Eight reasons to rejoice over $8-a-gallon gasoline

Chris Pummer on MarketWatch gives us a contrarian notion — more expensive gasoline might be just what we need.

And no, not because we’re an evil American people, but simply because we have suffered an economic drag because of our dependency on oil:

Americans should be celebrating rather than shuddering over the arrival of $4-a-gallon gasoline. We lived on cheap gas too long, failed to innovate and now face the consequences of competing for a finite resource amid fast-expanding global demand.

A further price rise as in Europe to $8 a gallon — or $200 and more to fill a large SUV’s tank — would be a catalyst for economic, political and social change of profound national and global impact. We could face an economic squeeze, but it would be the pain before the gain.

The U.S. economy absorbed a tripling in gas prices in the last six years without falling into recession, at least through March. Ravenous demand from China and India could see prices further double in the next few years — and jumpstart the overdue process of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.

Read the reasons — and actually, they are good ones — here.

— Photo by ewen and donabel on Flickr. Hat tip: JollyBlogger

Downtown is not the only town

I’m thankful for businesses like Aptera Inc. who have decided to move to downtown Fort Wayne and support our urban core.

But downtown Fort Wayne isn’t the only urban business district around here. If you want to do business — or open a business — in a close-knit, walkable, multi-use community, you could also consider:

New Haven, pictured at top. The photo was taken at Broadway and Main streets during the downtown businesses’ Halloween celebration last year. It was packed!

Roanoke, above. The location of Joseph Decuis and Reusser Design, among others.

East State Village. A couple blocks long loaded with restaurants, a bakery, a library branch, a chocolatier and the Firehouse Theatre.

Waynedale. There’s a Big Boy and lots of small businesses lining Lower Huntington Road.

Wells Street. Several blocks of eclectic shops: Hyde Brothers bookstore, Mr. Wimps jewelry, a funeral home, a coffee shop, a bakery, a discount grocery and plenty of people milling around.

West Main Street. OK, this is my neighborhood, best known for Paula’s Seafood, O’Sullivan’s and Recovery Room Upholstery. But look more closely and you’ll find outdoors equipment, architects and even the SOMA art gallery.

I’m sure there are lots of other small business districts scattered around town. Any you’d care to mention? What do you like about them?

Left turn to nowhere

This is the repaved block of Calhoun Street between Jefferson and Washington boulevards.

Instead of a turn lane that directs you into the breakfast buffet at the Hilton, perhaps the city could consider a center-of-the-road refuge island for hotel-goers crossing the street? Such an island would typically be used on wider streets, but visitors would likely be carting a lot of suitcases, making such an island useful.

Leave the center lane for cars coming from the north and turning left into the parking garage. Then build the refuge just to the south of the garage entrance.

It’d certainly help welcome visitors to Fort Wayne.

Here’s an example posted on Flickr:

— top photo by Jon and posted to Flickr

Why a young person would want to leave Fort Wayne

It’s funny how a seemingly innocent photo can reveal a cultural fault line.

This photo of a sign on Taylor Street in Fort Wayne posted on Fort Wayne Observed was greeted with this response:

I think it’s on “This is Why Young People Want To Leave Fort Wayne” Street.

That is: Christianity, or a certain brand of it, contributes to Fort Wayne’s brain drain.

Let me answer the implicit challenge directly.

There is a certain kind of Christian who believes “Turn or Burn” is the entire Gospel, remembers Hell but forgets Heaven and Earth, and reduces the welcome of a gracious Father to a wagging finger.

But there is another kind of Christian who knows that the goal is not escaping Hell; it’s defeating it. And to do that, this Christian loves his spouse, his children and his neighbors with vigor and joy. This Christian knows cities are rebuilt person by person, with love and patience, and does not shrink from doing a task that will have to be completed by his children and grandchildren and will need to be guarded as long as this earth lasts.

Some will be attracted to a group of such Christians. But there is a certain kind of young person who would see such a faithful church and leave town all the faster.

— Photo courtesy of Mitch Harper of Fort Wayne Observed

Will Harrison Square hate pedestrians?

Will the Harrison Square retail development in downtown Fort Wayne make pedestrians more or less welcome? And why would I ask the question, seeing as how there are so many pedestrians drawn on the architectural renderings?

But there’s a potential problem with the above streetscape, and David Sucher’s Three Rules for urban design (PDF) addresses it directly. Allow me to quote from his book, “City Comforts“:

If the problem is to create a walkable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood, much of the answer is architectural. Actually, it is not so much “architectural” in the usual sense of the word, for it ignores style. Site plan trumps architecture. …

The key decision is the position of the building with respect to the sidewalk. This decision determines whether you have a city or a suburb.

  1. Build to the sidewalk (i.e., property line).
  2. Make the building front “permeable” (i.e., no blank walls).
  3. Prohibit parking lots in front of the building.

Now, at first, it may seem that Harrison Square meets the conditions. It will be built to the sidewalk, the front will not be bare walls, and obviously there’ll be no parking lot in front.

But take another look at the streetscape above. The retail establishments are not at street level; they are maybe five feet above street level, separated from the street and sidewalk by seven steps and a brick wall.

Now, imagine walking by the retail stores. You would not be eye level with the stores. You’d be ankle level. And when you drive down Jefferson Boulevard, you’ll have the same problem of not being able to see directly into the stores. This elevation of the retail establishments reduces the building’s “permeability” — not completely, but partially.

Another interesting wrinkle is that the rendering above seems to show on-street parking on Jefferson, which would require reducing Jefferson’s four lanes to three. Is that really part of the plan? I hope so, because if not, that small sidewalk with a wall on one side and heavy traffic on the other will not feel so friendly to the pedestrian, trees or no trees.

But here’s the clincher: If you are handicapped, how do you enter the stores?

Well, if you have the misfortune of approaching Harrison Square from the west, you’ll have to travel an entire city block to find a ramp that allows you access to the stores.

Now, before my criticism gets criticized for being too, well, pedestrian, please remember that these details matter. City residents will not approach Harrison Square from the air, as in the virtual fly-throughs. We will approach it on foot. And the way we interact with the building as pedestrians is the only way we’ll ever know.

I know that renderings are only plans, and are subject to change. But since construction of the stadium has been underway for some time, bringing the first floor of Harrison Square down to street level is probably out of the question.

— images from the city of Fort Wayne Web site