affordability Index.