Josh Stephens's blog

Blessed Are The Hipsters, For They Shall Inherit The City

How much is a hipster worth to a city? Is she worth more when she's building an app, or when she's writing a blog? Is a hipster with a walrus mustache and a mean whiffle ball pitch worth more than one who wears a sarong and practices aerial yoga? How many of them can dance on the pull tab of a PBR?

APA Poll Calls for Major Shift in Planning Profession

This week the American Planning Association proudly released the results of a recent poll entitled Planning in America: Perceptions and Priorities, which it commissioned indicating that Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of community planning. Given the state of national politics, it's no wonder that Americans are reserving their passions for local issues. Boss Tweed and Mayor Quimby are looking like angels by comparison. Some of the results are beyond obvious -- such as the fact that 77% of Americans "agree that communities that plan for the future are stronger" -- while others could, if heeded, foretell profound changes for the profession.

USA Today: A Rude Wake-Up Call For Cities

LOGAN AIRPORT, Boston – I’m on my way home from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s Journalists Forum , an annual event, co-sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Neiman Foundation, in which journalists from around the country convene to discuss, jointly, the fate of our industry and the fate of American cities.

Starbucks Initiative Could Brew Up Urban Vitality


I am writing this missive from the living room of a Starbucks. Not that you'd care where I'm writing from. Except this time it's relevant. 
Here on Montana Avenue, in Santa Monica, I'm joined by other folks who are also on their laptops, recovering from yoga, or just biding their time. The guy sitting at my table just sold a pilot to Fox. That's nice for him. A few weeks ago I sat next to Hillary Swank here. She's not hurting either.  

But others aren't so lucky. To its credit, Starbucks seems to want to do something about it.

Borders’ Demise Could Open New Chapter In Urban Retail

To its minimal credit, Borders Books & Music always had a a few shelves where the works of Jacobs, Mumford, Kunstler, Whyte, Florida, and others resided. 

But, judging by the financial and aesthetic bankruptcies of, respectively, Borders and many American cities, it seems that copies of Life and Death (or anything else) weren't exactly flying out the door. If the public's understanding of urban economies even began to rival its fascination for gossip, self-help, and vampires, Borders never would have arisen in the first place.

How Smart Are 'Intelligent Cities'?

Most trends are fleeting, some of them mercifully so. Some last no longer than a Lady Gaga wardrobe change. But urbanism is still, by and large, a leisurely exercise, so it's no wonder that planners still embrace fashions on a nearly generational basis. It often takes that long just to see if something works. Or not. 

So, while Gaga would inspire us to attach telephones to our heads and light our bustiers on fire, planners who ascribe to the principles of smart growth are still rhetorically swaddling cities in the urban equivalent of flannel. For better or worse, this age may finally be coming to a close. Don't cry, Monster.

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