Archive for August, 2007

What is Staunton?

What exactly is Staunton? I’ll tell you — a city looking for an identify. In today’s Daily News Leader Nicole Barbano reported that the City of Staunton has hired the South Carolina planning firm Arnett Muldrow & Associates to help find its identity Jason Bourne style.

The firm is working with Staunton Downtown Development Association and local residents to “come up with a picture of the city’s identity and a logo they can use to promote city life and events.”

I thought the City of Staunton already had framed its identify — “Historic Staunton: Home of the Statler Brothers.”

Trip Muldrow, president of Arnett Muldrow, said his goal in helping to brand the city is to help residents tell the story of Staunton. ‘By creating a brand and a logo we’re helping everyday citizens explain the story of their community,’ Muldrow said. ‘It gives everybody sort of a jumping off point.'”

Ten bucks says that the downtown clock tower will be in the new logo.

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Renting Textbooks

In yesterday’s Daily Progress Brian McNeill reported that the University of Virginia’s bookstore has three new options for obtaining textbooks.

First, the bookstore will now let students rent books for a semester or the full year for a fraction of the book’s overall cost.

Students will also have the option of purchasing e-books. These electronic versions can be downloaded for 30 percent less than the print version.

Additionally, “students may purchase their textbooks as part of a guaranteed buyback program. When buying selected books, the UVa Bookstore will promise to buy it back at the end of the course for 50 percent of the book’s cover price, despite whether it was purchased new or used.”

“The new options are intended to provide a bit of financial relief for cash-strapped students. The price of textbooks nearly tripled from 1986 to 2004, jumping 186 percent, according to a 2005 report by the federal Government Accountability Office. The average American student pays $898 for textbooks and materials during the first year of college, according to the report.”

Bravo UVA. Bravo.

I found this picture of a proposed regional transit system on Richard Layman’s blog Rebuilding Place. I’m not sure if such a system is currently in the works, but I would be thrilled to see such a project receive funding. Such a system could provide some cohesiveness for this region and provide a viable alternative to driving a car. Imagine traveling from Richmond, VA to Harrisburg, PA without having to sit in hours of traffic.

The following is a list of five of the “Best Neighborhoods” in the U.S. according to the Project for Public Spaces.

BEST NEW NEIGHBORHOOD:
PEARL DISTRICT, PORTLAND, OREGON

Contributed by Jon Winslow.

“City planners and transportation officials from throughout North America come to the Pearl to study it as a model for urban neighborhoods. It was once an industrial zone, now a hip loft area with galleries, shops and restaurants. A new streetcar line plays an important role in its success. Many historic brick warehouses and other buildings have been converted to housing, complemented by a bevy of new infill construction. The pedestrian-friendly nature of the neighborhood is so successful, with storefronts lining many streets, that many residents have gotten rid of their cars or use them very rarely.”

BEST REVITALIZED NEIGHBORHOOD:
CHAPEL STREET, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT

“The College/Chapel Street District offers a few exceptional blocks of urban vitality in a struggling city that needs a reminder that such a thing exists. The area is across the street from Yale University, but until it was revitalized, a world away. It includes historic apartment and office buildings, along with three theaters that have long been important testing grounds for Broadway shows. The theaters and the neighborhood went into a tailspin along with the rest of New Haven in the 1960s. When developer Joel Schiavone bought the buildings in the early 1980s they were almost entirely vacant. Schiavone saw the potential of renovated theaters to act as anchors for new restaurants and shops and a flourishing neighborhood, and has stuck with making it happen. Schiavone’s broad vision and long-term commitment have been crucial to the revival of this great place.”

“The College/Chapel Street District today is a heavily-frequented, mixed-use area. Improvements, including the narrowing of street lanes to create more life on the sidewalks, have resulted in three cafes with outdoor seating clustered around the corner of College and Chapel, accompanied by a newsstand, many shops, and lots of office space.”

BEST HIP NEIGHBORHOOD:
THE PLATEAU, MONTREAL, QUEBEC

“A quaint working-class quarter transformed into the artistic and cultural hotbed of Quebec. This is really Montreal’s showcase neighborhood, featuring some of the city’s finest architecture, cuisine and entertainment venues. Plateau dwellers include artistic types, university students, young families and an older generation of people who still remember this now-hip neighborhood when it was a working class melange of cultures and ethnicities.”

“The Plateau is pleasurable to live in particularly because of the close connection of housing, shopping, parks and entertainment opportunities. It is extremely sociable, friendly and welcoming, and an ideal setting for long strolls. Pick-up games of soccer and Frisbee are always going on in the parks and people of all ages can be found strolling through streets and lounging in cafes during the afternoon.”

BEST SMALL TOWN NEIGHBORHOOD:
DIVISION STREET, NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA

Submitted by Kathy Phillipsen

“Northfield’s downtown is full of energy and charm, from historic buildings to the graceful lamp posts to the store owners who bring their merchandise out onto the sidewalks. It is truly the heart of town, serving the adjacent neighborhoods and college campuses as well as the entire county.” “The downtown layout is not just a straight strip of street lined with buildings. Roads curve off here and there, with more business tucked around the corners. There are many nooks and crannies in the downtown area, and one could spend an entire day checking it out. The Cannon River jogs through downtown and is surrounded by walking paths, bridges and parks along its waterfront. In the summer, local performing arts groups put on shows on a regular basis and draw many people. The downtown area really makes you feel as though life doesn’t have to be run at high speed every moment.”

BEST SHOPPING CENTER THAT IS ALSO A REAL NEIGHBORHOOD:
COUNTRY CLUB PLAZA, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Submitted by Eric Youngberg

“This is America’s first shopping center, from which all those following can learn important lessons. It is a pedestrian oriented district made up of 1920s Spanish-style architecture with towers, domes, and public plazas filled with fountains and sculptures. Historic residential buildings are interwoven into the commercial areas so that it is an active and alive place. It attracts people from all walks of life. Parking is hidden under and behind buildings. Brush Creek meanders through the Plaza with walkways on each side, and pedestrian bridges crossing it.”

“You’ll find sidewalk cafes, coffee houses, live music on various corners, plazas, and people from all walks of life. The adjacent Mill Creek Park is the premier place in town to jog, exercise, walk your dog or sunbathe. The JC Nichols fountain serves as the city’s “speaker’s corner,” and hosts numerous political rallies and demonstrations.”

Check out this time-lapse video of the freedom of speech chalkboard on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.

If you had any doubts about the University of Virginia’s commitment to academic excellence, check out this story in yesterday’s Daily Progress. According to Brian McNeill UVA will spend $20 million to bring 6 world class researchers to the university. In 2004 the university’s Board of Visitors launched the “research enhancement initiative” to boost UVa’s standings in science and technology research. UVA set aside $126 million for the research initiative, andthe University has will use the remaining funds to attract mid-level and junior faculty members to fill out the beefed-up research capabilities.

These researchers are being heralded as the “superstar” faculty members, and they are expected to significantly impact UVA’s research rankings. “Though U.S. News & World Report ranks UVa as the nation’s No. 2 public institution of higher education, UVa’s scientific research rankings are a bit less lustrous. UVa’s School of Engineering and Applied Science graduate program, for example, is ranked 38th.” ‘To achieve the reputation that UVa wants to achieve, it’s got to move up in the rankings and everyone – except for No. 1 – is trying to do the exact same thing…If UVa wants to be a top-rated institution, it’s going to be very expensive.’”

THE RESEARCHERS

Joe C. Campbell
Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering
Innovator in fiber optics, researching night vision technology and bioterrorism detection
Hired January 2006

Stephen S. Rich
Director of UVa’s Center for Public Health Genomics
A genetic epidemiologist, he is leading a worldwide effort to understand the genetics of Type 1 diabetes
Hired January 2007

John T. Yates Jr.
Department of Chemistry
A top investigator in the fields of surface chemistry and physics, he researches photochemistry as well as astrochemistry in the solar system and deep space
Hired January 2007

Dr. Mark Yeager
Chairman of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics
A practicing cardiologist, he also conducts research that may provide new strategies for treating heart failure
Hired July 2007

Christine and Bernard Thisse
Department of Cell Biology
Experts in zebrafish genetics, a field that may unlock the secrets of human birth defects, cancer and more
Hired August 2007

“The superstar faculty members are fetching some of the most lucrative salaries among UVa’s 11,962 employees. Campbell earns $310,600 per year, while Rich earns $300,000. Fewer than 15 faculty members earn $300,000 or more, according to public employment records.”

“The Thisses did not come cheap. To lure them from France, UVa spent $4.5 million…Meanwhile, the university spent another $3.35 million to snag Stephen S. Rich, a genetic epidemiologist leading a worldwide effort to better understand the genetics behind Type 1 diabetes.”

“In addition to UVa’s researcher recruitment effort, additional funds from the initiative will go toward expanding the university’s research space. A $40 million, 85,000-square-foot research facility, under construction at Fontaine Research Park, will house the researchers’ new labs and offices starting in the spring.”

This story is amazing, and it’s a far cry from what happens at other schools. If JMU had this kind of money to spend it would probably use it to build another parking garage. If other schools across the country had this money they might use it to add a high-profile sports coach (e.g. Nick Saban at Alabama).


Attorney Jeff Cooper and the development group St. Louis Soccer United have unveiled a 400-acre development project that would include an 18,900-seat soccer specific stadium, a hotel, at least two restaurants, about 1,000 single-family homes, several youth soccer fields and nearly 500,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The site is located at the intersection of 255 and Horseshoe Lake Road, eight miles east of St. Louis, in the town of Collinsville, Ill.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, “St. Louis has a strong soccer heritage. A St. Louis team would create a natural rivalry with franchises that already exist in Kansas City and Chicago. St. Louis University is consistently among the NCAA’s leaders in soccer attendance, and there are many players with St. Louis roots in the league. Additionally, preps soccer thrives here in relation to most other markets.”

“St. Louis is one of several cities working to get a team before the league settles at 16 franchises. (The league currently has 13 teams, and an expansion team in San Jose, Calif., will start next year.) But the league won’t consider a city for expansion unless it has an appropriate venue, preferably an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium that the team controls. Without that, it’s difficult for teams to show a profit.”

St. Louis Soccer United will be competing with Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, New York, Vancouver, Montreal, and Phoenix for expansion spots. After the addition of San Jose, there will be 7 teams in the West Division and 7 teams in the East Division. That means that the MLS will probably look to add 1 Western team and 1 Eastern team. Geographically St. Louis is in the Midwest, but it would probably be placed in the Eastern division (Chicago and Kansas City are in the East division). Thus, MLS officials will have to decide if they want a team in Philadelphia, New York, Montreal or St. Louis.

Eventually I think that MLS officials will have to restructure the divisions, and realign the divisions or make one large division — this is the way every European league does it.

The United Countries of Major League Baseball. I saw this map on StrangeMaps, and I had to make some comments about it

  • The Atlanta Braves really do dominate the South. In fact, I think that Atlanta Braves’ territory could be bigger. The Braves compete with the Baltimore Orioles for the top spot in Virginia.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates territory is bigger than it should be. Why does it extend into Virginia? We have the Nationals, Orioles, and Braves to pick from.
  • I love how the Cubs dominate Illinois, and the White Sox only have a small blotch. The 2005 World Series Champs receive very little love in their own backyard.
  • California sure is a mess. The San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem, and Oakland Athletics have to compete for fans.
  • Looking at this map there might be some room for expansion. Would MLB put a team in Las Vegas? Or would a team in Sin City invoke bad memories of gambling?

Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Phil Vassar and Nas will play a free concert at Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium at 6 p.m. on September 6th. The performances are being offered as a gift to the Virginia Tech community, and those associated with the university can attend the event for free. Tickets are available to full-time and part-time students enrolled for the fall semester of 2007; all Virginia Tech faculty and staff, full-time, part-time, wage and emergency hires; and spring and summer 2007 graduates (tickets are limited one per person). If you want to get a ticket you must reserve it before August 20th.

Dave Mathews and Phil Vassar have special ties to the Virginia Tech community because both of them have lived in Virginia. Dave Mathews started his band in the Charlottesville area, and Phil Vassar attended James Madison University.

Today, the Daily Progress reported that “the planned Belvedere neighborhood in Albemarle County has been accepted into the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design neighborhood development pilot program that is sponsored by the United States Green Building Council. The program sets benchmarks for development that is both sustainable and environmentally responsible.”

“Stonehaus, the Belvedere developer, hopes to eventually build more than 700 energy-efficient homes in the neighborhood off East Rio Road. The project, scheduled for completion in 2011, will also include 10,000 square feet of retail space and 70,000 square feet of office space.”

“All of the neighborhood’s homes will be Energy Star and Earth Craft certified, guarantees of each home’s energy efficiency. The developer also hopes to focus on sustainability by managing stormwater runoff, preserving native trees and making the neighborhood accessible to pedestrians.”

Belvedere is the first project in the Charlottesville area to join the LEED program, and expect more to follow in its path.