Eclipsing Smart Growth

After a decade in ascendance, smart growth is showing its age. As its agenda becomes "formulaic and even clinical," Kaid Benfield argues for the need to reinvigorate, or move beyond, smart growth with more attention paid to the quality of a place.

Echoing recent debates on the ostensible end to the smart growth era, reflected in a special issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association and a panel on the topic at the APA national conference, Benfield sees the need to move beyond the current fixation on measurable outcomes, and towards devoting more attention to the art of "creating a better, more sustainable world – anchored by better, more sustainable places."

Benfield writes:

"The fact that we are increasing dwelling units per acre, reducing vehicle miles traveled per capita, and reducing tons of carbon emissions compared to sprawl does not mean that we are making great people habitat. We may be creating smart growth, while in some cases doing little for people or doing less for the natural environment than we could be. I believe that achieving the fact of smart growth, where we have it, is no longer enough, and may not warrant our enthusiasm as much as it did, say, a decade ago. It is time to focus more on the quality of what we are building."

"We need to stop thinking of smart growth as a goal but instead as a tool to achieving the more demanding goal of creating better, greener, more sustainable people habitat. If we want to win hearts as well as minds, we need to start paying much more attention to placemaking, to the quality of what we advocate."

Full Story: Smart growth is a start. But it's not enough.

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