News article about COVID-19 and LGBTQ+ neighborhoods and cities

How gay neighborhoods used the traumas of HIV to help American cities fight coronavirus

by Daniel Baldwin Hess and Alex Bitterman

Throughout the pandemic, local neighborhoods have played a critical and well-documented role providing the health and social services necessary for American communities and businesses to survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gay neighborhoods were particularly well equipped to meet this challenge, according to our latest research on these communities.

Click here to read the full article in The Conversation.

New article about renovation of socialist apartment buildings in Skopje, North Macedonia, Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

The post-socialist urban restructuring of Skopje, North Macedonia has been characterized by significant changes in the built fabric of the city, resulting from the political, economic and societal processes following the dissolution of Yugoslavia. In early 1990s and post- privatization, there was a dynamic transformation of the city’s housing stock in post-WWII prefabricated apartment buildings. Flat owners in socialist-era housing estates in Skopje modified their apartments by expanding and enclosing balconies, thus gaining more liv- ing space. Garages were converted into shops and ground-floor and first-floor apartments were renovated into offices, resulting in commercialization of previous residential space. To better understand the spatial disorder triggered by transformation of housing estates during the lengthy transition from a centrally-planned system to a market economy, this article evaluates various spontaneous and planned practices of transformation of residen- tial space in housing estates in post-socialist Skopje. 

We analyze these changing practices of transformation through fieldwork and focus group discussions with residents. We also review archival material and administrative and legal documents, including municipal master plans and national planning laws and decisions related to housing estates in post- 1991 Skopje. Findings emphasize the complex interplay between many actors, ideologies and interests that shape the experience of urban life in post-socialist Skopje, evidenced by outcomes related to housing choice and renovation practice, especially the enclosure of balconies for providing more living space. Such interventions are viewed as important steps towards improving living conditions in prefabricated apartment buildings in Skopje. Individual decisions about apartment renovation affect urban planning at the neighborhood level, and the findings from this research thus inform residential mobility and neighbor- hood-level strategic decision making. The aim is to help neighborhoods—built in an earlier socio-political era under a central planning system—to adapt to future demands.

Click here to read the article in The Journal of Housing and the Built Environment.

New book published, The Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods

Click here to access the Open Access version of The Life and Afterlife of Gay Neighborhoods. Soft cover and hard cover copies can also be ordered at the same link.

This open access book examines the significance of gay neighborhoods (or ‘gayborhoods’) from critical periods of formation during the gay liberation and freedom movements of the 1960s and 1970s, to proven durability through the HIV/AIDS pandemic during the 1980s and 1990s, to a mature plateau since 2000. The book provides a framework for contemplating the future form and function of gay neighborhoods. Social and cultural shifts within gay neighborhoods are used as a framework for understanding the decades-long struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and equality.

Resulting from gentrification, weakening social stigma, and enhanced rights for LGBTQ+ people, gay neighborhoods have recently become “less gay,” following a 50-year period of resilience. Meanwhile, other neighborhoods are becoming “more gay,” due to changing preferences of LGBTQ+ individuals and a propensity for LGBTQ+ families to form community in areas away from established gayborhoods. The current ‘plateau’ in the evolution of gay neighborhoods is characterized by generational differences—between Baby Boom pioneers and Millennials who favour broad inclusivity—signaling various possible trajectories for the future ‘afterlife’ of these important LGBTQ+ urban spaces.

The complicating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic provides a point of comparison for lessons learned from gay neighborhoods and the LGBTQ+ community that bravely endured the onset of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars in various disciplines—including sociology, social work, anthropology, gender and sexuality, LGTBQ+ and queer studies, as well as urban geography, architecture, and city planning—and to policymakers and advocates concerned with LGBTQ+ rights and social justice.

New article about removal of minimum parking requirements in Buffalo, Journal of the American Planning Association

Cities today face considerable land use, environmental, and economic challenges resulting from policies prioritizing automobiles and requiring ample off-street park- ing. In an effort to influence travel behavior and reduce parking supply, Buffalo (NY) adopted the Green Code in 2017. This zoning code reform repealed minimum parking requirements citywide and provided a “natural experiment” to investigate effects of parking deregulation among 36 major developments in its first 2 years. Our research produced two key findings. First, 47% of major developments included fewer parking spaces than previously permissible, suggesting earlier minimum parking requirements may have been excessive. Second, mixed-use developments introduced 53% fewer parking spaces than would have been required by earlier minimum requirements as developers readily took advantage of the newfound possibility to include less off-street parking. Aggregate parking spaces among single-use projects exceeded the earlier minimum requirements, suggesting developers of such projects were less motivated to deviate from accepted practices in determining the parking supply for urban development.

Eliminating parking minimums can reduce unnecessary parking supply and encourage development constrained by excessive minimum requirements. Land use, location, and trans- portation demand initiatives affect the quantity of off-street parking supplied in response to market con- ditions. Our findings suggest mixed-use developers are likely to take advantage of the ability to provide less parking in highly accessible locations. Though many developers quickly pivot to the newfound possi- bilities of providing fewer parking spaces, others continue to meet earlier requirements. Cities of all types stand to benefit from undoing constraining parking policies of the past and allowing developers to trans- form parking lots to “higher uses.”

Click here to read the article in the Journal of the American Planning Association.

New book chapter about city planning during the Cold War

This research traces the demilitarisation of Raadi airbase in Tartu, Esto- nia, where an early twentieth century aviation facility was transformed, during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, into a Cold War military power centre. Using archival documents and images, the contested urban space that contained this transformation is explored in this chapter through several lenses: the shifting ownership and uses of a key urban site, ad- ministrative restraints that limited urban growth and physical barriers that controlled security. The sheer size of the airfield, and the need to ‘close’ the section of the city in which it was situated, has strongly shaped urban growth throughout the twentieth century. Cultural space and mil- itary demands have competed throughout history to dominate this im- portant urban site, formerly a prestigious manor house, occupied by the ‘secret’ airfield, where a new national museum was recently dedicated on a former runway.

Hess, Daniel Baldwin and Taavi Pae. 2020. Competing militarisation and urban development during the Cold War: how a large Soviet air base came to dominate Tartu, Estonia in Cold War Cities: Politics, Culture and Atomic Urbanism, 1945‐65.  (Richard Brook, Martin Dodge, and Jonathan Hogg, eds.) pp. 148-166. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138573611

Click here to view the book Cold War Cities on the Routledge webpage.

New journal article about urban retail and the COVID-19 pandemic

Going dark: the post-pandemic transformation of the metropolitan retail landscape

by Alex Bitterman and Daniel Baldwin Hess

Since the start of the 2020 crisis, nearly one-third of American households have placed an online grocery order, representing a 200 per cent surge in online grocery shopping, of which more than 26 per cent were first-time online shoppers.

Conversion from bricks-and-mortar stores to dark stores will have an impact on the urban form and built environment, but the darkening of mom-and-pop boutiques will have a much greater effect on the long-term viability of shopping districts, central business districts and high streets (and the neighbourhoods they serve).

To read the full article in Town Planning Review click here.

News article about the US-Canada border and COVID-19 pandemic

Shuttered Canada-US border highlights different approaches to the pandemic – and differences between the two countries

by Daniel Baldwin Hess and Alex Bitterman

The United States and Canada have long enjoyed a stable relationship. The countries share history, the longest non militarized international border in the world, and strong economic ties.

Shuttered Canada-US border highlights different approaches to the ...

But the recent closure of the U.S.-Canada border because of the coronavirus underscores a growing divide between the two countries.

To read the full article in The Conversation click here.

News article about the coronavirus pandemic

Cold War-style preparedness could help fight future pandemics

by Alex Bitterman and Daniel Baldwin Hess

A key group of allies is missing in the U.S. effort to face the coronavirus pandemic: the American people. 

Cold War-style preparedness could help fight future pandemics

In the wake of World War II and during the Cold War, the U.S. was the world’s best at planning and preparing for mobilizing the citizenry to take action in an emergency. In those days, the anticipated emergency was a nuclear attack on the U.S., likely resulting in a loss of national leadership that required local governments and members of the public to step up.

To read the full article in The Conversation click here.

New Publication in Urban Geography

Vertical segregation of apartment building dwellers during late state socialism in Bucharest, Romania

Szymon Marcinczak and Daniel Baldwin Hess

To access the article in Urban Geography click here.

This article examines patterns of within-building vertical segregation in Bucharest, Romania under late socialism using micro-data (individual/household level information) from the 1992 Romanian national census. The data allows examination of separation of households according to the floor on which a household is located and according to the residential sector/district of Bucharest. Findings suggest that common social and demographic factors are related to the location of households in both horizontal and vertical dimensions of urban space. We also find that a freely functioning real estate market is not necessary to produce vertical segregation. Consequently, since vertical segregation existed in early and modern capitalist cities – and bearing in mind that the phenomenon existed under socialism too – we conclude that, like horizontal socio-spatial separation, vertical segregation is an intrinsic characteristic of modern cities and a feature of urban space that did not diminish when pre-industrial cities disappeared.