These are the most rewarding places to live, no? So much good and so much could-be-better. You'll never run out of meaningful things to work on (getting paid for it is another story) if you're in the business of chipping away at systemic challenges. Maybe that explains why your excellent colleagues are here too. Talented people need real problems to occupy them, and here they can see the fruits of their labour and savour the joys of home or whatever else compelled them to stay/return/migrate.
Perhaps you live somewhere like this. Perhaps it's really more a state of mind than a state of place. Perhaps you just spend a lot of time thinking about how to make things better.
The older and wiser know small is beautiful. I tend to believe them.
New Brunswick's governments are desperate for wealth creation to maintain standards of living. We would benefit from a more comprehensive view of wealth and prosperity though. In searching for standard, catch-all solutions to boost growth, we forget that wealth (economic and otherwise) also comes from cost prevention and from happier, healthier, better connected people. That kind of prosperity starts with great, walkable places for people of all ages. Those places I speak of are in excessively short supply, and there does not appear to be a coordinated regional effort to do anything about it.
So, we're putting in a little elbow grease. The video above is a trailer of sorts for an emerging Welcome Home Vision for New Brunswick that I have been co-developing with some clever people. Although, I hope the message resonates with communities far and wide.
And that message is that we can't sustain "growth" if it doesn't want to stay. "Growth" needs a good place to live. We also can't sustain growth if it's not actually growth at all and in fact becomes a liability with negative return on investment (environmental, social, and economic). In the words of Charles Marohn at Strong Towns (emphasis mine):
There are many, in fact, who desire to move away from the financially-ruinous auto-dominated building pattern and into something that would provide for more opportunities for biking and walking.
I believe there are ways to grow in place. In place. That means increasing your wealth of experience, health, connection, creativity, equality, happiness, talent, ideas, etc. In place. That also means creating better places that we can all give to and enjoy.
So this whole Welcome Home idea is that when we talk about development in the province, it needs to be driven and anchored by the desire to create better places first. All of the other good stuff we want follows the basic principle that we need to cultivate places where people actually want and choose to live and do business. Places worthy of human admiration don't always need to be pretty (although beauty is extremely helpful and virtuous in this regard) but they do need to be loveable. Places need to feel human, and inspire many happy returns.
We've got some great bones to build on in our major cities in New Brunswick. I think the next step of the journey as a province is creating more opportunities for living, working, and relaxing around those high-potential places that already exist in our city centres and former village centres. This is not an expensive proposition. The price is mostly caring. People need to care enough to participate in placemaking, to lighten the red tape that prevents creative people from doing good things, to experiment and not give-up when experiments go poorly.
Strong Towns provides some excellent Placemaking Principles to guide us. I will leave it there, to be continued...
- A Strong Town is financially stable and must not be dependent on government subsidy for the common maintenance of basic infrastructure systems.
- A Strong Town is economically vibrant and diverse. The town must have a local economic composition that encourages financially-sound business creation and expansion, as well as allow for creative destruction.
- A Strong Town is designed with a physical layout that enhances the public realm and thus adds value to each property that fronts it. New growth and development must improve the public realm.
- To build an affordable transportation system, a Strong Town utilizes roads to move traffic safely at high speeds outside of neighborhoods and urban areas. Within neighborhoods and urban areas, a Strong Town uses complex streets to equally accommodate the full range of transportation options available to residents.
- To make transportation systems more efficient and affordable, to create economic opportunity and to enhance the community, neighborhoods in a Strong Town must be mixed use, with properly-scaled residential and commercial development.
- A Strong Town utilizes a system of interconnected parks and civic structures to provide value to property owners within the community. Parks, greens, squares and civic buildings provide value when they enhance the public realm, create memorable landscapes and provide for spontaneous gatherings.
- A Strong Town requires age diversity in order to sustain itself. Designing neighborhoods for safe, independent living at all stages of life is critical for a Strong Town.
- A Strong Town is connected to the region and, no less importantly, to the world, while knowing their unique place within these systems.
- A Strong Town has a leadership ethic that emphasizes open, transparent, inclusive and efficient governance, as well as active and forward-thinking engagement with citizens and private-sector partners.
- Strong Towns reduce costs associated with land use, transportation and development, and are able to reinvest these savings to strengthen their long-term position in the region and the world.