Monthly Archives: May 2009

Improvements Energize Allentown’s Cedar Creek Parkway

A May 21st ground breaking ceremony marked the launch of a $1.8 million project to make Cedar Creek Parkway in Allentown the region’s premier park destination. The project includes restoration of existing facilities in addition to building several innovative park features, including a interactive playground, pavilions and exercise trails.

The improved features of the Cedar Creek Parkway mark the dramatic transformation of the large park into an impressive destination. Renovations to the park’s infrastructure — including improving lighting, replacing three pedestrian bridges and outdated restrooms, adding electrical hookups for vendors and expanding picnic areas and parking — will establish the Parkway as a park that all residents of the Lehigh Valley will be able to enjoy.

The enhanced accessibility of the park will provide new fitness options to people of all ages. Due to the growing need for recreation opportunities of older adults, a new Lifetrail path will offer exercise stations can turn a routine walk into a complete fitness program. Developed by experts from Penn State University, the Lifetrail workout seeks to maintain endurance, flexibility and strength. The renovations will also benefit children with the installation of a new and expansive playground to promote active and creative forms of play.  Moreover, the recycled rubber playground surface will allow children in wheelchairs to easily access and participate in activities with other children.

Funded by government grants and private donations, the multi-million dollar investment exemplifies the commitment to revitalizing the city of Allentown and driving people to the core areas of the Lehigh Valley.

Regional Community-Gardening Network Launches

Congratulations to the Leadership Lehigh Valley Class of 2009 on its launch of Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley (SUN*LV). This is a regional network of gardeners, urbanists, and other committed residents seeking to foster and sustain community gardens  across the Lehigh Valley’s core communities. 

As the kick-off for SUN*LV, Leadership Lehigh Valley held a Community Gardening Summit last night at the Banana Factory in Bethlehem.  Attendees  got to hear about the varied benefits of community gardens (better access to high-quality produce, new community connections, neighborhood beautification and revitalization, learning opportunities for youth and adults, and others) and also about some of the “hows” of community gardens. We also got an overview of SUN*LV’s sleek website, which will serve as an online hub for information-sharing, networking, and collaborative action.

Jeff Speck: “Urban Triage” Key to Promoting Walkability

Jeff Speck’s talk at Zoellner last night highlighted that Bethlehem is doing quite well in creating walkable places and offered numerous and wide-ranging ideas for how the City could do even better.

The guiding principle for his recommendations was what he called urban triage. Rather than trying to spread the “magic dust” of walkability in all places, Speck suggests, cities should first focus resources on taking those areas that are near perfect (in terms of walkability and livability) and making them perfect. Most of his talk had to do with recommended improvements in and around the North Side (Main Street area) and South Side (3rd and 4th Street) downtowns–and with ideas for linking the two. 

At one point during the Q&A, Speck was asked what single thing he would do first to increase walkability in Bethlehem. His answer: improve bike/ped access to and safety on the Fahy Bridge. (This is the river-crossing bridge that links New Street from north to south, providing the most direct connection between north and south downtown.) 

Speck noted that both 3rd and 4th Streets (South Side) are highly walkable in themselves, but that the streets connecting them are generally not very walkable. 

On the North Side, Speck had great things to say about Main Street. Among his thoughts on improving this area, two key suggestions were: (1) narrowing the roadway on the Broad Street bridge, by introducing some on-street parking here and adding space for tree plantings; (2) implementing streetscape enhancements at the bottom on Main Street (just below the Hotel Bethlehem)  that send a clear message–to both walkers/cyclists and drivers–that this is a place for bike/ped travelers.

These are just some the highlights from what was a very engaging–and well attended–talk.  The folks at Zoellner were taking a video of the event; I’ll link to it if it becomes available online.

“Suburban Nation” Author at Zoellner This Week

Sorry for the very late notice on this, but: Jeff Speck, author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, will be at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center Wednesday evening to present his findings on downtown Bethlehem’s livability and walkability. His presentation, Bethlehem: Creating a Livable Downtown, will be 7:00 to 8:30pm on May 13 at Zoellner. The event is free and open to the public. 

This is a return visit for Jeff, who spent a week in Bethlehem back in March speaking with community members and local officials about opportunities for making Bethlehem a more walkable city. 

For additional information or questions on this event, contact the City of Bethlehem’s Department of Community and Economic Development at 610-865-7085. Here’s an event flier.

“The Future of Cities” – Free Public Event at Franklin Institute in Philly

***This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP by May 11, 2009 by emailing penniur@pobox.upenn.edu

The Future of Cities: The World, The Nation, Philadelphia

@ the Academy of Natural Sciences (1900 Ben Franklin Pkwy, Phila PA 19130)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

6:00 pm – Presentation followed by a reception

Hear from Philadelphia leaders about the city’s bold new vision for sustainable planning and infrastructure investment throughout the city.  National and international experts on urban design and policy will join the discussion with thoughts on implementation and the way forward.

Speakers:

Michael Nutter, Mayor, City of Philadelphia

Andrew Altman, Director of Commerce and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, City of Philadelphia

Ricky Burdett, Director, Urban Age, London School of Economics and Political Science

Alan Greenberger, Executive Director of the The Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Bruce Katz, Vice President and founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution

Please visit http://www.upenn.edu/penniur for more events and information.

This event is made possible with support from the William Penn Foundation.

_______________________________

Penn Institute for Urban Research
210 S. 34th Street
Meyerson Hall G12
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel: 215-573-8386
penniur@pobox.upenn.edu
http://www.upenn.edu/penniur/

Brokaw on Smart Governance

My thanks to Steve Schmitt, director of the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, for sending me Tom Brokaw’s recent op-ed on modernizing governance.  Brokaw notes:

Every state and every region in the country is stuck with some form of anachronistic and expensive local government structure that dates to horse-drawn wagons, family farms and small-town convenience.

Brokaw points out that more effective–i.e., less duplicative–approaches to governance can lead to better use of public investment and a stronger response to the challenges of the day. You can read the full op-ed here.

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