Inside Stuff, A Single Recipe

Strong Towns is a joint collaboration between Community Growth Institute and Donjek Reinvestment Strategies. Both organizations have long embraced the need to change the traditional approach to growth and development, CGI largely from a land use and engineering perspective and Donjek primarily from a financial viewpoint. Strong Towns has given us a vehicle to discuss these issues and advocate for a different perspective.

The last time CGI developed a new advertisement I previewed it here for STB readers on one of our off-days (we post at least Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week). I'm going to preview our next ad here as one of our regular postings because it contains a Strong Towns message.

"Communities should not be made from a single recipe."

This ad touches on something basic. None of us want to live in a cookie-cutter world. We want to live someplace unique, and so we do things to our homes and yards to express that they are uniquely ours. This is a natural human reaction. 

But look beyond the individual homes and see the pattern of development - the recipe - that all of our communities are now being built. It is the same, auto-centric, Euclidean-based model. We separate uses from each other and connect them with a network of local, collector and arterial streets. It is the same everywhere you go, with a few small exceptions.

One exception you can easily find to study is the historic downtown of any small town. Go there and you will see the vestiges of a different recipe, this one a rail-oriented approach where development was grouped within walking distance of a railroad stop. You may have to use your imagination - most of our small towns have been devolving in the auto-era based on the new recipe so the remnants of the old town are sometimes hard to see.

You can also study the photos and captions from our tour of Celebration, Florida that we posted on our Facebook site. Celebration is a different recipe based on the concepts of New Urbanism.

If you start to critically examine the layout, form and function of our communities, you will realize that they are nearly all made from the same recipe. If you continue to read this blog, you will also grow to realize that this recipe is very, very expensive and provides minimal return on the investment.

So why do we keep doing it?

It is time we demand that our communities provide us value greater than the sum of their parts, or at least as much as the investments we put into them. It is time for a new recipe.


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