Also: When concrete looks like crumpled paper, and a train station enrages Paris.
Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.
What We’re Following
Up front: Vacant storefronts can be a drag on a commercial district. While some cities have toyed with vacancy taxes and storefront registries to combat the proliferation of defunct retailers, one Boston nonprofit has taken a tactical urbanist approach to retail malaise: physically occupying idle stores and turning them into pop-up public spaces.
The nonprofit CultureHouse worked out an agreement with property managers to inject some street-level energy into empty properties. In addition to giving out free Wi-Fi and coffee, the group’s latest pop-up location in a former coffee shop in Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood has held game nights, ping-pong tournaments, trivia contests, and even a screening of a documentary on Jane Jacobs. It’s a quick rent-free shortcut to “social infrastructure” that activates unused urban spaces. For CityLab, John Surico spoke with the CultureHouse’s founder about how cities can put vacant space back to work. On CityLab: From Dead Store to Pop-Up ‘Social Infrastructure’
Correction: In yesterday’s edition, we incorrectly referred to Barcelona as the capital of Spain.
More on CityLab
Contrary to the building-boom narrative, every major U.S. metro is building less housing than it has in the past. There were 38 percent fewer housing units built in 2018 than 2005, the year permits peaked before the recession, according to a study by Apartment List. But sluggish housing construction is not just a symptom of a slow recovery: The number of homes and apartments built in 2018 roughly matches 1994, when the country’s population was 20 percent smaller than it is today.
The chart above from CityLab’s David Montgomery shows how construction has diverged between different metro areas where some job-heavy coastal cities are not building enough housing to keep up with growth, while some Sun Belt metros have kept pace or even built units faster than they can create jobs. CityLab’s Sarah Holder explains: The Cities Where Job Growth Is Outpacing New Homes
What We’re Reading
This is the worst-possible wildfire scenario for Southern California (Vox)
The future is four wheels, cyclists be damned (The Outline)
Meet the Hyperloop’s truest believers (Jalopnik)
It’s tough being a young skyscraper in New York (New York Times)
Update: The dog park that divided a D.C. suburb will be dismantled (Washington Post)
Cities are trying—again—to plan for autonomous vehicles (Wired)