Jump Starting the Right Kind of Growth in Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg stands athwart the sluiceway of growth running from Northern Virginia south through Interstate 95, and the local Economic Development Authority is preparing itself for the inevitable. Instead of trying to halt growth, the the EDA has formed a JumpStart! committee to fogure out how to shape it.

Inspired perhaps by its beautiful historic downtown, JumpStart! is touting mixed-use development. That’s quite a departure from, and improvement upon, the gargantuan and ghastly Central Park retail complex across the Interstate. Thomas Crimmons, a member of the EDA, lays out his thinking in a column in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star:

Mixed-use development creates neighborhoods that include open public space, recreation areas, housing, offices, and retail space, all in one development that has an architectural theme and beautiful landscaping.

Mixed-use projects create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that allow people to live near where they work and shop….

The EDA is positioned to encourage, prod, advocate, lobby for “smart development,” and, when appropriate, finance mini projects throughout the city.

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5 responses to “Jump Starting the Right Kind of Growth in Fredericksburg

  1. Modern planners have contorted Jacobs’s beliefs in hopes of imposing their static, end-state vision of a city. They use a set of highly prescriptive policy tools–like urban growth boundaries, smart growth, and high-density development built around light-rail transit systems–to design the city they envision. They try to “create” livable cities from the ground up and micromanage urban form through regulation. We’ve seen these tools at work in Portland, Ore., for more than three decades. But the results have been dismal and dramatic. The city’s “smart growth” policies effectively created a land shortage, constricting the housing supply and artificially inflating prices. By 1999, Portland had become one of the 10 least affordable housing markets in the nation, and its homeownership rate lagged behind the national average. It has also seen one of the nation’s largest increases in traffic congestion and boasts a costly, heavily subsidized light-rail system that accounts for just 1% of the city’s total travel. Not exactly how they planned it.

    That’s because these planning trends run completely counter to Jacobs’s vision of cities as dynamic economic engines that thrive on private initiative, trial and error, incremental change, and human and economic diversity. Jacobs believed the most organic and healthy communities are diverse, messy and arise out of spontaneous order, not from a scheme that tries to dictate how people should live and how neighborhoods should look.

    She felt it was foolish to focus on how cities look rather than how they function as economic laboratories. “The main responsibility of city planning and design should be to develop–insofar as public policy and action can do so–cities that are congenial places for [a] great range of unofficial plans, ideas and opportunities to flourish,” Jacobs wrote.

    http://thecommunityalliance.blogspot.com/2006/05/re-reading-jane.html

    Mixed-use development creates neighborhoods that include open public space, recreation areas, housing, offices, and retail space, all in one development that has an architectural theme and beautiful landscaping.

    Mixed-use projects create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that allow people to live near where they work and shop….

    Where I have a problem is where statemets like these last two are stated as a given, when in fact the results stated might or might not be a result that is achieved.

    Clearly we can’t get what we think is better than what we have without some effort and guidance, but rigid thinking and overselling won’t get us there either.

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