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“The Importance of Local Heroes”

Hans Appelboom, owner of Duikelman tells about his experiences as entrepeneur. Duikelman is a specialty kitchen equipment store in the bohemian neighborhood of The Pijp, Amsterdam.

How does ownership and local control over real estate influence plinth redevelopment and revitalization?

“I’d like to make a remark on the often heard idea of a necessity for flexibility in (the use of) property and the levels of rent. Project developers and landlords on speculative base tend not to think on a long term. Often they set for the highest return on their investments, resulting in tenants of the well known kind. Real estate owners should be involved in an early stage in new plans and strategies in order to convince them that a long term vision is better for everyone.”

Click here to read and download this article

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Both images © Jan van Teeffelen 
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“The Never-Ending Story of Street Management”

In this article a conversation with Nel de Jager, the street manager of the best shopping street in the Netherlands, the Haarlemmerstraat/dijk.

How did the rediscovery of urban qualities play a role in the improvements of the street? What was the turning point?

“When the urban renewal was some years in process and new larges homes were built in area, you noticed that more and more people wanted to stay in the city and didn’t want to leave. People got the opportunity of having a larger home in the city. Result of this was the return of purchasing power and with it the retailers, and that again attracted new people to the street.”

Click here to read and download this article

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“In the Meanwhile”

An article from our book by Emily Berwyn, director of London-based company Meanwhile Space. In 2009, the recession was beginning to hit hard in the UK; businesses were going under, developments stalled, high streets were declining and unemployment was soaring. We noticed that vacant property and lapsed developments were a missed opportunity in the ‘meanwhile’, and it was almost impossible to access these spaces. The abundance of empty properties compound the decline of high streets (also called main streets), yet local people who need space to develop new business ideas and innovative uses for high-street spaces are excluded by the archaic property industry. It seemed to us that there was a great opportunity here—if only we could get hold of the space!

“Our vision for an ideal ground floor is one where vacant space does not exist; that vacant periods are foreseen and ‘curated’ to give people a chance to test an idea, in a highly visible, low risk and affordable way, even for a few weeks or months. This requires a transparency of ownership, a flexible approach to bureaucracies, and a central point all the knowledge on an area so it is easily accessible.”

Click here to read and download this article

p260a 71-4. Queens Parade, Willesden Green BEFORE London UK - CREDIT Mike Massaro

BEFORE: Queens Parade, Willesden Green London UK ©Mike Massaro
p260b 71-5. Queens Parade, Willesden Green AFTER London UK - CREDIT Mike Massaro
AFTEr: Queens Parade, Willesden Green London UK ©Mike Massaro
Cover picture: Cottrell House, Wembley London UK ©Dostofos

 

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The City at Eye Level: Version 2.0

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Of course we are really proud of our book and the successful launch back in January 2013. We received fantastic reactions from people all over who are excited about this. But the story is not finished.

Yes, Version 2.0.

This time the story is not only about plinths. We’ve expanded it to include the entire City at Eye Level. This means the sidewalk, the street, plinths, frontages, laneways/alleys, landscape, and more. It’s about placemaking and creating new partnerships. It’s about creating a truly great city at eye level.

We’re working hard editing about 30 new articles and aim to have a final draft ready in the new year. We hope to have a book launch in the spring–maybe even with every co-author in every city.

If you haven’t yet, please join us on our Facebook page for updates and to continue the discussion.

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Stockholm at Eye Level

Last October we spent 5 very busy days in Stockholm delivering a Plinth Game, Stockholm Edition. We very much enjoyed our days in Stockholm; there was great enthusiasm and momentum, it was great to walk the streets with the 40+ participants. We learned so much from the process and from their questions. We hope this will lead to many new collaborations in the new year.
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We are very pleased to share the final, extensive report, with all the results of the workshops. It consists of three parts:
  1. an introduction to the why, what and how of investing in a better Stockholm at Eye Level;
  2. the overwhelming results of our plinth game, visiting 12 locations in Stockholm, giving ideas for concrete improvement and conclusions for criteria for better plinths (bottenvåninger!) and
  3. ideas for your follow-up strategy, also based on the open space workshop we held on Friday with the whole group.

To stay informed, we’d like to invite you to become a member of our Facebook and our LinkedIn Group. It would be great if you could contribute to the discussions; starting soon, we will launch the plinth of the week (each week on Monday, a new plinth to be discussed, sharing international examples of good and bad examples), the chapter of the month (calling for reactions) and other discussions and inspiration.

Thank you Stockholm!

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Kids as planners in de Pijp (1970s)

Children living in de Pijp in the 1970s had a much different view of the city than those today. De Pijp wasn’t the cleanest of neighborhoods. It was overcrowded, lacked any sort of greenery, and the streets were filled with cars.

Children complained that they had no safe places to play. Years before, children played in the streets. With the automobile taking over Amsterdam, children (and elderly) were no longer safe playing in or near the streets.

These children decided to take it upon themselves to become their own urban planners — placemakers, really. They devise a plan to create a play street, got support from neighbors, and started a campaign. Check out the footage (from Bicycle Dutch).

This example demonstrates the importance of a holistic approach to the city at eye level. It’s not only about shops and cafes. It’s about traffic, too. And what about the children? Child-friendly cities are important not only for the safety and well-being of our kids, but for the sustainability of our cities.

Today we can’t imagine what de Pijp, or Amsterdam, would look like if the same amount–or more–cars were present. Chaos! And an unlivable city.

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Museumplein: from space to place

About 30 participants came to the placemaking session on Friday, including the Director of Concertgebouw, the Alderman, urban planners, entrepreneurs, and city- and neighborhood-level leaders. After an tntroduction by Fred from PPS and a short summary of Thursday’s placemaking game at the Pakhuis de Zwijger, we all headed out into the cold October air to walk  Museumplein and the surrounding areas.

At one point Fred conducted a mini-placemaking game with the group and that really got the juices flowing! Everyone split into smaller groups and came up 10 programs for 10 spaces in different parts of the square. There was lots of enthusiasm!

What were the goals of the day? It was basically a reconnaissance mission: we were trying to connect the institutes, users, (residents, entrepreneurs, institutes, visitors), with the space of the Museumplein. We wanted to rediscover and reconnect the different parts of Museumplein to the places and destination they have the potential to be. We also had in mind the Power of 10, to take it down a level and think in terms of programming the space.

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What were some immediate results, quick wins of the day? No doubt about it: a growing energy and a growing network between the participants. A sense that it doesnt have to be difficult: it can be simple, short-term, experimental solutions that make the difference. In the end, iterative place-based strategies means that nothing is permanent. So when can we begin?

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Placemaking on Museumplein

The Museum Quarter is a unique location in Amsterdam: it comprises no fewer than five world-class cultural institutions: the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. For the people of Amsterdam, the best works of Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Rietveld, as well as concerts by Bach, Händel or Liszt in one of the world’s best concert halls, are just around the corner.

In the immediate vicinity we find the Vondel Park, P.C. Hooft Street (the most up-market shopping street in the Netherlands), Van Baerle Street, the Spiegel Quarter (specializing in antiquities, linked to the Rijksmuseum function) and the northern section of the Pijp district (the ‘Quartier Latin’ of Amsterdam, where Amsterdammers themselves go out nowadays).

However, these areas are not linked, and the user groups are very separated. This week we will take a closer look at Museumplein with Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, from Project for Public Spaces, Peter from Placemaking Plus, and Meredith and Hans from Stipo. With a select group of participants, including planners, directors from the institutions,  local politicians, and entrepreneurs, we will discuss: How can we reconnect the institutions to the grassy “square”? How can we connect the surrounding areas to the Museumplein? Where can we make quick fixes? All this and more (and a video!) to come.

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Plinth Game in Stockholm

We were very excited to be invited by the Urban Planning Department of the City of Stockholm to lead an extended version of our Plinth Game in the city.

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Stockholm City are looking for guidelines for the plinths in the whole city. Coupled with a massive city-wide policy demanding 140,000 new dwellings in 20 years, they were looking for answers. A year ago the urban planning department started to formalize guidelines, but they are now looking for harder, clearer cut guidelines. “We work with masterplans and detail plans. We question: What is it we’re building in terms of plinths? Not only in the inner city but also the suburban post-war and newer areas.”

Interns conducted an in-depth physical analysis of 12 streets, and these were the sites where we would conduct the game. Plus, our lead contacts supplied us with 10 professionals in a variety of fields to interview about Stockholm, and to gain vital information about planning processes, history, rules and regulations, and to get a good feeling about the way the city works.

More to come, these next 4 days will be packed full!

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Thank you NY Journal of Books!

Our book received a fantastic review from the NY Journal of Books. Check it out here!

“Collecting the insights and wisdom of 25 contributors, The City at Eye Level explores the subject from multiple perspectives—planned and organic city, public realism and the user, property and development, ownership and management, revitalizing and renewal—supplemented by case studies concerning area development, city streets, and regeneration, and concluding with ’75 lessons for good plinths.

“The evocative, engaging, and entertaining perspectives employed to explore plinths is evidenced by such titles as ‘The Soul Purpose of Managing Empty Real Estate,’ and ‘A Plea for Flemish Parking.’ ”

Thank you NY Journal of Books!

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