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Fort WorthologyMember Since 02 Feb 2006
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Writing, music, photography, games, sci-fi.
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Posted by Fort Worthology on 07 February 2013 - 04:38 PM
Posted by Fort Worthology on 07 February 2013 - 01:51 PM
I never wrote much about Midtown, because it's a pretty forgettable development. It's a collection of suburban-style pad sites and hotels sort of crammed into this arrangement that pays lip service to being in the central city but doesn't really go that far. Though it's combined with the state of the post-TxDOT Rosedale design, which is anti-human in the extreme, so some of the design is at least understandable because Rosedale is not a street one would want to embrace.
A good small example of this relationship between the design and its context: the corner "pedestrian entrance" at Forest Park and Rosedale. In a real urban context, the development would greet this most significant corner with a signature building or feature of some sort, perhaps a large pedestrian plaza, something welcoming and engaging. What they actually built was something else entirely - the two buildings that face that corner aren't anywhere close to the corner at all, they're surrounded by shrubbery like in the suburbs, they turn blank walls to the corner, and the pedestrian infrastructure is a sad little skinny suburban-style sidewalk running between a random set of walls which doesn't do anything to welcome anybody to anything. However, the corner of the intersection itself is terrible as well, with Rosedale especially being massive and further degraded with those sweeping cut-through right turn lanes. The street design actively discourages people from walking the relatively short distance from the neighborhood to Midtown - there's too much pavement to cross (something like nine lanes maybe once you factor in those sweeping turn lanes), and the right turn lanes are designed such that cars can fly through them without slowing down too much making it unsafe and inhospitable for people on foot - and the development's site design further discourages it (though with a context like that, it's hard to blame the developer exactly). And Torchy's greets the street with nothing particularly engaging at all (again, somewhat understandable due to the street design).
Classic example of infrastructure negatively reinforcing site design.
Posted by Fort Worthology on 06 February 2013 - 02:12 PM
Posted by Fort Worthology on 06 February 2013 - 12:04 PM
It has always seemed to me that this building is one of those where the owner every so often makes some noise about redeveloping it (usually after some bad press from Historic FW, the paper, etc. about letting it sit neglected), juuuuust enough to get everybody off their case, before coming up with a new excuse to delay redevelopment (funds, wanting to cut a driveway through it - ugh -, the Hemphill-Lamar connector, etc.), and the cycle begins again. So on, and so on, for over a decade now.
I honestly believe nothing will come of this until somebody else owns it. I would love to be proven wrong.
- RD Milhollin likes this
Posted by Fort Worthology on 06 February 2013 - 09:53 AM
Let's see if I remember how to do this...
The revitalization of the Near Southside continues picking up speed - today, a new locally-owned independent grocery store opens on Magnolia Avenue. Ryan's Fine Grocer and Delicatessen has moved into what was once one of the ugliest '60s/'70s single-story office buildings on the street (at the southeast corner of Magnolia & Lipscomb, filling the corner between Brewed and the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge) and completely remodeling it into something much more attractive.
Ryan's is a surprisingly large, variety-filled grocer and a small cafe combined into one. The selection is quite varied from basics to exotic items. Not the cheapest grocery store you'll find, for sure (definitely on the Whole Foods/Central Market/etc. end of the spectrum in terms of quality of items and priciness), but I'm guessing that prices will adjust over time and besides, for those of us who live in the 'hood we're not burning anything but calories to get there - no gas when you're walking or biking! It's owned by a brother & sister who live in the neighborhood not far from the shop.
They had media folks in for a preview yesterday and I guess my status as a former local blog ding-dong got me in, so I took some shots:
Posted by Fort Worthology on 11 January 2013 - 01:51 PM
There are things that can be done. It's a challenge, though, because the design is so fundamentally in opposition between the two forms.
Let's take your example, Sycamore School Road and McCart:
This might fairly be described as a suburban "neighborhood center." For comparison, we'll use Magnolia & Henderson, also a neighborhood center but a very different sort of neighborhood - the old urban center:
Even from this top-down view, the differences are apparent. The urban center is made of an interlocking network of small streets, the suburban one a hierarchical arrangement of ever-larger "feeders" emptying into a small number of very larger arterials. The urban center features a wide variety of building types and uses mingled together, the suburban one comprised of single-use pods that do not connect with each other (instead being linked by the arterials). The urban center buildings are brought up to the street, oriented toward the pedestrian with parking to the rear and on-street, the suburban one features commercial buildings behind large front-loaded parking lots and no real pedestrian access.
Go to a really basic level - the street layout:
The urban center's small-but-highly-connected street network lets all the streets be smaller. Smaller streets = slower traffic, better for pedestrians, more alternate routes. This connectivity is a key part of how the urban center works. In the suburban example, there are actually very few streets that connect through, meaning the arterials and such have to be huge as there are no/very few alternate routes.
So connectivity - how would we enable better connectivity in the suburban example? It'll require new streets being built, existing streets connecting through.
(Also, the block sizes in the suburban example are huge compared to the urban example, which further decreases walkability. More frequent streets to break that up would be beneficial.)
And then there's the nature of those single-use pods - most of them don't connect to each other at all. I'd wager most of them, in fact, have barriers between them - fences, walls, berms, etc. meaning that even if you live directly behind the Panda Express you couldn't walk there directly if you tried.
And you'd need to change the zoning that requires a certain amount of parking, the zoning that requires a certain setback from the road, the zoning that prevents uses from mixing (this isn't even getting into the stuff that forbids multi-story buildings, or forbids buildings with commercial space downstair and residential space upstairs, etc.). You'd need to start breaking up those huge parking lots into blocks, building new structures in them, creating a space where there was none. You'd need to start reclaiming the excess road width once there's a more interconnected street network. Add on-street parking. Add bike lanes. Add much better sidewalks. Add pedestrian-oriented lighting. Add trees. Require that new buildings interact with the street in a positive way. Require residential developers to provide connections between developments.
I don't want to seem like this is insurmountable - it'll take a lot of time and effort but it's absolutely do-able with enough dedication and initiative.
Here's a TED talk by Ellen Dunham-Jones about retrofitting suburbia:
And here's a company that makes images showcasing retrofits:
Posted by Fort Worthology on 11 January 2013 - 08:46 AM
More and bigger roads, yes.
Please, no. A lot of our neighborhoods are still picking up the pieces from the last time we thought "more and bigger roads" was the way of the future. Some of us have spent years trying to get rid of those "more and bigger" roads and now that we have our 'hoods are becoming wonderful again.
Posted by Fort Worthology on 03 January 2013 - 05:41 PM
Getting another few hundred/thousand units in the neighborhoods around these hotspots will help, and will help upcoming places like South Main establish their own scenes as well.
Two questions (because I've gotten old and don't get to go have fun anymore): 1) where are all these clubs/venues, and 2) do you think club style night life mixes well with residential development?
My ideal situation would be for there to be cheap reliable public transportation into the entertainment districts with lots of residential development not too far away.
In cities that have matured to this point, there are a variety of living options for everybody to choose from. "Entertainment districts" is the wrong way to think of it, IMHO, as in my experience they tend to come across as artificial and lack the residential mix to make them into real places. There should be an organic and natural mixture of all these uses. If you wish to live farther away from the action, you can choose to, and if you wish to live right in the middle of it, you can choose to. Such is the nature of a healthy and vibrant city where this choice is available. You might want to live two floors up and a building over from a rock venue, or you might want to live a couple of blocks' walk, or you might want to live a dozen blocks, or whatever.
The venues presently are in a variety of places, some pre-dating redevelopment and some more recent. The Live Oak is right in the neighborhood, not far from homes. Lola's and The Grotto are a little over a block off 7th Street in the as-yet-un-redeveloped Linwood-ish area. Magnolia Motor Lounge is basically smack dab across the street from the West 7th lofts.
Posted by Fort Worthology on 02 January 2013 - 04:31 PM
Just some random photos from a couple of trips to Marfa, taken on a variety of cameras from iPhones to Holgas.
Posted by Fort Worthology on 31 December 2012 - 02:34 PM
Music scene's are important to. Look at Austin. Fort Worth's music scene revolves around Billy Bob's... Something cool and hip would go great in 7th.
I have to take some issue with this statement - and apologies because it's not exactly on-topic - but I feel I should speak up. I have a certain unique perspective having retired from urbanism blogging to play rock music.
The Fort Worth music scene doesn't revolve around Billy Bob's anymore. I'd say it hasn't for a while. I mean, sure, there's some *part* of it that does, but the country/western music thing in FW is rapidly becoming less and less a focal point.
My band's played shows at places like Lola's and The Grotto and we've gotten to know a lot of people in the FW music scene, and in the last six months to one year it's really starting to blow up and diversify and become something special. There are so many amazing bands in town in a huge variety of genres, and there's starting to be a good collection of venues and such (some you'd probably never suspect).
I've heard knowledgeable folks say that they think Fort Worth might just have one of the best indie music scenes in Texas, if not the Southwest. I'd be remiss if I didn't plug my own group, The Diabolical Machines, and I recommend us if you're a fan of indie rock & power pop (our influences include The Long Winters, The New Pornographers, and Wild Flag), but there's AMAZING talent in this town these days. Just off the top of my head there are tons of local bands you should get to know, in about a zillion different genres:
Year of the Bear
Jacob Furr & The Only Road
The Breakfast Machine
The Burning Hotels
We The Sea Lions
The Frisky Disco
Secret Ghost Champion
etc. etc. etc.
And in terms of venues, there's some greatness to be found - The Grotto, Lola's, The Live Oak, 1919 Hemphill for punk shows, Magnolia Motor Lounge, Friday on the Green for the outdoor festival thing, The Wherehouse, The Basement Bar (despite being in the Stockyards they have more variety in music) etc. etc. And even some venues you wouldn't expect. I caught a show by local math rock band Cleanup and their opening act Arbitrary Montage at Zio Carlo the other day, of all places.
We don't have a lot of critical mass for these venues yet, which is where density comes into play (and he brought it all back around on topic!). Getting another few hundred/thousand units in the neighborhoods around these hotspots will help, and will help upcoming places like South Main establish their own scenes as well.
Hit up Fort Live for a great rundown of the weekly show scene - Lyle and Casey do a fan-tastic job of getting the word out about everything.