Notes from CNU 20

I’m writing this on a plane.

I’m flying back from West Palm Beach, Florida after visiting my first Congress of New Urbanism. The weekend was nothing short of amazing. I’m going to attempt to write, but after major fatigue I’m finding it difficult to think.

The best way I can describe my experience at CNU is this: I am at a party with all the cool kids, and I have no idea how I got invited. I mean, I had the opportunity to have a few beers with Duncan Crary, speak one-on-one with Andres Dauny, exchange business cards with Robert Orr, sit next to Richard Florida and finally meet all the NEXTgen’ers I’ve been following on Twitter– which made for some interesting conversations:

“Hi, I’m such and such
“Oh, Hi! I’m Nate and I follow you on Twitter”

It’s hard not to notice that you’re surrounded by rock stars and soon-to-be rock stars. Everyone has an impressive resume and everyone is doing stuff.

CNU is like no other industry event. It’s the first conference I’ve experienced where everyone actually wants to be there.  What makes it even better is that the CNU community, especially NextGen, is very welcoming. I came as a stranger and left as a friend.

I don’t remember giving my presentation. It is a surreal blur. Luckily CNU was kind enough to collect my presentation slides and record the audio. I’m not sure when that will be up. Overall, the positive response exceeded my expectation.

I am excited to get back to Minnesota and get to work. I can’t wait to continue to form a pro-active collection of rationale responses to encroaching entertainment districts and how cities may administer urban diversity. I got a lot of great advice from someone I admire, and he really help put a breath of life into an idea I was starting to lose interest in.

I’m now obsessed with ideas of opt-out urbanism and tactical urbanism. Opt-out urbanism, or code-free zones, will be the next project I undertake. I love the idea and am going to start to get the ball rolling in Minneapolis. I also want to spearhead some brainstorming events soon to get tactical urbanism in Minneapolis. I foresee lots of hurdles, but it’s totally doable.

I learned a lot – most importantly was this: just do it. Don’t ask for permission. Mike Lydon, one of the leaders of the tactical urbanism movement, had a beautiful quote that went something like, “why should I sit around and wait for my city to make my neighborhood a better place”. He’s right. We need to just do it. If you ask for permission, it’ll be an up-hill battle, they may say ‘no’ and if they don’t say ‘no’ – they will certainly take a long time to tell you ‘yes’.

I’ve been told I need to turn this electronic device off. We are descending into Minneapolis. I’ll close it with this: I can’t thank Chuck Marohn enough for making this all possible. If it weren’t for Chuck, I don’t know where I’d be. He’s a role model, great guy and a rising star in the realm of urban planning, placemaking, New Urbanism, urban economics, you name it!

Best -Nate