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asthasr

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  1. Regarding supertalls... although we're well off-topic, I will share a personal photo I took from our apartment in Ho Chi Minh City immediately prior to COVID. The HCMC supertall (Landmark 81) is visible in this photo, but which is more important to the urban fabric in this photo? The supertall, the high-rise residential (15-25 stories) buildings, or the block after uninterrupted block of 5-6 story "low-rise" houses? Edit: why did my photo get eaten?... here, just have a link.
  2. I would prefer not to see a really large building in this spot, because it will leave the skyline permanently unbalanced (due to the stadium and 485 canyon). I think the DEC was ugly when it was the only building in the area, because it made the skyline unbalanced -- I definitely hope they don't do the same thing just when DEC's district has been built out with a number of mid-height buildings that make it look reasonable! If we're going to get a really tall residential building, I'd love for it to go on the site of the datacenter or one of the parking decks in the "parking district" at 4th & Church.
  3. Sort of! They use stone bowls that hold heat for a long time, but without an active heat source at the table. The noodles use a good bit of the residual heat to warm up, so after you've put in all of the "toppings" and noodles, it's at a comfortable temperature to eat.
  4. We seriously need developers willing to convert a few parking spots to very small retail spots as street facing components for the parking garages.
  5. I'm going to put in a good word for Ten Seconds, which is a new restaurant that has opened in Toringdon. I originally tried their location in Atlanta and found out that they were planning to open a location here just a week later -- although it took them several months to actually open. They serve a Chinese rice-noodle soup called "crossing-the-bridge" noodles. This is better than any pho place I've found here in town...
  6. When I rode, there were at least a half-dozen trains sitting idle at the railyard. Since I missed my train by seconds, twice, I spent a total of around 40 minutes just... waiting. During off-hours (very late evening, very early morning), that's defensible, but during the day this is enough to seriously hurt ridership. If I could rely on Singapore-like frequencies (7-8 minutes at most times, 3-4 minutes during peak hours), it wouldn't even be a consideration; I could take a two hour lunch and go uptown, relying on my ability to catch the train within a few minutes to make the total travel time predictable. As it stands, that can't happen. I'm sure there are a lot of other people who don't use the train for similar reasons.
  7. Because I'm an enormous nerd, I have taught myself to make isochrone maps in QGIS. This is a map of 500m walking areas around all stations in Sendai, Japan: This can be compared with Charlotte:
  8. street view of a station This is somewhat true in the larger sense -- we will never have a national (or even state) "primate city" on the scale of Tokyo -- but they actually have more space in the vital walksheds around transit stops, simply because their transit is so much more developed and comprehensive. In our case, we shouldn't think "we have so much land!" because we don't. We have a single line of fixed transit and the land around that should be maximally utilized to justify further investment in transit. To illustrate, this is the radius around Bland St. Station that I'm talking about: To choose a more directly comparable area of a Japanese city, here's street view of a station in Sendai (pop. 1m), which features a much higher intensity around the station than Bland with a mixture of large developments, "zakkyo buildings," and lower-intensity municipal uses (e.g. a park and ride lot). The comparable map: The "bones" in the Charlotte map aren't bad. The street grid is too coarse, but that will eventually change. The biggest (and more difficult-to-fix) aspect is the granularity of development and property ownership. Clustering of businesses is somewhat cultural in the modern era -- if you look at any Asian city, there are "districts" where you go for any given thing -- but it's also historically universal. Think about NYC's "garment district," for a Western example. Even Montford Dr. could be construed as this kind of organic clustering.
  9. I’m back again, with another weird and aspirational analysis of a foreign city! This time, it’s Tokyo, inspired by my recent acquisition of the book Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City. One of the topics covered in this book is the phenomenon of the “Zakkyo building” (“multi-tenant,” in the most prosaic translation). You probably don’t know the term, but it’s likely that these buildings form a core part of your mental image of “Tokyo.” The intro scene of Lost in Translation features them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSsNbFwePAE More practically, this is a typical streetscape full of Zakkyo buildings: You can also drop a pin along any street near a metro station on Google Maps and likely find something similar: The distinguishing feature of these buildings is that they are narrow, deep, and feature small businesses. They typically also advertise via prominent outside signage (hence the neon or LED signs that characterize the most famous Tokyo streetscapes). Perhaps more interesting for cities that are trying to densify, though, they’re also tiny. This means that their development can be (relatively) small investments when compared to massive modern developments. Let’s look at a particular example. I chose this at random, but serendipitously these three buildings happen to measure 22m across (about 7.3m each) and 20m deep. They are, of course, separate property parcels and independent buildings (although two of them share a wall). Interestingly(?), this is easily compared to a piece of real estate in our fair city: the parking lot of “Design Within Reach,” immediately adjacent to the DFA building. The parking lot is actually slightly larger than this block of buildings. Comparing this to the nearby DFA, you can see the potential scale of this type of density: You could easily fit ten of these blocks into a development the size of DFA. Why would you want to, though? First, as noted above, these are separate parcels. That means that the buildings can grow (or not grow) over time, as demand requires. Some could be one-floor steel frame buildings, others could be a couple of floors, others could begin to push the envelope (literally – vertically). Second, the buildings are sublet to individual businesses. Conservatively, these buildings appear to contain at least fifteen businesses. This scale is similar to stacking a suburban strip mall into a 4,500 square foot footprint. The level of “cooperative competition” that can be achieved is incredible – can you imagine if Montford Drive was vertical? All of its restaurants would fit into five of these buildings comfortably. This subletting also allows the district to be more robust in times of turmoil. Unlike office buildings, where a single tenant’s departure can leave tens of thousands of feet vacant and unlikely to be filled, a single departure in one of these buildings isn’t a surprise. It can be replaced quickly by another tenant of any type. This is even a benefit for public safety: with five tenants in a small footprint, a building’s tenants can pool their resources to hire security guards during peak hours, and the effect of their presence will spill over to the streets – because the independence of these buildings means that they don’t lose their engagement with the street despite their verticality. The primary drawback, from an urban planner’s perspective, is that they are hard to permit and administer. After all, if you have ten building owners in the space previously occupied by one, and five tenants within each building, that represents fifty stakeholders with a vote. From an economist’s perspective, on the other hand, the fact that the buildings are independent is “inefficient.” Each building needs an elevator if it’s more than one floor, each has its own plumbing, and so on. I think that these drawbacks are easily outweighed by the potential benefits of resiliency, though, and the attractiveness of a district of this type. Can you imagine if Charlotte had just ten of these buildings along the rail trail?
  10. Sorry to randomly interject, but "light rail" is an amorphous term. It usually does mean what we might call "street cars," or "trams" with both ROW and street-running services. The Blue Line serves as a "metro"-style line, which would more traditionally be "heavy rail," but was implemented with LRT hardware here because "light rail" was a fad during the '00s.
  11. Isn't this broader than Charlotte? I think that it's a product of late-20th and 21st century rootlessness. A lot of boosters are home grown. It's natural to want the place you feel a connection to to be as good as it can be; if you look at Charlotte as a stepping stone to "something bigger," then you're not going to pour everything you have into it. (Of course, if you get to the "something bigger," you're still not going to feel rooted there.)
  12. Honestly, it was the first time I've gone to meet her for lunch while she was working outside the house in years. She recently changed jobs and ended up "hybrid," and I have a couple of days off -- a rare opportunity! Good point, I'll definitely use it next time I'm going uptown.
  13. Took the blue line from I-485 to Uptown today to have lunch with my lovely wife, for the first time in years. A few observations: The cheap LCD marquees at platforms are terrible. It'd be nice to have indicator maps showing where the trains are, but that's very fancy. Having them not broken, and showing the time for the next arrival, would be acceptable. I missed my train at I-485 because the ticket kiosk took over a minute to charge my credit card. I was literally standing there watching asterisks pop up, one by one. I've never seen a POS do that! The rails (or train suspension?) felt very rough on the northbound train. The return trip wasn't nearly as bad. There's noticeably much more infill development along the line than there used to be. Many of the large gaps are gone. My tickets were checked, and there was security on the train on both rides. The stations felt less secure than the trains. There were a fair number of people loitering around 3rd St. Station and one person sitting behind a pole periodically yelling profanity. I appreciate the positive changes, and ridership was healthy for the "off hours" I chose to travel, but I hope that some of the technical issues can be addressed and that the perception of safety at stations is given some priority as well.
  14. The new Super G should help, but my secret hope is that it reveals pent-up demand and a bigger player like H-Mart or 99 Ranch decides they should expand here.
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