Madison hosts the Congress for New Urbanism
I’m not sure New Urbanism is new anymore. I know it felt new to me back in 1995 when a group of folks, including Marc Eisen, Richard Wagner, Anne Monks from then—and now, again—Mayor Paul Soglin’s office, me and several others put together the “Nolen in the 90s” conference featuring New Urban rock star Andres Duany, the designer of Middleton Hills. It was pretty state-of-the-art city planning back then. It feels a little mainstream today. But it still conjures up images of welcoming and inviting livable neighborhoods—pedes-trian-friendly, diverse, tight-knit, green—and all the emotions connected to really great cities that go with those images.
And the ultimate goal of creating wonderful places to live as an alternative to urban sprawl is as important as ever. So I join in excitement with those who anticipate the upcoming Congress for the New Urbanism conference in June. It is a challenge, an honor and a wonderful opportunity to have these planners, academics, architects, public officials and community activists come to Madison to talk about urbanism that works.
It’s also a feather in the cap of our former mayor, who lobbied hard to have CNU 19 in Madison, a decidedly smaller venue than previous meetings held in places like San Francisco, Toronto, New York, Portland, Austin (twice), Denver and, last year, Atlanta. But Dave Cieslewicz is no Johnny-come-lately to this topic, and his personal resume and relationship with CNU President and CEO John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee, was instrumental in the organization’s choice of Madison. Now, of course, Soglin gets to at least share the prize. It’s a chance for both to show off and learn a little in the process, and we as a city should look forward to doing both as well.
In a lot of ways Madison was new urban before new urban was cool. Duany and Marshall Erdmann’s Middleton Hills aside, we’ve got Monroe Street, Willy Street and John Nolen’s legacy as it lives on today. We’ve got Jeff Rosenberg and David Simon’s great work with Veridian Homes and, most important, we are right on the cusp of some of the biggest and most promising developments in a generation: the Capitol East District project, Metcalfe’s Nolen Project and Central Park. What a great time to welcome into our community some of the best planning minds in the world to give us a little feedback and constructive criticism on where we’re headed.
The theme of CNU 19 is “Growing Local,” defined as “making connections between production and consumers, bringing together diverse stakeholders and decision makers to improve residents’ health and well being, and boosting local economies through innovation.” It’s about the linkages that urban communities have with the local food economy and the infrastructure that has developed around this relationship. Think farmers’ markets, community gardens, urban agriculture, restaurant menus featuring local produce, dairy and meat, Will Allen, REAP and Community Groundworks.
Session tracks include “Agriculture and Urbanism” (Will Allen is one of the speakers), “Bikability and Transportation,” and “Architecture and Place Making,” to name a few. UW history professor William Cronon is the keynote speaker.
But here’s the best part: you’re invited. You can register for the meeting at cnu.org. Also be aware that hundreds of CNU attendees will be in our midst June 1–4 at the Farmers’ Market, local restaurants and shops, and walking around our beautiful city. Let’s make them feel welcome.
Let’s remind them that New Urbanism is also about the people who live in beautiful, well-functioning cities.
CNU 19 is Wednesday, June 1 through Saturday, June 4. We are both lucky and proud to be hosting it.
Neil P. Heinen is editorial director of Madison Magazine. Contact him at email@example.com.
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