Urban Planner Introduces Tactical Urbanism to CRP Students

A student talking to guest lecturer and alumnus

Lydon's "talk back" session was attended by Thomas Knipe (M.R.P. '11), at right, who is working with a student project for Design Connect. William Staffeld / AAP

October 20, 2017

Urban planner Mike Lydon recently visited Ithaca, where he delivered a lecture on tactical urbanism and met with students and local planners and government officials. Lydon is a principal of Street Plans Collaborative, an international planning, design, and research-advocacy firm based in Miami, New York City, and San Francisco.

Lydon's talk, titled "Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action for Long-Term Change," launched the Department of City and Regional Planning's fall Colloquium lecture series. During the presentation, Lydon gave an overview of the global tactical urbanism movement. Tactical urbanism is defined by short-term, community-based projects such as pop-up parks and open streets initiatives, which are often quick and cost-effective tools of urban activists, planners, and policymakers. Lydon showed how cities worldwide are using these tools to respond to growing and diverse populations, shifting economic conditions, new technologies, and a changing climate.

After the lecture, Lydon met with CRP students and others in a "talk back" session in 115 West Sibley Hall.

"Lydon and his firm are designing thoughtful and strategic interventions that use clever tactics to advance the conversation around planning and improve streets and other public spaces in communities across the U.S.," said Jeff Chusid, chair of CRP. "It was especially gratifying that he was selected as a speaker in concert with planning professionals in Ithaca, and the local planning community was able to program additional interactions with him during his visit to Cornell."

On the evening before his talk in Milstein Hall, Lydon gave a lively talk at a bar in downtown Ithaca. The event was attended by CRP students, local transportation advocates, planners, investor representatives, and officials including Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick and city council representatives. Also on hand was Rob Steuteville, senior communications advisor for Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and noted author and editor of Public Square: A CNU Journal.

The downtown meeting was organized by Thomas Knipe (M.R.P. '11), principal planner for the Tompkins County, New York, Planning Department, to kick-off a semester-long project Knipe is working on with Design Connect, the multidisciplinary, student-run, community design organization housed in CRP.

"Mike's talk downtown really inspired folks working on the ground in Ithaca to consider using the tactical urbanism approach here," said Knipe. "What is part of a rich educational experience on campus can also provide inspiration to those of us working to make communities around Ithaca more vibrant, sustainable, and equitable."

"Mike's visit was an exciting experience to have at the beginning of our own tactical urbanism project," said planning student Alec Martinez (B.S. URS '18), who leads the Design Connect project that is working with Knipe and the Tompkins County Beautification Committee to create a tactical placemaking guide for Tompkins County. The guide will explain what tactical urbanism is and how county residents can use it to make their neighborhoods better places to live, work, and play.

"Our goal is to identify specific areas that would benefit most from this type of intervention, visualize those interventions, and collect the resources, best practices, and necessary steps for a successful project," Martinez said, adding that he is inspired by the potential of tactical urbanism. "Cities are built for people, and tactical urbanism is a common language between the two. We're excited to see what this project might lead to."

Lydon's lecture was hosted by CRP and cosponsored by the Russell Van Nest Black Lectureship Fund and the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis.

By Patti Witten

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