Archive

Archive for the ‘Urbanism’ Category

[ Tar Sands ] On the Great Lakes

December 2nd, 2010 No comments

via [ Sierra Club ] Toxic Tar Sands: Indiana

Carolyn Marsh, Whiting Indiana

Carolyn Marsh’s house in Whiting, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago, sits within walking distance of both Lake Michigan and the BP Whiting Refinery. One is beautiful and the other, Marsh says, looks like “a death trap zone.” Now BP is pushing to expand the capacity of its refinery to process tar sands crude.

The synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxins than conventional oil. If the expansion goes through, people like Marsh, who live in the shadow of these refineries, will face increased exposure to heavy metals, sulfur, and carcinogens like benzene.

After learning of BP’s plans to pump tar sands pollution into the air and her community, Marsh was galvanized to action. She joined a legal challenge to the oil giant’s air permit.

Marsh believes BP’s permit application dramatically underestimates the potential air pollution from their tar sands expansion. The company understated the amount of toxic gases vented from flares, claiming they would only be released occasionally. But flaring will only increase as the refinery handles more of the world’s dirtiest oil.

Flaring is only one part of the refinery’s massive polluting process, and air pollution is not the only threat that Marsh fears from the tar sands expansion.

“We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits.”

The refinery is already one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in Lake Michigan. Mercury is a

Tar sands crude spells disaster for clean water in every step of its life cycle. If tar sands operations continue to expand in America, Lake Michigan will be exposed to the same types of contamination spreading through the once pristine water sources along the Athabasca River in Alberta, where tar sands are mined.

A recent study published by leading Canadian scientists found elevated concentrations of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead and mercury around and downstream from tar sands mining operations, suggesting a strong correlation between tar sands mining and toxic discharges to water resources.These poisonous impurities are released in refining as well, and discharges from BP’s tar sands expansion will bring the pollution of the Athabasca directly to Lake Michigan.

Marsh believes the citizen struggle to stop the tar sands expansion is her community’s best line of defense, and she has committed to the fight. She has little faith in state regulators, whom she believes are too complicit with toxic conditions created by BP’s refinery. Marsh knows what’s at stake.

Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water for 10 million people, will be exposed to new levels of contamination from particulate emissions and huge increases in ammonia and other discharges into the water from the refinery’s tar sands expansion.potent neurotoxin that causes severe fetal damage, impaired motor function, and kidney and respiratory damage in humans. “We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits,” she says.

{More Indigenous Territory has been Claimed by Maps than by Guns}

December 2nd, 2010 6 comments

via [ OurWorld 2.0 ] “Mapping critical politics: a land use expert talks tar sands” By Max Ritts

The late geographer Bernard Nietschmann once observed that “more indigenous territory has been claimed by maps than by guns”. Whether or not you agree that more can be taken back with maps, it is hard to overestimate the role of representations in the shaping of collective understandings and modes of possible intervention in political struggle.

Land use maps can have a number of applications. In many countries, they are prepared by government agencies, for a variety of reasons, or by individual groups and organizations. Often, land use maps are made publicly available for the benefit of those interested in land use trends. These maps can also become important in zoning and property disputes. Read more…

What I Am Looking At: Vinton County Ohio

April 1st, 2010 3 comments

Last weekend I visited Vinton County to help my brother in-law run for county commissioner. The trip gave me a little education into this region of the country. – Phone Photos

Information on Vinton County via [ Wikipedia ]

National Trust For Historic Preservation

March 8th, 2010 No comments
Marktown - East Chicago Indiana

Marktown - East Chicago Indiana

[ Marktown Historic District ]

As proposed, the federal budget would slash funding for National Heritage Areas by 50% and completely eliminate two key preservation programs – Save America’s Treasures and Preserve America. The reality is this funding matters now more than ever, and not just because these programs protect and preserve our national heritage.

Saving America’s Treasures
.

Categories: Case Studies

View of Lake Michigan {Regional Rats}: Increased Industrial Demand

January 29th, 2010 1 comment

During these difficult economic times there are many losers, including our land, water, air, biology and the local population. This is especially amplified by the more than 40-years since the Industry’s fortunes where coupled with those of the community’s. The results of this decoupling can be horribly seen in the our cultural landscape of existing conditions,

This is what I see when I look at existing conditions and opportunities along the southern shores of Lake Michigan here in East Chicago. Below you will find someone else’s vision which is limited to reindustrialize our lakefront.

Existing Conditions:

  • A Gated Industrial Community
  • Arguably the most polluted waters in the country – the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC)
    • Joerse Beach: most contaminated beach in the Great Lakes and third most in the country.
  • Arguably the most polluted air-shed in the country – Lake county indiana ranking as the 9th most polluted air-shed in the country with the sources of pollution concentrated on East Chicago’s lakefront
  • >80% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated to heavy industry – ~50 of these industrial lands are out of productive use and considered contaminated, e.g., brownfields
    • 14% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated Residential – ~17% of these residential properties are apart of a superfund site.
Opportunities:
  • Immediate access to the world’s greatest freshwater resource
  • Adjacent to Chicago
  • Diversified land-use and therefore a diversified water-use, air-shed use resulting in a diversified regional economy
And a Plan to address the impairments of existing conditions and realize the opportunities – The Marquette Plan.

In contrast this is what Bill Nagel of the NWI Times, the Forum, Nirpc, and to a real degree many of our environmental groups, such as Save the Dunes, Lee Botts founder of the Lake Michigan Federation, are promoting.

< How dare I include prominent environmentalist as obstacles to environmental, and economic progress>

via [ NWI Times ]

“Blast furnace restart could jump-start 750 jobs – MARKET DEMAND PROMPTS MITTAL TO FIRE UP INDIANA HARBOR WORKS NO. 4 FURNACE” by

Read more…

View of Lake Michigan: Workshop on Water

November 18th, 2009 No comments

Workshop: Communicating Watershed Concerns to an Urban John Q. Public

The workshop will be held at the Hammond Marina, 701 Casino Drive, Hammond.

I will be speaking at the workshop on Friday, November 20, discussing barriers to public access on our lakefront. I hope to post my presentation soon.

Speakers to include:

Dan Gardner:

Biographical Information: Dan Gardner directs the water quality enforcement program in Lake County. As director, he oversees a $700,000 program, mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, to clean county rivers and lakes of eroded soil and other pollutants. Previously, he served as executive director of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission.

Dr. Kenneth J. Schoon:

A Geological Perspective of the Calumet Rivers: The routes of the three Calumet Rivers are the result of the glacial, lacustrine, and human histories of the area. The glaciers set the stage, the waves of Lake Michigan altered the landscape and determined the original routes of the Calumet Rivers, and human intervention has made additional alterations. Human actions sometimes have unintended consequences.

Biographical Information: Dr. Schoon is a professor of science education at IU Northwest and teaches the methods of teaching science to preservice teachers. He has an A.B. in geology and an M.S. in secondary education both from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University of Chicago. Since January of 1999 he has served the School of Education as Associate Dean.

After 22 years experience teaching middle and high school science, in 1990 Dr. Schoon joined IU Northwest’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP). Two years later he became the science-education faculty member for the School of Education.

Dr. Schoon’s research interests center around local studies and misconceptions in science. He serves on the coordinating committee for Science Olympiad, He is a part president of the board of the Dunes Learning Center.

Dr. Schoon’s book, Calumet Beginnings, was released in October of 2003 and is now in its 5th printing. A tree identification book focusing on Midwestern urban trees should be released next year.

George Roadcap:

Biographical Information: Dr. Roadcap is a hydrologist with the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois, Champaign, IL. His research in the Calumet region dates to 1996 with the diagnostic-feasibility study of Wolf Lake and Lake George. This was followed by an assessment of the hydrology and water quality at Indian Ridge Marsh and the potential effects of wetland rehabilitation in 1999. His research includes projects in Kane, Will, McLean, and Tazewell counties in Illinois.

Nicole Kamins:

A brief PowerPoint presentation describes the Hegewisch Marsh water control structure project.

Biographical Information: Nicole Kamins is a Program Director with the City of Chicago Department of Environment. For more than ten years, she has advanced the Calumet Initiative, an effort to revitalize open space on the Southeast Side. In that time she has helped to secure over $3 million dollars in grant funding for ecological restoration, stewardship, and research for Calumet. Nicole earned her B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her M.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

George Van Til:

In the State of Indiana, County Surveyors are responsible for some aspects of the care and maintenance of creeks and ditches that are considered county regulated or “legal” drains, as part of the state’s patchwork quilt of drainage laws and regulations.

Biographical Information: Van Til has been dealing with these issues during his 17 years as Lake County Surveyor as he stressed coordination, intergovernmental cooperation and planning for flood and pollution control, while working in tandem with the County Commissioners on the Drainage Board.

Before this he was involved in drainage concerns for 8 years on the Highland Town Council on its Flood Control Committee and for 2 years on the County Council as Chairman of the Council’s Drainage Board and Surveyor’s Committee.

During his service in this office he missed only 1 public meeting in nearly 28 years while developing many projects and unheralded improvements. Van Til has been heavily involved for many years in many civic, charitable and environmental organizations and efforts, as well as AWLI.

Kathy Luther:

Tom McDermott Jr., Mayor of Hammond:

Rory Robinson:

In 2000, the National Park Service (NPS) took the lead in facilitating a public process that involved nearly 150 participants that developed a shared vision for the future planning protection and development significant natural and recreation resources of Wolf Lake. Many of the goals and actions defined jointly during this process have been implemented, many more not. Rory Robinson of the National Park Service will look back at this effort and forward at what can be done to complete this vision.

Biographical Information: Rory L. Robinson, During his thirty year career with the National Park Service, Rory has worked in five different NPS units primarily in the fields of interpretation and cultural resources management. For the past 15 years, Rory has worked in the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program where he has provided assistance to the Ohio and Erie Canal, Maumee Valley, and Wabash River Heritage Corridors. He has been involved in trails planning efforts throughout Indiana and Ohio, and worked on river and watershed projects along the Little Miami, Wabash and Blue Rivers.

In 2006 Rory received the Mike Carroll Award for Distinguished Leadership by a Professional Planner by the Indiana Planning Association. He provided leadership in the nationwide Towpaths-to-Trails Initiative with the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy, and the revitalization of the National Recreation Trails program. A native of Northeast Ohio, Rory holds a BS in Parks and Recreation Management and Environmental Interpretation from The Ohio State University. Phone: 330-657-2950, E-mail: rory_robinson@nps.gov

Pete Visclosky:

Biographical Information: A lifelong resident of Northwest Indiana, Pete Visclosky represents Indiana’s First Congressional District, which includes Lake, Porter, Jasper, Newton and Benton Counties. A member of the Appropriations Committee, Visclosky serves as the Chairman of the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee. He also serves on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and is the chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus.

Through his position as Chairman of the Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Pete has worked in a bi-partisan fashion to boost research and development funding for alternative energy sources and new conservation initiatives. Working with Senator Richard Lugar, Visclosky was also able to secure $9.5 million for the construction of a bio-mass ethanol plant in Indiana’s First Congressional District.

In addition to supporting steel and manufacturing jobs in Northwest Indiana, Visclosky has been a leading advocate for major economic development projects throughout the area, including the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana and the Marquette Plan, Pete’s strategy to invest in Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Additionally, Visclosky has supported local infrastructure projects that will help build a new economy in Northwest Indiana, such as the South Shore Rail Line and the Gary/Chicago Airport.

Pete was born in Gary and graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville, He earned a B.S. degree in Accounting from Indiana University Northwest, a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1973, and a Masters degree in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University.

Mike Molnar:

The purpose of the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program is to enhance the State’s role in planning for and managing natural and cultural resources in the coastal region and to support partnerships between federal, state and local agencies and organizations. The Program provides financial and technical assistance to state, local and regional government and NGOs to protect, preserve and properly manage coastal resources. This presentation provides an overview of the opportunities available for resource management under the Coastal Program.

Biographical Information: Mike Molnar is the manager of the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, and has served in that capacity for six and a half years. Born and raised along the shores of Lake Erie, Mike learned first-hand the environmental impacts of pollution on the Great Lakes and how combined efforts can result in success. He developed a lifelong love and appreciation of the Great Lakes through many fishing and camping trips with his family as a child. Molnar is a graduate of Miami University of Oxford, Ohio and Indiana University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science and a master’s degree in public administration from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He is a firm believer that through accountable and efficient planning, practice and stewardship we can make a difference.

Rod Sellers:

The Bi-State Calumet through the Years. A century ago Daniel Burnham’s Plan for Chicago did not stop at the state line, but continued across the Calumet region to Michigan City. Maps used by early settlers followed Native American trails along ridge lines and early planners followed these trails that had evolved into roads and waterways or rail lines with little regard for state boundaries, much less those of counties, townships, villages and cities.

Biography: Rod Sellers taught American History, Chicago History, and Law at Bowen High School and Washington High School in Chicago. He is retired after a 34 year career with the Chicago Public Schools. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in Urban Studies, and a master’s degree in Public Service, both from Governors State University.

Rod has a special interest in local history and volunteers at the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. The museum has a collection of thousands of photographs, slides, and negatives, as well as artifacts and documents related to family and community history. Rod has worked extensively with the Southeast Chicago Historical Project Collection since its acquisition by the Southeast Chicago Historical Society. He is the co-author of Chicago’s Southeast Side, a pictorial history of the community and is the author of Chicago’s Southeast Side Revisited both published by Arcadia Publishing.

Thomas Frank:

A brief discussion on the barriers to access in our older urban industrial communities along our southern shores of Lake Michigan.

Biographical Information: A fairly recent settler to East Chicago, Thomas has a long family history with the Chicago region. In recent years he has worked to address the concerns of the older urban industrial communities along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, while pursuing a masters degree in urban planning at University of Illinois Chicago. He served as President of the East Chicago Redevelopment Commission. Participated in regional planning initiatives. Initiated a comprehensive plan for the City of East Chicago, and served as Director of the East Chicago Waterway Management District with the responsibilities to envision a waterway that meets the environmental, demographic and economic needs of the coming decades. He is also a past director of the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative.

He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1987 with a degree in Painting, Philosophy, and a concentration in Languages (French and Russian), and studied for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1993 He graduated from Indiana University with an MFA in Painting.

He spent the next decade working in Medical Education where he secured funding from the Washington Post to launch KaplanMedical.com, the leading online learning community for medical students and professionals around the world. He is presently pursuing a career as an artist and maintaining a blog at: www.blog.thomasfrank.org.

John Pope:

Biographical Information: Alderman John Pope is a lifelong resident of Chicago’s 10th Ward which is located on the far southeast side of the City. The captain of Mount Carmel’s football team, Pope then attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana where he was a member of the Student Council, played football, and obtained a degree in economics.

He worked as an analyst in the City of Chicago’s Office of Budget and Management for 3 years and later served in the City’s Building Department as Director of Demolition. Pope then served as an assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley and was involved with neighborhood improvement and infrastructure programs.

Pope became Alderman of the 10th Ward on May 3, 1999 when he was sworn in at the City of Chicago’s City Council meeting. John was re-elected for his second term on February 25, 2003.Pope sits on various City Council committees including: Economic & Capital Development, Special Events where he serves as the Co-Chair, Housing & Real Estate, Energy, Environmental Protection & Public Utilities, and Police & Fire, and Buildings.

The workshop is co-sponsored by the Indiana Lake Management Society and the Association for the Wolf Lake Initiative. For further information on the workshop, call 219 933-7149 or 312-220-0120.

Case Study: The White City

October 21st, 2009 3 comments

via [ The Urbanophile ]

I take a look at the cities which are often touted as progressive urban role models, places like Portland, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Austin, and find that one thing that unites these cities is their lack of African Americans. This is in marked contrast to most cities of the Midwest and South. The following chart illustrates:

The Urbanophile: The White City.

Categories: Case Studies, Urbanism

Comprehensive Planning

September 12th, 2009 No comments

In a previous post To Grandma’s House We Go I tried to show in a simple real life example the importance of community focused planning, and how incompatible the present land use patterns in East Chicago are for the activities of children. I also did a post on Portages catalytic project – a subarea plan of the Marquette Plan. In this post I tried to show how Portage benefits from implementing their catalytic project, with a strategy very similar to East Chicago – little exposure to the lake but utilizing their riverfront to realize greater opportunities. With the Comprehensive Plan, East Chicago threw away the Marquette Plan’s catalytic project.

There is no greater canvas than what is writ on the land. There is no better way to understand who we are than how we allocate resources and provide for ourselves – that is what comprehensive planning is about.

<Background>
In 2006, as president of Redevelopment, I was asked to participate in the Mayor’s weekly economic development meetings. This was something I had been requesting. These meetings included representatives from the major industries in the City, including BP, ArcelorMittal, Kemira, NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company, electric utility),  and the Northwest Indiana Forum (a regional economic development corp), and a few department heads. I was tapped to work on a sub committee to inventory and characterize underutilized parcels and prepare market them. The committee was headed up by Eric Pritcher (a NIPSCO representative), and included John Artist (E.C. Director of Redevelopment), Jimmy Ventura (E.C. Director of Economic Development), Kay Nelson (Environmental Director at the Forum), and Diane Thalmann (Director of Economic Development NIPSCO). When I walked into my first meeting Kay Nelson was going through the inventory of properties and discussing land use. I asked one question “who is determining land use?” Kay responded “they were.” I then asked if this ought to go through a comprehensive planning process.

Well I continued to advocate for a comprehensive plan, suggesting that the kinds of initiatives the city had planned would require the authority of a comprehensive plan. The city tried it their way until they realized they were required to bring their plans to the residents.

Eventually the Mayor appointed me to chair a staring committee to conduct a comprehensive plan for the city. In this role I managed a process of consensus building in defining goals and objectives, determine how to finance the process, authoring an RFQ (request for qualifications) for a planning entity, manage the interview process, and final selection. However, once the actual planning process began I was relieved of my duties and the City engaged the planners (in this case the Lakota group) themselves, and I became just another homeowner with a private interest in the community.
</Background>

The following are the comments I submitted in response to the city’s proposed concepts. I’ve included three maps of existing land use, proposed land use, and my comments on land use adjacent to our waterways. I could have submitted many more comments, but I felt it most important to focus on a Catalytic framework for the community. In essence – a first order of business for properties that are held in common – our waterfronts.

East Chicago 2007 Comprehensive Plan

My Comments

Comments to Proposed Scenarios:

My comments focus on the beneficial potential of our waterway and Lakefront to meet the demographic and economic needs of the coming generations. I strongly believe that development must occur in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. This does not discount industry. It is a part of our foreseeable future, but after 30 years of an industrial depression industry cannot be our ONLY future. Re-industrialization alone, will continue our present state of depression. We must provide the quality of life our educated children demand when they choose a community to live and raise their children.

1) Lakefront Development: I support plans that would reposition these lands as public lands with public access, not private condos and a yacht club.

2) Trail System: Create a trail system throughout our waterways, connecting our neighborhoods from the south to the north and to the Lakefront. This is an opportunity to use a natural trail system to bridge gaps with in the community and re-connect our isolated neighborhoods. Unfortunately, each concept presented proposes to add additional industrial uses between the community and natural areas, continuing to repeat bad practices of cutting neighborhoods off from each other and community focused assets – nature.

3) Mittal Property: This is possibly the most significant piece of property in East Chicago. How we determine its future use will determine the possibilities for the next generations to come. This land is presently a decommissioned Mittal property that is adjacent to future consolidated plans of the plant. It has water access on the canal and is adjacent to the core of North Harbor. This property is also in walking distance to the Lakefront.

Besides Concept C of the “Dickey Road Industrial Area” there is no other community focus redevelopment of these industrial lands that can serve as a buffer between such absolutely incompatible uses (Heavy Industry / Residential). This is one reuse scenario vs. two reindustrialization scenarios. Concept C will need to be flexible if it is to be seriously considered, and I believe strongly that this concept ought to serve as the foundation for land reuse discussions and not an outlier in those discussions. If this recreation scenario is not acceptable then we ought to consider other less intense uses, such as passive green space. We can also consider a land trusts. Openlands has a very good relationship with Mittal and would be interested in aiding these discussions.

4) Mittal’s Electric Furnace: I suspect Mittal has requested that we leave this parcel out of any discussions. I understand Mittal has been planning to decommission its present use in the near future. However, it will be important to any future discussions on this side of the canal

5) Turning Basin: It is important not to accept a short-sided plan that only re-industrializes the underutilized land. This parcel is well positioned to serve as a waterway focus development that is more compatible with nearby neighborhoods and perhaps serve as an access point for the community. It could easily serve as an anchor and catalytic project for future development along the waterways. I can imagine a dry dock area. I have talked to the land owner and he is open to the idea.

6) Property along North sea-wall of the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal: This is a great opportunity to assemble these near-shore properties for natural areas and trails. Industry can continue to operate as they have. U.S. Gypsum has already developed plans, in partnership with Daniel Goldfarb of the Wildlife Habitat Council, to do natural plantings and trails. Daniel has also worked with Conoco Phillips and Citgo to develop similar plans on their properties in East Chicago.

7) CDF: We need to work quickly with the U.S.A.C.E. to develop greenery along the southern and eastern edges of the property. The south because it is across the canal from proposed recreation, and the east because it sits at a major gateway to the city.

8) Natural Area: This is a natural wetland that has never been developed. While there are no remaining natural assets with public access within the city, Industrializing this land today does not make any sense. There is an opportunity to open this land to a trail system and extend the green space north to Columbus drive.

9) Area bordered by the Canal to its east, Railroad avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the North, and the CSX Line to the south: Plans are underway to clean the southern branch of the Grand Calumet River. This opens opportunities to create community focus development along its banks and extend the neighborhood to the east side of Railroad avenue. There is enough acreage for about 400 homes and green space. This kind of development would justify cost associated with preparing these lands for new uses. I suggest developing a program to relocate businesses to the planned industrial park north of the canal.

10) TOD: This is a great opportunity to leverage a strategy for the airport for the benefit of East Chicago. By extending the South Shore to the Airport down the CSX line, just north of Chicago Avenue, the airport gets much needed access to the Chicago business travel market, and East Chicago gets a TOD opportunity near its downtown (Indianapolis and Chicago ave). The CSX traffic could be rerouted south to the 9th expansion bridge. This would bolster East Chicago’s retail district and link our municipal functions more directly with the Chicago market. It would also give the housing starts identified in #9 a strong reason for attracting young professionals and create a walkable community once again around our downtown district.

11) Green Space along southern Fork in the Canal: 90% of the proposed green space in this Plan is DNR property along the Grand Calumet River. Each Alternate Scenario in this Comprehensive Plan proposes to re-industrialize the land between our neighborhoods and these natural areas. These once again repeat bad past practice by cutting off neighborhoods from each and community focused assets. If anything we ought to use natural areas to buffer neighborhoods for industry. Not the inverse which is what is proposed. To be consistent with the DNR natural areas I suggest creating a strategy to extend these areas to our neighborhoods starting with this parcel.

12) Industrial Property along Cline: This property is within a half mile of the East Calumet neighborhood. It is inappropriate for heavy industrial use. Let’s again stop repeating past mistakes. I suggest light industrial uses servicing the airport. We also need to provide significant buffers between the neighborhood and its industrial neighbors.

13) Alternate Flight Pattern from the Gary Airport: I have a petition with more than 200 signatures asking for the flight pattern to be diverted away from Guadeloupe Circle, Prairie Park and Washington Park neighborhoods. These neighborhoods represent the only sustaining middle class neighborhoods in East Chicago. These neighborhoods include two elementary schools, a middle school and a hospital. The noise pollution in these neighborhoods due to the present flight pattern consistently rises above 90 decibels. Absolutely unacceptable.

14) Brownfield Strategy: Lastly this plan lacks any brownfield redevelopment framework necessary to diversify landuses and our local economy. With 40% of our industrial land out of productive use East Chicago is in serious need of a brownfield redevelopment framework. Without it East Chicago can not avail themselves of Federal Brownfield redevelopment funds to inventory, characterize, remediate these properties so as to put them into new uses. All of which the USEPA has already promised to fund for this City. To neglect it is criminal.

General Thoughts

Existing Conditions:

1) ~80% of E.C. is zoned Heavy Industry, with about 40% of our industrial lands are out-of-use. With advances in technology and the U.S. economy shifting to a service oriented economy, we have endured 30 years of a industrial depression. Re-industrialization is what E.C. has always done. Today, East Chicago is no longer the center for Jobs it ones was. In fact, the city is now the largest single employer of East Chicagoans, employing 1,300 people (these are considered service jobs). This does not including School City, the Library and the other taxing districts. The Comprehensive Plan does nothing to reposition the use of these most impaired lands to meet the needs of a contemporary American community / economy.

2) Incompatible uses: During the settlement of East Chicago, housing and industry went hand in hand. It was during this era that Sunnyside, Washington Park and Marktown were developed. Each was developed with generous natural buffers between them and industry. A 100 years of industrialization has brought continued encroachment of industry on these neighborhoods, cutting them off from there surroundings, and essentially creating the condition for blight. This has resulted in homeowners losing the wealth creation potential necessary for a sustainable community and supporting retail businesses in the downtown district. Today this is unacceptable and this plan does nothing to mitigate against these impacts, but does quite the contrary and creates the conditions for more stress on homeowners. Our community is a pattern of heavy industry adjacent to neighborhoods (such as North Harbor and Mittal, East Calumet and Citgo). In some cases industry surrounds the neighborhood (such as Marktown, and New Addition). The Comprehensive Plan does nothing to reconnect isolated neighborhoods, buffer them better from industry, or reclaim any of the abandoned industrial properties as a community focused asset.

3) Question: How many communities in America have Oil Refineries (the size of BP – the Largest inland refinery) and Steel Mills (Mittal)? And how many of them are in small densely populated urban communities? I will go out on a limb to suggest that there are none besides East Chicago. Lake County ranks as the seventh most toxic county in the nation (out of 3140 counties), with 50.3 million pounds of chemicals released in 2005 (based on TRI data), or 20 percent of the state’s total output. These discharges are attributed to three industries located in or around East Chicago (BP, Mittal, and U.S. Steel). For the sake of the residents don’t you think there is too much industry, and pollution concentrated in such a small area? This plan ought to propose a strategy to address the negative impact industry has on the Quality of life of the residents and establish a compatible land use strategy so that both Industry and resident’s can prosper?

With out improving the Quality of Life, East Chicago will not attract young professionals to live here, not even our children, who have gone off to receive an education. The Marquette Plan addressed these issues by repositioning the region economically and environmentally and focusing on our strongest asset – our lake and waterways (the place where our older industries occupied).

Comprehensive Plan Concepts vs. The Marquette Plan

In light of the fact that the land use scenarios proposed by the Comprehensive Plan are in direct opposition to the Marquette Plan, I believe it is important to draw out the comparisons.

The Comprehensive Plan focuses exclusively on a single dimension of the Marquette Plan, the reaffirmation of its lost industrial base. Hence, the RE-INDUSTRIALIZATION OF EAST CHICAGO. There is little attempt in the Comprehensive Plan to diversify land use, clean-up our most contaminated properties, and improve the quality of life for residents. There is no formal Brownfield framework for addressing these issues. How can East Chicago reposition our economy to meet the needs of a contemporary American community if we do not address the impairments at the base of our economy?

a. The Marquette Plan focused on our most environmentally impaired and out-of-use lands along the canal and where the market has not been able to function.

b. The Marquette Plan repositions the land adjacent to North Harbor towards community focus development. Besides Concept C of the “Dickey Road Industrial Area” there is no community focus redevelopment on these adjacent lands in the Comprehensive Plan. This is one reuse scenario vs. two reindustrialization scenarios. Concept C will need to be flexible if it is to be seriously considered, and I believe strongly that this concept ought to serve as a beginning for land reuse discussions and not an outlier in those discussions.

c. The Marquette Plan takes in to account that heavy industry is consolidating and encourages it to move up the peninsula and north of the canal away from neighborhoods. This again is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan, which has no apparent concern for these incompatible adjacent uses.

d. The Marquette Plan creates buffers between heavy industry and our neighborhoods in North Harbor, Marktown and New Addition. This begins to address the depressed housing market and blight we see in these neighborhoods by pulling industry away from where people live. A major characteristic of the Comprehensive Plan is the lack of buffering between such incompatible uses (Heavy Industry and Residential).

e. The Marquette Plan proposes to pull down Cline Avenue and reroute traffic along the rail line and directly into the steel plant, giving the community access to these newly available lands along the canal. The Comprehensive Plan maintains Cline avenue as a formidable barrier to community focus development.

f. The Marquette Plan adds much needed public access and green space to East Chicago along our waterways and Lake. The Comprehensive Plan pretends to add public access and green spaces. It proposes private development in all scenarios on our lakefront (Condos and a Yacht club). Re-industrialization is also a commitment to private development along our waterways. The green space along the Grand Calumet River is in fact in DNR control and for the protection of these lands. The Comprehensive Plan proposes to sever access between our neighborhoods and these much needed natural areas with industry.

g. The Marquette Plan creates an opportunity for a trail system throughout our waterways, connecting our neighborhoods from the south to the north and to the Lakefront. The Comprehensive Plan add no additional trails to the DNR plans and does not leverage the open area along the canal, but again proposes to re-industrialize these lands.

NOTE: Within the next 10 years an environmental cleanup of the Grand Calumet River will be complete, opening adjacent lands to new use. To place industry back on these lands make as much sense as allowing U.S. Steel to pollute into the Grand Calumet River after a $20 million clean up job.

East Chicago's Marquette Plan

East Chicago’s replacement of the Marquette plan focuses on private condo development on the lake front and pushes community open space to the other side of Cline Avenue (a state highway). To do this they have propose to move the water filtration facility to make room for the private development. To implement this plan they have seeked and received RDA funds, and stimulus funds. What could have been an increase in public access amenities has turned into a private affair for the Mayor’s funders, <RED FLAG>yacht club included</RED FLAG>. It must be noted that east Chicago has 7.3 miles of lakefront exposure and only 100 yards of public access. This proposal does not increase public access. Thusly it ought not to qualify for public dollars.

In absent of a solid well thought out proposal for redevelopment along our waterways and Lakefront I propose that the Comprehensive Plan adopt the Marquette Plan as its waterway and Lakefront component.

Pullman to Marktown Bike Tour

September 11th, 2009 3 comments

On labor day I participated in the 5th annual Labor Day Pullman to Marktown tour sponsored by the Pullman Labor Ride. We had a wonderful time. I took several hundred photos of the event and got the chance to speak a little on the contrasts between the Illinois and Indiana sides of the Calumet Region.

Link to full set of photos [ Pullman to Marktown Bike Ride ]

Kevin Murphy’s Labor Day Presentation to bike tour participants at the Zone

To Grandma’s House We Go

September 8th, 2009 No comments

East Chicago Indiana, August 30, 2009

On August 30, 2009 our family took a bike ride (white dotted line in above map) from our house in Indiana Harbor to Grandma’s house on the East Chicago side of town. The ride is ~2.2 miles through a variety of landscapes including heavy Industrial. There are only two ways to get from the Harbor side to the East Chicago side. You either take Columbus Drive or Chicago Avenue. Neither are very friendly toward bikers or walkers, not to mention children. Besides the occasional metal scraper lugging overly large qualities of metal on bikes it is very rare to see anyone walking or riding through these corridors. We tend to ride our bikes within the neighborhood or load the bikes in the bed of the truck and ride elsewhere. But on this day it was gorgeous we took a tour down Columbus Drive.

Google map tour of our bike ride with photos from the above slideshow.

Background / Strengths / Weaknesses

Regardless of what officials say, East Chicago is not community or child focused. There is no access to nature within the community, nor are there any friendly corridors for children to travel on to get through the community. In fact the community is so fragmented by industrial interests that I have begun to compare it to the land fragmentation in Palestine. Granted the comparison is limited. A sure sign of public corruption is the lack of community focused planning and development.

Local environmentalists, particularly Mark Reskin of IUN, often argue that industry was the first to settle East Chicago and housing encroached on the industry, as if that would be an argument for the kind of environmental devastation that has occurred under his tenure. The fact is the earliest settlers were not industry, but pioneers and hunters. Later in the 1800’s  wealthy Chicagoan’s built large vacation homes on the East Chicago shores, and highlands. I realize it is difficult for many to recognize any of the regions natural features, but this was once a region of ancient dunes and swales and natural marshlands.

When industry first came to these shores, they brought with them worker villages, such as Sunnyside and Marktown, to attract a stable workforce. They also demolished or moved the large homes. During this period housing and industry went hand in hand, as they looked to build a workable community. Industrial and community leaders went to great efforts to hire some of the countries best landscape designers and architects, and built a world-class library system and recreation facilities.

It is often thought that industry constructed these villages adjacent to their factories in a hap-hazard manner, so that workers could walk to work. When you review these early settlement patterns you can see how natural buffers and distance had been used to separate housing from industry. In fact Marktown’s original designs were based on Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept. Thus Buffering between these two incompatible adjacent uses goes back over 150 years and was written into East Chicago’s early city plans. I’m not suggesting that these buffers, with our present understanding of environmental hazard, were adequate, but it does reveal how the original intent of the designs and concepts acknowledged the need for them.

<slight tangent>
I find it remarkable to see the development of suburban corporate headquarters around Chicago (down the I-80 corridor, I-90, and the northshore), provide generous buffering between their office complexes and the surrounding community. In recent years many of these developments have become LEED certified. Yet in East Chicago some of these same corporations provide no buffering between their industrial complexes and the surround community. I don’t have to mention that none of the facilities are LEED certified. An interesting case is the BP campus in Naperville, which used to be located in Whiting until they could no longer attract professionals to the area do to the lack of quality of life, and yes BP’s campus is LEED certified.
</slight tangent>

What actually occurred here over the last hundred years was the continual encroachment of industry interests on residential quality of life, and the taking of community and private residential wealth. Each new industry involved not only a taking of public and private property, but a taking of community values and visions. Every successive period involved a massive taking of community wealth in the service of industrial benefit. It must be noted that this taking of the public and the personal wealth of the residents could not be done by industry alone. It required the participation of local, regional and state governments, and later included environmentalist.

This encroachment continues today as BP expands its facilities, by placing six cokers just across the street from one of our neighborhoods. Local tif districts had to rewrite their schedules to take into account the future increased assessed value that would be lost due to the BP project – a clear demonstration of the taking of private homeowner wealth for industry interests. In the 1980’s a whole neighborhood was demolished to make way for Pollution Control Industries (PCI). Praxair sits on what was once public property with plans developed for a central park uniting the East Chicago and Harbor sides.

Today’s challenges:

  • High concentration of heavy industry
    • More than 80% of East Chicago is zoned heavy industrial with ~14% zoned residential.
    • 40% of industrial properties are out of production and considered to be a brownfield
    • About 15% of residential properties are apart of the USEPA Superfund site – Calumet neighborhood.
  • Fourteen fairly isolated neighborhoods with little to no linkage between them, cut off by industry. Several neighborhoods suffer from incompatible adjacent uses, such as chemical, oil, or manufacturing plants. The result is that many neighborhoods have their own identity and community center.
  • Little or no access to natural areas
    • East Chicago has 7.3 miles of lakefront Exposure with only 100 yards accessible to the public – Joerse beach.
    • Yet Jeorse Beach is such an impaired asset that it ranks 3rd in the country, and 1st on the great lakes, for beach closings due to hight bacteria level.
    • Dupont prairies, with ancient dune and swales is highly contaminated and not accessible to the the public.
    • No bike trails
  • Lake County ranks as the 7th most polluted county in the country (out of 3141 counties). The pollution is mainly attributed to three major industries which reside in or within a half mile of East Chicago: BP (largest oil refinery in the midwest, second largest in the country), ArcelorMittal (largest integrated steel mill in the country), and US Steel. These industries represent tens-of-billions-of-dollars of interests in East Chicago. I suggest Lake county aim at being just average – ranked 1570 out of 3141 counties.
  • Location of 2 (Kemira, Dover Chemical) of the top 101 most dangerous chemical facilities [ Link to report ]
  • The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal is also considered to be the most polluted waterway in the country.
  • Depressed downtown with many vacancies, making most residents auto dependent for shopping.
  • Blighted neighborhoods and housing stock. The medium home value in several of our neighborhoods is less than $25,000
  • No sustained cultural institutions.
  • High Crime
  • Poor Educational system – ranks last in the state of Indiana on ISTEP test
  • Political/industrial/environmental corruption

East Chicago is a clear and obvious point source to our shared environmental challenges. I truly believe the extreme nature of East Chicago’s environmental impairments qualify it to be ground-zero in the environmental and sustainability debate. Repairing the land use practices that are allowed to occur here would go a long way in repairing what ails the world.

The Good (Strengths):

  • There are still remnants of East Chicago’s heyday. I live in one such place, across from Washington Park, which was originally designed by Jens Jensen, with a greenhouse.
  • Good recreation facilities including an old minor league baseball stadium
  • There are still remnants of great talent and people of good intention. We have families whose tenure goes back to the 1920’s, but they are becoming fewer.
  • Faith Based Organizations. As a port of entry community East Chicago has always been known for its churches. Today most of the remaining talent are associated with faith based organization.
  • Lakefront: although it is highly impaired, it is a repairable asset
  • Riverfront: although, again, highly impaired the riverfront could become the cities strongest natural asset and provide a way to knit the neighborhoods together with bike paths. Includes access to the dupont prairies and another parcel (~200 acres) of untouched land right in the middle of east chicago (with Praxair to the east, the canal to the west, the CSX rail line to the south and a tank farm to the north).
  • Industry continues to play an important role in this community. We just need to raise their environmental performance to a minimum level that is compatible with a sustainable community. Industry is also a link to our past history.
  • Historic Landmarks: including industrial housing communities such as Marktown and Sunnyside, and an array of other buildings. We just have to stop the Mayor from demolitioning them.
  • Proximity to Chicago. Despite our proximity, if East Chicago does not have fluid access to Chicago, it might as well be hundreds of miles away.
  • Opportunities for a downtown commuter rail system, with direct access to Chicago.

In my mind no project ought to move forward in this community if it doesn’t address the challenges we clearly face and/or build the capacity of our strengths. This is the position I took when the BP project was first considered and I hold to it today. So how is it that East Chicago can be the recipient of a $3.8 billion investment by BP and NOT receive any of the benefits to address our obvious impairments (while spreading the wage and economic development benefits to middle-class communities in the southern part of the county)? Under this scenario why would a poor blighted community like East Chicago provide BP with a $165 million dollar tax abatement?

UPDATE:

Added video tour.

Categories: Case Studies, East Chicago

View of Lake Michigan: Portage Lakefront

August 27th, 2009 1 comment

Portage Lakefront Pavilion

This is a story about the good, and a lot of tough love between communities.

To date the Portage lakefront is the only location where progress toward realizing the Marquette Plan is visible, and there are significant reasons why this is the case. The predominant reason is that Portage is a solidly white middle-class suburban community with middle-class values and an intact civil society. That is not the case with East Chicago or Gary. The Marquette Plan comes out of middle-class desires to access and utilize the commons on our lakefront.

Portage Lakefront Plan seen in context of the Marquette Plan

[ Summary presentation of the Marquette Plan – pdf]

<Quick History Lesson>

Unlike Hammond, Whiting, East Chicago and Gary, Portage’s industrial history only goes back to 1959 when National Steel opened a plant along Lake Michigan on the very site where the new Portage Lakefront Park now resides. In 1961 the Port of Indiana at Burns harbor, a deep water port, was opened. And in 1963 Bethlehem Steel Company started construction on their large integrated steel facility.

This eastern expansion of heavy industry along Lake Michigan’s southern shores prompted Senator Paul H. Douglas of Illinois to establish the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in an effort to preserve portions of Indiana’s natural shoreline, including its biodiversity, and unique landscape left thousands of years ago by the receding glaciers of the ice age.

In a few short years Portage went from a farming community with ancient dunes and swales and an expansive lakefront to an industrial community with no lakefront access. While Gary experienced a hollowing-out of its neighborhoods due to “White Flight” and massive disinvestment by Industry, Gary’s new neighbor, Portage was a fast expanding brand new, and mostly white, industrial community. Today, Portage has an estimated population of 36,000, the largest city in Porter County and the third largest in Northwest Indiana, behind Gary and Hammond. Portage is still mostly white with 92% white, ~8% hispanic, and <.2% black. Like most developments during this era Portage was designed on a suburban pattern model.

</Quick History Lesson>

Building Success:

Portage’s civic leaders not only adopted the Marquette Plan immediately, they expanded on it with their City’s Northside Master Plan. Of the five lakefront communities included in Phase I of the Marquette Plan, Portage is the only community to take advantage of JJR’s (award winning) work. You can see from the diagrams below how Portage has benefitted from a consistent visioning and planning process. Like East Chicago, Portage suffers from very little public access to the lake, and yet they propose to gain additional access by recovering existing brownfields along its waterway – the same strategy proposed in the Marquette Plan for East Chicago. You can see from these plans how Portage is looking to maximize what little they have by leveraging its waterways and River front. Clearly they have a long way to go, and not all the solutions are the most ideal, but this is a very good beginning. It is a testament to what can be done.

Marquette Subarea Conceptual Plan for Portage Lakefront Portage Master Plan for Lakefront and Riverfront

In contrast to Portage, East Chicago has traded against the plan for a private development along the lakefront for one of the Mayor’s largest fundraisers (a family member was chief of staff and is now chief of police) and branded it as the Marquette Plan with no public input. The Mayor’s plan completely abandons the Marquette Plan which, like Portage, aimed to recover abandoned brownfields along its waterway – The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal. Both the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and the Regional Development Authority (RDA) have not only allowed this to occur without objection, but are encouraging and funding it. I will leave this story for another post.

It is important not to down play Portage’s regional identity as a white community as a contributing factor for its success. Unfortunately, “white” is still an important factor in identity politics in this challenged region. I don’t mean in any way to take away from the hard work that went into Portage’s successes, but to clarify the impediments the other communities face. It is just as important to acknowledge Portages ability to pull together a professional staff capable of realizing opportunities, attracting investment dollars, managing resources, and implementing solutions. And this is exactly why Portage poses a formidable challenge for the highly blighted older minority and urban communities along the lake. Because the leaders of Portage are more capable of forging the right relationships to produce results through an efficient process they are afforded more opportunities. Portage isn’t sitting still, in fact, they have begun to cherry pick opportunities slated for the other shoreline communities.

As an advocate for the older urban Lakefront communities, which dominate the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan, there is a part of me that is insulted that this project spearheads the redevelopment efforts as envisioned in the Marquette Plan. There is also a reality that money’s from the other minority communities, through the RDA, help finance this project. Now that Portage has completed this catalytic project, and jump-started its market by bringing valuable brownfields into productive common recreation use, Portage is set to realize its broader vision. Unfortunately, now that they have realized all this they no longer have a need to contribute to the RDA.

What Portage is able to realize is exactly what we had hope would happen when we first set out to develop the Marquette Plan. That is why we developed catalytic projects in each of our urban lakefront communities. The blighted conditions that remain in East Chicago and Gary are waiting for someone to implement their catalytic project as outlined in the Marquette Plan.

While regional entities praise the Portage project for reclaiming valuable though contaminated lakefront property, they also sight contamination as an impediment to redevelopment in my community. When it comes to redeveloping the Brownfields in East Chicago, all too often we are treated as if East Chicago were Chernobyl. If East Chicago is Chernobyl, and I am serious about this, then the USEPA ought to make this perfectly clear so we can begin abandon our properties and all our industrial facilities. If East Chicago is not Chernobyl then lets get to work and stop avoiding the impediments to change.

With the Portage project success has been gained, but now we need greater success.

This past spring we went out to Portage to take a look at the new lakefront park. Finding the entrance and then realizing that it was the entrance was just plain weird to say the least. It required entering and traversing a poorly marked U.S. Steel facility adjacent and across the river from the park. I suspect this was only a temporary solution, at least until they can construct a more formal and appropriate entrance. The most striking feature of the park besides the feeling of trespassing on industrial property when you enter is the pavilion. The Pavilion provides a very strong silhouette dominating the site and the visual field. By its design it begins to inform your experience in this rather strange setting.

<Recommended Video>

The NWI Times posted a wonderful video introducing the new lakefront and laying out the awesomeness of its achievement:


Former Portage Mayor Doug Olson and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Costa

Marquette Plan – Portage Lakefront ]

</Recommended Video>

<Build it and they will come>

via the [ Post-Tribune ] August 27, 2009

Portage lakefront draws crowd :: Porter County :: Post-Tribune.

</Build it and they will come>

View of Lake Michigan: wbew Chicago Public Radio

August 27th, 2009 No comments

Below is a short Interview I did with wbew Chicago Public Radio out of Chesterton Indiana about the Marquette Plan and the challenges we face envisioning diverse uses on our lakefront.

Planning Mishap: Case Study

August 19th, 2009 No comments

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is conducting a 2040 plan for Northwest Indiana. This includes  Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. On July 15th, 2009 they issued a DRAFT VISION STATEMENT with an outline of goals, objectives, and strategies. I was asked to comment on its 44 pages, which takes a little commitment of time to review it in its entirety. The following is the first page, “A Thriving Economy” along with my comments. My additions and comments are in red.

Response to NIRPC’s 2040 draft vision statement-pg1 (140kb pdf)

Liquid Assets

July 27th, 2009 No comments

via [ www.liquidassets.psu.edu ] 


This evening I happened to click on the East Chicago Public Government Channel which for all purposes has been the Mayor’s personal campaign channel. But to my enormous surprise this evening they were running this wonderful documentary “Liquid Assets.” I don’t know who coordinated the broadcast, but I was thrilled to see something of real substance and value to the community on the channel. Very Good.  

Liquid Assets is a public media and outreach initiative that seeks to inform the nation about the critical role that our water infrastructure plays in protecting public health and promoting economic prosperity.

Combining a ninety-minute documentary with a community toolkit for facilitating local involvement, Liquid Assets explores the history, engineering, and political and economic challenges of our water infrastructure, and engages communities in local discussion about public water and wastewater issues.

UK Greenlights First Eco Towns

July 20th, 2009 2 comments

The government gave the green light Thursday to four so-called “eco towns,” claiming it is playing a leading role globally in promoting carbon neutral communities.

The green towns are designed as the first of 10 such projects Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government wants to set up by 2020, despite criticism and local opposition in some cases.

“The revolutionary concept of eco towns is a unique opportunity for us to confront two of the most urgent priorities” facing Britain, namely providing more cheaper housing and fighting climate change.

Housing Minister John Healey added: “We are leading the way on the world stage with these developments by radically rethinking how we design, plan and build our homes.”

The towns chosen are in Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire; Rackheath in Norfolk; Bicester in Oxfordshire, and a development near St. Austell in Cornwall.

Greenlight given for first eco towns – Yahoo News.

Categories: Case Studies, Urbanism

E.C. gets federal money to revitalize North Harbor

June 6th, 2009 2 comments

INDIANAPOLIS | East Chicago will receive $1.9 million to bolster its long-term revitalization plan for the North Harbor neighborhood, Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman announced Wednesday.

“That’s a great number for us,” said John Artis, executive director of the East Chicago Redevelopment Department. “The money the state is going to be providing to us will go a long ways toward furthering the vision we have for the North Harbor redevelopment initiative.”

The federal neighborhood revitalization dollars will help finance new residential construction, including a 60-unit building for seniors, rental properties and townhouses available to buy. It’s part of a major overhaul of the neighborhood centered at Broadway and Main.

The city, which had requested $4.6 million, currently is developing 75 townhouses, and it has spent more than $10 million on park and street improvements in North Harbor since 2006. A zoning change prohibits bars and liquor stores from locating in the neighborhood.

The city is working with The Community Builders and the Hispanic Housing Development Corp., both nonprofits. East Chicago is one of 21 communities that will share $50 million in neighborhood revitalization funding Indiana received last fall.

E.C. gets federal money to revitalize North Harbor / nwi.com.

Categories: East Chicago, Urbanism

Planning Case Study: Pittsburgh

May 25th, 2009 No comments

Pittsburgh Boosters: An example for Northwest Indiana 

This America.gov Video Player requires the Adobe Flash 8 plugin or higher. Download the most recent Adobe Flash Player here.


 

South Side Works, Pittsburgh LTV Property:

What makes this example enticing is the fact that much of the land in need of redevelopment in East Chicago was also owned by LTV steel. Like the South Side Works East Chicago is located with in 20 minutes from a major city center. In the case of East Chicago, it is 20 minutes from downtown Chicago.

Hans Rosling’s presentation at the TED-conference in 2006

May 7th, 2009 No comments

[ Gapminder ] Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.

 

The Activist Cause

 

I want to look back at Hans Rosling’s now very famous presentation at the 2006 TED-conference for a moment. In this presentation Hans is hocking this “Ah-Ha” moment to the audience. He knows what he is pedaling and he knows its ramifications. Does this moment fit in the history of progressive “Ah-Ha” efforts? I think so.

Many of the great achievements of the “progressive” movement, in America, came from those who answered oppressive conditions supported by neglect, power and wealth with extraordinary discipline of research and evidence. Some examples are found in W.E.B Du Bois’ survey of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward in his 1899 classic book, The Philadelphia Negro work in Philadelphia, and Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) writtten during height of “Urban Renewal.”

It appears Hans’ visualization tool sits well within this tradition, his scope however, widens out to the early reaches, and future projections of statical analysis of DATA. What I find interesting about Hans’ work is the certain manner in which he strolls through his subject matter. It reminds me quite a bit like Jane Jacobs approach with the Urban build environment. 

Journalist Criticizes Bitumen Mining

April 30th, 2009 No comments

The BP project in East Chicago has many ramifications not only for the health of local residents who live under the plumb of BP, but also upstream political cultures who trade on the investment of BP. The political elite are very much aware of the increase risk factors and the data that reveals local residents losing additional personal wealth due to this project. In a era that has become ever more sensitive to increased risk factors due to environmental pollution, the thought of increasing toxic releases will suppress even further the future assessed values of properties in this very poor community, leaving East Chicagoans in even weaker position to compete in the future economy.

In addition to the loss of health and personal wealth the residents of East Chicago, who pay the highest property taxes in the state, are expected to provide $165,000,000 in charity to BP for a tax abatement. The construction phase of the project has already begun, but for some reason East Chicago and whiting businesses and restaurants are not seeing new business from construction workers. It appears BP is staging workers in Lancing Illinois and frequenting their businesses and restaurants.

I am discussed in local environmentalist who speak on behalf of such projects because of job creation. What do they know about economic development. 40% of East Chicago’s Adult population are considered functionally illiterate, with less than 2%  obtaining a collage degree required for one of the ~70 jobs at BP. I think my circle of friends skew this.

Nikiforuk called it comparable to “mountaintop” coal mining in the Appalachian region. Moreover, the industry has made ripples in America’s energy policy, he said. Canada’s tar sands have been touted as a sustainable alternative to oil fields in Saudi Arabia. Canada has become the No. 1 oil source for the U.S., a trend that likely will continue, he said.

“You’re trading bloody oil for dirty oil,” he said. “Which is like shifting your mortgage from Countrywide to Bear Stearns and hoping it’ll solve your problems.”

The expansion of refinery capacity at BP brings with it questions about future air quality and emissions, Nikiforuk said. So far, BP has not adopted the stringent standards in place at refineries in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

nwi.com: Journalist criticizes bitumen mining.

What Happened to Obama’s Office of Urban Policy?

April 28th, 2009 No comments

Matt Yglesias points me to the Root

I am also concerned:

In November 2008, less than one week after winning the votes of city dwellers by a margin of 28 points, President-elect Barack Obama announced he would reward them by creating the first-ever “White House Office of Urban Policy.” Like other new aspects of Obama’s executive branch, appointing a city czar was intended to fast-track communications among city governments, federal agencies and the White House. With great fanfare, Obama dispatched his friend and fellow Chicagoan Valerie Jarrett to tell America that he was making good on his campaign pledge to “stop seeing cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution.”

The Root: What Happened to Obama’s Office of Urban Policy?

Categories: National, Urbanism