To continue the conversation about human-scale development, I came across this post in another blog that does a great job of underscoring the need to develop a community for the current residents.
As a planner, I can not tell you how many times I have been to redevelopment meetings in struggling and blighted communities where consultants or planners propose turning around a neighborhood by adding a Starbucks, a wine shop and a deli. These businesses might turn a neighborhood around but…for whom?
In another post, we are discussing the plight of Pigtown — a Baltimore neighborhood that seems to defy improvement, year after year, decade after decade. I’m of the mindset that the folks who want to improve the neighborhood have been doing so with the attitude of “Just one good restaurant will do it” or “We can be the next Federal Hill”. And this is the wrong way to go. But it’s not just Pigtown — this problem is city-wide.
While I agree with the blog author that one man’s blighted problem is another man’s neighborhood — I don’t agree that the problem is unique to African-Americans, nor do I agree that a blighted mess is a good thing. Nobody in their right mind, regardless of race or income level, would agree that crime and vacant homes make for a great place to live.
However, Baltimore, like many rust belt cities, is a city of neighborhoods. At one time, most had their unique characteristics — things that made the neighborhoods a place to raise families and put down roots. Instead of capitalizing on these things, current city planning “wisdom” dictates that we all need to live in a black-granite-cherry-floor cookie-cutter facsimile of what used to be thriving neighborhoods — the HGTV-ing of Baltimore, if you will.
I agree wholeheartedly with the author when he says:
If you only see the neighborhood as a problem, you will replace instead of rebuild. And without understanding or more importantly caring about a neighborhood’s culture, what gets replaced could be very important to the fabric of the existing community. A blighted community may seek out help from planners and consultants to help turn around their neighborhood because they feel that there neighborhood and it’s culture is something worthy to be saved. Not replaced.
We need sensible planning that puts neighborhoods first, and since neighborhoods are made up of people, start developing for the taxpayers we have — and stop spending time, money, and energy into luring new taxpayers from elsewhere. Preserve and protect the uniqueness of our neighborhoods, while opening the doors to new residents — other cities have done it, and quite successfully, I might add.
Why hasn’t Baltimore learned from these other cities and developed human-scale master plans for our neighborhoods in need?