Saturday, November 05, 2005

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Don't stop development

I've been a pretty harsh critic of property developers here and everywhere for what I perceive to be their singular devotion to profitability at the expense of the broader public good. I’ve occasionally criticized them in print for lacking the vision to help create urban landscapes that encourage sustainable and human-scaled living.

This time out, I took the city to task for failing to hold up its end of the bargain. When they suggested that the city should slow down development because we could no longer afford the steep cost of initial infrastructure investment, I saw various shades of red. London is a city that has routinely lost out to neighboring burgs because its leaders lack the ability to bust convention. It reminded me of a self-centred child’s demand for a schoolyard do-over.

If you can’t compete, get out so that someone else can come in and try. I wrote this in the hope that some of the folks who work in planning at city hall might read it and get this hint.

Development vital to continued growth

Published Saturday, November 5, 2005

The London Free Press

The City of London’s call to slow down development is, to put it charitably, boneheaded. London lags behind powerhouses like Kitchener and Cambridge in attracting new, forward-thinking businesses and the high-income residents who work for them.

The city’s argument that it can’t afford to lay out the cash for initial development is a cop-out, an admission that London’s planners aren’t up to the job.

It’s even more galling as homeowners face another year of tax hikes that outstrip the inflation rate. If development comes to a screeching halt, we’ll all pay more.

London might want to consider a new approach to planning and partnering with developers. Instead of focusing on huge tracts of land at the city’s edge, why not urge developers to build infill projects toward the city’s core?

And since developers profit from civic investment in infrastructure, could they not assume a greater share of the initial investment?

The same old ways of managing development no longer work. City planners must figure out new ways to keep London from losing its competitive edge – without bankrupting the people who live here.



Wheelson said...

In Bellingham, Wa we are dealing with many of the same issues. You can see a dramatic difference as you cross over from the "old" part of town into the edges where the sprawl of the past 10 years has occured. Downtown Bellingham died the day they put in the mall and it has been trying to recover ever since. Finally condos and infill projects are catching on in the city's core. Downtown is becoming a vibrant and fun place to hang out again. Do planners help replicate that in the new development occuring in at the city's edges? No, they just stifle growth or let nasty stupid growth that is only good for developers happen.

Michael Manning said...

In the US, apart from New York the move to refurbish downtown buildings into lofts has been met with failure. Even if one works downtown here, after 5 pm there's a safety issue and few if any stores remain open for business. The draw continues to be out to the suburbs. But perhaps this will require more time to change?