Putting Neighborhoods First in Old Goucher, Baltimore


I was invited this week to share the Strong Towns message in the Old Goucher neighborhood of Baltimore. There are few places I’ve spoken more different than my hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota. Yet, there are fewer places I’ve spoken where I felt more at home.

In America, we’re constantly bombarded with messages of how different we are from each other, mostly using language designed to polarize us. Yet, again and again, my travels have revealed to me a shared experience. The struggles they are having in Baltimore’s core neighborhoods feel a lot like the struggles we are having in the core neighborhoods of my small town: traffic going too fast, regulatory hurdles for doing simple things, lack of basic services like garbage pickup and benches to sit on, etc…. We have more in common—especially in the poorer and more neglected neighborhoods—than we’re led to believe.

And, once again, the Old Goucher neighborhood demonstrated to me that the creativity our cities desperately need can be found in the places we’re passing by. Here we have individuals working together to green up their streets, start businesses, make it easier for them and their neighbors to bike and walk, and generally use their energy to stitch their neighborhood back together. And they are doing this largely in the absence of top-down support, and sometimes even in the face of top-down opposition. And it’s working.

I also want to tell you, friends, that the people leading change in Old Goucher are Strong Towns advocates. Listen to the generous introduction I was given—just blew me away—and you’ll get a sense of how far the Strong Towns movement is reaching and having an impact. Thank you for helping us share this message and giving us the support we need to make that happen. Again, it’s working.

It is people like those I met in Old Goucher that are my heroes. As I return to my own place and work to make it stronger, I’m inspired by all they have accomplished. In the coming months, I hope to share more of what they are doing so you can be inspired as well.