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Chris DeWolf - site issues, news, links
Chris Szabla - Urbanphoto Boston

Urbanphoto Boston
New in the Boston galleries, as of June 20: Photos of Davis Square in Somerville are up, as well as photos of Chinatown and the adjacent Leather District.

"Informing the public of urbanism through word and photography"

Urban Photo of the Week
July 16-July 23, 2001

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Pierrepont Playground (174k)
A busy neighbourhood playground in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn. (DeWolf, 2000).

TO bid sparked wtrft revival plans; TStar - Jul 16
Bellevue, WA improving downtown; ESJ - Jul 3
Ann Arbor's dtwn renaissance; DNews - Jul 1
Edtn plan calls for more urban street; EJ - Jun 29

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This week's 500 Words: Street vendors and street markets should not be restricted. (Jn 23) 500 Words on hiatus until August.

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July 2001

Urbanite - Michael McKenna writes about Montréal's forced amalgamation with its suburbs and why that is a bad thing. Also, urban news from around the world, book review, camera review and our bimonthly columns.

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Hot neighbourhoods
Posted 18 July, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
This update has been a long time coming. Sorry about that, but summer is here and coupled with my natural laziness, well, you get the picture. I'm going to start off with the Montreal Gazette's series on Montreal's "hot neighbourhoods". There's seven weeks left in the series, and each Tuesday will see a new neighbourhood profile. Over at the National Post, a similar series is being run this week focusing on Canada's downtown cores. Today was Calgary and yesterday was Vancouver; links to articles in the series can be found at the bottom of the page. Check it out. / Over the past few weeks, two great series on Detroit history have appeared in local papers. The Detroit News ran East Ferry: Avenue of Dreams, which looks at the rise and fall of Detroit's grandest residential street. Not to be outdone, the Detroit Free Press ran Woodward's Voices, an article on the lives of people in contact with the main street of Detroit. / Washington Heights in Manhattan is an overlooked neighbourhood, perched high above the rest of the island and filled with great Art Deco architecture. Stuart Brorson's photo tour of the area, which also includes photos of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and historical maps, delves into the intriguing landscape, architecture and history of the Heights. / A few more random links and then some things I'll discuss about the site: Cabbagetown USA is a site dedicated to the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Atlanta, a collection of old cottages centred around a former cotton mill. San Diego Pictures has some photos of various San Diego districts such as La Jolla, but no downtown photos. Sylvana and Hans' Toronto has photos of various Toronto sights and neighbourhoods, some of them, like Roncesvalles or Chinatown East, not ones you'd normally find photos of. / Now, about the site: during the summer I will get the Fargo exhibit online, after many months of delays as I waited for a contributor who never called back. 500 Words will be on hiatus (in case you hadn't noticed) until mid-August when I return from British Columbia with columns on Vancouver and Victoria and other BC cities. I will also try and create photo pages for Vancouver, Victoria and St. John's, Newfoundland, all of which I will be visiting in the coming weeks. Hopefully I will also be able to reorganise the Miscellaneous Cities page to make it clearer and easier to navigate. Lastly, since I won't be here much for the next three weeks, Chris Szabla and Tony Peric will be updating the site.

Philly's streetcars
Posted 4 July, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Once upon a time, Philadelphia - like most North American cities - had an expansive streetcar network that extended throughout the city and into bourgeoning outer neighbourhoods. Today, one a few lines of streetcars and trolleybuses remain, replaced by cheap but dirty and noisy diesel buses. Philly's story, which can be found at Streetcar Philadelphia, is pretty much a mirror tale as to what happened in many other cities. Today the only cities in North America that offer genuine street tram service are Toronto and San Francisco. Fortunately, many cities are seeing a renaissance of rail transit, mostly in the form of light rail, but these trams are nothing compared to the dozens of routes that criscrossed the city streets of yesterday. Trolleybuses are in short supply as well, with only Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and Dayton, Ohio offering systems of note. Information on rail transit, trolleybuses and more can be found at Jon Bell's Rail Transit Pages. / If the City of Calgary gets its way, the King Edward Hotel will meet its match in the form of a bulldozer. The City wants to tear down the hotel, a lively bastion of blues, and replace it with an underpass under adjacent railyards. You can read more about it in the Calgary Herald, whose editorial board, surprisingly enough, has been an outspoken critic of the City's move. If you want to voice your opinion on this issue, be sure to write a letter to the Herald's editors. / Be sure to check out Urban75's photography pages, especially the Brixton ones. I spend a good while tonight admiring this intriguing London neighbourhood. Other photos of London can be found at the Explore London site, which has a couple hundred panoramas of river views, squares and interesting streetscapes. Photos of North London offers about four photos of the northern London neighbourhood of Islington. / More Detroit news: the Rivertown neighbourhood is hoping for a renaissance. Several new restaurants have opened there as the area tries to shrug its reputation as a deserted, decaying empty quarter. Also in the news is a story by the Ottawa Citizen on Boulder, Colorado's successful public transit system. To top it all off, here' some sites that let you explore San Francisco's neighbourhoods: Alfredo's Guide to San Francisco has a great neighbourhoods page. Although it is incomplete, it has interesting descriptions and photos of various districts. The Bay Area Traveler has a guide to some of SF's 'hoods, and Planet SOMA has a good subjective tour of San Francisco and nearby cities. Of course, you can't forget San Francisco Cityscape, an excellent guide to urban issues in San Francisco, as well as its Photo Gallery. / Here are some trips that people from urbanphoto.org will be taking in the upcoming days: in late July I will be going to St. Johns, Newfoundland, and in early August I will be exploring central Vancouver. Sometime in August Chris Szabla will be going to San Francisco.

Posted 25 June, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
I've always been fascinated by Chinatowns and how they vary from place to place. Chinatowns of the World has a map of world cities with Chinatowns (though some locations seem rather dubious -- Keremeos, BC?). It also has photos of some Chinatowns, from Victoria to Sacramento's laughably pathetic "China Town Plaza" strip mall. You can also check out the Nanaimo Chinatowns Project, a great site that documents the British Columbia city of Nanaimo's various Chinatowns over the past century and a half. Another site, also named Chinatowns of the World, has even more Chinatowns listed as well as links to various specific Chinatown homepages. Lastly, the British Columbia Archives has a good history of Victoria Chinatown. / A postscript to last update's section on Detroit decay: last week, the Detroit News ran an excellent series called Broken Detroit: Death of a city block. It looks at the life and death of a middle-class urban Detroit block as it changed from a thriving Jewish street to a poorer but still intact and thriving black street to eventual, complete decay. / A Globe and Mail story from last week, Rooms with a social view, chronicles the work of South African-turned-Canadian architect Jack Diamond, who is known for bringing the human scale and quality building of Victorian townhouses into modern housing projects and other buildings. A few other random links now: Manhattan Timeformations is a Flash look at Manhattan's layers of buildings, history and development through maps and renderings. I am particuarly interested in the Transparent New York section that lets you overlap various map elements onto Manhatan; for instance, contrasting the extent of British-developed New York with modern-day historic districts. The Weekly Dig's Best of Boston reveals the best neighbourhoods in the city, among other things, and the Japanese Transit section of Trainweb has all sorts of photos and info on rail transit in Japanese cities. / At long last, the June/July issue of Urbanite Bimonthly will mail out tomorrow. Included will be an opinion piece by Michael McKenna on the Montreal amalgamation, a camera review (for all you aspiring urban photographers) by Brian Schmidt, columns by myself and Chris Szabla, and the usual urban news and Guess the City (if it fits). So subscribe now!

South Boston
Posted 14 June, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
A few days ago Chris Szabla told me about Virtual Sidewalk, a site that takes you on a photographic tour of West Broadway in South Boston, Massachusetts. This area, actually a neighbourhood in the city of Boston (although it is fiercely independent) is an old, dense and historically working-class Irish neighbourhood (you guessed it) south of downtown Boston. This is where you can find factories, beaches, Irish social clubs, pubs, and a growing number of yuppies and students all within a half mile of each other. Check out SurfaceCity's South Boston page for a more subjective view on the area. / A few items on Detroit: firstly, a news story about the downtown area's Kennedy Square which details the park's destruction for a new multiuse development (the square, in turn, was created when Detroit's old city hall was razed in 1961). Detroit Pictures offers photos of the Motor City and, especially interesting, one of its 'neighbourhoods' (actually an independent city) of Hamtramck. The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit has information and photos of the city's infamous ruins, as well as some of its newly-restored historic architecture. The Optimist's  Detroit Photo Collection contains some interesting photos of downtown Detroit as well as some of its new restoration and redevelopment projects. Indirectly related to Detroit is Urban Decay, a small collection of photos of American urban decay. / Moving quickly to Vancouver now, Eyesavancouver has photos of various Vancouver neighbourhoods. See Vancouver Heritage has an even more impressive collection of photos of great old buildings, especially in the Gastown-Downtown Eastside section. The Vancouver Sun also ran an opinion piece this past Monday suggesting cars be banned from Stanley Park, a largely natural forest and park that sits next to the sea, adjacent to downtown. / A couple Boston area articles: a Cape Cod Times' editorial suggesting New Urbanist developments may be the way to go, rather than letting regular sprawl litter the cape; and an article about the cultural erosion of Boston's Chinatown. / Check back tomorrow for a new 500 Words editorial, and Urbanite will be mailed sometime in the next week. Be sure to subscribe if you haven't already done so.

The South Bronx
Posted 5 June, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Wendell Cox's Public Purpose website recently reported on the revitalisation of the South Bronx, particularily around Charlotte Street. You can read the text here and see the photos here. One particularily repulsive aspect of Charlotte Street's "rebirth" is the 1983 redevelopment, which consists of a couple dozen split-level homes on generous suburban-style lots. Newer developments are much better but still place parking in front and will fuel the construction of a strip mall in coming months. The story of the South Bronx's decay can be read in the Washington Monthly, and some photos of the South Bronx today can be seen here. As those new photos demonstrate, there's plenty of potential (and success) in converting dilapidated buildings into successful ones without moving suburbia into the city. Photos of South Bronx decay from the 1990s, by sociologist Camilo Vergara, can be seen here. / My how time flies. in the two weeks since the last update, I've opened the long (long!) -awaited New York galleries, which contain 671 (give or take) photos of five Manhattan districts as well as Brooklyn Heights. Meanwhile, I've found some interesting links to share with you. The New Suburbia is a Globe and Mail series by award-winning reporter John Stackhouse and it investigates Canada's rapidly growing, increasingly isolated suburban environment. Also in my bookmarks file is the Ville de Québec's neighbourhoods page, which is in French but offers guides to each of the city's districts. One of those districts is the working class quarter of Limoilou; its site, also in French, offers photos and other information. Some good photos of Boston can be found at Chez Seb's Photos de Boston site, which is in French but mostly names and photos. Particularily nice are the photos of Brookline Village and surrounding residential streets, since it is hard to find good photos of Brookline. Lastly, check out The Future of the City, a Philadelphia site exploring the fate of Philly and other cities. / This month, the much-hailed New Urbanist town of Seaside turns twenty. In this Metropolis magazine article, Alex Marshall takes a look at Seaside and discovers its reality as a wealthy resort town, not a model community. You can read my views on New Urbanism in my May 26th 500 Words column. / A few columns and news items, mostly from the Boston Globe. First off is 'Still Missing: a vision for Artery land', in which urbanist Robert Campbell gripes about a poor design for Boston's Big Dig project; 'Side streets...' from the Chicago Sun-Times is a goodbye from its architecture critic with several interesting tidbits on urban Chicago. Back to the Globe, 'Newport's invisible crisis' looks at seemingly super-rich Newport, Rhode Island, where a quarter of the residents live in poverty; and finally, 'A Prudent Look' praises the design of Boston's new 111 Huntington skyscraper. / Today I checked out an open house on the development of Calgary's East Village (see the last update), and I'll be writing a column about that sometime in the near future. Keep an eye out. Oh, and by the way: Urbanite will be mailing sometime this week, so subscribe if you aren't already on the list. This issue will contain urban news as usual, columns by myself and Chris Szabla, a field test of a new Nikon camera as used for urban photographing, and a piece on the amalgamation of Montreal and its suburbs.

East Village specifics
Posted 23 May, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Awhile back I reported on the redevelopment of the East Village district of Calgary. In today's Calgary Herald, an article delved into specifics, with developers stating people could be living in the new development by the end of 2002. 52 acres will be redeveloped with mid and high rise condominium and apartments. The maximum density will be 200 units per acre, with a total population of 9500 inhabitants. A canal will line 5th Street SE, which will be renamed Canal Street, and is slated to be lined with shops and serve as a pedestrian link between the neighbourhood and the Bow River. With such high population densities, a few retail areas are needed. One will be set at the north end of the area along the Bow River, and another will focus on 8th Avenue around the historic St Louis and King Edward hotels and pubs. Currently, 800 people live in the East Village which is a collection of parking lots, the two aforementioned pubs, and several highrise apartment buildings inhabited mostly by seniors. Two major residential developments have been approved and a third is on its way; the final cost of the East Village project is slated to be about $2 billion CDN. This will be one of the largest urban developments in North America, along with Concord Pacific in Vancouver, CityPlace in Toronto and the South Boston developments in Boston. You can find more information on this development at Battistella Developments' site. Unfortunately, the Herald article isn't online and that's about all I could find for this development. I'll keep you all posted on links that turn up. / Sorry about the downtime this past week (yes, I know it's very annoying), but I'm not sure what's happening. I'll try and get back to you all soon with the problem. / Any fans of Jane Jacobs should visit the Jane Jacobs Homepage at the University of Virginia, as well as an excellent interview with her found in the March '01 issue of Metropolis Magazine, entitled 'Godmother of the American City'. Speaking of Metropolis, Chris Szabla has spent the past few days showering me with great urban articles from their archives, so here are a few that are exceptionally interesting. 'On the Street Where You Lived' and 'The Malling of Manhattan' take looks at Manhattan's loss of grittiness and its subsequent gentrification. 'Let a Hundred Subdivisions Bloom' is an account of new gated and even moated-off suburban sprawl in China, and 'How much shopping can one city do?' looks at the proliferation of shopping malls in Budapest. Lastly, 'What a Dump!' reports on the famous Cirque du Soleil's new headquarters near a filthy dump in one of Montreal's poorest neighbourhoods, and how it is slowly turning that area around. / Be sure to check back in the next few days for a new 500 Words. I've been sort of neglecting the column, and there wasn't one last week, but I will try my hardest to get one done for Saturday.

Urban Contrast
Posted 16 May, 2001 by Chris Szabla - Back to the top
Chris Szabla of Boston here filling in for Mr. DeWolf. Be sure to check out nearly two hundred new photos added to Urbanphoto Boston, the section of this website I maintain, devoted to the Hub city. / In the Boston Globe recently there appeared an excellent article on urban contrast. The new Millennium Place towers, containing luxury condos, has been rising next to St. Francis House, a downtown Boston homeless shelter. The editorial sums up the impending clash between rich and poor as the complex nears completion. Meanwhile, in a story of suburban contrast, is a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer describing a developer's quest to turn cul-du-sac minded suburbanites to the principles of new urbanist design. / New census data indicates what many have known all along: American downtowns are bouncing back. Check out this data from the Brookings Institute and an article from USA Today. / We don't hear much about the urbanity of the legendarily sprawl-filled region of Southern California, but Venice, a municipality near Los Angeles, offers up its own city flavour. This page has photos and maps of neighbourhoods in the city. / Much has been written on the overtousited nature of some cities, but Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe's architecture critic, explains that certain European cities have begun to turn amazingly sterile because of the tourist industry, driving away characteristics of urban life. In this article, he urges Boston not to give itself over to tourists and offers tips for other American cities as well. / The New York Times Sunday Travel section is a wonderful resource for the urban connoiseur. In the latest addition, the Times offers articles on the lower Manhattan waterfront, Nashville, and an excellent one on touring Brooklyn. / Finally, for great descriptions and photos of neighbourhoods in the Big Easy, check out New Orleans 24/7.

Transit conferences
Posted 8 May, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
I was heading home downtown today when I noticed there were some attractive new buses on display on the street. It turns out this past week the American Public Transit Association is holding its annual  Bus and Paratransit Conference here in Calgary. You can check out more APTA events in coming weeks at their calendar. The Canadian Urban Transit Association will also be holding their annual conference soon, in Halifax from June 2 to 6. If you're a transit fan and in Nova Scotia, you might want to visit the online program for information on registration. / I stumbled upon Readio New York's New York photo gallery the other day, and it contains some interesting photos of the city. Unfortunately some of the links seem to be messed up but it is a good site nonetheless. Speaking of photos, check out this small gallery of Montreal photos (in French). / FEED online magazine has some good urban issues articles in its Habitat section. Among them are Building a New Beirut, about Beirut's quest to transform its scarred downtown, and City Mouse, which looks at Disney's effort to build a pedestrian downtown for its Anaheim home. / The Project for Public Spaces, an urban advocacy group based in the US, has published How To Turn a Place Around: A Handbook for Creating Successful Public Spaces. PPS' press release describes the book as "the result of 25 years of experience working in communities around the country and internationally, How to Turn a Place Around is a primer for everyone from mayors to community members on evaluating and transforming public spaces into thriving centers of community activity." You can view the full press release sent to urbanphoto.org here (as a PDF document). The people at PPS are graciously sending me a copy, so you can expect to see a review of the book in a month or so (which will add to our minute collection of book reviews - if you're interested in writing reviews for us, contact me). / Be sure to check back tomorrow for a new edition of 500 Words.

Barrios of Buenos Aires
Posted 3 May, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
I'll be going to Buenos Aires this coming October so I thought I'd see if I could find any photos of the city's outer barrios (districts, arrondissements) to see whether or not they're worthy of exploration. There's lots of information on the city at the official Ciudad de Buenos Aires site, but nothing much in the way of photos. You can also check out the official provincial/metropolitan area site, Gobernación de la Provincia de Buenos Aires but again, lots of info but no photographs. Finally I came across the Barrios Porteños site, which offers info and photos of each official barrio in the city. Some barrios' sections don't work and the photos may be a little dated (I'm thinking they're from the early nineties), but it's a valuable site nonetheless. All the sites I just offered links to are in Spanish, but I found it pretty easy to read them simply because so many words resemble their English and French counterparts. If you'd like to be more precise, visit Babelfish and translate the sites. / There are some good photos of various North American cities at Photos and Links of North American Cities. I can't seem to get the English link to work, so if you can't read French head over to the aforementioned Babelfish. / The National Trust for Historic Preservation's site has some great articles on historic districts and buildings in the United States. Its Main Street site is presenting the 2001 Great American Main Street Awards, which honour revitalised small town main streets across the US. / Phoenix, Arizona, a behemoth of a desert city that has long been known for hot days, golf and endless suburbia, is now getting its first genuine downtown residential development. Copper Square Lofts is a 16-storey condominium building that will hopefully spark a new rush for downtown housing in Phoenix. Lastly, the Globe and Mail has a series on urban sprawl across Canada, focusing on Toronto's problems. / Sorry for the long wait for a new 500 Words (not very weekly, now is it?) but you can check a new one out now. Also, I am going to try and finish the New York galleries this weekend. I know I've said that before, and it's been a horrifyingly long time since I took the photos, but I promise: soon!

Montreal urban issues
Posted 25 April, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Montreal is probably my favourite city in North America, and a lot is going on in the city. First of all, the Plateau neighbourhood in central Montreal, long the haunt of writers, artists, immigrants, clubbers and families, is now seeing the effects of gentrification beyond its current stage. Yuppies are moving into the neighbourhood and rents are rising, often in defiance of Quebec rent-control laws. A January article from the Montreal Gazette describes what is happening (see this site's Plateau photos in the Plateau and St-Louis sections of the Montreal galleries). The Plateau is just one of Montreal's many urban areas, and you can see their population densities with this map (it's in French, but the map is simple). Figures given are population per square kilometre. To find out per square mile, simply multiply by 2.9. That map comes from the city of Montreal's urban planning site, which is in French (see Altavista for translations). Montreal's Plateau and Little Italy districts earn a mention in the Utne Reader's 1997 list of the '15 hippest neighbourhoods'. The article also features a great summary of the process of gentrification. Also at the Utne Reader is Motorless in Montreal, which looks at the popularity of bikes in Montreal as a mode of transport over leisure. If you're interested in the poorer side of Montreal, check out the Montreal Mirror's 1999 story Down and Out, which takes a brief look at the city's five poorest neighbourhoods. You can photo photos of one of them, the Village, in the Montreal galleries. Lastly, check out another Mirror article from three years ago, Fighting Quebec City, a commentary on the Quebec government's control over Montreal municipal affairs.  / Moving west, check out Photographing Winnipeg which contains a few photos of Canada's former prarie hub, along with some interesting commentary. / For a very brief look at the London suburb of Teddington, check this site out. / Check back tomorrow or possibly Friday for this week's edition of 500 Words.

Sydney's Walsh Bay
Posted 19 April, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Kay from Sydney has informed me of a couple new developments occuring in that city. First off is Walsh Bay, a redevelopment of a waterfront district. Read a Sydney Morning Herald article about it, detailing the suspension of the development after an archaeological find. You can read a history and description of Walsh Bay here, and here is a small photo of the area from a hotel. Currently Walsh Bay is back on track and construction is resuming. Lastly there is an SMH article about post-Olympic development controversies in a postwar suburb of Sydney. Residents in Auburn are opposed to the recent construction and proposed construction of high density apartment buildings and townhouses in their suburb. This is part of a plan to densify many of Sydney's western suburbs. / Calgary lovers feast your heart out: I have decided to officially open my 600-plus digital images of Calgary to the public. The Calgary Photo Warehouse, accessible through the Calgary Photo Page, is a no-frills gallery of many Calgary images I took last summer. Be sure to check it out. / Just a couple links before a bit adieu. First off there is the Long Island: Our Story page, which chronicles the history of New York's Long Island, both city and suburb (Brooklyn and Queens are on Long Island despite its suburban reputation). La vie de Sébastien Bonnet chronicles the author's experiences in various cities in which he's lived, including New York, whose page has a few photos. Sébastien's pages are only in French. The NYC neighbourhood he lived in was Queens' Forest Hills, a Tudor-styled neighbourhood built in the early 1900s. You can find more photos of Forest Hills, its urban heart and the rest of New York at ViewsOf.com. Although the photos are small, they give you a sense of what many not-commonly-photographed New York neighbourhoods, such as Astoria and Flushing or Park Slope, are like. The site also has Philadelphia photos.

Calgary strike ends
Posted 16 April, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
The 50 day long Calgary transit workers strike came to an end last Thursday night and buses and trains returned to full weekday service today. See this Calgary Herald story for more. / I'm very sorry about the slow service this past month and the downtime last week! My host, Nozone, was having a bandwidth shortage on their server and speed is back to normal today. / Some links to make up for the downtime last week: first off is the East Brooklyn Community Pages, a neighbourhood website for Brooklyn's oft-derided but still vibrant East New York. The site contains some fantastic history, historic photos and recent ones, too. Back in November the Montreal Gazette ran a feature on New York City called Bites of the Big Apple. It features a wealth of interesting articles on New York life, attractions and society. / While browsing through the web I happened upon Tom Wetzel's Home Page, a website by an urban affectionado interested in transit, housing and other urban issues. The site contains articles and some photos illustrating the author's points. Well worth a read even if you don't agree with Wetzel's urban opinions. / Moving to Montreal, now, with McGill University's Industrial Montreal site. During the last half f the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, Montreal was the industrial heart of Canada. The opening of the Lachine Canal in the 1820s, effectively bypassing a set of rapids on the St Lawrence and allowing sea travel to the Great Lakes, sparked a boom in Montreal's growth with factories and accompanying worker's districts springing up along the river. Montreal's industrial heritage has left behind many intricate and interesting neighbourhoods and architecture. Also relating to Montreal is the Zero Knowledge guide to Living in Montreal. It is a nice but very basic overview of the city. / Speaking of basic guides, here is a nice summary of Toronto's neighbourhoods. And for those who prefer Toronto's bigger cousin, here is a very thorough guide to Chicago neighbourhoods (use Internet Explorer, however, it doesn't seem to work in Netscape). / Now to downtowns. Los Angeles Downtown News offers -- you guessed it -- downtown LA news as well as some urban issues. Stranton Street is El Paso, Texas' online magazine that contains some fascinating articles on the border city's downtown, such as this one. / Check back tomorrow for this week's 500 Words.

Sydney happenings
Posted 7 April, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Sydney has been a booming place these past few years and there is a lot of exciting urban development going on. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Sydney and its suburbs are growing at a rapid pace. The metropolitan area hit four million people and the City of Sydney - essentially the downtown core and nothing else - grew by over 14% last year. As always, growth is coupled with development as seen by the filling of downtown dead space and a large AU$10 million redevelopment of Manly suburb's waterfront. A property boom is on the horizon, too. Amid all this however, many businesses are moving from North Sydney, one of Sydney's major downtown areas, to campuses in the suburbs. On a semi-related note the SMH also reported that a part of King's Cross suburb, just south of Sydney city, is the densest neighbourhood in Australia with 33,000 people per square kilometre (that's a little over 100,000 people per square mile). That is nearly as dense as Manhattan's Upper West Side. / The Washington, DC metro system is marking its 25th anniversary with not only the completion of the full system plan but also record crowds, as the Washington Post reports. In fact, subway usage is growing so rapidly the system could become completely inefficient if growth continues at this rate. Check out those two articles for more information on Metro's 25th anniversary, plus videos, photos, charts and photos. / I was looking around at some sites on St Louis neighbourhoods and found that the city, despite its much-publicised decay, is a charming and attractive place. Laclede's Landing is an old warehouse district being transformed into dining, shopping and eventually, residential mecca; Lafayette Square is probably the best-known St Louis district, chock full of elegantly maintained, absolutely gorgeous Second Empire- and Victorian-style townhouses and the Central West End is a parkside urban neighbourhoods.  The Community Information Network and the CityHits Neighbourhoods page have more information on various St Louis communities. / Yesterday, Chris Szabla recommended the Paris Street Photos page. An online yellow pages service, it contains 350,000 photos of commercial Paris streets. Just type in a street name it allows you to navigate the entire length of many commercial streets - it is, quite frankly, absolutely amazing. One of my favourite streets is rue de Belleville in the slightly grittier and more ethnic east end. In the 16th arrondissement, the most exclusive in Paris, rue Mozart is a busy and beautiful street, and up in Montmarter, the boulevard Clichy is the heart of Paris' red light district. Of course, Paris isn't the only great city in France and you can also explore the streets of Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Nantes and Lille all here.

Mass Av
Posted 2 April, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Awhile ago, the Boston Globe newspaper ran a guide to Massachusetts Avenue (locally dubbed Mass Av), the city's "real Central Artery". You can read the story here. Mass Av is a four-lane street that begins in a functioning warehouse district, straddles the residential neighbourhoods of the South End and Roxbury, slices through the famed Back Bay, heads across the Charles River and then acts as Cambridge, MA's main street. Among the neighbourhoods the avenue runs through are the South End, which contains various mini-districts such as Eight Streets, Rutland Square and Worcester Square. Within the South End the avenue slices right through the heart of beautiful Chester Square. Farther along it passes through Central Square, the heart of Cambridge, and Harvard Square, which is pretty self-descriptive. You can see photos of the South End, Back Bay, Central Square and Harvard Square at Urbanphoto Boston. / For all those of you who despise the proliferation of luxury SUV cars on the road, check out the Ultimate Poseur's Sport Utility Page. It contains photos, commentary and humour railing against so-called SUV "poseurs". / As the Globe and Mail reported yesterday, transit workers in Vancouver went on strike. Citing grievances mostly over the issues of shuttle buses and contracting out, Vancouverites braced for transit chaos this morning. Nearly 60,000 more cars will be on Vancouver streets during the strike, no small number in a city of 2 million with only a few freeways. Vancouver is also a high transit usage city. Luckily for some transit users, however, only Greater Vancouver buses and ferries will stop operating. Commuter trains and SkyTrain service is not involved in the strike but will operate with many more commuters than usual. Check out TransLink's official site for more info. Speaking of transit strikes, the one here in Calgary has been on for 41 days tomorrow. Forty-one! More information on that can be fetched through the Calgary Transit site and the Calgary Herald. / For a bit of urbanity on Florida's Gulf Coast, check out the Tampa neighbourhood of Ybor City; even more at Canoe Travel's Ybor City page. / The weekly 500 Words editorial will be up this Wednesday, so be sure to come back then. / Lastly, I'd like to extend an apology to Urbanite subscribers for the delay in mailing. You will recieve the magazine tomorrow.

Worst streets
Posted 29 March, 2001 by Chris DeWolf - Back to the top
Several days ago Planetizen, an online urban planning website pushed an editorial by Jim Colleran that listed, with help of reader contribution, the "worst streets in North America". Of course, the usage of the word "street" is a misnomer since none of the throughfares listed are actually streets, they're multi-laned arterials that cater to cars. You can read the list and all comments regarding it here. This morning while reading the Calgary Herald, turning to the editorial page first (as always) I noticed that the paper ran a statement supporting the list and recommending the city and developers begin creating walkable, community-oriented developments and transforming sprawled ones into urban ones. Unfortunately, it is not online so I went to the Edmonton Journal website looking for something similar - Edmonton was featured on the list - but the paper did run a defensive article discrediting the list. You can read it here. / The March 30th issue of Asiaweek magazine focuses on the "new" China, and included in their feature are several articles on Shanghai's emergence as one of the world's cultural and economic hotspots. "Lights, Culture, Action" looks at whether or not Shanghai's new culture is simply skin-deep; "I Love Shanghai" is a tribute to the city by author Mian Mian; "Now For a Reality Check" says the city needs to "grow beyond just its glittering skyline"; and "A Personal Odyssey" searches for Shanghai's complex and storied history. / The Digital Archive of American Architecture has lots of photos and information on various types of architecture predominant in the United States; be sure to check it out. / Folio's Photo Page offers some interesting street photography from around Tokyo. Check out the Landscape section for great city photos and the People section for great, well, people photos. / Lastly, check out Jeff's Streetlights and Highways Site. Although it focuses on New York highways and streetlights, it also contains a fair deal of very interesting urban photography. For photos of the über-wide Queens Boulevard and surrounding neighbourhoods (which are quite attractive), check out the Death Boulevard page. As you might have guessed a lot of pedestrians are killed on Queens Blvd. Also check out the Woodhaven/Cross Bay page for photos of some very un-New York Queens neighbourhoods. Lastly, the 63rd Drive page has a few photos of the retail heart of Queens' Rego Park neighbourhood, which seems quite lively and attractive. / By the way, I'll be sending out the first bimonthly Urbanite next week. If you have anything you'd like to contribute - say, development news or an intelligent editorial, by all means contact me at cjdewolf@home.com. I'll greatly appreciate it!

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