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National roundup: DC's 'High Line,' Cleveland's coolest digs, Denver's downtown boom

View from the roof deck of a Cleveland loft

DC's 'High Line'

Bold cities are thinking big, especially when it comes to infrastructure. D.C. leaders have proposed a park that could transform the economically-depressed Anacostia neighborhood. It started with a wistful conversation between the city's head of planning and a local leader.

"The project started as a crazy idea just over two years ago," writes Rachel Kaufman in Elevation DC. "The 11th Street bridge connecting Navy Yard to Anacostia was (and is) being rebuilt. The old piers for the outdated span remain in the water."

"What if, then-planning director Harriet Tregoning asked, we reused the old pillars to create a new park? ... It would be D.C.'s High Line, the city's own example of taking out-of-date infrastructure and turning it into something useful."

Philly's Promise

Residents of one of the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia are hopeful that a new federal designation as a "Promise Zone" will help revitalize this downtrodden area. Brandon Alcorn of Flying Kite examines whether or not this will be a promise fulfilled -- or another one broken.

"Half [of residents] live below the federal poverty line. The 14 percent unemployment rate is well above the city average. More than 1 in 10 buildings sits vacant. It is an area that has long suffered from a lack of investment, crime, poor schools and a lack of jobs. But in the last several years, things have started to change for the rowhome-lined blocks of the Promise Zone."

Across the state, Keystone Edge looks at cool workplaces that "incorporate smart design, thoughtful amenities and sustainable features, sending a clear message: we value our workers."

Cleveland's sweet digs

Many of Cleveland's older homes are getting more than a facelift. When it comes to redeveloping older homes and neighborhoods for the next century, that may or may not include building a rock climbing wall in your basement to survive the harsh Midwestern winter.

Fresh Water covers next generation housing with profiles of a department store turned into a stunning open loft (with said rock climbing wall), high style in an Old Victorian, what might be the city's greenest home, and a small-but-beautiful Colonial with chickens roosting in the yard.

Micro-cinema in Pittsburgh


The New York Times and other media outlets have reported about how micro-cinemas are surviving despite the decline of the movie business. They're doing it by establishing a niche, including showing unique features, offering beer on tap and creating a can't-miss experience.

Rowhouse Cinema is the newest kid on the block, writes Nick Keppler in Pop City. "When the first kernels of popcorn pop and the projector beams above the screening room for the first time, the scene will represent the triumph of an idea at which many investors scoffed."

The cinema is located inside one of the many redeveloped rowhouses that dominate Pittsburgh and many other eastern cities. The new Lawrenceville hotspot will also include a swank new beer store and a Mexican barbeque restaurant.

What's next for Tampa


Downtown residential development is key to attracting new residents and fostering a vibrant city. 83 Degrees examines exciting projects that will transform Tampa's burgeoning urban landscape -- the historic Kress building as well as five new towers slated to rise downtown.

Cooking up innovation

"Formally organized, community shared kitchens—also known as incubator kitchens or rental kitchens—have been gaining momentum in the Twin Cities," writes Anne Jin Soo Preston in The Line.

Whether they're assisting a tea maker or an ice cream startup, many of these community kitchens not only offer space but also help with branding, marketing and business plans. With local food an increasingly important part of the urban economy, these kitchens fill a need.

Activating Memphis

From Crosstown to the Broad Avenue Arts District, Memphis has proven that temporary neighborhood activation projects can yield long-term results, if done thoughtfully and strategically.

"The beauty of activation is that once you stage something, people can visualize [redevelopment]," claims Pat Brown, Vice President of the Broad Avenue Arts District, drawing on his own experiences with Memphis' nationally-known arts district.

A recent feature in High Ground examines whether or not the city can expect similar results with the activation of the Tennessee Brewery, a building that's been vacant since 1951.

Toronto plays around


Can a big sporting event transform a city, or will it just leave behind some one-offs with limited long-term impact? Torontonians are wisely skeptical, yet Yonge Street writer Bert Archer says the PanAm/ParaPan Games have already made a huge impact on the city's landscape.

Already-visible results include "an entirely new neighbourhood on the Waterfront, the games acting as a sort of accelerator for an already planned overhaul of the formerly industrial port lands," he writes. "The contributions being made by these games are more organic, contributing to the ongoing process of city building rather than setting itself up as a standalone wonder."

"This doesn't mean that it just might work; it means it's already working."

The preschool gap

Cincinnati ranks second in the nation in child poverty. Soapbox examines how a group of nonprofit organizations are trying to help more families gain access to preschool.

"An increasing body of research now shows that two years in a high-quality preschool program has a greater positive impact on a child’s development than interventions at any other stage, especially for those growing up at or near the poverty line," writes Andrew Welsh in Soapbox. "Evidence shows that many children in our city aren’t getting that head start."

Denver's building boom



Downtown Denver has seen $5 billion in development since 2008 -- and the hits keep coming. There are no fewer than 78 projects in the works right now, including 6,000 new residential units, 2,300 new hotel rooms and 2.7 million square feet of new office space.

"When I first got involved in Downtown Denver in 1988, the thing that struck me was that it was surrounded by vacant lots and kind of isolated," Bill Mosher, Senior Managing Director of Trammell Crow, told Eric Peterson of Confluence. Yet things have changed in 25 years.

What's made a difference? Connectivity among different neighborhoods, the catalytic Union Station project and light rail to the airport, among other investments.

Downtown Denver is now seen as a vibrant, walkable neighborhood -- and that's right where tomorrow's residents, office workers and visitors want to be.

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Lee Chilcote is a Cleveland-based writer and editor who serves as Editorial Director for Issue Media Group and Development Editor for Fresh Water Cleveland. Follow him @leechilcote.

 
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