Hidden Stuff

Strong Towns Curbside Chat

A candid talk about the future of America's cities, towns and neighborhoods.

The Curbside Chat is a presentation, followed by a community-specific discussion, about the financial health of our places.

  • Why are our cities and towns so short of resources despite decades of robust growth?
  • Why do we struggle at the local level just to maintain our basic infrastructure?
  • What do we do now that the economy has changed so dramatically?

The answers lie in the way we have developed; the financial productivity of our places. This stunning presentation is a game-changer for communities looking to grow more resilient and obtain true prosperity during changing times.

What's the big idea?

Three "big ideas" are central to Strong Towns thinking, and we explore them within the Curbside Chat program:

  1. The current path cities are pursuing is not financially stable.
  2. The future for most cities will not resemble the recent past.
  3. The main determinant of future prosperity for cities will be local leaders’ ability to transform their communities.

Who is the Curbside Chat for?

The Curbside Chat program has been developed specifically for public officials and change-advocates at the local level. Here are some quotes from the presentation:

On our ability to grow by taking on more debt....

During the first years of the third generation of suburban expansion, lending standards were gradually abandoned in the quest for more growth. By the end of the housing bubble, lending practices became predatory, involving exotic terms and conditions, before housing flamed out altogether. Today, our ability to continue to grow by taking on more debt is very limited. 

On the likelihood of continued support for local growth initiatives from the federal and state governments....

From the perspective of a local government, the federal and state governments are unreliable partners over the long term. It is far more likely that they will continue to cut programs that aid cities rather than shift resources to fund local growth initiatives. 

On the current productivity of our places....

Swapping long-term obligations for near-term cash works for a while, but as with any Ponzi scheme, it ultimately collapses under its own weight. We have grown in a pattern that is inefficient, making poor use of our resources and investments. The lack of productivity in our development pattern means that we can no longer afford to maintain all of the underutilized roads, streets, sewer systems, water systems and sidewalks we have built. This is the financial reality we must now confront.

On solutions to the current economic downturn....

The answer is not to continue to pour America’s remaining wealth into suburban development which is not financially sustainable. The answer is another spatial shift; a change in the pattern of development moving away from mass-suburbanization and towards an arrangement with a higher public return on investment.