Small Cities

Losing Touch With the Changing Definition of "Community"

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Mathew Taunton opens his review of “The Future of Community – Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated” (Note 1) with the observation that:

“Community is one of the most powerful words in the language, and perhaps because of this it is frequently misused. A profoundly emotive word, it is also a coercive one, and a key political buzzword in modern times. That community is being eroded in modern Britain is a matter of cross-party consensus, and it is also widely agreed that one of the state’s roles is to devise means of counteracting the decline of communities.”  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds

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Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

New Feudalism: Does Home Ownership Have a Future?

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In mid August, as we were beginning to feel a pulse in the nation’s housing market, an academician and housing expert from the University of Pennsylvania named Thomas J. Sugrue wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal proposing that, for many people, the new American Dream should be renting.  read more »

College Towns: High Marks For Lifestyle

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At a time when many cities are struggling to spur civic vitality, places that are home to major colleges or universities are percolating along robustly, often with healthy job growth, low costs of living and rising property values. Fueling this rise is the massive influence academic institutions have on their regions in terms of economic impact, civic connections, and innovative mindsets. Diverse spots — Columbia, Missouri; College Park, Pennsylvania; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Chico, California, just to name a few — attract families, retirees, and the academically-minded.  read more »

Subjects:

Online Neighborhood: The Front Porch Forum

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Last summer, Sharon Owens had a problem. The Burlington, VT mother of three was trying to satisfy the wishes of her soon-to-be 14-year old daughter who wanted to celebrate her birthday with a canoe outing with friends. The problem was that renting the necessary canoes would have cost hundreds of dollars. Interestingly, it seemed that nearly ever other house in Sharon’s neighborhood had a canoe in the backyard, or parked under a tarp next to a garage. But Sharon, like many of us, did not know her neighbors, and felt uncomfortable asking them.  read more »

The New Industrial City

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Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Downtown Central-Cities as Hubs of Civic Connection

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There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world.  read more »

Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

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From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose.  read more »

Globalization Leads to Civic Leadership Culture Dominated by Real Estate Interests

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"Cleveland’s leadership has no apparent theory of change. Overwhelmingly, the strategy is now driven by individual projects. These projects, pushed by the real estate interests that dominate the board of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, confuse real estate development with economic development. This leads to the 'Big Thing Theory' of economic development: Prosperity results from building one more big thing."  read more »

The Rich Home on the Range

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Have your home on the range, access to a few thousand acres …without paying for it all!

By Candace Evans

Mark Lowham was raised on a ranch in Casper, Wyoming. He got away from roping steers and repairing fences to study at Stanford Business School. Lowham thought he might return to ranching one day, but he never dreamed that instead of roping steers, he’d be marketing ways to rope adults into a herd of conservation-minded land-owners.  read more »