Also: The concerning rise of dollar stores, and Tokyo wants people to stand on both sides of the escalator.
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Final examination: Anyone who loves cities and dreams of making them better can be an urbanist. But to be remembered for your contributions to the urban realm is a rarer proposition. Some people become shorthand for big ideas, like Le Corbusier or Jane Jacobs. Others don’t quite receive the recognition they deserve. The breadth of urbanism has also evolved over time, at once a field of academic study and an arena for artistic expression and social change.
In the latest installment of CityLab University, we present 15 biographies of people who designed and thought about cities—from Baron Haussmann to W.E.B. DuBois, Catherine Bauer Wurster to William H. Whyte—to fill out the historical perspective of urbanism. Taken together, these people build a larger story of how modern cities came to be. Today on CityLab: The Who’s Who of Urbanism
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With about 30,000 stores across the country, dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree now outnumber Walmarts and McDonald’s, combined. The map above shows the spread of dollar stores since the recession, using data from a new research brief by the Institute of Local Self Reliance. Although these “small-box” retailers carry only a limited stock of prepared foods, the stores also now feed more people than Whole Foods—and it presents a catch-22 for neighborhoods that have “food deserts.”
Dollar stores have succeeded by capitalizing on economic and social forces that have opened up a gaping hole in food access, offering hard-to-beat low prices in overlooked neighborhoods. But they offer little in terms of fresh produce and nutritious items. Given that the absence of traditional grocers is deeply entwined with the history of spatial and structural inequality in America, dollar store savings might be making these communities, in some ways, a little poorer. CityLab’s Tanvi Misra takes a look at what it means when the closest grocery store is a dollar store.
What We’re Reading
Uber is resuming self-driving car tests on U.S. roads (Quartz)
How Instagram has been good for independent bookstores (Vox)
A humble weed grew in a cracked city sidewalk. Now it’s the Christmas Weed. (Washington Post)
Why billboards and outdoor ads are booming in the smartphone era (Curbed)
Winters are warming faster than summers. These U.S. cities could lose freezing days by 2050 (Vox)