The Great Senior Sell off + dropping graduation rates=bummer

Arthur C Nelson is coming to town!

He’s the go to guy that has been pretty accurately predicting how the housing markets are evolving.

This coming Friday, June 30th, he’ll be in Santa Fe and hopefully shedding light on the latest trends.

Here’s my take. As us Boomers get to 65, retirement, we tend to sell our homes and downsize and/or relocate. The problem is there’s a smaller pool of buyers who can afford to buy the homes… Hispanic and African-Americans populations, though growing, haven’t been graduating from colleges in the numbers required to acquire the salaries necessary to buy our homes.

The American Dream of home ownership converting into our retirement nest egg has taken a hit. … READ MORE >>

First Comes the Artists, then Gentrification…”What’s a Mother to do??!!”

The artists move into the industrial, run down part of town.  Rents are cheap, spaces are big. Cafes and bars start to open. The area becomes hip, creativity is flowing…and the lawyers move in. Nice restaurants and high end clothing stores open up.

Get 'em while they're hot!

The prices skyrocket. The artists are forced to move out, the Soul fades…ah, but it’s a good investment! The Condos pop up, get ‘em while they’re hot!

There are so many parts to this scenario that irk me, I don’t know where to begin!

First off, who created the value of this highly desirable place?  I’d say the artists.   I’d also say the suburbs are so boring, people are starved for soul, a “realness” with vibrant, alive streets. So we as a society get some of the credit, in a reverse kind of way.

The next think that irks me is how, in our mad rush for a great place to live, we end up doing great damage to  the very thing we love; … READ MORE >>

Safeway goes Mixed Use!

Museum Place Lofts & Townhouses were finished in 2003 in Portland’s Cultural District. The development has 140 apartments atop and behind a Safeway grocery store.

Safeway has thrown away its clothes!!! Naked Thursdays!! Come as you are!

Yes, I’m babbling…I just learned Safeway in Washington DC has two mixed use redevelopments cooking.  Starting with community input sessions, Safeway partners up with a builder and is creating mixed use properties.  They’re, in effect, adding residential on top of their grocery stores!!!  Well, Duh!!

I’m taking steps to create a dense, mixed use, deeply affordable, thriving neighborhood redevelopment in Santa Fe.  So when SAFEWAY!!! goes mixed use, I don’t feel like such a pie-in-the-sky Utopian.  Damn straight, I’m a pragmatic developer of sustainable neighborhoods!!

One of these Safeways is going to have 150 apartments and 10-15 townhouses above the new Safeway. Another has 486 apartments and is going to be 17 stories tall, again above the new Safeway and underground parking.

It takes a certain number of residents to make the neighborhood commerical successful. Underground parking is expensive.  The numbers have to work.

In Santa Fe, we don’t have the traditions of medium high rises to make the densities successful.  Our challenge is to have enough buildings with 2-4 stories above commercial and community services on the bottom floor, so the streets become lively with neighbors going about their daily tasks.

Safeway’s experience partnering with housing developers and working with residents through the zoning process has allowed the company to align itself with public officials who are looking to fashion their neighborhoods as more walkable, urban and environmentally friendly.

This is contrast to Wal-Mart, which is looking to sell more groceries and open at least four stores in the District, but is fending off protests. Developing mixed-use projects is more complex work than simply rehabilitating grocery stores, but  Tim Baker, vice president of eastern division real estate for Safeway, said company officials have begun meeting with residents about plans to redevelop the property into a mixed-use project. Baker, who used to work for Wal-Mart, said it pays off. “The way we look at it is, we can get an even better project that way,” he said.

Safeway… who would have thought?? They’re going for a huge private label organic food line, and now mixed use redevelopments. Quoting Arlo at Woodstock “New York threw away its clothes!!”

So come on people. Raise your voices, envision your future sustainable! Together we can make sustainable real!!

Image courtesy of DJC.com

Is There Gold at the End of the Sustainable Rainbow?

I woke up this morning, freaking out.  Doubting myself…I’ve oversold the opportunity…I’m proposing this community organizing path around a sustainable neighborhood demonstration site, and there is no funding.

It’s like I’m organizing a road trip and have enough money to get to Lubbock.  I need to ask my fellow travelers if they’ll chip in before we head out to New York.

The other thing that comes to my mind is this sign I’ve seen on the wall at local businesses…

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.”

So I sat myself down and mapped the road ahead, and figured out when the money needs to show up. I’ve been bootstrapping it out of pocket, but there comes a time for dinero….

“What” you might be saying, “is he talking about…specifically?!!”… READ MORE >>

A Match Made in Heaven

Foundation Investing and Your Vision of Sustainable Neighborhoods

Foundations grant 5% of their assets and invest 95%.  As I understand it, the branch of the foundation that invests has very little connection to the branch that makes grants.  In fact, sometimes their actions are running against each other.

The beauty of socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable neighborhoods, is they meet both objectives! The social mission of empowering, resilient, health lifestyles, uplifting,  poverty busting, social justice,  ecologically sound, and local economic development all gets handled in  ”mixed use, mixed income neighborhoods with lifelong learning and open space” .

The investment mission gets handled in creating large opportunities for investing in real, lasting values!

So… submit your ideas, your vision of the sustainable life you want to be living. As the needs aggregate, the existing market demand for sustainable neighborhoods becomes more apparent. Once the construction industry, from builders to banks to investors, finally accepts the go-go days  are gone, they will become more open to this new form of community based in real, lasting values. National foundations will have something to invest in that meets their asset needs. And their funding branch will see their missions move forward.

Your vision of your desired future sustainable lifestyle and billions of foundation $$$ assets ….A match made in heaven!!…

READ MORE >>

Renovate Your House, Transform the Neighborhood

Washing machines sit idle most of the time

Looking at the challenge of how to build our futures resilient and sustainable, my sense is the insulation in the burbs across America is woefully shy. Heating systems are not so efficient, heating ducts leak, appliances are not so energy efficient, and windows are not so good, to say the least.  These aren’t really economic problems until we hit global peak oil production.  Then the pain of rising prices, utility bills, and commuting will become increasingly excruciating,  is my guess.

What service would you like to provide to the neighborhood? Originally, the “dress” on House #1 was meant to conceal a gambling casino.

The cost of renovating a suburban home to a highly efficient passive (zero or low emissions) house is cost preventative in many situations.  My sense is most suburbanites will only be able to make these upgrades if they can bundle the costs as they add a second, third, four stories to their homes. To make this scenario work, the first floor will become mostly commercial, home occupation, and the floors above will contain rentals, offices or residential, maybe  multigenerational families with multiple contributions to the mortgage. The densities in the neighborhood have to be high enough to make the commercial successful.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers for this “2-4 story smart density infill/renovation to passive home standards” will only work if these free standing suburban homes are joined to create row houses.  My guess is the cost challenge of upgrading from an R 13 or R19 wall to a R 40? is too great a hurdle. By creating row houses, I’m thinking the amount of exterior walls is greatly reduced. Good sound insulation is essential, but much less expensive than getting to R 40 (or whatever a passive/zero emissions house design requires).

To add to the complexity,… READ MORE >>

Grading A-F; Schools as Centers of Community

How do I feel about the A-F grading of New Mexico Schools? Well, thank you for asking!

The challenges of our times are so extraordinary, they call for a different approach to life. Working collaboratively on real world problems, creating living sustainability, with a community wide range of stakeholders is the school of our times.

Grading Schools A-F

Schools as Centers of Community Sustainability

 

What if each school and its surrounding neighborhoods  set the intention of having the school become the center of the community? The school would then work with the surrounding neighbors in redeveloping into a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable community!
The grading, A-F, would be a indicator of how the school/neighborhood was doing in terms of sustainability;… READ MORE >>

The #1 way to Support Local Food is…

The #1 way to Support Local Food is by… creating a deeply affordable lifestyle. Lowering the cost of living frees up customers’ pocket books so they can buy more local food and dine at restaurants serving locally produced food.

Santa Fe's Farmers Market

Local Farmers, Local Food...Santa Fe Saturday AM

A deeply affordable lifestyle is essential in other key ways as well. Farmers and their employees need affordable housing, water, land, processing facilities, season extending structures, fertilizers, etc.  Higher costs in any one of these networks of networks undermines our food security.

Here in Santa Fe we have one of the best Farmer’s Markets in the nation, apparently.  I think much of its popularity is because Santa Feans have more disposable income. And yet, in spite of all the success, Beneficial Farms CSA‘s Steve Warshawer estimates all the capacity of the Northern New Mexico regional farmers would feed only 2000 folks.  Santa Fe current population is around 70,000, with a surrounding regional total of approx 100,000.

For our regional capacity, our Food Shed, to grow significantly, I believe we will have to work  together to create deep affordability and free up more disposable income. I call it “Mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods, with lifelong learning and open space”. The open space is for agriculture, natural habitat, and recreation.

This strategy is good for everyone; builds our regional resiliency and food security, lowers our eco-footprint, and raises our quality of life!

Share your ideas and experiences in the comments area! Back yard chickens, collecting urine for fertilizer, compost piles, converting front yards to food forests, deep mulching strategies, farm to school programs, aquaculture, etc… the list is long….Together we can make sustainable real!… READ MORE >>

Envisioning A More Abundant Lifestyle

Serving Ourselves, While Serving Others

A few years ago,  the Sustainable  Neighborhoods Focus Group came up with the idea of giving as a key to a more abundant lifestyle. Currently, infill and new development often give very little to neighborhoods, usually a loss of views and open space, more traffic, and a deadness associated with second homes and single use neighborhoods.

From our Focus Group, a vision emerged where the residents of existing neighborhoods get more; More abundance and aliveness, more safety with neighbors walking on the streets to more conveniently located services. Along with a healthier, more pedestrian friendly lifestyle comes innovative ways to share more amenities, creating a greater sense of community and providing a more affordable lifestyle, a lifestyle beyond suburbia, a lifestyle that lives lighter on the planet.

Roy Wroth's concept diagram

A Neighborhood that Serves Itself, while Serving Others!

The Focus Group identified conceptual “clusters” of homes or workspaces, designed around residents’ simple but fundamental essential common needs; (in other words, the “cluster” could be a scattered site)

  • Child-Oriented Houses
  • a Cohousing Group
  • an Elder Housing Group
  • a Live/work and Commercial Space Cluster
  • a Small Houses and Eco-Homes Compound
  • Artist Cooperative Workshops
  • Young People Living Over Garages….

 

Giving More Amenities, Getting More Life

These different clusters were assigned services to be provided, not only to meet the cluster’s own needs, but as economies of sale require, to meet the needs of the adjoining clusters and the existing, surrounding neighborhoods…. READ MORE >>

Why own?… when you can Carshare!!

Oh my God!  We can share stuff, even cars!

Philly Carsare

Sustainable living with a carshare!

Can you imagine, you can rent out your car by the hour??!! yep, human ingenuity strikes again. You probably have heard of Zipcars, and other private car share programs.  Well, another variation on the concept,  peer to peer car sharing,  is coming on line.  RelayRides in Boston claims their participating car owners can earn up to $8000 a year by renting out their cars.  With different Smartphone interfaces, integrated web cam configurations,  and insurance packages tailored to the club program,  a variety of business models have sprung up around the planet. … READ MORE >>

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