Tagdevelopment

Evidence of “Olympic change” in Rio’s favelas

I have never read Al Jazeera’s English edition until yesterday. I think I saw a post to this article on Twitter; it’s about how construction for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Rio, Brasil, is already removing parts of the favelas, or hillside shantytowns. The article is quite relevant for me because I wrote last week about how rising ticket prices threaten the egalitarian nature of watching futebol at the Rio’s most famous stadium, the Maracanã. From Al Jazeera:

This week came a series of troubling tales of the bulldozing and cleansing of the favelas, all in the name of “making Brazil ready for the Games”. Hundreds of families from Favela de Metro find themselves living on rubble with nowhere to go after a pitiless housing demolition by Brazilian authorities. By bulldozing homes before families had the chance to find new housing or be “relocated”, the government is in flagrant violation of the most basic concepts of human rights.

As you might expect, residents and planners have different ideas on what it means to remove these homes:

[Eduardo] Freitas doesn’t need a masters from the University of Chicago to understand what is happening. “The World Cup is on its way and they want this area. I think it is inhumane,” he said.

The Rio housing authority says that this is all in the name of “development” and by refurbishing the area, they are offering the favela dwellers, “dignity”.

The same thing has happened all across the United States and is still happening in Chicago. The Chicago Housing Authority, very quickly in the past 10 years, has demolished all of its high-rises (some were converted to condominiums, like Raymond Hilliard Homes at 54 W Cermak, or transferred to different ownership) under the Plan for Transformation. This displaced thousands of residents; some were moved to newly-built multi-flat buildings in specially-designed, mixed-income neighborhoods. But there weren’t enough of these buildings to absorb all of the residents who had to move out of the high-rises. I’m still not clear on where they went.

A favela in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Kevin Jones.

Chicago’s final public housing high-rise was demolished in April 2011.

Introducing Grocery Store Bike Parking Ratings

This article is part of a series (it seems) of grocery stores with poor bike parking – it first started with my local Dominick’s. I started an inventory and rating system for Chicago. I welcome your contribution. If you want to start a page for your town, I can help you with that.

After seeing the photos of the wacky bike parking situation at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, I had to take a trip there myself!

By my count, I find that with 3 wave racks (of 2 sizes) and 3 grill racks, there are 27 bike parking spaces. You can debate me and possibly find 4 more.

Surely you can fit more, just like you can fit 4 bikes on a 2-space Chicago u-rack.However, the racks are installed so closer together to make this area quite a pain to find a space. And if you have a long wheelbase cargo bike (bakfiets, Madsen, or Yuba Mundo), GOOD LUCK!

The only space available for a longtail cargo bike like my Yuba Mundo is in a car parking space next to a hybrid Chevy Tahoe illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.

Photo showing too-close placement of the two kinds of racks. Notice that some bikes hang into the curb – it was the only way to use that bike rack. Other spaces might not have been opened when these people arrived.

But officially, for planning purposes, the Chicago Department of Transportation considers that rack as only fitting 2. This area could easily be sheltered. I think it’s something the store should look into. It provides sheltered car parking, which costs proportionally more than sheltered bike racks!

In the future, I expect better from Whole Foods.

For now, Target takes home the cake for providing consistently “good” bike parking. (Great’s the best a store can achieve.) So far, the rating system isn’t fully formed or automated. It’s a work in progress!

Sidenote: Access to Whole Foods via bicycle really sucks. There’s a 5-way intersection controlled by stop signs; then there’s the old railroad track and potholes. It might be better if you come in from the south, but then you have more RR track to deal with.

Photo montage showing how to access Whole Foods from Sheffield by bicycle.

The truth about Wal-Mart’s contribution to the tax roll

I recently wrote about how Wal-Mart plans to expand its reach in Chicago in a big way (30 new stores big). Politicians around the country consistently like to be heard saying how one way the store(s) will benefit the city is the additional tax revenue the city will see from property and sales tax contributions. Here are selected quotes from Chicagoans:

On Tuesday, [Chicago Mayor] Daley noted that a Wal-Mart expansion would pave the way for sales tax windfall for the cash-starved city budget.

In suburban Cook County, about 20 percent to 30 percent of all sales tax revenue comes from Wal-Marts, Daley said.

Chicago Sun-Times, June 15, 2010

“Everyone realizes we need the tax revenue,” [Alderman Anthony] Beale [9th Ward] said.

Chicago Sun-Times, May 5, 2010

Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, a pro-union alderman, lamented Wal-Mart’s domination of the nation’s retail market and its tendency to sell foreign-made products, but voted for Pullman Park because of the need for jobs and additional tax revenue.

Chicago Tribune, June 30, 2010

Comparatively, Wal-Mart brings in little property tax revenue on a per acre basis, according to a study from Sarasota County (Florida) and Public Interest Projects and posted by Citiwire. I’ve summarized their findings:

  • Single-family home: $8,200 per acre
  • Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club: $150.00-$200.00 per acre
  • Southgate Mall: $22,000 per acre
  • High-rise mixed-use project in downtown Sarasota: $800,000

That last one’s the kicker! From the Citiwire article, “‘It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,’ [Peter] Katz noted.” Read the full story for more examples and for more discussion on how this specific breakdown of costs and benefits is only one way to look at fiscal and retail impact.

If the same tax revenues were true for Chicago or Cook County (and I can’t say it is or isn’t), then the city planners and aldermen should be seeking developers to build high-rise mixed-use projects. Right.

But the issue Chicago and other cities have is that Wal-Mart is one of the most willing developers – they will build where no one else will. They have capital that no one else has. They have the resources to sway the population. It’s more politically difficult to resist such a willing partner like Wal-Mart than it is to seek relationships with developers who have the resources to create more beneficial mixed-use projects in the neighborhoods Wal-Mart seems to prefer.

Wal-Mart moves in, in a big way

Every Chicagoan should know by now that Wal-Mart, who currently only has a single store in the city limits, plans to open about thirty new stores (the City Council approved the construction of a Supercenter in the Pullman community area on the far south side*). Wal-Mart announced they want to open “dozens of new stores” in the next five years in various sizes ranging from 8,000 square feet (think Walgreens) to 20,000 square feet (think Apple Store Michigan Avenue) to the typical 200,000 square feet Supercenter.

This is big news for Chicagoans, and residents of New York City (there are no Wal-Marts in NYC). Not only will they be able to buy Coca-Cola for 20 cents a can, they won’t be able to shop at existing stores – because many of them will close. For now, the Chicago Tribune is keeping tabs on the developing story.

People in Chicago protest a new Wal-Mart. Disclaimer: This photo is from 2005, before the first Chicago Wal-Mart opened in 2006. However, in 2010, prior to the City Council vote, there were rallies protesting and showing support for new Wal-Mart stores. Photo by Andrey Smagin.

While they report on the recorded impacts of incoming Wal-Mart stores on new markets, I hope they answer the questions surrounding the confusion over the alleged negotiations between Wal-Mart executives and Chicago labor unions (representing construction and service employees). The unions say they got Wal-Mart to agree to a minimum wage of $8.75 while Wal-Mart says it’s just a matter of internal policy to adjust wages for the market.

Wal-Mart has funded a possibly influential campaign to get Chicagoans to support their new proposed new stores. Part of the campaign included ads on buses and putting signs and t-shirts on youths in the street, saying “Jobs or else.” If you want a Wal-Mart in Chicago, the company urges you to contact your alderman. Photo by Ira of Being Totally Sweet in Chicago.

So what are those impacts?

Wal-Mart can afford to be bold, and its impact is readily seen. Median sales decrease 40 percent at similar high-volume stores when a Wal-Mart enters the market, 17 percent at supermarkets and about 6 percent at drugstores, according to a study published in June 2009 by researchers at multiple universities and led by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Drugstores like Deerfield-based [Illinois] Walgreens are the least impacted, according to the study, and are generally able to stay afloat by increasing their assortment size.

Supermarkets, the study found, can survive by doing their best to differentiate themselves from Wal-Mart, rather than attempting to compete.

Ideas about marketing and additional discussion of impacts is written on page two of the article. This light investigation from the Tribune comes after a recently released study from the University of Illinois at Chicago (my alma mater). Here’s the synopsis from that study about the sole Chicago Wal-Mart in the Austin (west side) neighborhood:

The study found that stores near Wal-Mart were more likely to go out of business, eliminating the equivalent of about 300 full-time jobs — about as many as Wal-Mart initially added to the area.

Read the full press release on the UIC News site or download the study (PDF).

*UPDATE: Where is the Pullman community area? It’s northwest of Lake Calumet and home to the former Pullman Palace Car Company’s factory and company town (see detailed street map of the Pullman community area). There are four commuter rail stations on the Metra Electric line within walking distance of the new shopping center. The development, called Pullman Park, will be located at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Expressway (I-94). It includes shopping, a school, and housing, among other uses. The CTA #111/111th Street bus will run near Pullman Park.

Diversity in business and buildings

One of Jane Jacobs’ key points in her works tells about the need for diversity in neighborhoods: choices and options in housing, jobs, natural and gathering spaces, and entertainment. As lives and lifestyles change, people aren’t forced to move or move out. Urbanophile touched on that in part two of “Building Suburbs That Last.”

This should sound familiar to you since it is exactly how Jane Jacobs described a healthy city neighborhood. She says it better than I ever could: “Flourishing diversity anywhere in a city means the mingling of high-yield, middling-yield, low-yield and no yield enterprises.” And, “Time makes the high building costs of one generation the bargains of a following generation. Time pays off original capital costs, and this depreciation can be reflected in the yields required from a building. Time makes certain structures obsolete for some enterprises, and they become available to others.”

“Turnover Plaza,” a photo by PJ Chmiel.

I don’t believe that Jane’s discussions will convince any banker, economist or developer. For those arguments, you’ll have to refer to the rest of Aaron’s article on how smart, commercial land use development occurs in order to create sustainable suburbs. You should refer to paragraphs like:

If you having nothing but high value buildings, no one but national chains can afford to invest. If you have nothing but low value buildings, no one wants to. It is important to have a mixture of buildings, supporting a mixture of uses, mixture of high, medium and lower values uses, and both national chains (which bring much good with them) and indigenous business. It is this diversity that again helps to mitigate against the failure of any one element. And also provides room for the local business that is both committed to the town and a source of at least some independent economic life.

Where else does diversity give an advantage?

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