Summer 2017 Newsletter

Community Histories Workshop Joins CURS; Post-Disaster Recovery Plans after China’s Wenchuan Earthquake; Bike&Place – A New Modeling Tool to Help Planners Help Cyclists; Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis; Chinese Cities and the Use of Urban Planning to Help Control Air Quality; and News from the Center. Read about research on these subjects and more here!

Community Histories Workshop Joins CURS

Kessell History Center, Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC

Kessell History Center, Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC. Photo courtesy CHW.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) is pleased to announce a new partnership with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Community Histories Workshop (CHW). CURS looks forward to expanding its support of the humanities by assisting CHW in capturing and archiving community histories. These histories can be key components of economic and community development efforts, such as the adaptive reuse of historic sites.

Launched in July 2016 and led by Robert Allen, faculty director and the James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American Studies, and Elijah Gaddis, co-founder and assistant director, CHW is dedicated to developing and testing innovative models for community engaged digital public history and humanities that benefit local communities across the state and region. In the process, this work contributes to the University’s commitment to engaged scholarship, to the reinvention of graduate training and to the integration of digital approaches and materials in undergraduate teaching and research. An outgrowth of the Digital Innovation Lab, CHW will extend and broaden its the public digital humanities work as a new program of the CURS. CHW formally joined CURS on July 1, 2017.


About the Community Histories Workshop (CHW)

CHWThe seeds for the CHW were planted when Allen served as co-principal investigator for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative (2012-2014) and as the founding director of the Digital Innovation Lab (2011-2016). His collaborative project with Wilson Library, Going to the Show, launched in 2009, documents and illuminates the experience of movies and movie-going in North Carolina from the introduction of projected motion pictures (1896) to the end of the silent film era (circa 1930). Through its innovative use of more than 750 Sanborn® Fire Insurance maps of forty-five towns and cities between 1896 and 1922, the project situates early movie-going within the experience of urban life in the state’s big cities and small towns. The project won the American Historical Association’s Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History in 2010.

Gaddis, assistant professor of history at Auburn University, is the first graduate of the UNC American Studies Ph.D. program, and a recipient of the 2017 Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award. CHW offers opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to gain valuable experience in digital public humanities through its graduate and undergraduate research fellowship program.

The mission of CHW aligns with the UNC-Chapel Hill’s recently launched “Humanities for the Public Good” initiative, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The announcement of the program singled out the work of the Digital Innovation Lab (DIL) and CHW as models of public humanities:

Past efforts at Carolina include the creation of one of the most ambitious public humanities projects in the University’s history — Digital Loray — an onsite and online history center that documents the story of the Loray textile mill in Gastonia, NC. UNC’s new Community Histories Workshop furthers this type of innovative work, benefiting the state and the region. The Mellon funding will allow the University to support the development of new and expanded digital humanities projects that align with the goals of “Humanities for the Public Good.”

Collaboration within UNC-Chapel Hill and partnerships with external organizations are hallmarks of CHW’s approach. CHW is partnering with the UNC Southern Historical Collection on several community-based projects, and OASIS (Office of Arts and Sciences Technology Services) is working with CHW to develop a software platform for collaborative community history and archiving projects.

A signature focus of CHW is the intersection between the adaptive reuse of iconic historical sites and community history and archiving initiatives, connecting the site’s future with its past. Its approach grows out of the three-year collaboration between Allen and Gaddis on the DIL’s Digital Loray project. Working with the property developer, Preservation NC, the Gaston County Museum of Art and History, and local volunteers, the DIL made the preservation and repurposing of one of the largest cotton mills in the South, Gastonia’s Loray/Firestone Mill, a catalyst for an open-ended community history initiative. This included: the location of a postdoctoral fellow as the University’s “public historian in residence” at the mill; the planning and implementation of the Alfred C. Kessell History Center at the site; and the creation of a digital archive of more than 2,500 photographs, maps and other historical materials.

This project led directly to CHW’s next “long-tail” public humanities initiative grounded in a major adaptive reuse development: Capital Broadcasting’s redevelopment of the Rocky Mount Mills property, site of the second oldest and longest operating cotton mill in the state (1818-1996). The history of the mill is intertwined with that of UNC-Chapel Hill: the Battle family, which owned and operated the mill for the better part of two hundred years, also included Kemp Plummer Battle, president of the university from 1876 to 1891, in addition to many other family members who attended UNC. The papers of the mill, and of the Battle family, are held by the UNC Southern Historical Collection.

Exploring Digital Rocky Mount Mills at the Feb. 2017 History Harvest

Exploring Digital Rocky Mount Mills at the Feb. 2017 History Harvest. Photo courtesy CHW.

Funded by a grant from Capital Broadcasting, CHW’s first project, Closing Stories, gave former workers in the mill an opportunity to share and preserve stories of the last decade of the mill’s operation through twenty-three short-form oral history interviews — at a time when a significant number of African Americans entered the textile workforce for the first time. A February 2017 History Harvest attracted community members to the Braswell Memorial Library to have photographs, home movies and other memorabilia of the mill and mill life scanned and added to the Digital Rocky Mount Mills archive.

The next phase of the Rocky Mount Mills project will unfold over the next eighteen months. It will include development of K-12 learning units produced by local teachers through a collaboration with Carolina K-12, a unit of Carolina Public Humanities. The mill was operated by slaves from 1818 to 1852. A collaboration with the Southern Historical Collection will test software tools for slave genealogy, using Battle family slaves as the test case.

UNC and Program on Chinese Cities Scholars: A Learning Partnership

Shenzen

An urban village approved for redevelopment in Shenzen. Photos by Bill Rohe.

“The challenges facing China’s cities and metropolitan regions are daunting in scale and complexity; without exaggeration, the lives of millions will depend on how well China manages the continued growth of its cities in coming years,” says Yan Song, professor of city and regional planning and director of the UNC Program on Chinese Cities (PCC). Since 2008, Song and her colleagues at UNC and partner universities in China have joined together for an exchange of ideas to benefit planners in China and the U.S. In 2016 alone, Song and the PCC hosted 56 scholars.

In response to invitations from former PCC scholars, Bill Rohe, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and director of the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Planning, gave five lectures and toured four cities in China from June 12-22, 2017. “The sheer amount of construction happening in China is staggering,” said Rohe. “Although I’d been to China before, this trip allowed me to see the changes since then and experience first-hand the scale and complexity of the issues facing my Chinese colleagues.”

Rohe’s lectures included a comparison of affordable housing policies in China and the U.S., the impacts of work requirements on public housing residents in the U.S., reestablishing connectivity in urban revitalization, and a comparative look at urban revitalization in the two countries. He participated in the 11th International Association for Chinese Planning Conference at Harbin and visited the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, the University of Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

This exchange was made possible by the connections made through the PCC, whose scholars address a variety of topics, including sustainable environment and energy; land use and transportation planning; urban redevelopment and its social equity implications; economic development policy; property rights, infrastructure planning and government finance.

The PCC is an initiative within UNC’s Center for Urban & Regional Studies. It conducts research and training aimed at better understanding the impacts of rapid urban growth on China’s built and natural environments. The Program explores ways to make China’s urbanization process more equitable, transparent, and socially and ecologically sustainable.

Below are some photographs taken during Rohe’s visit (click image to enlarge).

Tackling the Housing Affordability Crisis

Excerpted from Housing Policy Debate

On April 11, 2017, the journal Housing Policy Debate published an article by CURS Director Bill Rohe, giving his views on the current U.S. housing crisis. Below is an short summary of the article. The full article can be accessed here.

The United States is experiencing a housing crisis unlike anything we have seen for decades. Since the 2008 recession, the national homeownership rate has plummeted to a 50-year low, largely because of the spike in foreclosures, short sales and deeds in lieu of foreclosures, as well as tight mortgage credit and delayed household formation.

On the rental front, vacancy rates have fallen over the past 5 years, leading to sharp increases in rents. In the past year alone, nominal rents have increased by 3.6%, whereas incomes for low- and modest-income households have been relatively flat (State of the Nation’s Housing, 2016).

This housing affordability crisis is exacting great costs both from individuals and from society. Individual costs include:

  • a lack of funds for food and other essential needs;
  • increased housing instability, which interferes with employment among adults and education among children; and
  • poor housing conditions leading to health problems and to homelessness.

The societal impacts include increases in public expenditure to support homeless households, lost productivity and a less-educated workforce hampering the country’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. Federal policy has a crucial role to play in addressing the housing affordability crisis and its negative consequences. It needs to address the cost and the availability of both homeownership and rental housing, striking a reasonable balance between the two.

To read the rest of this article and policy recommendations, please go to Housing Policy Debate.

Bike&Place: A New Modeling Tool to Help Planners Help Cyclists

Washington Street, Houston, Mississippi: Streetscape rendering after implementing downtown, trail-oriented growth. Image Courtesy Brian Morton.

You’d like to bike downtown for your job, to go shopping or to attend an event. Those first few blocks near home seem safe enough, but you get a bit worried when traffic gets heavier. It turns out, you’re not alone in how traffic stress affects your willingness to bicycle. CURS researcher Brian J. Morton has developed a tool that will help town planners design more cyclist-friendly networks around signature places in their community.

In a recent study for the Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center (STRIDE), Morton used an open-source software package to create an easy-to-use travel demand model for use by planners working in towns and small cities. Morton’s goal was to build a product that predicts demand for bicycle travel by “interested but concerned” cyclists. Called Bike&Place, Morton’s tool helps planners increase bicycle accessibility.

Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for Portland, Oregon, created a typology of four kinds of cyclists: strong and fearless; enthused and confident; interested but concerned; and “no way no how.” In a national survey, participants were categorized into those four types in the following percentages: 7 percent; 5 percent; 51 percent; and 37 percent. The 51 percent of “interested but concerned” noted that they “like riding a bicycle…and they would like to ride more. But, they are afraid to ride….Very few of these people regularly ride bicycles… [and they] will not venture out onto the arterials to the major commercial and employment destinations they frequent.…They would ride if they felt safer on the roadways—if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all.”

Three small towns in Mississippi were used to develop and test Bike&Place. In Houston, Mississippi (population 3,623), Bike&Place estimates that less than 2 percent of the town’s residential neighborhoods have bicycle access to Courthouse Square, one of the town’s focal points. With an improved network, bicycle access to Courthouse Square could increase to 83 percent.

Morton hopes Bike&Place will make it easier for planners to map traffic stress problem areas and find solutions to make biking less stressful for the large numbers of interested but concerned cyclists and increase the likelihood that they will bike to important community locations. The project report, “Bike&Place: A New Tool for Designing Active, Place-Making Transportation Networks – An Exploratory Study,” provides detailed instructions on how to adapt Bike&Place to other places. For more information on using this tool, contact Morton here.

Editor’s Note: On June 28, 2017, Morton gave a Bike&Place presentation at the 2017 National Regional Transportation Conference in Denver, CO, sponsored by the National Association of Development Organizations

Chinese Cities and the Use of Urban Planning to Help Control Air Quality

Rapid growth and greatly expanded motor vehicle ownership and usage have contributed to serious air pollution across China. In 2014 alone, Beijing endured more than twenty days with almost ten times the national ambient air quality limit, causing public health issues. Can better urban form reduce air pollution?

Photo by Bill Rohe

In collaboration with four UNC Program on Chinese Cities (PCC) visiting scholars, Director of the PCC and CURS Faculty Fellow Yan Song recently published a paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research evaluating this question.

Based on evidence gathered from 157 Chinese cities, this study analyzed the effects of aspects of urban form metrics on concentrations of ambient pollutants. Greater population density, more centralized development and better street accessibility were found to have a significant correlation with lower concentrations of air pollutants, while a higher level of urban sprawl may have a negative impact on air quality.

“The influence of urban form on pollution,” said Song, “is comparable to the effects of other factors like weather conditions.” Cities with urban sprawl are more likely to contain higher levels of air pollution, which should draw wide attention from local governments and planners in China. “These findings indicate that urban form could play a modest, but important, role in improving air quality for Chinese cities,” noted Song.

Click here to read the full here.

CURS Director Bill Rohe Talks Affordable Housing on WRAL TV News

WRAL TV News: A new UNC study indicates that rising rents and stagnant wages have created a rental housing crisis in North Carolina. While it’s recommended not to spend more than 30 percent of one’s income on rental housing, the study shows that 400,000 North Carolinians are spending nearly 50 percent of their income on rent.

Watch the report here.

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Disaster Recovery Plans after China’s Wenchuan Earthquake

At 2:28 pm on May 12, 2008, the Wènchuān dà dìzhèn (literally “Great Wenchuan earthquake”) registered 8.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. As the 21st deadliest earthquake of all time, the Wenchuan (also known as Sichuan) earthquake took more than 69,000 lives and left about 4.8 million people homeless. On November 6, 2008, China announced that it would spend about $146.5 billion over the next three years to rebuild areas ravaged by the earthquake as part of the Chinese economic stimulus program.

Wenchuan

Natural disasters such as this have long been considered one of the major challenges confronting humankind. In recent years, both the incidence and frequency of natural disasters have increased. It is also evident that losses due to natural catastrophic events have increased dramatically over decades.

In this context, post-disaster recovery practices have become more common and research on disaster recovery within the academic community is also increasing. Many of these studies suggest that urgency and uncertainty in the aftermath of disasters lead to short-term decision-making that does not address, or may even amplify, pre-disaster social, economic and environmental weaknesses, which are the main challenges to long-term sustainability. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate sustainability into the disaster recovery process.

In a recent article published in the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) Faculty Fellow and Director of the Program on Chinese Cities Yan Song, Chaosu Li, a UNC Department of City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, and their colleagues examined 16 local recovery plans developed in response to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

Through a CURS-supported, National Science Foundation-funded grant, planning documents from the affected areas were analyzed and evaluated, and in-depth interviews with government officials, planners and researchers were conducted. Song and her colleagues found that the local recovery plans do not appear to have sufficiently incorporated concepts of sustainability.

The severely devastated town of Jundao in Sichuan Province during the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Photo above: The severely devastated town of Jundao in Sichuan Province during the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

The report’s findings reveal five challenges for incorporating sustainability into disaster recovery plans. These include: limited inclusion of environmental and equity goals; limitations to local planning capacity; insufficient enforcement tools; inadequate stakeholder engagement; and weak interagency coordination.

“The Chinese central government has emphasized ‘eco-reconstruction’ as the overarching goal for disaster recovery after the Wenchuan earthquake,” explained Song. “Nevertheless, disaster recovery goals at the local level were still economics-oriented.”

Song and her colleagues suggest the following four steps to improve the local disaster recovery planning process:

First, efforts must be made to include sustainability within a plan’s visions and goals. Environmental goals and achievements should be evaluated in the promotion of government officials. Policy frameworks should be formalized, with visions translated into goals encompassing different dimensions of sustainability that can be measured and tracked. For instance, to achieve the vision of providing a sustainable future for its citizens, one goal could be “mitigating secondary flood hazards,” with an objective to “reduce peak runoff volume.” These policy frameworks must be shared with other government agencies to support the implementation of policy action items by other agencies.

Second, data-sharing mechanisms should be enhanced. “We recommend that planning departments at city and provincial levels possess backups of basic data for areas that are prone to natural disasters,” said Song. “Basic ecological, geological and socioeconomic data at the local level should be shared across government agencies.”

The road heading to Wenyuan, the epicenter of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Photo above: The road heading to Wenyuan, the epicenter of 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. (Wikipedia photo)

Third, planning techniques such as hazard exposure analyses, ecological impact analyses and ecological carrying capacity assessments should be applied during the early stages of the plan-making process to ensure sufficient sustainability considerations. “In the Chinese context, where a top-down approach often plays the primary role in guiding urban planning, the central government can lead in designing tools and policy actions for sustainability,” explained Song.

Finally, interagency collaboration is an important way to alleviate the existing fragmentation in governmental structure. In the current local government setting in China, agencies involved in, or responsible for, sustainability-related issues include the Development and Reform Commission, the Department of Environment Protection, the Department of Land Resources and Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Forestry and Agriculture and the Department of Transportation. Because sustainability touches issues administered by this wide range of agencies, developing a framework for interagency coordination is critical for promoting sustainability.

“It is laudable that China has begun to recognize the importance of sustainability in post-disaster recovery planning,” said Song, “and it is especially notable that sustainability was prominently reflected in State Council policies for post-earthquake reconstruction. While this disaster provided a moment to make a statement about sustainable recovery, it also created a situation in which it was difficult to actually accomplish these goals. It may be that Chinese planning practices are able to achieve greater sustainability in situations that allow for more time and deliberation.”

A Tale of Two States: White-Collar Jobs

U2P0

In part three of the five-part Urban 2 Point 0 series, CURS Researcher Michael Webb looks at white-collar jobs, specifically finance and professional services – which includes management, research and engineering. These industries have driven job growth in both North Carolina and the entire U.S. over the past decades. White-collar jobs tend to concentrate in large cities, and North Carolina is no different – with Charlotte serving as a major financial center and Raleigh as a hub of research and technology. Read the blog here.

 

Frescoln Wins Hadzija Award and Impact Award

Kirstin Frescoln

Kirstin Frescoln

UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher Kirstin Frescoln, a doctoral student in city and regional planning, received the 2017 Boka W. Hadzija Award for Distinguished University Service by a Graduate or Professional Student.

The Boka W. Hadzija Award recognizes a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate or professional student with outstanding character, scholarship, leadership and service to the university. Frescoln and other award recipients were recognized at the Chancellor’s Awards Ceremony on April 18, 2017. The Graduate School recognized Frescoln at the 19th Annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, held April 20, 2017.

Frescoln works as a research assistant at the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies, where she evaluates programs related to housing and community development. She received a GEAB Impact Award for her evaluation of Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirements for non-elderly and non-disabled residents and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy largely fulfills the housing authority’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility while not harming family well-being. Included in the many stakeholders Frescoln interviewed were residents subject to the Charlotte policy. She interviewed them three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln developed and taught a course titled Race, Poverty and Planning, which will be added to the city and regional planning department’s course offerings. She is involved with Plan for All, a student group that strives to increase awareness of social justice issues within the department and the planning profession.

“Kirstin’s research is dedicated to better understanding the barriers to effective social policies that reduce poverty and empower communities,” her nominator said.

She has received certificates in health disparities and in participatory research and is certified in community mediation and meeting facilitation.

Frescoln served in public service positions for more than 16 years before beginning her doctoral studies. She volunteers for the Orange County Dispute Settlement Center and Orange County Justice United.

“She is steadfast in her dedication to social justice,” her nominator wrote. “Her academic research, professional career, volunteerism, church service and obligation to public service all reflect her personal charge to further social justice outcomes. There are few doctoral students who could so passionately pursue real-world impacts both through their research and their everyday engagement with policy and program challenges that affect the lives of their fellow students and fellow North Carolinians.”

Boka W. Hadzija was an award-winning professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy; she established the award in 2000 in honor of her students. Hadzija, who died in 2013, is remembered by students and faculty for her strong mentorship, her generous support of students and her outstanding leadership.

By Deb Saine, The Graduate School

Frescoln Wins Impact Award

The UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School’s annual Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Awards recognize graduate students for contributions they are making to our state. The longstanding Impact Award recognizes discoveries with a direct impact on our state in the present time. Kirstin Frescoln, UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researcher and City and Regional Planning doctoral candidate, was one of the Impact Award winners for her work examining the Charlotte Housing Authority’s work requirement policy.

The Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) is one of eight public housing authorities nationwide that enforces a work requirement for work-able residents. The CHA contracted with UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies to conduct a 10-year evaluation of a series of reforms including the work requirement. Frescoln directed research, as a part of the study, to inform policymakers on why and how the work requirements have been implemented, and the policy’s effect on family well-being. Her work and that of the Center is believed to be the only empirical evaluation of public housing work requirements.

Frescoln’s findings indicate that Charlotte’s public housing work policy, which is implemented with case management and employment supports, largely fulfills the CHA’s goal of enhancing family economic mobility. A majority of residents she interviewed said they support the work requirement. Wage employment was found to increase while eviction rates did not, and family well-being was not found to decrease as a result of the policy. Frescoln interviewed housing authority staff from the eight U.S. housing authorities with work requirements, and CHA leadership, managers, front-line staff and residents subject to the work requirement. She interviewed residents subject to the Charlotte policy three times and shared her reports with interviewees to ensure accuracy and gain their perspective on additional questions she should ask.

Frescoln’s findings are critical to state and national policymakers who are considering the potential effectiveness of public housing work requirements and the needs of people living within these communities.

“There is very little research on the effects of work requirements on public housing residents who would lose their housing assistance if they do not work. Kirstin’s dissertation research has the potential to have wide-ranging implications for housing policy and practice in Charlotte and throughout the United States,” said adviser Mai Nguyen, Ph.D.