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The point being that I think we can measure the desirability of projects in whether they encourage entrepreneurship, family businesses, less commuting, and increased self-reliance. This is an urban fabric that helps disconnect us from corporate agendas and, sometimes, the macro-economic trends that are exploitive and not sustainable. We need more, not less, control over our economic lives and careers, more options and opportunity, more ways to support DIY culture. The Great Recession has been a Great Reminder.
Heritage: Whether NIMBY or developer, we all need to care more and know more about place. We can't have too much history or culture. We also need to find better ways of working with the existing city fabric. New and creative is great, but adapting the old is usually greener and helps enrich the urban environment. The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Green Lab project is currently pioneering ways to give developers more options with projects, such as finding ways to encourage more adaptive reuse of older buildings by easing some requirements for things like energy upgrades, for example, and moving to a performance-based system. Occupants will be judged not on the double pane windows they install, but the amount of energy they save by other means, like opening windows instead of installing air conditioning.
The landmark Supply Laundry Building in South Lake Union's Cascade neighborhood, being renovated by Vulcan as part of a larger mixed-use residential and retail project called Stack House, is a guinea pig nationally for how to do this. The key is — and this applies to SLU, Pike-Pine, and all over town — can effective incentives be found to encourage adaptive reuse of non-landmark, non-historic older stock that can be recycled, reused, and kept out of the landfill? Such efforts are incredibly worthy, and if successful, they'll help maintain and adapt the urban character that keeps us rooted. History and preservation are becoming key elements to the remaking of South Lake Union, which is a fascinating laboratory for this blending of old and new.
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