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CNU 22 Wednesday Recap Powered by Storify


Good evening from Buffalo! I hope everyone has had a wonderful first day of the Congress. I spent most of my day writing, picking up my badge, running into old friends and I monitored the backchannel of the opening plenary from the Lobby Bar at the Statler while having a great discussion on places and community with fellow Southern urbanists. Many thanks to Storify,  for giving me a great read of other people’s days. Check out some of my favorites here. Have fun and be safe tonight; see you bright and early tomorrow for another day of CNU.

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So We Made It to CNU22…

Good morning folks. After a half day of work, I began to embark on my adventure of traveling to Buffalo for CNU22. Here’s how I bid farewell to Greensboro.


And a stop with my brother/cousin at the airport Natty Greenes, which is only really one of the house microbrews and the standard airport bar/grill menu. But they do have a nice pic of the old Greensboro namesake himself.


Making sure the  flight is on time. We were psyched out earlier by a flight going to Buffalo that appeared to be directly from Greensboro. Unfortunately it was a service plane that was legally required to post on the departure board.




…it was off to Detroit for the first leg of the flight. I walked through the colored tunnel between terminals, and then realized I was right at my gate. This unfortunately meant that there was no ride on the airport train.


I also decided against a novelty trip to the nearby Spanx store. After charging electronics and witnessing a robin flying through the terminal rafters (no pictures, it was flying too fast), I got seated on my plane next to this and a nice tour guide from Germany. (He sat at the window).


Upon arriving in Buffalo, I was greeted by this sign.


And reminded that there are two Queen Cities in America. (Charlotte beg to differ).


So now that the travel is done (thanks also to the Lyft driver Kris who was very willing to chat me up about Olmsted designing the city and even getting rid of the waterfront freeway on the way downtown), let’s talk about activities at today’s CNU. Here’s a link to the complete schedule today:


I will be attending and live tweeting the opening plenary session with Ken Greenburg, then immediately following, joining my colleagues in NextGen for our annual pub crawl. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to exploring a few of the touristy things here in the city and of course taking pictures along the way.

Depending on the conditions and the behavior of my phone, you may see things here first or Twitter or Instagram. Follow me @blackurbanist regardless, to make sure you stay in the know.

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First+Main Media, the Videographers of New Urbanism

One of the best ways to get a taste of what the CNU is like is to watch one of the many videos produced at congresses over the years produced by First+Main Media. I first came in contact with their work when I watched their first episode of American Makeover TV, Sprawlanta. This was back in an era when I’d rather read all my web content than watch it, and it grabbed me in not only as a stellar web video, but a great example of the power of great community building.

I’ve had the pleasure to appear in two of their new urbanism/CNU related videos, these gems done in honor of CNU’s 20th anniversary.

This one’s on Confessions:

And this other is on Dreams:

I missed out on CNU 21 last year, but was psyched to see so many folks excited on this video for this upcoming one.

And finally, an announcement, the New Urbanism Film Festival be showing several films from these guys, along with other great movies on great places on Friday night, starting at  7 p.m. at the Pan American Brewery at the Hotel Lafayette, as part of the NextGen activities. If you are in town, feel free to stop by. And additionally, if you live in Buffalo, you might have seen this gem.

(It’s safe, go ahead and click through to Vimeo)

Co-founder John Paget is a Buffalonian and I’m sure is very excited to have a Congress highlighting his hometown.

Anyway, that’s all folks for this week. Click on the CNU22 tag to keep up with all of our coverage of next week’s CNU22 in Buffalo. We’ll crank coverage back up on Monday with our books to read on the plane or train on the way to Buffalo.

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Episode 2 CNU Preview and Malcolm Kenton

Going to CNU 22? What should you see? What is Kristen looking forward to? Learn the answers to both of those questions on this week’s episode. Plus, Kristen asks newly minted National Association of Railroad Passengers(NARP) Council Member Malcolm Kenton What’s Your [His] Place?

Show Notes

CNU 22 Official Conference Page

CNU Next Gen 11 Schedule.

What You Should See at CNU

What Kristen’s looking forward to seeing at CNU.

National Association of Railroad Passengers homepage.


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CNU 22 Preview: What I Hope to See

TBU at CNU 22-What I Hope To See

Yesterday I told you what you should see at CNU 22. This is what I personally hope to see.

Vigorous NextGen Debate

I’ve just volunteered myself to either do a traditional PK like I did at 2012’s CNU or a debate, on a topic somewhat of my choosing, at our Friday night NextGen gathering. I have fond memories of my very first 2011 presentation and I hope to not only present, but learn from my colleagues as we discuss the issues of the day.

Restaurants that Stick With Me

Madison had Graze and it’s organic cheese curds, West Palm Beach had Greaseburger and its solid gourmet burgers. What restaurant will I eat the most of my meals at just because it’s got a great feel to it? Buffalo is quite famous for its wings, which I love. Who will lure me in because they have the very best set?

The Robert Stern Lecture

Considering how much I’ve read up on Celebration, FL, this was the big selling point for me coming to CNU this year. I’m also interested to see how a conversation on garden cities goes over in a room, where quite a few folks feel like they contribute to sprawl, versus add urbanism to sprawling areas.

The Next American Urbanism

I really hate that I wasn’t in Louisville to help get this effort cranked up. However, I have contributed a chapter to the manifesto that will be presented in part throughout the Congress.

How Black Culture and History Has Shaped Buffalo

Although the site’s title is just stating the obvious (I am black and an urbanist) am looking forward to eating soul food in a northern situation to see if it still stands up to how we eat down south. Maybe that restaurant will be my go-to spot. This link also features several other black history sites that I hope to check out on one of my self-guided tours.

Maybe Niagara Falls….


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CNU 22 Preview: What Not To Miss

TBU at CNU 22-What Not to Miss

As I’m sitting to write this, we are one week away from the activities of the Congress of New Urbanism 22 in Buffalo, NY. Activities begin with tours, and an opening night networking event and end up with one more closing networking event. As you can tell, a lot of this conference is networking and learning the place that has been chosen for the Congress. If you are expecting a conference, there’s plenty of that for you here too, especially if you really need to get professional credits. In the meantime check out my list of things you can’t miss:

Next Gen’s Full Slate of Activities

NextGen is the set of events and the fellowship that brought me into the fold of CNU in 2011 and through it I’ve gained so much knowledge and so many good friends. And for the record, NextGen is not just about age, but it’s all about ideas and spirit. If you are in the area or can get a ticket or get on the road, please come out and join us at any of these events. ALL OF THEM ARE FREE. You’ll even get to hear Andres Duany, the father of CNU, speak at one of the Thursday night events. In addition, I may either debate or present at Friday night’s Pecha Kucha/Debate night at the Lafayette Hotel.

Click here for a printable version of the schedule. These events are also on the main CNU 22 app.

A Tour

As I mentioned in the previous post, I plan on spending the times I’m not covering the presentations at the convention hall walking around Buffalo, recording stories and figuring out what makes it tick as a city. Isn’t that what this movement is about, making and enjoying the city?  If you’d like some assistance with your guided tour, there are several that will depart from the convention hall starting on Monday and going through Sunday. I may actually slip onto the Buffalo Briskly tour myself.

The Random Argument in the Hallway or After the Session

At the 2012 Congress I noticed that some of the “rockstars” of the movement/congress were not at the main sessions, but instead piled up around one of the exhibit booths having a very vigorous conversation. It looked intense and I walked away, even though I would have loved to jump in. Don’t do that. As Chuck Marohn (rockstar in his own right) has mentioned in his CNU Rules, don’t walk away from something that’s probably far more open and a bit more awesome than it appears on the outside. Plus, we are all people. Nerdy people, with a love of good places.

Open Source Congress

If you have a little less courage, but still a lot of spunk, the Open Source Congress is ready and waiting for you to announce your topic and have a group of eager people to talk about it. The best way to get people to come to your talk is to do it on the day of the open source kickoff. Don’t be the lone sucker (me) that puts together a sign and then has no one to talk about it with you on Saturday afternoon. Plus, I won’t be there this year on Saturday afternoon myself.

Art Room

Sharpen your skills by popping by one of these classes. I attended the photography one in 2012 and I wish I could do it again. I only remember how to avoid keystoning a building and that’s not nearly enough for good architectural photography.

The Plenaries and the Charter Awards

Because excellence is excellence. See who’s knocking it out of the park with their urban designs on Thursday at 5p.m. and throughout the conference get to know who the organizers have deemed so worthy to address the entire Congress.  After pouring through two books on Celebration,FL, I’m looking forward to hearing from Robert Stern at the Friday morning plenary.

The entire schedule, including all tours, 202 courses, and breakout sessions can be found here. Be sure to register with the site and you can create your own calendar of events, which you can then download onto your phone as both an Android and iPhone app.

Finally, don’t miss me! Follow me on Twitter to find out where I’m going throughout the Congress week.

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Why I Love Conferences

At the panel on cultural urbanism I organized for CNU 19's Next Gen Day.

At the panel on cultural urbanism I organized for 2011’s CNU 19  Next Gen Day.

It is that time of year again when many of us who blog and write and speak gather amongst ourselves at various industry conferences. I’m not quite ready to confirm which ones I’m going to this year yet. I will see many of you in next week at CNU 22 in Buffalo next week and in July at the APA Virginia conference. Early this spring I enjoyed the gathering of like minds right here in Greensboro that was the Piedmont Together Framework for Prosperity Summit. Tomorrow evening, May 27, 2014, I’m looking forward to welcoming author Ben Ross to Greensboro’s Scuppernong Books to enjoy a conversation around his book on the effects of sprawl.

I think it’s one thing to write in isolation, with the occasional Facebook share, comment or email to a colleague that happens with an online or even printed article. Yet, for me, as an extroverted writer and speaker, the joy that comes from gathering with my fellow urbanists or marketers, or professional black women or young women with side gigs or just chillin’ with my best friends and family is healing. It’s why so many of us when we can or on a regular basis attend worship services or fellowship meetings or yoga classes. You grow and you change and you heal from being around like minds.

An additional piece I like about conferences and convening is that when done the right way, these events change lives outside the conference hall. One example in the placemaking movement is the Tactical Urbanism push, which started as a Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) NextGen conversation and has now been adopted by mayors and used by people who long knew the power of a good block party or community project to ignite good neighborhoods. I’ll never forget the time I participated in this effort to create a promenade on a local street: (I’m in the pink hoodie).


I want to add that conferences that don’t have a good mix of keynotes, breakouts, formal and informal networking sessions fail. Some of the best connections and most valuable business deals happen in the exhibit hall. Another failure comes when your content isn’t compelling. I know occasionally, one has to explain the mechanics of a situation, especially in a continuing education class. Yet, we remember most the vibrant teachers, the ones who have found the human touch in the most boring of subjects.

I’m going to leave you with a set of videos that were produced on why people go to the CNU every year. I look forward to seeing you this season on the conference circuit. I’ll announce the gatherings I’ve confirmed this year via social networks, this blog and my daily news email North Carolina Placebook.  And look for an announcement tomorrow about my schedule for CNU 22.

If you want me to come and speak at your gathering, please contact me. Unless it’s local, I do ask that you work with me to offset travel costs and time spent preparing my remarks, but I can work with the smallest budget, to maximize both mine and your learning time.

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The Death and Life of Malls, a Video Friday Reflection.

So we’ve spent all week talking about the nature of retail. Yet, today’s videos represent how much retail is a cycle, where America has led the way in sprawl, yet is now realizing why it’s not such a good idea. The first video is a montage of America’s dead malls, with voiceover that directly addresses how they are now being exported overseas and overbuilt just like in the US.  That video and voiceover, by Scottish writer Ewan Morrison, is part of a greater collection, Tales from the Mall, which was released in 2012 (paperback coming this September) and highlights all that goes into running a shopping mall through fiction, nonfiction, journalistic reports, photo collages, and in the e-book version, links to videos, such as the one seen here. The second video is an advertisement for one of these new international malls, that seems to just be a dubbed over advertisement for an American mall.

And with that, we close our chapter on retail for now. I’ll see you on Tuesday as we get ready for Buffalo and CNU 22.

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The Black Urbanist Radio Show Episode 001: On Retail

Welcome again to another podcast episode! This week focuses on the changing nature of retail.

If you are just joining us on the podcast and haven’t been able to read all the posts I reference  here they are below:

The Walkability Paradox (the post about North Hills).

Smaller Retail for a Smaller Buying and Consuming Era.

Does it Matter Who Owns the Corner Store?

Mails and Main Streets–Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Department Store of the Amazon and New Urbanist Era

Putting Place and Experience Back Into Retail

I also mentioned Groceteria- http://www.groceteria.com for context on retail history in Greensboro and across the Southeast.

The History of Belk book, which is older, but also helpful as a reference for those companies. I also mentioned the Target wiki page.

We are on iTunes and Stitcher, and SoundCloud by hitting the play button above. If you want to be on the podcast, let me know via Twitter. I’m there @blackurbanist.

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Putting Place and Experience Back Into Retail

Templestowe Farmers Market via Wikimedia Commons

Templestowe Farmers Market via Wikimedia Commons

Placemaking is not just creating experiences, but pushing for necessary services and goods to be purchased as close as possible to home. What kind of places then, do we all want to shop at, at least those of us who are concerned with the effects of sprawl, fair labor, humanely raised food and fibers and a sense of classic customer service. Scratch want, what kind of places do we need to shop at, to fulfill our values and soothe our senses? After all, so much of consumption in the modern era is geared towards soothing our feelings and wants, more so than what we actually need. If we were really truly concerned about consumption, we’d all be homesteading. Yet, that’s not to say that those of us who choose to live a little more urban than rural are not responsible, nor valid in our thoughts of  more responsible retail. How do we balance the sense of place, the sense of responsibility and the sense of consumption?

Street Markets/Farmers Markets/Commerce Vehicles

Taking things back to the classic form of the marketplace, where people open up their cars, put out tables, hold out signs and pitch tents to pitch their wares, often in the open air. The start-up costs for the sellers are low, plus, they enjoy the flexibility of driving around from neighborhood to neighborhood and town to town, finding the places where people purchase from them the most. In addition,  a community often forms around these markets. There’s the scarcity of knowing that you can only find that particular table or truck at that particular place for a limited amount of time, much like all those TV advertisements with the 1-800 number. Yet, you also get to know the people behind the product, the ones with the family recipes and the desire to help others and themselves build a better community one booth at a time. Also, this is where some of the restrictive regulations on signage and placement help. If a product or service is good enough, they break though the restrictions and become a need, not a nuisance.

Older Streetcar Suburb or Village-Style District

A new study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation divided up DC, San Francisco and Seattle by block and analyzed spending and traffic patterns. It found that in older, village-style districts stores stay open later, more venues, such as performance spaces or bars are open later, people utilizing tend to be younger and more energetic and the cost for doing business is lower for entrepreneurs. Many may resent commercial encroachment in some of these neighborhoods, but if businesses are forced to keep a small footprint, then they are more likely to interact with those people already in the community, because they as companies have to reach out for additional resources.


I see this as a way that the big box stores can get back in the urbanist social graces. Yes, have a big distribution center, but only out by existing interstate spurs that actually connect states and not loops. Let the cities, towns and villages be spaces where people get to know samples of your products or touch the items like fruit and dairy that have a high expiration date. Here they can try on the clothes of your brands, and then know their exact measurements, to then pull out smartphones and put in a regular recurring shipment of slacks or shift dresses. They can also get to know new products and come talk to a person to ask questions and raise concerns about product quality or usage.

Home Delivery

The other way that box stores and major scale commerce can get back into a more personal style of selling. Piggybacking on the showcase above, if a person knows what size they are, and how much of a non-perishable food item they need, then why not go ahead and ship it to their home. Take the costs of  displaying items on a large level and put that back into direct-to-home shipping. Encourage people to purchase on a monthly or quarterly basis in large quantities, so that not only they can budget for your store’s goods, but you can also know exactly what to expect in income and expenses, reducing the anxiety of knowing where and when a market or a customer base will show up. Also, if you offer installation or any other type of services, you help the customer by taking some of the work of using your product away from them.


This is the final piece of responsible, experience-based retail. When a person budgets, they take into account when certain vendors are around, when delivery is scheduled to come with other goods and they know approximately how much they need to spend. Likewise for businesses, it helps the cash flow accounts of businesses who know exactly when money is coming in the door. For those who are in the village/mobile model of retail, it helps keep overhead expenses down as you determine where to settle and where to travel.

Further Applications and Final Thoughts

The main caveat to all these methods is spontaneity. What if you want to try something new? How do you discover new things? What if production and processing costs go up? This is where communication and trust are vital. Make it easy, if you are in the showroom/delivery model, for people to cancel, as well as see when products change prices or if products are running low. Or, if you have new customers for products, help them see the process of getting these products to them and explain why it may take longer for others to show up.

For those in the village/mobility model, people can make the choices for themselves not to show up. If a neighborhood or district doesn’t support you as a business anymore, you can always pack up and move somewhere else, until you find yourself stable enough to establish roots and maybe even expand into the showroom/delivery model.

To conclude, this represents a radical reorganization of how we purchase. Yet, this reorganization has already began in many markets and is the only thing keeping others afloat, especially in a world where Amazon could be the only showroom, leaving all others to forge smaller footprints if they want something more personal or customized. It also calls upon retailers themselves to form different alliances and collectives.

How would you add a sense of place back into activities of commerce?

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