Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More 'Safety In Numbers'

The BIA now has once again in stock the popular "Safety In Numbers" cards that are designed for quick reference about who to contact for any security-related inquiry. This is an invaluable reference for any downtown employee or resident, but especially for front desk personnel.

The cards are the size of regular business cards, and come either as a magnet or as a vinyl cling sticker, and they are available (singly or in quantity) for no charge from the BIA office.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Parking & Transit--Round 3

The third round of downtown parking and transit meetings with Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson shifts into full gear this week. Meetings will be held in each of the six downtown neighborhood districts--the Theater District, Dome District, Stadium District, Hilltop, Thea Foss Waterway and the University of Washington Tacoma.

During this series of parking discussions, Anderson will share his proposed recommendations for moving forward with a strategic downtown parking and transit plan and will garner feedback from citizens about his suggestions.

For the meeting schedule, as well as copies of the questions and answers from the first and second round of meetings, visit the City of Tacoma's website.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Glass Roots Will Foster Growth in Local Arts

Downtown stakeholders looking for more after last weekend's Showcase Tacoma event should come out Sunday for the 2007 Glass Roots Festival from 12 Noon until 6:00 p.m. outside Embellish Multispace Salon (Ct. 'D' between 11th and 13th streets). This year's return engagement features live music and drama performances, visual arts and food booths--all presented by local artists and merchants.

Spawned from a meeting and brainstorming session co-sponsored by the BIA in November 2005, Tacoma Arts Community (TACom) is a non-profit group of creative visionaries working to promote, develop and sustain all arts in the greater Tacoma region.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Chapel in the City

What's the role of communities of faith in urban life? The answer to this question often betrays as much prejudice as it does careful thinking and principled dialog.

Eric Jacobsen is one person who's thoughtfully engaged this question, and he's recently moved to Tacoma to assume the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church. Jacobsen is author of the nationally-recognized book Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Brazos, 2003), which explores how Christians can have a positive impact in America’s cities, as well as numerous articles exploring connections between the Christian community, the church, and traditional neighborhoods. He has been interviewed by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other national media, and he has presented lectures for various secular and religious institutions including Calvin College, the University of Virginia, the Christian Community Development Association, the American Planning Institute, the American Academy of Architects, and the Congress for the New Urbanism.

A recognized New Urbanist, Jacobsen argues that if the movement aspires to be more than just a short-term economic success or a market correction it is going to have to take the church more seriously as a conversation partner in its cultural project. In particular, he maintains that the church can help the New Urbanist movement grapple with some of the powers and forces, which have an impact upon communities in ways that are more profound and enduring than economic factors alone.

Jacobsen will be speaking tonight at 7:00 at King's Books--he's well worth hearing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Skateboarders: Treat or Threat?

Readers of The News Tribune might be scratching their heads over coverage of skateboarding over the past two days--is skateboarding the latest urban past time or a magnet for crime? It would seem there is evidence for either opinion in recent pages of the paper. The confusion mirrors that of the BIA's ratepayers.

Sunday's coverage examining skateboard parks and the sport in general across Pierce County's urban areas concluded that:

...there’s no question that skate parks in general are a good thing. Earlier generations built ball fields; the parks are their modern equivalent for quirky but highly skilled athletes who are never going to join the high school tennis team.

Monday's feature article about ongoing problems with Sumner's skate park seemed to paint a different picture. That particular skate park is a magnet for fighting, drug use and late-night noise, according to neighbors.

So are skateboarders athletes or thugs on wheels? Discounting the fighting, drug use, and other disorder often associated with skateboards as problems not caused by the regulars themselves but by others who show up after sundown really skirts the issue. Proper design, incorporating Community Policing Through Urban Design (CPTED), is a critical element, but so is some self-policing by those who ride the boards.

Will the responsible skateboarders please stand up?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Parking AND Transit--City Manager Expands the Discussion

Densification of Tacoma's City Center will require a whole new paradigm for parking and transit to offset traffic congestion otherwise created by growth. That's the ambitious scope of the recommendations that City Manager Eric Anderson previewed for members of the Tacoma City Council at yesterday's Study Session.

Anderson gave a progress report on his series of public forums conducted throughout the greater downtown area, emphasizing that none of the recommendations is final at this point. His presentation followed the outline of last week's presentation to the Downtown Merchants Group.

While noting remarkable alignment with the recommendations of the Transit & Parking Advisory Committee, we were clear (when asked by Mayor Bill Baarsma to comment on Anderson's presentation) that there is still some ways to go before the business community can endorse the recommendations. Still, Anderson's apparent grasp of the new transportation paradigm and the openness displayed both by him and by key members of his staff (e.g., Kurtis Kingsolver) are powerful tools that can help forge consensus.

Most of the questions posed by City Councilmembers focused on cost--how much will building an effective transit & parking system cost, and which agencies will bear the expense? Anderson admitted that he has yet to engage local and regional transit providers in this discussion.

Anderson plans one more round of community forums, in addition to using other venues to continue the dialog. He anticipates presenting his final recommendations--presumably accompanied by a budget proposal--back to Council in October.