New article about Dark Stores since the COVID-19 pandemic

Three years on, dark stores continue to manifest. In 2021, during the high point of the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed an upturn in the number of dark stores that seemed to rapidly emerge as a result of changes in shopping habits and that gained a new prominence during and after lockdowns (Bitterman and Hess, 2021). This article updates and evaluates our original assertions about the rapid proliferation of dark stores and reflects on not only the continued progression of the dark store phenomena but also examines the economic and societal changes that both influence the popularity and sustain the growth of this unique retail typology and its effects on the built environment.

Click here to read the article in Town Planning Review.

New book chapter about city planning during state socialism

The influence of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War on the growth and decline of the peripheral town of Valga/Valka

Estonia’s location in the geopolitically turbulent frontier area between the Russian and Western worlds has always affected the spatial development of Estonian cities and regions. Frontier lands inevitably experience militarisa- tion at times when international tensions build and demilitarisation and disarmament when tensions ease (Woodward 2005). In the 1990s, when Europe transformed at the end of the Cold War, one of the fastest growing research areas in the field of urban and regional studies was demilitarisation. Thirty years later, we are again living in times of rapidly growing military capabilities in Russian-Western border territories, including in Estonia where the deployment of military installations is back on the agenda (e.g., deploy- ment of NATO troops, residences of military personnel, and expansion of training grounds).

Click here to view the book Urban Planning During Socialism: Views from the Periphery on the Taylor and Frances webpage.

Leetmaa, K., J. Tintěra, T. Pae and D. B. Hess. 2023. “The Influence of Nuclear Deterrence During the Cold War on the Growth and Decline of the Peripheral Town of Valga/Valka.” in Urban Planning During Socialism: Views from the Periphery (Kadri Leetmaa and Jasna Mariotti, eds.) Taylor and Francis. [doi:]

New article about LGBTQ+ community organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic

Community Support Organizations in Gay Neighborhoods: Assessing Engagement During the Covid‐19 Pandemic

Click here for the Open Access article in Urban Planning.

Volunteerism, grassroots activism, and mutual aid have been critical to the advancement of rights and opportunities for LGBTQ+ people. These activities are institutionally anchored within supportive organizations embedded in LGBTQ+ com‐ munities. But these supportive organizations can be stressed by external crises, such as the Covid‐19 pandemic, limiting the capacity for providing routine services. This article provides a typology of community support organizations—including healthcare providers, business improvement districts, neighborhood planning organizations, and social groups and clubs— to better understand how non‐governmental organizations and non‐profit entities provide services not traditionally pro‐ vided by government agencies for LGBTQ+ people. We characterize how community support organizations continued to provide critical services to the LGBTQ+ community—consistent with the missions and aims of these organizations—while also providing services and information related to health and safety during the Covid‐19 pandemic. The article concludes with takeaway messages that synthesize the functions and services of community support organizations and explain how various types of supportive organizations in gay neighborhoods responded to the Covid‐19 pandemic.

Article published in Town Planning Review

Effects of new construction and renovation on ethnic and social mixing in apartment buildings in Estonia

Click here for the Open Access article in Town Planning Review.

Residential segregation between social groups has grown in European cities, while the housing sector has boomed in major cities since 2009. These two forces raise questions about the role of new housing construction in the growth of segregation. This article explores the sorting of both socio-economic and ethnic groups into three housing types: older, newer and renovated apartment buildings. We employ data from Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, where new housing construction has been extensive during the past ten years. We link census data with building-level data for publicly subsidised and privately funded housing renovations, and we calculate segregation indices by housing type and construct a multinomial regression model. Results suggest that publicly subsidised housing renovation contributes to continued mixing of socio-economic (occupational) groups, while new housing construction and especially private renovation increase segregation between ethnic and occupational groups. Ethnic and occupational segregation interact most strongly in privately funded apartment building renovations primarily within central city historic neighbourhoods.


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.