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August 2012 Blog posts

Carpentersville business leader redeveloping foreclosed homes for local workers, families

Business leaders can help address their employees’ housing challenges in many ways, such as offering lunchtime credit counseling sessions, letting employees know about local and state rental and homeownership assistance programs, working with community leaders to market redeveloped homes in the area to employees, and even providing direct financial assistance. All of these are considered “Employer-Assisted Housing”— an idea MPC wholeheartedly supports. In Carpentersville, 35 miles northwest of Chicago, family-owned OTTO Engineering has stepped in to address the housing crisis by buying 80 foreclosed homes in the community. OTTO has renovated 50 of the homes so far to make them more energy-efficient and, consequently, more affordable for families, through…

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The Fall and Rise of Great Public Spaces, from

Does this sound familiar? "Walking though the center of certain North American communities can be a profoundly alienating experience, as if the whole place had been evacuated for an emergency no one told you about." It wasn't always that way, and this article, with the help of architect Jan Gehl, takes a quick look at how some cities are fighting back. The Fall and Rise of Great Public Spaces For Release Thursday, August 30, 2012 It’s a dark and wintry Thursday night in Copenhagen, and the streets are bustling. The temperature stands above freezing, but winds blow hard enough to knock down a good share of the bicycles parked all around. Scandinavians are known for stolid reserve, but it’s all smiles and animated conversation here as people of many ages and…

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Employers help revitalize Philadelphia neighborhoods

Courtesy of Philadelphia Home Buy Now

Valerie Garfield, a lab technician at the University of Pennsylvania and a recent Philadelphia Home Buy Now homebuyer, stands in front of her new home with husband, Thaddeus Garfield, and daughter, Kimberly Johnson.

Last July, the City of Philadelphia re-launched Home∙Buy∙Now, our Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) program, a public-private partnership to help working families buy homes in Philadelphia. The City’s $150,000 has leveraged $320,000 in employer dollars, which has led to $10 million in home sales – in just the last year. We are partnering with a diverse group of both local and national employers, such as NewCourtland and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In addition, three local anchor institutions – Temple University, Drexel University, and the University of Pennsylvania – are using the housing incentive to encourage employees to live nearby, part of a broader strategy to help build vibrant communities around their campuses. The program also helps build…

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A Porch for Chicago Union Station?

courtesy of University City District

Philadelphians enjoying mini-golf and yoga at The Porch.

If you’ve ever been to Chicago’s Union Station, this may be hard to envision, but I’m asking you to try: Imagine walking out of the station and, instead of facing a wall of taxis, buses and honking cars all jockeying for position, imagine meandering down a block-long blissed-out zone of lounge chairs, beer gardens, and mini-golf. Philly Union Station users don’t have to imagine; they are living the dream with The Porch, a rectangle of happiness amidst the hustle and bustle of the city’s transportation hub. Wait, I take that back … it’s not just for people using the station, which is a sign of great places: They’re never just for the users of the space in immediate proximity. You don’t have to be killing time before your train arrives…

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When in drought…

Ken Schneider/Flickr CC

We’re in a drought, a very serious one. The worst one since the 1950s. Even with the cool down in temperatures and a few recent rainy days, it’s not enough to make up for the damage already done by record-setting high temperatures and the lack of precipitation we’ve had this summer. The U.S. Drought Monitor has classified drought for the entire heartland, which they do using five categories from D0-D4. The first level, D0, is considered abnormally dry, more like pre-drought conditions. The rest of the categories indicate increasing severity and corresponding agricultural losses and water shortages, with D1 called moderate drought, D2 severe, D3 extreme, and D4 exceptional. Circle of Blue recently went behind the scenes to find out more about the science and art of…

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