Archive for January, 2012

Never Leave Home Without Your Geographer: Krugman, Gruber

Friday, January 27th, 2012

In my daily dose of Krugman I really enjoyed this:

China also derives big advantages from the fact that so much of the supply chain is already there. A former Apple executive explained: “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away.”

This is familiar territory to students of economic geography: the advantages of industrial clusters — in which producers, specialized suppliers, and workers huddle together to their mutual benefit — have been a running theme since the 19th century.

And Chinese manufacturing isn’t the only conspicuous example of these advantages in the modern world.”

Growth Pole Theory! Aggregation Economies! & Bears! Oh My!

Space & Place actually matter! To an economist no less! Halleluja!

And never EVER leave home without your geographer. Obviously Krugman remembered his!

But seriously, all of these concepts can be applied, really to any economy, not just industrial. Clustering of mutually supportive enterprises is also a concept I’ve been hammering on in my comment on the Madison Downtown Plan as well as on the 100 Block of State Street debâcle. It just isn’t something the current planner-mindset can grasp.

Happily, former Madison Alder Tim Gruber, just wrote an interesting post that kind of gets at the notion of clustering of activities, not necessarily even similar activities, to make urban spaces real places. At least 10 different activities in the same place. They call it ‘Placemaking’ in the biz.

Or as I like to say, Places for People.

Epic Fit to Print

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Epic gets big NYT feature today.

Epic Sprawl

It’s just too bad Epic’s brilliant CEO couldn’t have found a way to integrate the company into the urban fabric. The paving of farmland and it’s car-necessary location negates all the groovy-green stuff going into that  oh-so-pastoral office park. I know several long-time as well as newly-hired Epicureans, and to a person they agree the company shouldn’t have moved out there. The hard-working 20-something geniuses they hire don’t want to live in Verona; they want to live somewhere they can enjoy life after work. Thus all the additional driving. Oh, and yeah, I’m well aware of the bus service they run out there. Just try making that work with those 70 hour work weeks demanded by Epic.

They will soon regret having chosen such an energy-intensive location……

Epic Sprawl II

Enjoy the Drive


Pleasant’s Wrecking Ball

Thursday, January 12th, 2012
As predicted by many of us, the Overture Center would not be the end of the suburbanization of State Street. Take a look at this rendering of  the Overture Foundation’s plans for the State-Fairchild-W. Mifflin block:

A suburban office park developer's dreamscape

Exhibit A in how to kill a downtown.
Luckily, we have a newly re-invigorated preservation community, and the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation is leading the way. For a brief look at what the Trust proposes, go here. The highlight is this rendering, from about the same perspective, of the same block:

Character, not sleekiness....

Note the re-imagining of a tired block. The block does indeed need work, but it doesn’t need to be torn down. It is a classic urban block, and needs to be rehabbed as such. The ugly fire escapes can, and should go away. With appropriate internal revisions it can be done, and according to code. Roofs can be re-inforced for rooftop festivities. Spaces can be aggregated/divided as needed. It just takes a little imagination. (And many thanks to Elizabeth Cwik–civic architect extraordinaire–for having exactly that imagination in formulating the Trust’s tasteful alternative.)
Embracing the quirkiness of old buildings is truly an art.
The Overture wants office park. In their view, the quirkiness of history-in-the-landscape must be obliterated! Their design is one of sleeky exteriors suitable for viewing at 35 mph, and giant floor plates offering interior expanses that only an insurance company could love. Cubeland.
The Madison Trust for Historic Preservation and other downtown civic leaders, on the other hand, want the old buildings retro-fitted with edgy interiors, maintaining the pedestrian-scaled historic exteriors–the kind of places that bleeding edge tech companies, architects, creative agencies and design firms would gravitate to.
Madison economic development know-it-alls are always going on & on about how we should be attracting just these sorts of leading-edge firms. Well, if we don’t hold on to the very places that nourish creativity (and it ain’t happening out in suburban office parks), we won’t be attracting them. And believe me, the actuaries inhabiting insurance co.-cubeland won’t be adding much life to downtown. They’ll brownbag it for lunch, and at 5 PM they’ll be hightailing it to their Blu-Rays in Fitchburg. The employees of creative firms on the other hand, dependent as much on networking as on their brainpower for success, will most certainly see & be seen at State Street’s lunch places. After hours they are more likely than your standard insurance co. drone to hang out at downtown’s restaurants and to take in some nightlife with colleagues & friends. It’s what we call economic development in the biz.
If you want to Keep State Street Real, see  the Capitol Neighborhoods’s presentation on this very topic (info below).
Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. to Present Free Public ProgramMADISON, Jan. 3, 2012 – As redevelopment plans for the 100 block of State Street continue to make news, Madison residents can learn about an alternate vision for the historic block across from the Overture Center.Capitol Neighborhoods will present a special program at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Downtown Campus of Madison College at 211 N. Carroll Street. The event is free and open to everyone.– Local historian Gary Tipler will show vintage images and describe the history of the block bounded by State, Fairchild and Mifflin Streets. People with old photos of the area are encouraged to bring them to share.
— Jason Tish, executive director of the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation, will describe how an imaginative approach to re-using the existing buildings can add vibrancy to the area.
— Architect Elizabeth Cwik will show illustrations to suggest how historic buildings on the block can be re-used and enhanced.The Block 100 Foundation, created by Overture Center benefactors Jerome Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland, has advanced a proposal that would demolish all or parts of six buildings on the block including two local landmarks. Their proposal calls for reconstructing facades on State Street and creating a small  private plaza at Mifflin and Fairchild Streets across from the Overture Center.Capitol Neighborhoods Inc. is dedicated to improving the experience of residing in Madison’s vibrant downtown and represents people who live in the five districts that surround the state capitol building. The website is at

– end –

Nicole Foss: “The Great Recession, Energy Depletion, and Political Turmoil,” at Goodman TONIGHT

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Nicole Foss will be speaking tonight at 7 at the Goodman Center (details below). She is quite a speaker. I went to see her when she was here back in 2010. Her thinking is amazing–bringing together economics, social relations, and the natural/physical world in one very all-encompassing view. She is very good at demonstrating–jargon-free–the physical/energy resource limits we are up against on this earth. As the son of a geologist, and being a geographer myself, her thesis rings true. She then illustrates how we are papering over the inevitable energy crunch with debt–personal, corporate and government. (Think Wile E. Coyote right after running off the edge of the cliff, but just before falling into the canyon; that’s where we are now!) Being a fan of Krugman, her economics ring true as well. But it isn’t all doom & gloom. She has a somewhat hopeful outlook for those willing to move away from the world of consumerism & consumption. (Heads up permaculturists & local community-builders!)

And for whatever it is worth, this talk will go a very long way toward explaining why some of us have been fighting for decades for sustainable ways of getting around, land use patterns that are amenable to walking, biking and transit (i.e., community) and hyper-energy efficiency in our buildings. Given all of the paving, parking & inefficient buildings going in all over the place right now, we’re going to be seeing a lot of what they call “stranded capital” in the not-too-distant future.
You’ll be calling up your friendly neighborhood energy auditor right after this talk, I guarantee it!

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Hans Noeldner <>
Date: Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 9:04 PM
Subject: Tue Jan 3 – Don’t Miss!
To: Hans Noeldner <>

Please join us this Tuesday evening for a special repeat appearance in Madison: Nicole Foss: futurist, international lecturer, and co-author ofthe top-rated financial blog The Great Recession, Energy Depletion, and Political TurmoilFree and open to the public Date/Time: Tuesday, January 3rd, 7:00 PM Location: The Goodman Community Center149 Waubesa StreetMadison, WI 53704Map: Sponsors: WORT, Madison Peak Oil Group, UW Madison Energy Hub, Transition Madison Area, RENEW Wisconsin Pre-event Publicity:  Nicole Foss will be interviewed live on WORT during an hour-long program starting at noon on Monday, January 2nd.  Richard Heinberg, James Howard Kunstler, and Dmitry Orlov – leading luminaries in the Peak Oil/Post-Carbon world – will be calling in as guests.Matt Rothschild of Progressive Radio will also be interviewing Nicole on Wednesday Jan 4th.  It will be available here: For more information please contact Hans Noeldner     608-444-6190 Intention:During the past year, tremendous political and economic turmoil has rocked the United States and the world.  Wisconsin – the center of the developing storm last February – has witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of citizen interest and engagement.  In this midst of this upheaval we find ourselves challenged to re-imagine politics, economics, and government itself. Meanwhile the aftershocks of the Financial Meltdown of 2008 continue to shake the world.  With the Great Recession showing no signs of abatement, and with the Euro on the verge of collapse, events are unfolding very much as futurist Nicole Foss predicted several years ago.  With 1000 postings and counting at the website , Nicole and her writing partners have provided readers with many insights into the interplay between “Peak Oil”, finance, and monetary policy.  Not only did Nicole warn that a Financial Meltdown was imminent well before it occurred (a prediction which eluded leading economists like Nobel-prize-winning Paul Krugman and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke), she foresaw the NATURE of the violent oscillations in energy and commodity prices that would ensue. Having lectured widely in North America and Europe during the past few years (including Madison appearances in September and October 2010), Nicole Foss is returning for another presentation – one which is generating widespread interest and excitement. How do these forces and trends intersect?  What might be our vision for the future – one which combines a sober recognition of Earth’s biophysical limits…with a human-centric economic system…financial and government reforms…and an engaged, informed electorate?  It is our hope that events like this will inspire Wisconsin citizens to engage in vigorous, respectful, and open-minded debate.