Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Hazzard Fountain

This fountain is located in front of the Municipal Auditorium. In a city brochure describing the Municipal Auditorium, the fountain is described as follows.
In 1940, Maine shoe manufacturer R. P. Hazzard gifted the city of Sarasota with a lighted fountain designed by Frank Martin (son
of Auditorium architect, Thomas Reed Martin).
Built by renowned artisan Louis Larsen, the fountain was the auditorium's "crown jewel."

Widening of US 41 (Tamiami Trail) eventually
forced the fountain's removal. After years in storage, it graced the Ringling Museum entrance until changes there banished it to storeroom obscurity once again.

The only Art Deco-style fountain of its kind in public ownership in the U. S. today, the Hazzard Fountain was rescued by the city, restored and returned to its original site in front of the Auditorium in 1995.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Smart Growth and Living in the Suburbs

There is an interesting series of articles concerning smart growth in recent issues of the LA Weekly. This issue spotlights the neighborhoods where some of the most well known smart growth planners live. Not quite smart growth areas:

Do As We Say, Not As We Do
Smart growth’s biggest boosters still love suburban living

If any one principle provides the underpinning for smart growth, it’s density — putting multistory homes around rail stations, on bus corridors and at the heart of urbanized areas.So why are so many smart-growth advocates avoiding density in their own lives?

Take Henry Cisneros, a board member with Smart Growth America. The onetime head of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development came to Los Angeles a decade ago to work for the Spanish-language channel Univision — and immediately found a home in the plush, gated community of Bel Air Crest.

Cisneros, who now runs a company that builds entry-level housing, says that when his family moved, it was thinking heavily about crime — the 1997 North Hollywood bank shootout and the slaying of Ennis Cosby, the son of actor Bill Cosby. He also insists that he was not the driving force behind the decision on where to live.

“It’s the place my wife found,” he says. “We didn’t know the community very well. It’s what she chose, and given that I traveled a lot, and we did not know L.A., I felt it was the right thing to do by the family at the time.”

Cisneros now splits his time between L.A. and San Antonio, leaving his daughter and son-in-law as the main occupants.

Many other high-density housing advocates have also avoided the multistory lifestyle they say Los Angeles so desperately needs.

Take developer Nick Patsaouras, a onetime board member with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who heads the firm Polis — Greek for “city.” Patsaouras, who designs apartment buildings around rail stations, lives in a single-family neighborhood in Tarzana and would need to walk one and four-fifths miles from his hillside home to find the nearest bus.

Then there’s Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Mike Woo, founder of the Smart Growth China Institute, which urges the largest nation in the world to embrace “sustainable transportation and urban planning alternatives instead of duplicating the mistakes of the developed world.”

Woo lives on a hillside in Silver Lake where every home is zoned R-1 — a planning designation meant to keep apartments and condos far away. “This is one of the best neighborhoods in L.A. — other than [its lack of] bus access,” he says.

Consider also Pasadena architect Stefanos Polyzoides, a guru of new urbanism, who has designed transit-oriented housing developments around the Metro Gold Line. Polyzoides lives in a leafy section of Pasadena less than a block from San Marino — which prohibits all construction of apartments. His street has not only restrictive single-family zoning but also signs that bar anyone from parking without a permit.

Polyzoides, who has not only a house but also an 83-year-old Caltech observatory on his land, gives a pithy explanation for his low-density lifestyle choice: “I can afford it,” he says. “And (b), I think I’m doing a tremendous favor to my city by adopting a historic building that I am taking care of.”

More on this story can be found here.

Another story in the series is titled:

Peddling Smart Growth
Call your project “smart” — even when it isn't — and get millions in public funds.

It, too, is a good read.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sarasota County Urban Forestry Program Receives Recognition

From Sarasota County News:

Sarasota County Named Outstanding Urban Forestry Program

For the second consecutive year, the Sarasota County Urban Forestry program has received a top statewide award. Today, it was named Outstanding Urban Forestry Program at the statewide Trees Florida conference in Palm Harbor.

Last year, the county received the Tree City of the Year Award at the annual conference. Both awards were presented to Urban Forestry Manager Demetra McBride by Trees Florida, a coalition of representatives from the Florida Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, the Florida Urban Forestry Council, the Florida Division of Forestry and the University of Florida Extension.

The Trees Florida 2007 awards are presented for outstanding efforts to plan, plant and protect urban and community forests throughout Florida. The Urban Forestry division of Public Works was particularly recognized for its outstanding people, projects, techniques, education and outreach and management of natural resources with special regard for Floridas urban forests.

In presenting the award at todays luncheon, Trees Florida Chairman Michael Conner said that Sarasota Countys green infrastructure programs focusing on the use of the urban forest as a bio-utility was the decisive factor in selecting the county program for the statewide honor.

"In 2005, the Sarasota County Commission directed the Urban Forestry Program to expand its management plan beyond mere aesthetic use of the community's forest," McBride noted. "The Forestry Program employs a small, committed group of skilled and talented arborists, who have distinguished this program since 1988. This award recognizes the vision of the county's leadership, and our hard work and ingenuity, to promote and manage the urban forest as a utility and as an essential element of sustainable growth."

Previous, recent Outstanding Urban Forestry Program award recipients included the cities of Plantation, Hollywood and Marco Island.

The Sarasota County Urban Forestry division is the steward for the countys urban forest, representing trees found in the wild, in parks, on beaches, in the county rights of way, medians and thoroughfares, and along waterways and canopy roads. The division manages about 54,000 trees throughout the county, including more than 113 street tree and neighborhood street tree projects and 64 certified canopy roads.

For more information about the Urban Forestry division, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 or visit

Sarasota County's urban forestry program is also mentioned prominently in the latest issue of the National League of Cities publication "Nation Cities Weekly".

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Changing Face of Ringling

Two buildings that harken back to the days of John Ringling still survive on the street that carries his name 80 years later.

The building at 1727 Ringling (La Casa Apartments) was built in 1925 and remains an apartment building today.

Next to it is Hotel Ranola. Originally an apartment building, it is now a boutique hotel. It was built in 1926.

Towering over these buildings is the condo portion of the Rivo on Ringling - an 18 story mixed use project.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Do Planners Become NIMBYs?

A story in the Tuscon Citizen begins:

My Tucson: I love infill - just not in my backyard

It's a dark day when an urban planner must admit to being a NIMBY.

Any Tucsonan recognizes the "Not in My Backyard" folks who object to development in proximity to them, or anywhere in town, for that matter.

During my years at the Pima County Planning Department, staff wagered on the winner of the "Newest NIMBY in Town" award.

At public meetings to garner local input on development, invariably someone would grab the microphone and accuse us of ruining this town.

The grand winner was a woman who had moved here from Michigan only seven days prior, outraged that we would plan additional residential development.

She made an impassioned plea for shutting the gates before her week-old small-town lifestyle was changed forever.

Should have done it.

The rest of the story can be found here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

World Monument Fund Tabs Riverview High as One of the World's 100 Most Endangered Sites

From a World Monument Fund press release today:

For Immediate Release—New York, NY, June 6, 2007 . . .

The 2008 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites was announced today by Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), the nonprofit organization that, for more than 40 years, has helped save hundreds of endangered architectural and cultural sites around the world. This year’s list highlights three critical man-made threats: political conflict, unchecked urban and industrial development, and, for the first time, global climate change.

Announced every two years, the WMF Watch List acts as a call to action, drawing international public attention to threatened cultural heritage sites across the globe. The Watch List is assembled by an international panel of experts in archaeology, architecture, art history, and preservation. For many historic sites, inclusion on the List is the best, and sometimes the only, hope for survival.

One of the sites listed is "Main Street Modern", a catchall phrase denoting mid-century modern architecture. A specific site pointed out is Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School in Sarasota:

Main Street Modern
Various Locations, United States, 1945 – 1975

Most communities in the United States have at least one public building designed in the Modern idiom. Whether community centers, schools, libraries, or religious institutions, these buildings represent an important shift in the history of twentieth-century American architecture when Modernism was chosen over traditional styles in order to project a national image of progress. More than residential or commercial buildings, it is the civic architecture of Post-World War II America that retains the early Modernist agenda––as conceived in Europe during the interwar years––to democratize design and society.

For example, Modern design principles were used to create schools that reflected the ideal that all children should have equal access to quality education. European émigrés like Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe––all former Bauhaus leaders––as well as the architects they helped train, such as Paul Rudolph, I.M. Pei, and lesser-know designers, created many of the icons of Modern architecture, including the Whitney Museum of Art, Seagram Building, and Yale University Art and Architecture Building. They were also the architects responsible for many of the everyday Modern structures that are now integral parts of the American main street.

The work of these designers was united by certain core principles, including a departure from traditional forms, the integration of arts and design disciplines, and the use of industrial materials and innovative technologies. Physically embodying these core principles, the architecture of “Main Street Modern” is typically characterized by simple, geometric or abstract forms, machine-made components, and new expressions of space, such as the use of glass walls that remove the visual barrier between exterior and interior.

The primary threats faced by Modern architecture are demolition or inappropriate renovations and the technical challenges of conserving the experimental materials and innovative building systems used in their construction. These two factors pose an immediate threat to many mid-twentieth-century buildings. However, the greatest threat is perhaps public apathy––a lack of consensus or confidence––that buildings of the recent past can be important enough to be preserved for the future. This could be because the public feels alienated from the theories and intellectual concepts that informed Modern architecture and because it will take additional time and research to understand how these buildings fit into the continuum of American architectural history.

There are a number of significant “Main Street Modern” buildings threatened with demolition or degradation right now, including Paul Rudolph’s Riverview High School (1957) in Sarasota, Florida and Marcel Breuer’s Grosse Pointe Public Library (1953) in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

The world continues to watch the threat of demolition of Rudolph's Riverview High School building.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Urban Forestry

An interesting letter to the editor from Sunday's SHT:

Article published Jun 3, 2007

Urban forests can offset development

Current trends indicate a doubling of Florida's population by 2060 (to 34 million), with 80 percent of that influx settling within 40 miles of a coastline. To prepare for the inevitable urbanization and coastal density, planners are looking to "new urbanist" models that will reduce consumption of resources and conserve them for future use. Among these principles, "green infrastructure" and the use of the urban forest as a "bio-utility" are now recognized as critical to the success of smart growth.

A well-designed, -managed and -maintained urban forest has the proven capability to:

1. Sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

2. Intercept deadly particulate pollution.

3. Control and filtrate surface water, circulating fresh rainfall back into the natural hydrological system.

4. Prevent coastal erosion.5. Cool our external and internal environments, thus reducing our energy consumption.

A healthy urban forest with "green corridors" preserves urban and suburban habitat for wildlife. Species selection, together with a feasible mitigation plan for invasives, is essential. Tree benefits do carry some costs -- principally maintenance and impact on hardscape. But the net benefit is increased if we focus on the planting and preservation of native species, which over the ages have established themselves harmoniously with other ecosystems (estuaries) and the patterns and needs of local wildlife.

Nonnatives seriously disrupt our environment.With recent publicity concerning habitat restoration projects in our area, it is important to address this issue in the context of the science of urban forestry management rather than focusing on a single species.

See the following Web sites for more information:

Tim Eiseler

The writer is a landscape architect, certified arborist and urban forester in Anna Maria.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Changing Sarasota

An interesting juxtaposition is seen with the new high rise buildings downtown appearing to loom over the older buildings along Fruitville.

While the shop pictured here sells antiques, some may view the building itself as an antique, being replaced by a modern scene. But the building hangs on, providing local character as well as business activity.