Making Places Where People Persevere

Of all the sub-topics in urban planning and design, the ones likely to generate the most anxiety are those where land use planning intersects with economic development. Ben Brown ruminates.
November 2, 2015, 1pm PST | Hazel Borys
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"Let’s stop thinking of community livability and equitable opportunities as conditioned on cobbling together a 21st century-style economy that was already on its way out in the latter part of the 20th century. And let’s stop giving old-school business groups and economic developers veto power over urban planning strategies likely to provide way more resilient environments for an era in which economic uncertainty is anything but uncertain.

"Fortunately what Smart Growth and New Urbanist planners and designers already know — and what new era entrepreneurial types like those reworking the physical environment of the RTP are putting into practice — goes a long way toward making better places to tolerate failed enterprises.

"The push in most communities is to use some combination of subsidies, incentives and regulatory bullying to muscle businesses into picking up most of the tab for closing community livability gaps. Why not attack problems more directly by using available tools of government — particularly land use and transportation planning — to make it easier for citizens to survive low-wage economies and, not incidentally, to better position them to be around to help invent whatever comes next?

"Planning that delivers the broadest possible choices and scales of places to live, do business and get around without relying exclusively on private automobiles is the kind of planning that stretches family budgets. We know that. But it’s only part of the story. The best research and the most successful entrepreneurs in this new era suggest that despite the propensity for serial failure baked into the start-up culture, environments that allow for continuous, casual connectivity between people and ideas are precisely the ones most likely to nurture firms that survive and thrive and employ lots of people."

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Published on Monday, November 2, 2015 in PlaceShakers
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