I promised an update on my weekend in New Orleans with the CNU NextGen group. I've really had a hard time describing the experience to my colleagues here beyond one word: incredible.
Last spring I was invited by the NextGen to speak at the Congress for the New Urbanism annual Congress in Atlanta. I got to meet a lot of the NextGen group and, fortunately, they appreciated my presentation and the contribution Strong Towns is making to the land use discussion. It was really an honor to be invited to be part of continuing the NextGen discussion in New Orleans.
A small bit of background information....Congress for the New Urbanism was founded in 1993 by a small group of people, primarily architects. They created a charter that itself is a provocative call for a world different than the one we are building. CNU has been very successful in transforming itself from an outsider movement of true revolutionaries to a group that is widely accepted, if not yet totally mainstream.
I myself have migrated to the New Urbanist cause in my continuing search for answers. In this instance, the question is simple: How do we build places that are financially viable yet remain places people actually want to live in? When we talk about "density" today people freak out because they envision either wretched looking apartments or simply squeezing the hideous landscape we currently occupy down so that seemingly every house faces the loading dock of a strip mall or some such abhorrence. New Urbanism requires density, and what it does with it is nothing short of brilliant.
The NextGen group is literally the "next generation" of New Urbanist leaders. Consistent with their visionary streak, the founders of CNU have cultivated young members that will ultimately take over and lead the organization. And sizing up my peers in the NextGen group, it is evident that the day the torch is handed off will be an amazing one. Like I said earlier, there were some brilliant minds gathered in New Orleans this past weekend.
We spent some long hours talking about the future of New Urbanism. Everyone had been asked to prepare a presentation on this very topic and, as was pointed out at the conclusion of the gathering, everyone picked a different angle. For myself, I focused on the financial implications of our growth pattern. (I am planning to review my presentation for the podcast this week -- check back Thursday.) After the presentations, we organized the high points and then formed groups to work on actions plans.
This weekend was all about brainstorming, so I'm not going to talk specifics about the unrefined ideas we came up with. It will all come out in one form or another over the next weeks to months to years. What I will leave you with is this...
There is a hunger in this group that was invigorating - an unwillingness to accept the present trajectory and a desire to step up and fill the intellectual vacuums that exist both in and out of the New Urbanist movement. I feel a real kinship with all of them, not just because of our passion for New Urbanism but also for our generationally-shared world view. I'm excited about the future.
And this post would not be complete without sharing our group laugh of the weekend. As you watch, please understand that "I don't care."
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