Author Archives: Neil Takemoto

People are in, cars are out, in cities around the world


As we increasingly find more evidence that walking/exercise makes us happier, we’re also driving less. Driving in miles per capita peaked in 2004, and by 2011, 48 of 50 states had peaked as well, with Washington state way back in 1992. The number of cars per driver in the US has fallen since 2007, from 1.2 to 1.15. Millennials are more willing to live in cities, and 67% of them in the UK would rather spend money on tech and recreation than cars. As a result, the hottest companies are moving downtown too. Research shows walkability can boost foot traffic by up to 40%, and retail rents by up to 20%, while Walk Score shows an increase in home values of between $700 and $3000 for each point on a walkability score out of 100.

The evidence is worldwide. In San Francisco, the majority of trips are now made without cars. In London, cycling levels have risen rapidly over the last couple years, now one-sixth of all traffic in the city center. Liuyun Xiaoqu in Guangzhou, China, which has invested heavily in mixed-use; Hammarby in Stockholm, a newer development where only 21% of trips are done via cars; and Vauban, a neighborhood in Freiburg, Germany, where only 16% of its residents own cars, are becoming model cities for prioritizing people over cars. Check out this slide show of seven more cities focused on going more car free: Madrid, Paris, Chengdu, Hamburg, Helsinki, Milan and Copenhagen, and this story and video on how Stockholm is taking pedestrian living to a higher level, focusing on the health and economic benefits of a car-free downtown.

The evidence is also in the experience. Columbus, Ohio became one of the latest cities to temporarily close downtown streets to cars at their Open Streets event. Aukland, New Zealand and Vienna, Austria are redesigning streets without curbs, but instead as a level textured surface shared by pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. Known as shared spaces, the results are striking, with increases in pedestrian volumes from between 10% to 140% and increases in retail spending from 27% to 439%. The Netherlands, along with Denmark, continues to prioritize a biking culture above a driving one, especially for women, the only countries where women cyclists outnumber men. Even kids are demanding a bicycle city culture too.

How can your city get on the bandwagon? Peruse these municipal recommendations for reducing car dependence, and learn about Jan Gehl, the world’s most knowledgeable architect on designing pedestrian streets and destinations. Maybe one day your city can follow the lead of Suwon in South Korea and Johannesburg, South Africa in opening up an entire neighborhood to pedestrians by removing all cars for a month-long celebration of freedom and vitality. Yes it actually happened, starting in Suwon. See the video below.

Provide people with legitimacy and they will support you

bristol_rising_meet-up Do you feel like you’re part of the power structure behind how your city is developed? Most people don’t. In other words, many feel that the system isn’t legitimate.

Power has to be seen as legitimate, or else its use has the opposite of its intended effect (not serving the people), according to acclaimed author and sociologist, Malcolm Gladwell. The powerful are judged not by their ends but their means, and that means is measured by legitimacy.

Provide legitimacy and people will come out and support you enthusiastically.

Legitimacy is based on three things:

1. The people who are asked to accept the system have to feel like they have a voice – if they speak up, they will be heard.
2. The system has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.
3. The system has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.

How is crowdsourced placemaking; applying the wikipedia approach to creating places, a legitimate system?

  1. The people feel like they have a voice. They are encouraged to participate at monthly meet-ups. They are provided a 24/7 platform to submit, upvote and campaign for ideas they feel will improve the community. They establish an entity, that they name themselves, to define what should be invested in to enhance their quality of life.
  2. It is predictable. As stated above, everyone has the same opportunity to be heard, to contribute, on an ongoing basis, and encouraged to form support groups for the ideas they collectively value the most. There are clear objectives and deadlines regarding how their support for the most valued ideas translates into actual investment to implement those very ideas. Weekly and monthly updates are provided so everyone is aware of what’s going on.
  3. It is fair. In crowdsourced placemaking, every person counts, not every dollar. If you can’t upvote online for the ideas you believe in, you can do it in person. In addition, those with the investment capacity to fundamentally change a community’s built environment, and their culture and lives to go with it, are transparent. There is a commitment to keep the community residents involved in shaping what is most personal to them, the places where they live and work.

Riverside moves forward with crowdsourced solutions for revitalization effort

CSPM Group assists Renaissance Downtowns in the second phase of a “crowdsourcing” campaign to craft a revitalization plan for Riverside, the struggling community just south of downtown Riverhead.

How real estate development can learn from software development


Everyone’s heard of Angry Birds, though few knew its creator, Rovio. How was such an obscure developer from Finland able to develop the “#1 app of all time”? Even more intriguing, can obscure developers in real estate learn from and achieve such relative success? While the tech industry is among the fastest moving, real estate development is among the slowest, but there are many parallels between the two. So perhaps there are a few lessons to be learned from how real estate development can learn from the success of software development.

Let’s assume this analogy:

– Corporate applications (e.g. Microsoft Office) vs corporate development projects (e.g. Atlantic Station, a very large urban development in Atlanta).
– Entrepreneurial applications (e.g. Flappy Bird) vs entrepreneurial development projects (e.g. single building rehab).
– Software operating system (e.g. Linux, OS X) vs development operating system (e.g. smart growth, new urbanism, and now innovation districts).
– Software frameworks (e.g. WordPress, CSS) vs development frameworks (e.g. form-based codes, crowdsourced placemaking).
– Software programming language (e.g. PHP, Java, BASIC) vs development language (e.g. Lexicon)
– Movement to simplify codes (e.g. Apple’s new Swift) vs Lean Urbanism (pink codes).
– App store (Apple App Store, Google Play) vs ???

There are literally millions of software developers for the following reasons:
– It’s practically free to learn to become one;
– ‘Frameworks’ make it much easier to create applications;
– There are very strong communities of support helping one another out;
– The app store. It allows anyone in the world to build that one app that the market’s been waiting for.
Naturally, like-minded app developers will find themselves to work together and forming larger entities that build more sophisticated apps.

Since technology moves much faster than real estate, while there is nothing that currently exists like the app store in the development world, one excuse is that, well, the app store didn’t even exist six years ago. Here are a few trends leading us that way:
– CSPM Group’s crowdsourced placemaking system is helping fill that gap by aggregating customers like app stores do;
– Entities like Fundrise will lower the financial barriers to entry;
– The Form Based Code Institute has online courses to teach developers and planning agencies about form-based code ‘frameworks’, and they’re excellent, but unknown.
– Groups like LOCUS have a mission to encourage entrepreneurial developers to provide tech support to one another.

For a preview of the future, it may be fitting to see how tech-oriented CEOs are investing in the neighborhoods where their employees work, like that of Google, Facebook and Zappos.

With 12 states legislating crowdfunding, it’s time to prioritize local businesses

We've heard of the crowdfunding trend sweeping the country, but businesses still aren't allowed to be crowdfunded under government law intended to protect amateur investors from predatory businesses. A crowdfunding bill was approved by Congress in April 2012 to rectify this, but is still awaiting SEC adoption. As a result, and as part of a growing trend, the state of Michigan has taken it upon themselves to legislate crowdfunding and exempt it from complex state securities laws, through the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act signed into law on December 30th, 2013. This is a growing trend that is known as the crowdfunding exemption movement, with <a data-cke-saved-href="12 states enacting laws and 14 in the process of doing so. Through the law, banks can help facilitate Michigan-based businesses seeking to raise $1 to $2 million in equity or debt, where the owners of the equity or debt are Michigan-based customers of the brewery. The money is raised with an escrow account at the financial institution. The MILE Act allows a business without audited financial statements to raise $1 million in equity or debt through a private securities offering on a website, and up to $2 million with audited financial statements. Accredited investors can invest an unlimited amount, and non-accredited investors can invest $10,000 in any one campaign. The business must be organized in Michigan, and only Michigan investors can invest. Businesses must use an escrow account at a bona fide financial institution. While Michigan is now one of 12 states to have a crowdfunding law, it is one of the most progressive, with its own crowdfunding website, and already with a major success story, the Tecumseh Brewing Company, which raised $175,000 in half its designated time. States also have advantages to waiting for the national crowdfunding legislation to pass. What this means is that not only can local residents campaign for local businesses in their downtowns instead of national chains, but they can crowdfund them too. This is what a crowdsourced placemaking program enables.