100 IDEAS PROJECT

Over the next 100 days, we'll share 100 ideas that focus on the concepts of purpose, materials, mobility, technology, economy, scale, environment, context, and people. This exercise is meant to generate a dialogue about keystone projects throughout the community. Design is an optimistic way to view the world. That is: you have to believe in the ability to make something better. In this case, these ideas are opportunities to build a wave of optimism.

You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.

—Jason VanLue at Creative Mornings Orlando

100. Bring Back the Ethnic Festival

Showcasing a diversity of community.  City vibrancy through thousands of visitors.  An experience of South Bend through it’s past, present, and future.

I miss the Ethnic Festival.  Not the Midway rides that you can get at any carnival, which brought turf violence.  I miss the food and the music and the experience of culture.  I loved the way it tucked into different spaces throughout the streets that brought a greater understanding of the city itself (the places and the people).  In planning, it brought together a great many people to pull together the event; from across municipal, commercial, and residential boundaries.  I heart South Bend and the experiences that I had during that festival are a great reason why.

When we bring it back, let’s make it better.  Help people find value in it again.  From the vendors to the businesses to the residents and yes, even to the people who brought the violence.  Let’s connect it to everyone and give them all a reason to be advocates for the community.

#wearesouthbend

99. Design with People in Mind

Municipalities, like South Bend, should expect more out of their public spaces, their buildings, and their systems.  It’s not enough to design environmentally conscious spaces.  Designing for people seems like an obvious statement.  But as William H. Whyte states, “It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

In evaluating what qualifies for good design standards, cities should consider these aspects of placemaking:

Human Scale: So often, cities are designed to manage cars, but in order to accomplish more vibrancy, it is essential to focus on human scale elements.  These aspects include features that are engaging, that improve clarity, and develop complexity

  1. Engaging: “Enough to look at” and providing awareness of context
  2. Clarity: “Guiding the Eye” includes visibility, safety, legibility, recognizable pattern.  These elements help in the often discussed needs of wayfinding, creating hierarchy, and orientation within cities
  3. Complexity: “More than meets the eye” - vistas that reveal depth

Heath:  Health isn’t just if you are sick or not.  It includes several facets (physical, social, mental, environmental) that are both dynamic and systemic.  Common elements to encourage each facet include:

  1. Design for active living: Increase opportunities for recreation, pedestrian amenities (trails and bike lanes that are connected to parks and mass transit)
  2. Design for sociability: cities should address through design welcoming and openness components, opportunities for engaging people and people watching
  3. Design environmentally conscious places: address best management water quality standards

98. Improve Crisis Management for Building Maintenance

In 2011, shortly after getting elected as the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel stated that, “a decade of deferred maintenance had left the city’s financial house structurally teetering… [and he] returned again and again to the point that “somebody” could have acted earlier but didn’t.”

Many municipalities, including South Bend, employ a reactive crisis management model for building maintenance.  More specifically, maintenance is important, but it’s generally done only when a crisis happens (something breaks).  This model can have a dramatic domino effect.  For instance, if the roof develops a leak in a city facility, if the money is there, the leak is fixed.  If there is no budget money for the repair, systemic damages can occur, like interior cosmetic damage, saturated insulation (and thus ineffective) and potentially structural damage.  As the problem evolves it spirals out of control and into ever increasing economic woes.

In order to improve resiliency and responsiveness, as well as improve financial flexibility, the crisis management model for building maintenance has to improve.  Standard crisis management stages go from pathologic (who cares, as long as we aren’t caught), to reactive (important, but only when a problem arises), to calculative (systems in place to manage crisis), to proactive (continuously work on problems), and finally to generative (crisis anticipation and preventive culture).

Culture change is certainly something to strive for and continuously seeking to predict problems is an important stage to reach.  Ultimately, moving up just one stage will see both cultural and financial benefit.

96. Connect the Zoo to Context

  1. Potawatomi Park: Currently, the parking cuts the zoo off from the rest of the park, limiting overall success of the entire park.  The current parking arrangement also limits the entry experience to the zoo.  Right now, the other park amenities conflict with zoo (paid amenities compete for attendees with free amenities) and no clear linkages exist between playgrounds, Conservatories, Pavillions, and zoo.  An overall Potawatomi Park Masterplan would not only seek to make these connections, but improve them individually.  Pedestrian connections, wayfinding elements (signage and hierarchy elements, lighting), unifying vistas, and better landuse (updating parking and vehicular ways).
  2. Neighborhood: Greenlawn, River Park, IUSB, Library, Adams HS, and the Farmer’s Market all make up a larger area that would benefit from better connection to the zoo.  Programming elements (like education sessions at library and IUSB or petting zoos at Farmer’s Market) and physical connections for pedestrians make up two of the connection types.
  3. Downtown: Wayfinding to zoo is minimal and unclear. Creating a strong linkage to downtown better attracts new out-of-town visitors to the zoo.  This cannot be simply road signs that hang from traffic lights.  This type of linkage would include a strong East/West trail and a branded signage element.
  4. People: If people are priced out of experiencing the zoo, than opportunities are missed to provide education.  The zoo needs to better connect to all of the people of South Bend.  This cannot be done by adding more amenities, but by making the zoo more accessible to the public.  Free events, like the Chicago Museums offer, still make money via food sales and other amenities (merchandising), but allow a broader audience to experience the zoo.

94. Solar Power For Schools

South Bend Community Schools has a major budget shortfall.  Already spending less money on instruction than other school districts, it has been often said that the corporation wants to make cuts as “far away from students as possible.”  One way that schools can do that is to focus on energy.  While the SBCSC does a great job of high level energy management, meaning they’ve closely examined equipment and envelop upgrades, pursuing occupant optimization and renewable energy possibilities have not been fully explored.

Energy is an expense that is often cited as a “cost of doing business,” but many of those costs can be eliminated through better management.  Becoming more energy efficient is the cheapest and fastest way to reduce energy costs.  Occupant optimization is a two pronged approach in energy efficiency: 1) Training staff to be more aware of how they use energy and tactics to be more energy efficient  2) Empowering staff to bring their energy efficiency observations forward and apply those.

Another energy opportunity is to pursue renewable energy.  With a total of 33 schools with a roof area in the hundreds of thousands of square feet per school, there is ample opportunity for the SBCSC to take advantage of their underutilized roof area.  A couple of things make this solution feasible: 1) schools use more of their energy during the day, when the panels are making energy  2) Looking at individual schools, it might be difficult to pursue solar energy, but system-wide there’s a lot more potential.

Funding has always been a stumbling block for these types of projects. However, aside from rebates and grants, a few options are surfacing.  Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs (PACE) can finance 100% of their project and pay it back over time as a voluntary property tax assessment through their existing property tax bill.  In this way, projects are net positive cash flowed from day one.  Indiana is currently working on setting up a PACE program.  Another type of funding is external investors, known as Energy Service Companies (ESCO) who would pay to develop the solar system, and get paid by through a portion of energy savings in a process known as Energy Performance Contracting.  

In addition, from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

The National Solar Schools Consortium launched yesterday at the opening of the widely-attended National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference. Still in its infancy, the goal of the Consortium is to act as a unified voice for the growing solar schools movement, promoting the use of solar energy on K-12 and post-secondary schools, consolidating and coordinating current and future solar curriculum and resource development, and providing tools designed to help schools explore solar energy options both on campus and in the surrounding community.

Solar Schools 2020 is a program designed to give learning opportunities to students with renewable energy.  First generation of this program is set to launch in May aimed to demonstrate enthusiasm and accelerate the process of introducing schools to solar energy.  With a massive goal of 20,000 schools on board by 2020, let’s get on board with this project.

93. Implement Pay-as-You-Throw Programs

While primary waste reduction strategies in South Bend focus on more effectively managing waste streams (how we define and process them) and how we collect them (AVAC), several other opportunities exist to encourage waste reduction.

Opportunities like implementing a City-wide Fee on Plastic Bags or pairing services with recycling programs (like Transpo passes for recycling) certainly could be explored.  A new policy for paying trash fees depending on weight disposed has potential to save money on hauling and on landfill fees.

From AS+GG’s “Toward Zero Carbon” Plan:

  1. Encourage the reduction of household waste by asking residents to pay for garbage removal based on what they actually generate.
  2. Since garbage is paid for on a per-unit basis, residents who conserve are no longer asked to subsidize the cost of those who generate a large amount of waste.
  3. Current pay-as-you-throw programs report a 15-25% reduction in the amount of waste disposed and triple the amount of recycling.
  4. The reduction of waste would also decrease the cost of overall city MSW collection fees.

92. Increase Infill/Urban Density

As highlighted in earlier ideas, South Bend has a plethora of parking.  While multipurpose parking and more efficient distribution of parking solves many problems, it’s absolutely essential to increase density in South Bend.  

Historically, urban success has been rooted in high densities: the concentration of many people in small areas. Bringing people and their economic activities into close proximity with each other can be economically and even socially liberating.

It’s a delicate balance identifying the appropriate amount of urban density.  Excessive density can lead to infrastructure demands that are unable to be met, while insufficient density makes it difficult to support city amenities.  Defining this balance is the purpose of zoning ordinances, but over the last several decades, South Bend has let slip the importance of density on the overall success of the city.