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Jeff Speck

Walkable City

Jeff Speck Walkable City How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time
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Biographical note:

Jeff Speck, coauthor of the landmark bestseller Suburban Nation, is a city planner who advocates for smart growth and sustainable design. As the former director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, he oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, where he worked with dozens of American mayors on their most pressing city planning challenges. He leads a design practice based in Washington, D.C.

Excerpt from book:

WALKING, THE URBAN ADVANTAGE
 

The walking generation; A demographic perfect storm; The walkability dividend
Many of my client cities ask me the same question: “How can we attract corporations, citizens, and especially young, entrepreneurial talent?” In Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I am employed by the city’s leading philanthropists, they ask it differently: “How can we keep our children from leaving? How can we keep our grandchildren from leaving?”
The obvious answer is that cities need to provide the sort of environment that these people want. Surveys—as if we needed them—show how creative-class citizens, especially millennials, vastly favor communities with street life, the pedestrian culture that can only come from walkability.
A lack of street life was one reason why the leadership at Wolverine World Wide, the manufacturers of Merrell and Patagonia Footwear, was having trouble keeping new creative workers from jumping ship from their suburban West Michigan headquarters. The problem was not the company, but the impression among newly arrived spouses that they had no way to break into the social scene … even though West Michiganders are known for their openness and hospitality. So what was going on? It turns out that this social scene could only be accessed by car and thus by invitation. With no pedestrian culture, there were no opportunities for the chance encounters that turn into friendships.
When it came time to launch a new apparel division, they decided to base it in Portland, Oregon.
Since that time, Wolverine has set up a new innovation center along with three other top West Michigan companies in downtown Grand Rapids. According to Blake Krueger, Wolverine’s president and CEO, the company needed “an urban hub that attracts and retains the millennial creative class. You need a vibrant city heartbeat for these people. Downtown, they’re in a more creative live/work/play environment than if they are stuck out here in suburbia.” This facility now includes designers and product developers across a dozen different brands.
For many companies, an urban satellite is not enough. Brand Muscle, formerly of leafy Beachwood, Ohio, recently relocated all of its 150 employees to downtown Cleveland, thanks in part to the desires of a largely twentysomething workforce. Now staffer Kristen Babjack brags about her urban lifestyle: “We can leave our apartment and walk five feet to a restaurant to get something to eat, or to go shopping. We have all of our arenas and sporting areas and concerts all in one pretty much walkable area.”* Similar stories are making the news in Saint Louis, Buffalo, and even in beleaguered Detroit.
The economic advantage that has already begun to accrue to walkable places can be attributed to three key factors. First, for certain segments of the population, chief among them young “creatives,” urban living is simply more appealing; many wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere else. Second, massive demographic shifts occurring right now mean that these pro-urban segments of the population are becoming dominant, creating a spike in demand that is expected to last for decades. Third, the choice to live the walkable life generates considerable savings for these households, and much of these savings are spent locally. I wil

“A delightful, insightful, irreverent work.” The Christian Science Monitor

“If Jane Jacobs invented a new urbanism, Walkable City is its perfect complement, a commonsense twenty-first-century user’s manual.” Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and author of True Believers

“A recipe for vibrant street life.” Los Angeles Times

“Refreshing, lively and engaging . . . Walkable City isn’t a harangue, it’s a fun, readable and persuasive call to arms.” Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“Everyone interested in improving the quality of city life should read this book and heed its lessons.” John Strawn, The Sunday Oregonian

“Among the perennial flood of books on urban design in all its forms, this one stands out.” —John King, San Francisco Chronicle

Walkable City is an energetic, feisty book, one that never contents itself with polite generalities. Sometimes breezy and anecdotal yet always logical and amply researched, this is one of the best books to appear this year. Speck deserves the widest possible readership.” Philip Langdon, Better! Cities & Towns

Walkable City . . . will change the way you see cities.” Kaid Benfield, The Atlantic Cities

“Jeff Speck, AICP, is one of the few practitioners and writers in the field who can make a 312-page book on a basic planning concept seem too short . . . For getting planning ideas into the thinking and the daily life of U.S. cities, this is the book.” Planning magazine

“Jeff Speck’s brilliant and entertaining book reminds us that, in America, the exception could easily become the rule. Mayors, planners, and citizens need look no further for a powerful and achievable vision of how to make our ordinary cities great again.” —Joseph P. Riley, mayor of Charleston, S.C.

“Cities are the future of the human race, and Jeff Speck knows how to make them work. In Walkable City, he persuasively explains how to create rational urban spaces and improve quality of life by containing the number one vector of global environmental catastrophe: the automobile.” —David Owen, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Green Metropolis

“Companionable and disarmingly candid, Jeff Speck perches on your shoulder and gets you to see your community with fresh eyes. He gradually builds a compelling case for walkability as the essential distillation of a vast trove of knowledge about urbanism and placemaking. The case he makes has you both nodding at the intuitive and seemingly obvious wisdom presented, and shaking your head at why those basic principles of fixing our cities have eluded us for so long.” —Harriet Tregoning, founder of the National Smart Growth Network

“Jeff Speck understands a key fact about great cities, which is that their streets matter more than their buildings. And he understands a key fact about great streets, which is that the people who walk along them matter more than the cars that drive through them. Walkable City is an eloquent ode to the livable city and to the values behind it.” —Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic and author of Why Architecture Matters

“With Walkable City, Jeff Speck demonstrates why he is among the most relevant and engaging writers on urban design today.” —Ron Bogle, president and CEO of the American Architectural Foundation

“When I speak around the country, people


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