Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A beautiful day in this neighborhood

photo of neighborly urban development
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. We've talked before about the idea that one of the best ways to protect great natural places is to create and maintain great cities where folks want to, and can afford to, live. An issue that comes up with creating great cities is supply and demand. There aren't enough great cities to go around. There aren't enough great neighborhoods to go around. There isn't even enough housing to go around. Over the weekend, a public discussion was triggered by a Sheila Regan column in Twin Cities Daily Planet about gentrification, which prompted comments on the TCDP site and Facebook page that the editor referred to as a debate. Frankly, I see the comments as complementary perspectives on the issue, but then I'm not trying to promote an on-line newspaper. Let's explore some basics. Great cities need people, preferably great people. (Cue Creative Class proponents.) There's aren't enough great people to go around. There aren't enough rich people to go around. Rich people (I've read) get nervous living next to poor people. All of which leaves us relying on the rest of us. [The last time I checked, 115% of us considered ourselves "middle-class."] Most of us, much of the time, don't (can't, won't) agree with the rest of us. This makes it hard to proceed without confrontational delays in "making improvements" to our neighborhood. Some developers I know of do a really good and creative job of engaging the community. Many developers (and local governments) I know have an attitude that oozes "my money (tax base), my project (ward, neighborhood, design criteria), my way." We "develop" by the classic corruption of the Golden Rule, "whoever has the gold (or rulebook), rules." Fortunately, we (cities, developers, residents, you know, those who live, work and play in (_insert name here_) seem to be learning some basic communication skills. We seem to be slowly moving in the direction of recognizing that successful democracies aren't a winner take all proposition. There are three examples I'm aware of, one on the east coast, one on the west and one right here in Minneapolis. The example on the east coast is actually taking place in my old neighborhood (when I lived in Boston). The Codman Square example uses LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) to improve (not "renew" as in urban renewal) an existing neighborhood. On the west coast, Fruitvale is a wonderful example of revitalization through transit oriented development facilitated by a local community development corporation. Finally, right here in the Twin Cities, a Minneapolis neighborhood (Loring Park) not too far from Whittier (the neighborhood Sheila Regan wrote about that triggered this posting and the comments linked above) is using LEED-ND in an asset-based development strategy. But wait, there's more. For an example of using social media to help neighborhoods manage the process of their own redevelopment, there's the Ning crowdsite as exemplified by The Granary District in Salt Lake City. As the column and comments that started this posting make clear, we need to spend more time thinking about "both/and" rather than "either/or." None of us (hard as it is for some of us to believe) is smart enough to have all the answers. We need each other and we need to learn how to meet each other at least partway. After all, we are the 99% [of the 115%]. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.