Ryan Holeywell | @RyanHoleywell | December 22, 2016
See the eight stories that garnered the most attention from Urban Edge readers in 2016.
A Houston architect is touting a new idea for the Astrodome’s overhaul, urging the county to avoid an indoor park concept and instead strip the structure down to its bones.
The concept, dubbed “A-Dome Park,” is being advanced by James Richards and Ben Olschner, architects who previously worked at Herzog & de Meuron, the firm behind London’s Tate Modern and the Olympics stadium in Beijing.
Richards wants to strip the structure down to its steel bones. The idea is to remove the non-structural surfaces of both the Astrodome exterior and interior, leaving only the dramatic steel frame, which would be painted to prevent decay. The plan, Richards argues, highlights the innovative engineering that went into the dome structure itself while also creating a space that offers a completely unique experience. Read the story.
Journalist Sukhada Tatke, who recently moved from Mumbai to Houston, describes how the city appeared to her as an outsider. She has a perspective shared by many, since the Houston area is home to more than 1.4 million foreign-born people.
“The city, like this country, is overwhelming to first-time visitors by account of its sheer size. ‘Everything is big in Texas’ we were told after my husband accepted a research position with a much desired lab at Rice University. At the very first instance, we got a taste of it: A big taxi drove us on a big freeway to take us to a big house where we had rented a room for our first month in town. Read the story.
USC demographer Dowell Myers makes the case that a trend that’s been described repeatedly by city leaders and the press might not be accurate after all.
While young people are coming to cities, Myers speculates the real trend is that those who flocked there in previous years now lack the wherewithal to leave, even though they want to do so. In other words, Millennials may not love cities. But they’re trapped there. He says that matters because cities that think they are benefitting by drawing Millennials may lose them now that the economy is improving. Read the story.
The Kinder Institute found that buildings in Houston’s Third Ward, a historically African-American community, were being demolished at a higher rate than buildings county-wide. Blog staff writer Leah Binkovitz visited the area and chronicled the work of those who are trying to do something that few communities have pulled off: manage the forces of gentrification.
“We can’t halt gentrification; it’s already happening,” one community leader said, “but we have an opportunity to change the way this process works.” Read the story.
White people in Harris County are more likely to live in Hispanic neighborhoods in large numbers than in black neighborhoods, according to a new report from Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research that sheds light on the shifting racial composition of Houston-area communities. In Harris County, “White-black segregation is the highest across the nation, even in places where Hispanic populations are small,” says Heather O’Connell, the report’s author. Read the story and the full report it’s based on.
California journalist Josh Stephens visits Houston and decides its much-maligned modern town houses aren’t really so bad. “The people who hate Houston townhouses, which include just about everyone I met on a recent visit, complain about unsightly garages, unfriendly fences, tacky design, setbacks that either are too deep or not deep enough, and of course, height,” he writes. But, he says, there’s a pretty big upside: “Whatever they look like, townhouses increase the housing supply in a relatively low-impact way. They can help keep Houston affordable while its coastal rivals commit economic suicide.” Read the story.
What makes a great city? The answer is easy, says renowned urban planner Alex Garvin, who visited Houston and the Kinder Institute this fall. “Streets, squares, parks,” Garvin said, explaining that the ‘public realm’ is what matters. “It’s what belongs to us.” Garvin’s new book, What Makes a Great City is a guide that highlight’s the world’s best public plazas, green spaces, boulevards and other areas that have inspired the planner over the years. Read the story.
Atlanta is rewriting its zoning ordinance in hopes of growing into a more “urban” place in the coming decades. The story highlights how the city’s 35-year-old zoning code was forcing the city to maintain a suburban vibe, and why ATL is now doubling down on its efforts to become something different. Read the story.