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Notes from CNU. 25 Seattle


CNU. 25 Seattle

May 3-6, 2017

The 25th Congress for New Urbanism hosted nearly 3,000 urbanists and real estate professionals in Seattle, Washington for a three day conference to discuss how to restore urban centers and towns and create real neighborhoods and diverse districts while conserving the natural environment and reducing sprawl. Architects, planners, developers, urbanists, designers, and students from all over the world were in attendance.  

Some highlights:

  • Tours of the Historic District: Pioneer Square and Chinatown District

    • First parklet in Seattle!

  • South Lake Union tour: Amazonia (Amazon campus)

  • Joe Biden talk (joint session with ULI):

    • “The public is usually ahead of the political system”

    • “Spend time to get to know people”

    • “We have to think bigger about what we do in order to maintain a liberal world order”

    • Regarding foreign investment in infrastructure “They can’t take away the buildings if things go bad”

    • “Give the middle class a chance -- they have never, never, never, never let their country down”

    • “You’re the people thinking about how to develop cities, the optimistic”

    • Majora Carter talk (Urban revivalist, MacArthur genius, and entrepreneur from the Bronx, NY

      • Learned:

        • Year round social gathering is needed

            • High quality, beauty, built environment often missing from low-status communities

            • Promote community center feeling, but don’t prescribe ‘community center’

            • Neighborhood should feel good, produce jobs, reduce brain-drain

      • “Lack of choice in economic development, bad food choices, lack of choosing your own financial wealth, does nothing but concentrate poverty...creates back health outcomes, economic instability, higher rates of incarceration--all things we see and know happen when we concentrate poverty”

        • Is using real estate development as a tool - to ‘self gentrify’: investing in spaces and create their own retail and new businesses. Low income want nice things too.

      • “When you grow up and are shown your community doesn’t matter -- physical environment essentially tells us we are worthless”

      • “Sense of place -- you understanding you are a part of a bigger picture”


  • Mention that very few people are thinking about affordability in DC development.
  • Changing mode of transit require working around existing infrastructure. Ex. LA developing mobility hubs to connect all service to turn auto access into one part of a hybrid multi-modal transportation system.
  • Need to look beyond narrow silos of developers and government to work with others to support the whole community, and get buy in early on.
  • How to run better charrettes: #1 listen, #2 trust, #3 just do it (use tools of tactical urbanism)
  • It takes at least a few feedback loops to run a charrette well and get people people involved that aren’t involved or happy about project - first round they are scared, second round they are interested, third round they are enthusiastic and become advocates.
  • Using participatory art to create and better connect your neighborhood.
  • Don’t pitch something around placemaking, pitch it around a business need, ie. energy securities. Ex. if you create a greener environment you can reduce 1.2 degrees farenheight in temperature, which could be the difference of a black out on the energy grid.

Further Exploring: 

  1. See the PHOTOS I took?
  2. Read the CNU Charter.
  3. Watch the VIDEOS (they will be uploading some talks soon).