Marrying Urban Identity and Economic Prosperity

A new book posits that truly successful communities have a strong economic base and a firmly rooted sense of place.

2 minute read

August 5, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


View from middle of street in downtown Telluride, Colorado with mountains in background

Nick Fox / Telluride, Colorado

A new book by William Fulton outlines a simple equation: “Place plus prosperity equals a successful community.” According to an article by Alan Ehrenhalt in Governing, Fulton’s book examines the “subtle relationship between wealth and sense of place.” Many American communities, Ehrenhalt argues, have one or the other, but not both.

For Fulton, “A fully realized city needs to contain all the benefits of an integrated urban existence: close proximity of its citizens to the fulfilment of their ordinary human needs, the ability to walk and bike everywhere, an efficient transit system and a rich tapestry of everyday urban life.”

Ehrenhalt writes, “What is crucial on the prosperity side, Fulton believes, is a business base that builds on the tenets of place that lie beneath commercial prosperity.” Meanwhile, “The sense of place can be, and most often is, the product of a slow process of evolution. Or it can result from an intense desire to create something that did not exist before.”

Ehrenhalt provides examples from around the country: built-from-scratch cities like Las Vegas, sprawling suburban landscapes like Southern California, and former industrial powerhouses like Pittsburgh that have reinvented themselves for a new economy. While many places haven’t yet achieved Fulton’s vision, Ehrenhalt writes that the experiments happening in cities and towns all over the United States shows that identity and prosperity can go hand in hand.

Monday, August 1, 2022 in Governing

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