CityLab Daily: From Dead Store to ‘Social Infrastructure’

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What We’re Following

Up front: Vacant storefronts can be a drag on a commercial district. While some cities have toyed with vacancy taxes and storefront registries to combat the proliferation of defunct retailers, one Boston nonprofit has taken a tactical urbanist approach to retail malaise: physically occupying idle stores and turning them into pop-up public spaces.

The nonprofit CultureHouse worked out an agreement with property managers to inject some street-level energy into empty properties. In addition to giving out free Wi-Fi and coffee, the group’s latest pop-up location in a former coffee shop in Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood has held game nights, ping-pong tournaments, trivia contests, and even a screening of a documentary on Jane Jacobs. It’s a quick rent-free shortcut to “social infrastructure” that activates unused urban spaces. For CityLab, John Surico spoke with the CultureHouse’s founder about how cities can put vacant space back to work. On CityLab: From Dead Store to Pop-Up ‘Social Infrastructure’

Correction: In yesterday’s edition, we incorrectly referred to Barcelona as the capital of Spain.

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

Why a Train Station Addition Has Parisians Outraged

The plan for a shopping-mall-like extension to the city’s 19th-century Gare du Nord is “inacceptable,” a group of 19 architects say.

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How Architects Are Making Concrete Walls Look Like Crumpled Paper

“We’re pushing the limits of what this material can do,” says a designer behind the Kennedy Center’s new building, describing its experimental concrete treatments.

Kriston Capps

After Amazon’s HQ2 Retreat, New York State Lawmakers Target ‘Corporate Welfare’

Democrats in Albany have introduced and are drafting various bills that seek to regulate economic development incentives.

Sarah Holder

This Is What a Transportation Revolution Looks Like

To understand a real mobility disruption, I wanted to drive a coal-fired locomotive. On the Nevada Northern Railway, I found one.

Laura Bliss

A Small City Famous for Architecture Rolls Out the Welcome Mat

Columbus, Indiana—known for its modern architecture—makes it feel fresh and lived-in during a biennial festival.

Kriston Capps

Permission Control

Contrary to the building-boom narrative, every major U.S. metro is building less housing than it has in the past. There were 38 percent fewer housing units built in 2018 than 2005, the year permits peaked before the recession, according to a study by Apartment List. But sluggish housing construction is not just a symptom of a slow recovery: The number of homes and apartments built in 2018 roughly matches 1994, when the country’s population was 20 percent smaller than it is today.

The chart above from CityLab’s David Montgomery shows how construction has diverged between different metro areas where some job-heavy coastal cities are not building enough housing to keep up with growth, while some Sun Belt metros have kept pace or even built units faster than they can create jobs. CityLab’s Sarah Holder explains: The Cities Where Job Growth Is Outpacing New Homes

What We’re Reading

This is the worst-possible wildfire scenario for Southern California (Vox)

The future is four wheels, cyclists be damned (The Outline)

Meet the Hyperloop’s truest believers (Jalopnik)

It’s tough being a young skyscraper in New York (New York Times)

Update: The dog park that divided a D.C. suburb will be dismantled (Washington Post)

Cities are trying—again—to plan for autonomous vehicles (Wired)

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