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{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
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Categories: Case Studies

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

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. 

Conference: Drawing the Lines

March 4th, 2009 No comments

<Looking back at November 2006>This conference occurred more than 2 years ago at Indiana University Northwest. This is the kind of stuff that peeks my interests and tickles my hand. There was great significance to hosting such a conference at this time and place. Northwest Indiana had been looking for strategies to revitalize the region. They had developed the Marquette Plan, the Regional Development Authority, transportation projects, etc. This was in a continuation of efforts to move things along.

This brings to mind two issues.

  1. What is the role of the Artist in urban vitalization?
    • Too often the artist’s voice in these kinds of discussions are treated like a craft booth artist, pedaling their cute works. Otherwise they are deaf, dumb and blind. Artists are to perform and be quiet. This is what I call the “Dirty Dancing” treatment. I am often embarrassed for Artist who accept such roles. 
    • I believe the Artist needs to step up and contribute their voice to the built environment. I believe that Artist voice should take the leading role more often in civil society. 
  2. And what has happened in the last 2-years?
    • I am not certain anything has happened. I don’t know of any new initiatives or changes in the way the region is approaching revitalization. 
    • It appears to me with the announcement of the BP project the region has actually regressed from advancing such initiatives. 
    • Revitalization of the region reverted back to a reliance on old heavy industry, in this case the refining of the even dirtier fossil fuels – the Alberta tar sand.
    • The region became ensnarled in a lack of initiative and culture once again. Indiana and regional Leaders approved environmental permitting with out ANY objection. It wasn’t until Illinois voice objection to violating the the Clean water act that the issue was heard. Regional Leaders and the press did not investigate. They promoted the project without investigation. They approved with out reviewing impacts, particularly to initiatives outlined in this conference.

 

Drawing the Lines: International Perspectives on Urban Renewal through the Arts
This conference promotes conversation about art and urban renewal on the broader international scale alongside more local applications in Northwest Indiana. Drawing the Lines brings together the multiple constituencies whose perspectives are necessary to evaluating the merits of urban revitalization models.

Drawing the lines seeks to:

  • Explore models of urban renewal through the arts,
  • Reflect on the impact of renovations efforts in the community,
  • Understand how government and private markets affect urban change,
  • Share best practices among community based leaders and scholars, and
  • Build a coalition to create concrete initiatives for the Northwest Indiana region.

 

Conference Abstracts:

  • The Arts Can Define a Region
    John M. Cain, South Shore Arts
  • Revive:  Using Art to Help Heal a Superfund Site
    Minda Douglas, Marcia Gillette, and Ann Cameron, Indiana University Kokomo
  • The Impact of Visual and Expressive Art on Public Policy and Public Voice
    Karen G. Evans, Indiana University Northwest                                          
    Daniel Lowery, Calumet College of St. Joseph
  • Cool Cities” Through Their “Creative Class”: A Model for Revitalizing Indiana’s Essential Cities
    Bruce Frankel, Ball State University
    Deborah Malitz, Indiana City Corp.
    Larry Francer, Historic Farmland
    Flo Lapin, Goldspace Theater, Muncie
    Richard Sowers, Anderson Symphony
    David Bowdon, Columbus Symphony, Terra Haute Symphony, Carmel Symphony
  • The Interstices Between Art and Economic Development
    Michelle Golden, Books, Brushes and Bands
    Mary Kaczka, Hammond Development Corporation
    John Davies, Woodlands Communications
    Daniel Lowery, Quality of Life Council
  • The Poetics of Space: IU Northwest’s Sculpture Garden
    Neil Goodman, Indiana University Northwest
  • Available:  post-industrial development and design at Lake Calumet
    Ellen Grimes, w / M. Powell, A. Kirschner, and M. al Khurasat, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Urban Redevelopment and the Arts:  Flagship Cultural Projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco
    Carl Grodach, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Leveraging Culture to Build a City’s External Brand and Internal Cohesiveness
    Tom Jones, Smart City Consulting
  • The IU Northwest Klamen Mural Project
    David Klamen, Indiana University Northwest
  • Art in the Region” 
    Patricia Lundberg, Indiana University Northwest
  • Looking at Urban Renewal Trials
     Peter Matthews, University of Mar
  • Spaces of vernacular creativity
    Steve Millington, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • The Other City Beautiful: Philadelphia and its Avenue of the Arts
    Micheline Nilsen, Indiana University South Bend
  • Bilbao: a spectacular but somehow disenchanted city
    Antonio Román,, University of Deusto
  • The Creative Class and Urban Economic Growth Revisited
    Michael Rushton, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Creating A Vision for International Community Development:  Indianapolis in 2050
    William Plater, Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis
  • Projects to Save a City
    Sanjit Sethi, Memphis College of Ar
  • The ‘Guggenheim Effect’ and the ‘New Bilbao’: On the Social Costs of Bilbao’s Urban Regeneration
    Lorenzo Vicario and Manuel Martínez-Monje, University of the Basque Country.

Marquette Plan: Portage Lakefront

February 28th, 2009 No comments

So what is happening on the southern shores of the worlds largest source of fresh water?

From the NWI Times:


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

 

 

This from I think I can do that. [ JB Daniel ]

It’s the first time I noticed that the waves come and go at the same time.

Shows: Experimental Geography

February 27th, 2009 2 comments

 

Curated by Nato Thompson from Creative Time

Geography benefits from the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, landfill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer—an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer—is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism. This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide, and possibly make a new field altogether.

Also at the New Museum on Sat, Mar 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM there will be a panel discussion: Experimental Geography Panel Discussion: An Aesthetic Investigation of Space

This sounds like something I would like. I will have to check it out.

The Ride to School on Route 41

February 17th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday I took this series of photos, on the ride to my kids school. You may find a blurring in the foreground, as the vehicle was often moving. The trip brings them from East Chicago to Hyde Park daily – through some of the heaviest industries (past Mittal Steel, past SafetyKleen, and through BP). This is the usual scene for anyone traveling north on route 41 (what Lakeshore drive turns into south of Hyde Park) to Chicago from Northwest Indiana. I didn’t include all the tank farms, the combine disposal facility, casinos, the industries in Hammond (Cargil, Lever Bothers), or images of Hyde Park. At some point I actually had to drive. My Children stratal many radically different worlds.

There are two things that strike me about these images.

  1. Everyone is releasing something into the air-shed and contributing to the aggregate air problems.
  2. The vehicles seem to be from a bygone era. They date the images as the past.

Brownfield Redevelopment

August 20th, 2005 No comments

Despite the fact that East Chicago is now the home of Mittal Steel, the worlds largest steel manufacturer, it still needs to grapple with the reality that steel production is quickly contracting and will very soon disappear from this region of the world. Below are three case studies of what can be done with the fallow brownfields left behind by steel producers. For many reasons East Chicago is fortunate to have survived as long as it has in the production of steel. This has provided the economic leaders of East Chicago with a wealth of case studies from which to learn. Although, East Chicago needs to work out a strategy tailored to its needs (to take advantage of unique opportunities), it has the strategies other municipalities have formulated from which to glean. In each case, the municipality had to retread its regional economy while adopting various reuse strategies.

Case Studies:
1) 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.
Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh
Project Profile

2) The Sloss Furnaces

The Sloss story rests on becoming a National Historic Landmark. Proponents of preservation organized the Sloss Furnace Association to lobby for saving the site for historical and cultural importance to the City and its role as a symbol of the technology that once made Birmingham the foremost industrial center of the South.

3) Emscher Park Germany (for PDF)

Emscher Park, opened in 1989, is a bold attempt to re-use one of the largest industrial wastelands in the world. Built on ecological principles, the park offers a range of high quality recreation facilities for local people and tourists, as well as housing and offices. “The idea was born in the 1999 regional economic strategy, which identified the need to take forward large-scale environmental projects that would benefit recreation and regeneration and have a good effect on the region’s image.”