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The Circus Comes To Town

September 17, 2009

You’ve read a lot (and will continue to read) about my comparisons and contrasts of Flint, MI and Vancouver, BC and with good reason. My four years there were…memorable…to say the least. Again, the curious and paradoxical duality of these two urban opposites is being whipped up by the happenings along Ann Arbor Street.

Vancouver is, literally, Hollywood North. If you view TV regularly, then you’re probably seeing Vancouver 6-12 times a day and not even knowing it. Film crews are as much a part of the landscape there as vacant lots are a part of Flint. But here, seeing the PA’s standing around in the circus (the off-site collection of storage trucks, actors’ trailers, catering services, moving trucks, etc.) and roads blocked off with a film crew off in the distance was too much. It brought one of those crazy cackling laughs and off-kilter smiles that make people look at you funny to my face (thankfully I was driving by in my car).

Stockton House, the “secret” location for the shoot, is the first to be used outside of Huckleberry Village and the first (if I remember correctly) since Semi-Pro to shoot downtown. Ironically, I missed that one because I was in Vancouver for several weeks.

So seeing this here, in Flint, is rather intriguing. It adds a new, if fleeting, layer to parts of the city that they’ve never seen before.

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The Silver City on Facebook…

September 7, 2009

The Silver City is jumping on the social media bandwagon!

You’ll notice a new badge in the column to the right that links to The Silver City’s Facebook fan page and current status.  It’s far from elegant but a better solution isn’t available without establishing a paid host for this site.  That’s something I’m keeping on the back burner until such time (if ever) that this blog starts to take off and out-grows its present scope.

The Facebook badge does provide a convenient link to an easy-to-use service for posting links, comments, thoughts and photos that don’t necessarily warrant a whole post.  And it’s free!

Unfortunately, none of these options are very compatible with my new Blackberry as the Facebook App is just awful (it hogs the radio and prevents any other apps, emails, or other linked programs from updating) and the WordPress app is fairly clunky and going to take some getting used to.  I’d love to make use of the mobility and quickness of such a device though, because sometimes the best little bits of urbanity and quirks of the city are fleeting and can only be captured by a quick eye.  And it’s the little things that most often make the most difference in any situation.

Whatever you do, don’t call them pancakes…

September 1, 2009

Updated September 5th, 2009

So apparently Flint, will soon be getting a thin, hot battery injection of French/Quebecois love, and I honestly couldn’t be more flabbergasted.

The Flint Crepe Company has its very own fan page, with 1,021 fans. at the time I post this.  It’s suggested that the stand will be set up at the corner of Saginaw Street and 5th, most likely in conjunction with the newly set up Flint Area Chamber of Commerce.

The very idea is absurd in the extreme.  And I love it.  It’s too ridiculous an idea, too fancy and smacks of the rightfully haughty and presumptuous restaurant culture of Vancouver, whose Cafe Crepe restaurants fortified the masses of tourists (and occasional masters candidate) and helped fuel the nearly boundless excess and spectacle that is Robson Street.  Ironically, it’s said that the cart itself is actually from Vancouver!  But, with a considerable excitement, locally-sourced products and a location that puts it within easy reach of the many lawyers and professionals near the Civic Center (and on a future walking route to work) this effort seems to have a lot more of the Midwestern, down-to-earth, get your hands dirty sort of entrepreneurship and dedication than you’d find in Vancouver.

All that said, I wish this endeavor much success and can’t wait to see (and taste!) its impact on such an important intersection in the downtown.

September 4th article on the crepe cart!

A Critical Pause

August 28, 2009

My apologies for the long absence.

Much of it is due to simply being too busy and distracted by other aspects of work and life in general.

It’s certainly not because there isn’t anything to talk about.  The downtown continues making baby steps toward establishing a more cohesive and deliberate sense of urbanism.  Several huge events—Back to the Bricks and the CRIM marathon—continue to grow and not only have an interesting impact on the form and scale of the city, but frequently leaves a positive impression in the minds and eyes of all those suburbanites who come to Flint for these events and then quickly leave.  The potential auction of the Motors Liquidation Company property (the so-called “bad assets” that General Motors so easily sloughed off) like the Chevy-in-the-Hole and Buick City sites continues to drive further speculation and dire warnings concerning the future of their redevelopment and the future of the city.  Then there are, as always, the countless little things and happens that come and go with the any city, that present intriguing questions, give rise to new ideas or just make for a nice photo…

But I’ve also taken a very deliberate break to give more thought to the nature of this blog, its tone, content and perspective.  I very much want this to be a positive, engaged and thought-provoking exploration of design, landscape and urbanism in the City of Flint.  But I’ll be honest—I find it extremely difficult to remain very positive when turning a critical eye towards some aspects of design and development I see in Flint and my passion gets the better of me.  With that in mind, I’ve been attempting to establish how to better balance the perspective of this blog can tackle these issues without turning away anyone interested in reading it.

I look forward to posting soon…

Searching for a Fourth Urbanism, Part 5: Cityism and Parking

July 27, 2009

This post was originally posted in response to Frank Gruber’s July 23rd article in The Santa Monica Lookout News, via The Huffington Post.

Where’s the value in establishing any urbanism that so completely excludes such a broad and comprehensive range of cities?

I’m an urban/landscape designer and I live and work in Flint, MI, so I’m more than a little biased. I’ve also lived in Vancouver, BC, for 4 years before moving back home to Michigan in 2006. Crazy, I know. I happen to believe that these two cities–more than any other in North America–have the most potential for changing (for the better) the future of sustainable and vibrant urbanism. They’re also both failing miserably, for different reasons. Vancouver is replicating and faking itself into mediocrity with its creation of vertical suburbanism–it’s the poster child for how dense, “livable” citys don’t make for great urbanism. Flint is what it is–the poster child for Fordism, modern Euclidian planning, and the continued failure of strong leadership, vision and diversity.

There’s enough cappuchino urbanism in the world already. We need thought, design, and action that builds on urbanism–whether it’s in Flint or Vancouver. Because they both need it BADLY. Just because it’s shrinking, right-sizing, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t mean Flint isn’t a viable or necessary application of urbanism that can influence and inform, for the better, that of other cities. The opposite is true for Vancouver, just because it’s ranked so highly as a livable city doesn’t make plowing tower-podiums through historic neighborhoods or block-sized parking ramps the answer to every city’s woes.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

The Beginning of The Silver City…

July 12, 2009

This blog will be growing and adding a lot more content based on my understanding, experiences and observations of Flint in the near future.  Right now, I’d like to invite everyone to check out the About page and take a look at the general sort of foundation that I’ll be approaching this blog with, and the rationale behind it’s name.

I’ll be letting you know a bit more about myself, and I hope, this city, in the coming days.  Thanks for reading.