Corrections or additions?
These articles by David McDonough and Barbara Fox were prepared
for the December 6, 2000 edition
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Design Day 2000: Suburban Revival?
The Livable Communities Initiative, a brainchild of
the Clinton presidency, may not survive the transition to the next
administration. But as a national program of the American Institute
of Architects, the concept of combating the negative effects of sprawl
is still the prime directive. "Design Day 2000," the annual
AIA-New Jersey Design Conference, uses "Livable Communities"
as its theme on Friday, December 8, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the New
Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark. Fees vary. Call
Event co-chair Alan Kehrt, of Witherspoon Street-based KSS
(www.kssarch.com), maintains that the AIA has long been interested
in livable communities. "It’s an environmental issue," Kehrt
says. "Not just in the sense of pollution but simply in terms
of making places nicer, and it’s become part of the national
So if we would all like our towns and cities to be nicer, why hasn’t
"There are always competing interests in development," says
Kehrt. "We live in a capitalist society and developers like to
make money, and in a lot of respects it’s a lot of trouble for towns
to guide development."
Among the day’s panels discussions will be "Designing New
which will focus on the historic and evolving conditions affecting
the design of the built environment in New Jersey. It will examine
the rich variety of towns in the state, explore why cities like
Trenton and Camden struggle to thrive, and will summarize the
New Jersey" plan put out by the New Jersey Office of State
Alan Chimacoff, director of design at the Hillier Group,
"If you think about the way most towns work," says Kehrt (who
is also vice-chairman of the town planning board in Cranbury),
very reactive. They wait in their planning board offices until
says `I want to do this’ and then they may come back and say `Oh,
yes you can do this but we’d like you to upgrade here,’ but it has
nothing to do with the larger picture."
"In New Jersey, every community is required to update its master
plan every six years, but I think a lot of master plans just deal
with zoning," says Kehrt. "For example, one of the questions
in Cranbury is whether to develop the Route 130 corridor at the
of the downtown. In some respects, you’d be better off if the town
said this is what we want the town to look like; let’s go get someone
to do it. In Princeton, the town’s Futures Initiative is trying to
do just that."
The problem of deciding what a town will look like — that is,
dictating design — leads to charges of stifling individuality
and government control of house styles. Kehrt is aware of the dangers
involved. "Zoning ordinances just say you can build this here,
and that there, but they don’t really address the quality of what
you build, just the quantity," he says. "There are things
you can do in terms of design standards. Maybe, in this area, we need
to think in terms of a `benevolent dictatorship.’"
Another panel, "Reviving City/Town Fabrics,"
moderated by Urs Gauchet, dean of the NJIT School of
will explore the nature and current state of cities within New Jersey
and discuss methods being used in other cities to regain their
It will also address how architects can benefit from work being done
in cities, as well as how they can best influence the design of these
most critical environments. In addition, the panel will explore the
ethical questions regarding housing for the poor and disenfranchised.
"New Jersey is in an odd position," Kehrt says. "It’s
always had cities that were secondary to other major cities, always
been a corridor between New York and Philadelphia. We need to explore
what we can do about that. We need to raise questions about sports
stadiums and the redevelopment of waterfront — do they really
help cities? And what about the state plan to spend billions on city
schools? Does the state plan allow for the school to be part of the
viable urban fabric?"
The keynote speaker for Design Day 2000 is James Howard
author of "Geography of Nowhere" and "Home from
who will lecture on "Can America Survive Suburbia?" He
the "catastrophic" loss of quality in public space since World
War II and how our lives have diminished individually and collectively
by that loss. Kuntsler also presents a counter-vision featuring the
work of New Urbanists around the United States.
This topic is so germane to New Jersey that one whole session will
be devoted to the discussion of "Reentering Suburbia,"
the role that architects play in the design of suburbia. It will be
moderated by Douglas S. Kelbaugh, known in Princeton for his
innovative solar-heated house on Pine Street, which he designed and
lived in while teaching at Princeton’s architecture school. Now he
is dean of the architecture and urban planning school at the
Kelbaugh’s panel will take a look at the idea of the center as a way
of controlling sprawl and defining place. It will discuss the need
for a center in communities and strategies for re-centering within
existing communities, using new centers like Washington Township as
Kehrt is the first to admit that not everyone sees suburbia as a
"Maybe there’s a conflict," he says, "between what the
Americans have been introduced to — the suburban lifestyle —
contrasted with the European, city-centric or town centric
where people live in areas of high density. America has taken a
route, maybe starting with Bill Levitt and the Levittowns of the
This idea of `let’s give everyone a plot of land’ changes everything,
including the need for more modes of transportation."
Many people would prefer to go back to a city-centric way of life.
"But a lot of people don’t want density in their downtown,"
says Kehrt, "and think this suburban way of living is okay. But
when you see the constantly clogged traffic in central New Jersey,
you have to feel that we’re doing something wrong because the quality
of life has deteriorated. In a town like Cranbury, people can walk
to the bank or to church. But I think a lot of people don’t understand
that because they’ve never experienced that."
Kehrt speaks with cautious enthusiasm of the move towards New
and mentions the town of Seaside, Florida, as an example. "Seaside
has been reasonably successful," he says, "although the idea
of everyone sitting outside on their porches hasn’t necessarily taken
place — I’m told that most pervasive sound in town is not
talking but the noise of air-conditioning units. Still, towns like
that succeed better than Levittown by introducing a diversity of ways
to live and reducing dependency on autos."
"You lose a sense of community by not having a downtown, a sense
of neighbors and of caring about each other. It’s an American tragedy.
And yet if you go out to the person who has an acre of land, they’re
happy. Eventually," predicts Kehrt, "I think the
will crash down on us."
Are these issues that architects will solve in a single day? Of course
not, says Kehrt. But it will help keep the ball rolling. "The
purpose of the whole day is to get architects to think about this
and to get them aware. We want to ask, `What can architects do? How
can I affect this, how can I make this a better place?’ We want to
at least raise a lot of issues."
And are there solutions? Kehrt thinks so, although he cautions that
he doesn’t necessarily know what they are. But as he says, "You
have to be an optimist to be an architect."
— David McDonough
That penny rise in the cost of stamps — due to take
effect in January — will certainly increase business mailing
But the silver lining in this cloud is that more firms will try to
use bulk mailing or automation, which may reduce their costs in the
"Whenever the prices go up, the post office pushes to make the
barcoding happen," says Paul Cerna, owner of KickStart
Services at 743 Alexander Road. Barcoding usually saves $52 per 1,000
pieces, he estimates, and it can save up to $60 per 1,000. Presorting
typically saves $150 per 1,000.
Since last spring, when Cerna expanded from being a home-based office
business to leasing warehouse space, he has doubled his mailing
"We figured it jumped nearly two to one since we moved in
says Cerna. In 2,500 square feet he has four full-time employees and
four to six part-timers. "There is just no comparison. The
of tasks allows us to maintain a singular pace for different types
of production." Among them are direct impression addresses on
pieces for automation, barcoding to reduce postage, polybagging, wafer
sealing, and metering.
Kickstart hosts an open house Thursday, December 7, from 3 to 8 p.m.
at Suite 6, 743 Alexander Road. On the menu are food, beer, wine,
and good company. "Talk to the client and get a first-hand
says Cerna. Call 609-919-1980 for information.
The son of a special education teacher and a medical doctor from
Cerna followed in the footsteps of his brother, a NASA engineer, to
enroll in the engineering school at Rutgers. But halfway through the
ceramic engineering curriculum, he decided to diversify. "I didn’t
like the personality and the noncreativity of engineering," he
says. He continues to enjoy a variety of outside interests, including
rehearsals and performances with Liliana Atarr’s tango/dance theater
group. Immediately after graduating from Rutgers in 1991 he went into
business for himself, doing computer work for small businesses.
Cerna says that serendipity triggered the founding of his mailing
business. One client, a cleaning business, needed to organize his
list geographically. When he went to the post office to do a
zip code sort, he met Dean Frisch, the now-retired computer
guru of the Kilmer post office in Edison. "He took me under his
wing and taught me the ins and outs of the post office; he was
for converting me to barcoding. I thought he was helping me but in
retrospect he was also helping cut costs of the post office."
"My mission is to help small businesses grow, to `kickstart’ them.
Then, I was getting them computer-based. Helping them with mailing
economies is how I can be effective now." Few mailing businesses
target the small account, which the industry defines as one that send
less than 100,000 pieces. "When you start talking 5,000 pieces,
the whole world is your account," says Cerna. "One-third to
one-half of my accounts are that size, and the rest are up to
His favorite bits of client advice:
you complete the design of your mail piece. "Two thirds of
the costly problems happen because of design ignorance that could
be fixed by simple changes — how a piece is folded, the use of
a self-mailer rather than an envelope. You pay for the envelope, you
pay to print the envelope, and you pay to seal the envelope."
want to accomplish. Do you really need a square piece that requires
11 cents surcharge?
class is one of the key ways to get a website address known."
"The post office puts a barcode sticker at the bottom. How happy
would you be if you send out 6,000 postcards and the sticker covered
your phone number on all 6,000 pieces?" asks Cerna.
"I look at human nature. There is an advantage to something you
can see and feel. Thus far E-mail has increased communication, not
replaced communication." In fact, his family has created a
chat room, and family members weigh in from all over the country.
Though the life of a small business person can be hectic, it is
like the pressures of the financial world, says Cerna, who worked
in a back office in Wall Street after high school, "typing my
brain away. One of the guys I worked with had colon cancer, and I
watched him wither away. In the options department, there is a day
known as Expiration Saturday, and this man went to work on Friday
and on Expiration Saturday, he died. No way did I want to be subject
to corporate America."
When Cerna rejected the pressures of Wall Street and the conformity
required of engineering, he found the freedom he sought, ironically
enough, by working with post office regulations. "For the post
office, the rules are regimented — but how you get there, nobody
cares. You can be unorthodox, you can consider many more options,
and you can slice and dice the rules and offer more solutions."
His engineering training paid off after all: "The process of
solving that you learn in engineering has come into play a thousand
— Barbara Fox
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.