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Lofting Amongst the Leaves

Image via Apartment Therapy.

Image via Apartment Therapy.

 

When you think loft apartment, you probably think New York. Maybe LA. However, plenty of old industrial cities have wonderful lofts. Some of those lofts are fairly affordable on an average professional salary. Like Durham. This week for Apartment Healing, I’ll be highlighting a classic Durham tobacco loft.

This is Apartment Healing, the Saturday feature of the The Black Urbanist where I talk about my love of interior design. This month, I’ll be spotlighting a few of my favorite home tours from sites such as Apartment Therapy, AprhoChic and others that share my sense of simple, eclectic and transformative style, especially in spaces and places where its un-expected. Before we get back into the meat of the post, just a reminder that The Black Urbanist is powered by Bluehost.  Check them out and they’ll get you started with everything you need about web hosting and blog making. They’ve kept me going right here for the past 4 years and counting.

Whenever I come to Durham these days for more than an afternoon, I have the good fortune of staying with my friend, who has one of the cutest old loft apartments near the train station and the regional bus station. It’s also in good proximity to restaurants, which has rapidly become the selling point for a lot of people who have the means and love being close to entertainment.

And if you are reading this and you tend to find yourself living where you are because you are close to the restaurants, and not necessarily using anything else, this might be a perfect spot to go to.

The specific unit I’m highlighting, was at the time of its writing, home to a mom and her two elementary age girls. The ceilings were high, and the windows large, as it is with my friend’s place. The configurations are unique, bedrooms are on platforms and walls don’t always go to the ceiling. The home spotlighted in Apartment Therapy didn’t have proper shutters on  its 22-foot tall, west-facing windows at first. The owner learned the hard way that party goers will sweat and suffer if faced with that kind of sun. I used an extra blanket during my last visit to my friend’s, due to the recent cold snap and the fact that large windows also leak out air.

Someone in the comments of the piece on Apartment Therapy asked if the smell of the tobacco leaves lingers. I can say that it does. And it adds character. Kudos to the people who had the idea of making old factories apartments. They aren’t perfect, but they are certainly cool.

Check out the original Apartment Therapy article here.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here. This is day 15 and I’m so excited to have been able to daily blog. Thanks everyone for sharing posts, commenting and liking them on social networks.

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The Walking School Bus

When I was in kindergarten, we lived close enough to the school to walk. I only remember walking and biking to the school grounds on the weekends, but the option was there. Today’s Video Friday segment highlights recent efforts to get kids walking on school days and to involve both their parents and the greater community in that pursuit.

This is Video Friday and it’s the Friday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s my way of thanking you for hanging with me this week, by giving you something to watch instead of read. It’s also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here  for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing! 

In that spirit, we have partnered with KCET’s City Walk. City Walk is a series of videos showcasing how people walk in their cities.

This week, we’d like to highlight their clip on The Walking School Bus, one of the efforts surrounding National Walk to School Day in several cities and states. The video highlights diverse groups of elementary-age students, their parents and community members who came together to help kids walk to school.

Some of the schools have a regular “walking school bus” and others were doing so to celebrate the special event. However, the idea of helping kids, many who do not get the proper amount of physical activity, to walk to school is pretty awesome. Also, there’s a great moment where a parent talks about making a way to walk even when it’s difficult.

Check out the clip by clicking on the image:

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This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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Can You Tell Me How to Get Back to that Street?

Sesame Street turned 45 this month. I came back to my alma mater for homecoming. With those two things in mind, I’m highlighting this photograph of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh for Throwback Thursday.

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The photo above was taken in 2012 and at this angle, not much has changed. Planet Smoothie has become Insomnia Cookies.All the other business, some that are still there, some that are gone, look pretty much the same. If I were to take someone back in time to a place that’s been pretty consistent since I arrived on campus back in 2004, this would be that spot.

So what does this have to do with Sesame Street? Other than this being an excuse for me to drop a nod to both Sesame Workshop and the AV Club’s Sesame Street Week? Well, it’s a good way to think about returning to a place we’ve left before. If we grew up with Sesame Street, we remember the goodbye music (ok, if we grew up with it prior to 1991, because the older end credit music had much more melancholy in it).

That goodbye music, while signaling the weekend on the show, was just happy enough (especially at the end) to remind me that Monday was still coming and there would be more live Big Bird. And with the photo itself, even though things on Hillsborough are changing rapidly, this spot is still there and now there are cookies. (COOKIES, a nom, nom).

Ok, I’m done with my rambling thoughts on Sesame Street and Hillsborough Street. What street can you go back to, that gives you that feeling that nothing has changed, yet everything is changing?

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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Finding the Lines

Once upon a time, the Home Owners Loan Corporation, the New Deal era agency that refinanced struggling mortgages. graded neighborhoods based on race, country of origin and other more practical and less discriminatory methods. This practice, known as “redlining”  looks different in every community. Hence, while there are lessons for everyone in this article, it’s best to study your city’s history for yourself. Today I’m sharing a resource to help you do that.

This is Potatoes and it’s the Wednesday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s when I take Tuesday’s current event and add a stat or a deeper commentary through images. It’s also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here  for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing these posts! 

Slate’s history blog, The Vault, is compiling a bunch of the old “redlining” maps (and is looking for more). While every city is not represented yet, several are and they all provide a comprehensive view of how redlining was actually applied throughout the country.

As I mentioned in this previous post, in my hometown of Greensboro and in several other places around North Carolina, areas were segregated, but that did not keep African-Americans from owing homes. Many of my family members owned land and farmed on it. Yet, other factors contributed to segregation and unequal housing practices. Even today, those suburban-style neighborhoods built as black neighborhoods have lower property values and fewer services than identical built-for-whites neighborhoods.

Take a look below at the map of Durham, one of the closest maps to me and check out the other maps currently on Slate’s list.

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This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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Suburbs of Survival

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What if you didn’t have a house to live in? What if the only house you could live in at the present moment, was not a shack, had running water and electricity and a loving parent to make sure you wake up every morning even though your routine is currently more flexible? Oh, and that house wasn’t in a walkable neighborhood, but in a newish low-density area, with free parking? And the cherry: the fact that your family has possession of it proves that black folks, even in the age of bad mortgages, foreclosures and economic inequality, can in fact own and maintain a house?

This is my suburb, and it’s a suburb of survival.

This is Meat and it’s the Tuesday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s when I take a current news event that’s moderately related to what I talk about here and add a bit of my own commentary. It’s  also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing these meaty posts!

So I’ve said before that I live in the suburbs. I lived downtown, but lately, many downtown apartment complexes are becoming vertical suburbs, with no real service providers, and a bunch of novelty items. Nate Hood warned downtown developers to stop building entertainment districts, but some didn’t listen. Those of us who would like to build wealth or take career chances or be creative, can’t actually do that when rent is at or beyond 30%. I and other Millennials would be amenable to paying a little more in rent to be able to enjoy the benefits of a walkable community with a variety of services close by, but not merely to live in the midst of restaurants, theaters and boutiques.  That’s why so many of the big places are losing out on their creatives. We may still travel there, live there, be there, but for some of us Millennials, of all cultures, we are only able to find the stability of income and wealth building we need in the suburbs.

Anyway, it was this article, by Paul Mullins, that highlighted how much the suburban concept was a survival mechanism for African-Americans of varying means, even in the era of redlining. While some cities did not allow Black Americans to truly own their suburban homes or move into certain areas, others, including my own, redlined neighborhoods that when built out, looked exactly like white neighborhoods and offered the same level of community cohesion and personal space.

And even though some people were forced to pay too much for their homes or the mortgage rates are too high, some people still own their homes. Some have owned them for years. And they, like anybody who has a home, know the power of being able to shelter family, traveling renters and maybe even themselves in their second house on the beach.

Many large older cities boast streetcar suburbs — neighborhoods characterized by detached single-family homes, oriented not around cul-de-sacs but around streets with sidewalks connected in a grid pattern. At the center of these neighborhoods lie what we consider the main roads lined with retail establishments. These roads were once served by streetcar lines radiating from the center city — lines financed and built by private companies that could sell the suburban land around their lines to developers and reap dividends.

This is the kind of suburb that the free market brought into being before a series of policy decisions hobbled streetcar companies and subsidized road building and car ownership. Current car-oriented suburban development patterns, where hardly anything is walking distance from spread-apart homes, are not the result of the free market, but rather of a market distorted by multiple levels of subsidy. Though there is not much that individual developers or local planning departments can do to change this situation in the short term, it is worth keeping in mind when envisioning the future built environment.

And this gets complicated by racial segregation and redlining. Urban renewal also throws a wrench into the old streetcar suburb concept as well. Many proper, predominately African-American streetcar suburbs were demolished or reconfigured to be car-dependent development. Gentrification is taking away a lot of dense, service-rich neighborhoods away from those with lesser means, many which happen to be African-American.

Before I close, this does not let developers and planners who choose to not plan sustainably off the hook. Sustainable place-making concepts must not be limited to downtown areas.There are clear health and economic benefits from building services into suburban neighborhoods. The density I want to start seeing starts with making sure more things are in walking distance, in both urban and suburban places, rather than focusing on putting more luxury high-rises in downtown arts and entertainment districts. We should give everyone a chance to have the home that they need and want, while being able to enjoy walking access to the commercial corridors that define neighborhoods and offer places — be they parks or libraries or coffee shops, casual eateries or corner stores — where communities come together, and that make possible a sense of shared wealth, to accompany the private wealth that suburbs symbolize.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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“A Black Urbanist” Book Cover

Keeping it simple today for your Monday, I am debuting the book cover.

Cover Image

Yes, it’s abstract. Yes, it’s bunch of white walls and black doors and ball lights hanging from the ceiling. I took the picture and I designed the cover myself. And it could change. However, if you purchase the book on December 1 as an e-book, this is the first page you will see. Say you haven’t pre-ordered the book, head on over to Gumroad and do it now.

Next week, I’ll be doing a Q&A about why a book, why now, why an e-book and I’ll be including a special project to take this book to the next level.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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nyc-parks-commissioner-mitchell-j-silver

 

You know how you admire someone’s work from afar for years, hear all kinds of wonderful things about them, meet them once, and twice and over and over, and continue to learn more? That’s how I feel about the inspiring person I’ve chosen for this week, Mitchell Sliver, FAICP, Commissioner of the New York Parks Department (and a litany of other things).

This is Inspiring People, the Sunday feature of the The Black Urbanist where I highlight people in the placemaking space who are inspiring and why they are. Before we get back into the meat of the post, just a reminder that The Black Urbanist is powered by Bluehost.  Check them out and they’ll get you started with everything you need about web hosting and blog making. They’ve kept me going right here for the past 4 years and counting.

I first met Mr. Sliver at N.C. State’s wonderful Urban Design conference back in 2011. I’d published the Grist article, been invited to CNU 19 and I was still reaching folks here and there on Twitter and Facebook. One of those people I’d reached was Mary Newsom, who at the time was still writing for the Charlotte Observer on placemaking and is now at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute (and inspiring on her own). She brought me over to meet him and that’s when I found out he was also a black urbanist.

Fast forward to CNU 20 in West Palm Beach. I attended conference sessions and shared meals with Mitch, at his first CNU. After that time, I felt like I’d gained an uncle in the planning space. I cheered him on as he handled the reigns of the American Planning Association. I looked on from afar as he continued to make Raleigh a better place. I heard him give one of his famous speeches at the 2013 NCSU Urban Design Conference. I was sad, but happy, like everyone else as he became parks commissioner of his hometown, New York City, earlier this year. In his official bio, his new mayor has this to say about him:

“He has a passion for fairness and equality, and he brings it to the work of government, and understands that we have to ensure that parks and open spaces are available in every community, and are well-maintained in every community in this city.”

Oh and Mayor DeBlasio called him a visionary.

It is that vision that inspires me and countless other planners, placemakers, park people and others in the space of making place to value his knowledge and his intellect not just for New York City parks and Raleigh but anywhere else he’s worked and taught and spoken.  In addition, he is a shining example of black achievement and proof that despite our small numbers in the field, we still know how to make an impact.

Read his official bio here.

And this nice profile of the work he’s been doing in New York as parks commissioner.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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Finding Oneself on the Pretty House Blogs

What strikes me as awesome with this apartment, is that first and foremost, there is a sense of calm, there are three people in it in a small space and there’s blue and gold. I’m beginning to fall for the idea of lots of blue and gold in my next solo space.

This is Apartment Healing, the Saturday feature of the The Black Urbanist where I talk about my love of interior design. This month, I’ll be spotlighting a few of my favorite home tours from sites such as Apartment Therapy, AprhoChic and others that share my sense of simple, electic and transformative style, especially in spaces and places where its un-expected. Before we get back into the meat of the post, just a reminder that The Black Urbanist is powered by Bluehost.  Check them out and they’ll get you started with everything you need about web hosting and blog making. They’ve kept me going right here for the past 4 years and counting.

I want to first commend Apartment Therapy for partnering with AphroChic. I just finished reading through Apartment Therapy Presents… and it’s inspired me to write this series of posts. However, the one thing I noticed about the book was that many of the homes were colorful, but not the people. Yet, clearly, I have nothing to worry about. Just like I was clueless about the world of African-Americans and other people of color in planning and community development when I started this site, I’m finding out the same is true in other sectors too. And I’ve added Remix: Decorating with Culture, Objects, and Soul, to my wish-list.

Which brings me to the home of  Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson, who is the editor of HuffPost Home. She’s been in this apartment through post-college career growth, getting married and recently having a baby. And most importantly, there’s this awesome living and dining room composition:

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That’s a turquoise table, against a gold splattered wall. The four pictures are of icons of civil rights leaders. A solid-looking wooden floor. A golden teddy bear on the coffee table. Chevron curtains.

And there’s more from where that came from, check out the original article  for more on how this home is, in the words of the original authors, “vivacious”.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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Senior Walking: A #Video Friday Reflection

So I joined the senior gym in Greensboro on Monday. When I’m home, I aim to work out there a few times a week and I even did beginners Zumba! My mom’s really enjoyed the community she’s found there and I’m happy that I have an inexpensive (and only after 5) option to get myself in better shape.

This is Video Friday and it’s the Friday series on The Black Urbanist. It’s my way of thanking you for hanging with me this week, by giving you something to watch instead of read. It’s also the holiday season and I’m sure you are either hosting all your family or you are getting ready to be one of those poor souls invading the airports and train stations and roads that the news always talks about on holidays. Take some stress out of your trip by using Expedia to book a good deal on your flight, rental car, hotel or all three. Click here  for more information and know that your purchase will support The Black Urbanist and help me keep writing! 

In that spirit, we have partnered with KCET’s City Walk. City Walk is a series of videos showcasing how people walk in their cities. This week we highlight a group of senior mall walkers in the Hillcrest Heights area of Maryland, just outside of DC. The video is here:

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This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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A Gathering of Leaders-A #ThrowbackThursday Reflection

This week I attended with my mayor, several other councilpeople, local foundation leaders and other civic and educational leaders this year’s CEOs for Cities National Meeting in Nashville. That experience took me back to this moment:

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This is my first major panel session, at CNU 19 in Madison, Wisconsin in 2014. I organized this group and this session on “cultural” urbanism with my fellow panelists Payton Chung and James Rojas, each to speak on how their ethnicity and their culture, as well as mine, influences how we built things.

The amazing thing about this week’s conference is that I saw a very diverse room, on and off the main program. We saw diverse programs. Some of us saw community services in action, in a community center designed to reflect the primary cultures served. More on that in a future post.

This post is part of my participation in #NaBloPoMo, the time of the year when bloggers come together to pump out daily content and connect. Find out more about that project and how I’m participating, here and here.

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