Over the last two years, I have been privileged to work with Chuck Marohn and Ben Oleson of the Community Growth Institute (CGI) on a number of projects, including planning and analysis of the prospective realignment of State Highway 371 in central Minnesota. This week, Chuck, Ben and I are pleased to announce the launch of Strong Towns, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established to make American places viable through improved land use. My role with Strong Towns will be independent of my management of current and future Donjek projects.
Here's how we at Strong Towns describe what's wrong in short (and ironic) form:
Our desire for independence has made us dependent. On automobiles. On cheap energy. On transfer payments between governments. On debt.
Our expectation of plenty, and our expectation to pay only a portion of the full cost of growth, has led to a scarcity of resources. Our approach to land use now constrains us, growing our financial commitments at an alarming rate. It threatens real American prosperity with long-term economic stagnation and decline.
We can do better.
My experience in core cities and suburban areas, and the years of collective experience Chuck and Ben bring from outstate Minnesota, have led us to strikingly similar conclusions. Much real estate in small towns, big cities and suburbs has been developed in a form reflecting fading realities: Exclusive reliance on large cars for transportation; cheap energy; relatively free access to public and private debt. Today, forces ranging from climate change to fiscal stress and an aging population call for us to think harder about how to build durable, successful places.
In the coming months, we will be working to further our vision of giving individuals tools to make their places Strong Towns, by changing the way we approach development and redevelopment, land use and policy. I hope you'll chime in with your ideas by commenting on the Strong Towns Blog and on Facebook, following Strong Towns on Twitter, or by calling Strong Towns at (888) 454-5226.
In the meantime, count on continued Donjek projects and regular posts at the Cents of Place.