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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


(, 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

it happened?

"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,


this panel.

"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


of Michigan.

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

an example.

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

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For Direct Mail, KickStart Your Savings

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

long run.

"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:

Talk to the direct mail company or the post office before

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."

Define what it is that you actually need, what do you


want to accomplish. Do you really need a square piece that requires

11 cents surcharge?

Consider marketing your website with a postcard.


class is one of the key ways to get a website address known."

If you send out a postcard plan the design extra


"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.

Cerna does not expect that E-mail will put him out of business.

"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

times over."

— Barbara Fox

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