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Reading: Made for Walking by Julie Campoli

January 17, 2013 Books, Featured, Planning & Design, Walkability 17 Comments

Every so often I get a book to review that I keep repeating “Yes!” as I go through it, Made for Walking is that sort of book:

Landscape architect and urban designer Julie Campoli challenges our current notions of space and distance and helps us learn to appreciate and cultivate proximity. In this book, developed as a follow-up to Visualizing Density (2007, co-authored with aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean), she illustrates urban neighborhoods throughout North America with hundreds of street-level photographs.

Researchers delving into the question of how urban form affects travel behavior identify specific characteristics of place that boost walking and transit use while reducing VMT. In the 1990s some pinpointed diversity (of land uses), density, and design as the key elements of the built environment that, in specific spatial patterns, enable alternative transportation. After a decade of successive studies on the topic, these “three Ds” were joined by two others deemed equally important—distance to transit and destination accessibility—and together they are now known as the “five Ds.” Added to the list is another key player: parking.

This book should be required reading for everyone involved in neighborhoods, development, transit in the St. Louis region – especially St. Louis aldermen. Camponi articulates why it is beneficial to change land use patterns, accompanied by hundreds of images to make her points.

Cover of Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form by Julie Camponi. Click image for the publisher's page
Cover of Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form by Julie Camponi. Click image for the publisher’s page with free chapter download

One example I recognized immediately, the Coal Harbour area of Vancouver BC. Here the sidewalks in an area of new high rise buildings are pleasant because smaller-scale buildings front onto them, defining them.

ABOVE: The Coal Harbor area of Vancouver in 2003
ABOVE: The Coal Harbour area of Vancouver in 2003. Click image to view neighborhood in Google Maps.

Here is the chapter list:

  • Everything is somewhere else
  • Five Ds and a P
  • Neighborhood Form
  • Twelve places made for walking
  • Low-carbon neighborhoods
  • The shape of things to come
  • Good bones

Highly recommended!

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    First, I agree that walkability and the “Five D’s” is a good thing. This book sounds like it does a great job of documenting good examples. Second, how does this translate to St. Louis, a city that is not a landlocked peninsula (Vancouver, San Francisco, Boston) or an actual island (Manhattan)? We’re a midwestern city surrounded by miles and miles of cheap, virgin land, ripe for low-density development. We’re also a rust belt city that was once nearly three times as dense (based on population) than we are today. Defining walkability, from an academic standpoint, is relatively easy. Making it real, from an economic standpoint, is difficult. Well-designed, multi-story buildings cost more to build than stick-framed boxes with EIFS or vinyl siding. The residential units in the “smaller scale buildings” you show probably sell for $1 million each, while the condos in the high rises behind probably start at $400,000. IF something similar were built here (Roberts Tower? new construction in the CWE? in Clayton?), who would buy them, in sufficient numbers, to create a market? Why buy one of these instead of a McMansion in Wildwood or Winghaven?

    • Fozzie says:

      These sorts of facts have no place in this blog.

    • I can always count on you to present the “this is why it’ll never work here” viewpoint, it’s almost as if you went to high school here.

      • JZ71 says:

        I’m not saying “it’ll never work”, I’m asking HOW to make it work in our current economic environment?! And, no, it’s not as simplistic as we need to “create a framework.” The cost of new construction is driven by the national cost of materials, while the selling price is driven by competition in the local market. I can (and did) buy twice as much house here as I could in Denver, but that’s because I was able to bring significant equity to the table. With the demise of our industrial, unionized past, average wages have stagnated or declined, population has declined and much of our current housing stock has values (based on sales, what people are actually willing to pay) that are significantly less than their replacement costs. Getting new stuff built in the city, dense or otherwise, is a challenge simply because most developers don’t see any upside. We have the available land, we have the infrastructure, we have the transit, we even have the zoning and the political will to make something, anything happen. But the ONLY way you’re going to see real density come back to the city is to convince many, many more people that they WANT to live in the city, NOT that leaving the city is the only option for a “better” life! They need to want to pay more for housing than they would if they lived in O’Fallon, St. Peters, Wentzville, Fairview Heights, Maryland Heights, Troy, Arnold, Fenton, etc., etc. The positives of urban living need to outweigh the negatives. It’s working in Denver, it’s working in Nashville, it’s working in Pittsburgh, it’s working in Austin, it’s just not working (to the same degree) here! Until we figure out the economic side of the equation, we’re not going to see any significant improvement – we need to get past the “where you went to high school” mindset and actually start addressing, as a region, issues like racism, white flight, the lunacy of TIF-ing EVERY commercial project and just, essentially, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

        • moe says:

          Totally agreed JZ. First off that ‘where you went to high school’ is nothing more than a cheap, dismissive shot. To come from the owner of this site says a lot about who really has an open mind. One doesn’t need to be a stranger or born elsewhere to make this city better. Believe it or not, we have some pretty darn talented people that were born and grew up here.
          Those questions are exactly the ones that need to be asked. About many of the subjects you bring up Steve. People seem to forget that other people may have their own reasons for living in Wildwood, Kirkwood and such. They have their own reasons why they drive instead of walk or bike. They have their own reasons for thinking the city proper is unsafe. I could go on but what’s the use. The readers know exactly what I’m talking about. Until the motivation of others is fully understood and taken into account, all the lecturing, pontificating, and condesending attitudes about what should be (in one’s own opinion) won’t do squat.

          • shabadoo says:

            There are many great things going on in the city. If you want it to keep getting better support city business so they thrive and more business want to operate in the city. Go shopping downtown, in the westend, on south grand and cherokee st. Maybe even move to the city if you are not too much of a pussy. Try public transport, maybe it will work better for you than the reputation that a bunch of county people give it who don’t even use it. If you are really into the city invest in a building or business there. Vote with your wallet, stop going to the county for shopping. Don’t just complain about how much we suck and denver is great. Don’t talk about how much more advanced nashville is than stl (a totally insane notion if you ask me, there is nothing “urban” about anything in nashville). Basically, stop bitching and do something.

          • JZ71 says:

            I live in the city and work in the county. I shop in both the city and the county. I own my home as well as a rental property in the city, so I definitely have a dog in this fight. I use public transit, but not to commute to work (15 minutes driving versus 50 minutes busing, each way, is self-explanatory). The difference between you and me is that I don’t bring blinders to this conversation. I know that better is possible, and I’m not afraid to say so. And when I say Nashville is doing better things (much like how Steve says Portland and Vancouver are), I’ll offer projects like the Gulch (http://www.explorethegulch.com/ . .) where dense, walkable infill is being built and occupied next to their thriving downtown. Steve does a great job of identifying challenges, while you, apparently, want to believe that everything is going just great here. Better requires change, better requires accepting that we St. Louisans don’t know it all. Better means taking the best ideas from elsewhere and shaping them to work here. Better requires accepting that we have problems, defining the problems, reaching consensus on solutions and moving forward to implement them. I spent thirty years in Denver working on solving problems, so I have a clue on what it takes to make a city desirable. You seem to just want to live in our glorious past . . . .

          • moe says:

            Wow there Jz…..EVERY city has faults. But as some on this list seem to think, St Louis isn’t the worse. It’s always easier to pick apart and critize, it’s harder to compliment and work to improve things. We aren’t Denver, Nashville, London, or any other city. We are St. Louis….unique and individual. We have our faults, but we have our shines too.

          • JZ71 says:

            I was responding to shabadoo, not to you. I agree, every city has its faults, just like every city has its positives – if I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t be here! But there’s also a difference between being oblivious to problems, or simply ignoring them, and accepting that we have problems, defining them and making changes to make life better. And to the point of this post, walkability and density, I see a lot of potential here in St. Louis, I just don’t see a lot of movement to embrace that potential. Sure, we have many existing neighborhoods that are dense and walkable and loved by their residents. We also have existing neighborhoods that are losing residents and housing stock. What we don’t have are neighborhoods where significant investments in new, dense construction that builds on our existing walkable infrastructure. While there is never one answer, I’d argue that the combination of low transaction prices (sales and rent), the undercurrent / perception of poor schools, high taxes, crime and racism in the city, relatively good highways / not bad rush hours, and an apparent midwestern preference for suburban living conspire to make projects like the Gulch, the Pearl District, Coal Harbour, the North Shore or the Highlands difficult to pull off here.

            Most neighborhoods, like most malls, have a life cycle, where young people move in, have kids, grow old, then sell their homes to a new generation. The disconnects St. Louis seems to face is that many young families see a need to leave the city when their kids reach school age and there is relatively little new, creative, cutting edge living spaces being built for people who want something other than red brick, vinyl siding, double-hung windows and traditional detailing (unlike many other cities). Whether this is good or bad obviously depends on one’s perspective (which is better? “safe” or “cutting edge”?), but in the bigger scheme of things, “turning our backs” on a significant part of the population will only be counter-productive in the long run . . . .

          • Shabadoo says:

            I am so sick of your damn nay-saying. I am not a real estate developer, so I cannot build any of you precious cutting edge new construction to save the city. All I can do, and anybody can do it, is spend money at businesses in neighborhoods that I want to support. If they thrive, which they can only do if they have customers, more people will want to do business and there will be development. Then maybe you well be your cutting edge living spaces; jesus christ.

          • JZ71 says:

            I agree! Spending money locally is an important first step, that was exactly what my first point was – how do we make this happen?! How do we get other people, other non-St. Louisans to join us? Yes, we should save and support existing neighborhoods and commercial strips that are already dense, walkable and architecturally intact. But saying that we “should” and making it so are apparently two very different things – the numbers speak for themselves. And no, I don’t have all the answers. Growth is always incremental and organic, just as is population loss. Why was Grand Center the place to be 40 years ago and a shadow of itself today? Why has East St. Louis and the Wellston Loop seen such precipitous declines while St. Louis Hills remains essentially unchanged and Soulard and Lafayette Square experienced renaissances? There are no easy answers and there are many complex questions. Unfortunately, there’s also this “which high school” St. Louis mindset that leads to an incredible amount of provincial thinking, especially among “outsiders” that makes us question if change is really possible?

          • Moe says:

            Maybe some people here in St. Louis don’t like ‘new, creative, cutting edge’. I was supporting you JZ, esp if you read my first post, and pointing out that every city has pluses and minuses. But comparing St. Louis to a mall?????? How about NOT turning your back on a significant part of the population….those that choose to live in the burbs and incorporating some of their reasons into planning? Most people don’t want to live above a store or have their living room right next to a sidewalk. And some people actually like closets! And some people actually like to drive and not park on the street. And some adults don’t want to live in their parent’s house or in their parent’s neighborhoods. And as always….it’s always easier for the naysayers to say do this, build this, design this….when it isn’t their money.

          • JZ71 says:

            Reread my response – I wasn’t saying that just St. Louis neighborhoods are like malls, I was saying that ALL neighborhoods have a life cycle, here, in Kirkwood, in Denver, in Boulder, in Louisville, in Chicago, in Schenectady (all places I’ve lived), in Levittown, in Oakville, in Oklahoma City and in East St. Louis. The cycle isn’t as predictable, and sometimes not as apparent, as the life and death of a mall, but it’s pretty evident, at least for the first two or three generations of every neighborhood that traces its start to the 20th Century. I’ve seen ethnic neighborhoods evolve – Lithuanian to African American, Italian to Hispanic, Dutch to Bosnian – and I’ve seen young parents buy, raise their kids, grow old, then sell to a new generation, restarting the cycle. And it’s certainly not a bad thing, it just reflects the cycle of life. My point is that many St. Louis neighborhoods face a disconnect, a disruption in their natural life cycle, when many families leave in search of “better” schools. These are the people at the most productive times of their lives, and the city loses when they choose to leave.

            As for the creative, cutting edge part of the discussion, I don’t disagree, more than a few people dislike modern architecture, and yes, they should be given the option of more traditional choices. But both density and walkability have very little to do with specific architectural styles, and a whole lot to do with building denser, traditional or modern, along transit and commercial corridors. (And in that, yes, in the past, it’s pretty obvious that St. Louis did have an edge over cities like Louisville and Denver). I just believe that more options and more choices is one thing that marks more progressive (and thriving) cities. And yes, building new does address the issues related to “modern living”, things like closets and bigger bathrooms.)

            Finally, unlike Steve, I’m not into dissing suburban residents for their personal choices. My only real concern is that sprawl absent population growth is not a good use of our planet’s limited resources. The population in the St. Louis SMSA has remained relatively constant, over the past 50-60 years, while the number of developed acres has quadrupled – do the math, that’s one fourth as dense as 1953! Concurrently, the city lost more than half its population, so any attempt at increasing density is off to a tough start. (And this has nothing to do with other cities and a whole lot to do with movements within the region – I’m just observing!)

      • Terence D says:

        I think JZ71 makes a reasonably fair point. I don’t think he/she is saying “it’ll never work here” but instead asking some of the tough questions that need to be asked and addressed.

  2. Shabadoo says:

    There are many commmerical streets in the city with storefronts intact with dense multi unit housing stock neer by. Look at Washington , Euclid, and S Grand. Look at Manshester (city) and Cherokee st and Locust (midtowne) that are up and coming. Chippewa and Merimac east of Grand, pretty messed up right now but great bones. New construction is not really needed in many of these places to improve walkabilty and quality of life. They were already built as walkable neighborhoods.

  3. JZ71 says:

    One strategy worth looking at around here could be Urban Growth Boundaries – the growth that’s happening around Troy, Wentzville and Washington is more than a bit scary. They’re one big reason why some “cool” places, like Portland and Boulder, remain desirable, places that are walkable, dense and livable. The downside is the unintended consequences, where growth leapfrogs the buffers and pushes sprawl even further out and results in even longer commutes: Desirability = higher prices. Low supply = higher prices. High supply = lower wages. http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/untangling-urban-growth-boundaries

  4. gmichaud says:

    First of all this is not an economic question at all. As recent conversations by the state legislature indicate, even though there is no money for education, health or walkable solutions for the environment. Still the state legislators think they can find a billion additional dollars for highways over the 600 million MoDot already gets.

    Claiming there are economic reasons for ignoring the benefits of walkablilty are absurd.

    It is governing philosophy, and the governing philosophy and hence policy formation is dominated by the oil, concrete and similar cartels in the simplest terms.

    In other words government is being run to benefit a few citizens economically. It is clear as the day.

    Another book that just recently was published is the Walkable city by Jeff Speck, he wrote Suburban Nation with Duany and Plater-Zyberk and worked with them on projects. As a planner he has a good hands on perspective. He even has a small section on removing highways like at the Arch grounds, apparently it has been done a fair number of times the world over.

    Real quick another book is by Owen and the Green Metropolis. Both books are in the city of st louis library (where I checked them out and read them). I have not read Made for Walking and unfortunately the public library catalog does not seem to have it listed.

    Actually I wrote a commentary article that appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch Nov 6, 2009 titled “St Louis was Built for Walking”.



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