The challenge of urban planning is eternal, but its vocabulary and techniques evolve. The latest wrinkle in the field is the concept of placemaking, a friendly word encompassing the dirty details and hard work of turning around underused and uninviting features of a community. Vacant lots, dilapidated sidewalks, stretches of vacant storefronts, poorly maintained streets all serve to drive down community morale, lower property values and to repel imagination and the investment that follows it. Fixing these problems is not easy, as government and community and landowners and real estate pros all need to get on the same page.
In “More Losers Than Winners In America’s New Economic Geography,” Atlantic Cities Editor Richard Florida faces a fundamental problem in urban planning and commercial real estate. The active attraction of the affluent and educated to a city’s central neighborhoods has long been touted as an economic cure-all for cities more broadly. The premise was that these high-tech high-education worker enclaves would cause the surrounding rings of neighborhoods to experience follow-on benefits of price stabilization and heightened quality of life.
Smart Growth is important stuff. The commercial property market and the land use decisions that go with it loom very large in the balance of a community’s economic health. Growth needs to be managed intelligently to maintain that balance, and that takes experts in commercial property engaging the community at large, shaping that balance among stakeholders.