Skip to content

blogpost FW: “Fair Trade” placemaking

Some good conversation on development perspectives [see below], as stated from the perspective of a councilman’s seat, forwarded to me by a friend and one of our current clients.

Our office rarely runs into confrontation at this level. In fact, I generally promote compliance with current zoning in lieu of bending local regulations for each project. Zoning should be about neighbor-ism, not nimby-ism. The free market means that development is always a surprise – you never know what your neighbor will do. But zoning regulations should set limits on expectations, meaning that your neighbor’s development will endorse the same regulatory commitments that you do, and these should be enforced for the perpetual value of each property, and for a sense of future good.

We’ve been involved in a handful of zoning cases, but they’ve been obvious. We stood alongside a client who wanted to formally zone his property to meet half-way the variety among all his neighboring zones. That made sense. We sponsored a client as she went through the laborious process to be open a business use already approvable within an existing framework for that business. We began with the process of removing an overly specific restriction that would inherently limit development, left behind by previous landowners who were no longer involved.

All this to say that place matters, location matters. An address is a commitment, a commitment within regulation, and a commitment to a community. Stretching back to the garden city for the greater good, or the castle with a moat, these are commitments. If architects idealize a sense of control, planners and councilmen struggle with promoting good ideas that are too grandiose to compete with the timing of patterns of innovation and change. It’s the very tension of community, of enjoyed freedoms within neighborhoods. And, it’s not something I talk about very much.

We like to say that the plan for a house is the same of as the plan for a city. But, the councilman doesn’t interpret the regulations of your house, and I have no interest in planning a city. However, I do enjoy seeing a parking lot developed. It’s an act of redemption of an empty place. And that brings us back to square one.

Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
(919) 889 6823 | | TWITTER: aoarch

From: Lee Tripi [] Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:24 PM
Subject: Fw: "Fair Trade" placemaking

From: Ted Van Dyk

Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:18 PM

Subject: RE: "Fair Trade" placemaking

I could not disagree with that statement more. It may have been true 30 years ago, when urban renewal, highway building, and clearing of historic fabric in the name of ‘progress’ way the mode of the day.

I think NIMBYISM today stems from a more generalized fear of change. Several recent projects here in Raleigh have been proposed for vacant industrially zoned parcels- Stanhope, with it’s gravel parking lot, FMW, with its’ vacant sheet metal fabrication facility, Cameron Village (Crescent) with its’ vacant office building…no one mentioned what was there. It was more about introduction of a new scale, new intensity, new direction in the growth of the urban fabric. List the benefits of densification, walk-ability, curbing sprawl, revitalizing tired districts, reducing auto trips, revitalized tax base, etc. etc. Nothing seems to be sufficient to constitute a ‘fair trade’ in many of these cases.

Some folks like things just the way they are- better to have a familiar gravel parking lot than an alien housing complex…. New development means that times, and values, are changing. Some folks just don’t like it, and find outlet for their frustrations through NIMBY style activism.

Politically, in turn, as we see at every level, it is much easier to capitalize on fear than to lead through measured judgment and judicious use of criticism. ‘What would be lost’ is often a nostalgic past or defense against an imagined threat rather than a legitimate concern or valued fabric . Some elected officials, in turn, must acknowledge NIMBY”s as active, vocal potential voters, often feeding the flames rather than quelling them.

This leaves aside the question of quality of proposed new development- which we deal with on an ongoing basis. We can do our best work by embracing change, and then directing it to it’s highest, best, and most appropriate forms.

just my two (unsolicited) cents.

Ted Van Dyk, AIA

principal | new city design group

t: 919 831 1308 x 114 | w: ted

Sent: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 2:54 PM
Subject: "Fair Trade" placemaking

FYI – as you consider possible future community dialogue on quality design:

“…more times than not, NIMBY opposition stems from a sense that proposed development is not of equal or greater value to what would be lost…”

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

Osterlund Architects Logo

Osterlund Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm, committed to our clients and their work from concept through construction, and through to their next opportunity. Our firm has expertise in all project phases, including programming, pre-design and planning through construction administration and closeout, as well as interior design, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) services.

Back To Top