Our good friend Kevin Klinkenberg has been doing some fantastic work in his capacity as the Executive Director of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. Earlier this year, I was honored to be invited by Kevin and his colleagues to speak, along with Joe Minicozzi of Urban 3, at an event they called The Dollars and Sense of Urbanism.
They have now released the videos from the event. For those of you that have not seen Joe and me speak together, we tag-teamed this one and you can watch that. However, if you've been around here a while and heard the core speech, you might enjoy the extended Q&A, which I found to be really interesting. Lots of good questions and a discussion that went in some new directions.
More from the Curbside Chat
For thousands of years, humans built settlements scaled to people who walked. The knowledge for doing this successfully was developed slowly over time. In a generation, Americans transformed an entire continent around a new transportation technology. We often fail to appreciate how we are testing this approach as we go. Quite simply: it's a massive experiment.
America’s cultural belief is that growing cities experience not only opportunity and prosperity today, but the growth allows them to experience success far into the future. There is a built-in assumption that new growth pays for itself today and generates enough wealth to sustain itself generation after generation.
These are flawed assumptions.
New growth creates an illusion of wealth. Local governments experiencing growth look and feel successful. They have high revenues and very little immediate costs associated with them. Long term, as the liabilities start to come due, it is revealed that a free road isn't really free.
Growth is not enough. What America needs is productive growth; growth that builds wealth generation after generation.
We like our places to emerge fully formed and then we expect them to never change, but that's not how life works. Cities are like living things. They need to be able to change and adapt, to start small and mature incrementally over time.
We can't wait around for a big developer or a mega-project to fix our cities. The kind of development we need today happens at the scale of a Strong Citizen, someone who cares about the place they live.
The traditional development pattern has tremendous financial upside and limited financial downside. In contrast, our new, experimental approach has limited financial upside and a downside that can literally go negative.