How A Town Becomes A 'Wal-Mart Suburb'

A columnist for Business Week describes his return to the small town of Santa Maria, CA, and how it destroyed its character to save itself.
September 2, 2004, 9am PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"What no one seems to be asking, either in Santa Maria or many of the other towns that now look exactly the same, is what time frame should drive investment decisions. Just as business-development and investment decisions on Wall Street are driven by quarterly results, our city-planning decisions are increasingly governed by short-term payoffs. But instead of losing our shirts to scandals like Enron and Worldcom, we lose something far more profound behind the new facades of one-size-fits all city streets. What we lose are the stories that make our lives meaningful... Taking Santa Maria as an example, the payoff on the mall that wiped out much of the city's history lasted little more than a decade -- and that's not counting the hefty residual, which hangs like a mall-sized albatross around the city's neck."

Thanks to Linda LaSut

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Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 in Business Week
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