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September 25, 2006

Cedar Riverside now low income housing

The Cedar Riverside apartments for low income housing.

What started out as an ambitious project by some of the most respected community leaders to build urban housing is now nicknamed the “slum in the sky� and “the crack stacks�. The joint venture was funded by Gloria Segal and Keith Heller, and designed by our very own Ralph Rapson. The Cedar Riverside apartments replaced dilapidated homes, stores and bars in an urban renewal and was a logical project because it was convenient central location. This high rise building is typical of modern design in the 1970 consisted of 1300 units and quickly turned into an urban nightmare for the residents. I believe the project failed because when so many people of different income, ethnicity and cultures are grouped together they tend to cluster and become isolated. But smaller groups of diverse ethnicity are more likely to get along because now they have to find some thing in common with their neighbor besides their culture. Perhaps it would have been better if the design was more open and consisted of smaller building. Also if the design included overlooking courtyards so neighbors can keep an eye on who came in and out of the buildings. This info was research on the web at http://www.mspmag.com/feature.asp?featureid=3040 . During my search I came across a group called the Central Community Housing Trust (CCHT) http://www.ccht.org/ which worked on a smaller scale but renewed old buildings and worked more to create an environment for a more favorable community. I am really excited about this organization please look at the website and all their projects.

September 18, 2006

The Midtown Market

The ground floor of the old Sears building is now the Midtown Market and is fashioned after other famous markets as Fanneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston or Pike Place Market in Seattle. Although the Midtown Market just opened in May it has become a hub of activity for the neighborhood. I visited the market two times this week and both experiences were very different. On a weekday afternoon the market is buzzing with excitement. As I walked around to the various shops, grocery stores, and restaurants I was able to sense the diversity of the patrons. The experience was a refreshing blend of cultures so I went back to the market on Saturday at about 6pm for an evening meal with my family. I was very surprised by the subdued atmosphere for a weekend. As I walked up to the building there were very few people in the market and walking around I was surprised at the lack of energy. So I decided to have dinner and wait. My daughter and I ate at an Asian restaurant and realized they did not have a children’s menu and neither did the most of the other restaurants. The market had not considered families with children and this was very disappointing. I expected the energy to pickup as the night progressed; I quickly realized the market closes at 8pm and the market fell short of my expectation for a vibrant international market. This brings to mind similar projects in the 1980’s that tried to be the hub of a community but fell short, such as Riverplace and Calhoun Square. What is it that makes projects like this succeed or what makes them fail? I realized now that Midtown Market does not have the same energy and rhythm of the other markets. The surrounding neighborhood was active and just getting started when the market closed.