Old School

We missed walking through the neighborhoods. We missed seeing everyone. We missed being at a school that felt like a school. We realized that this was not the school system for us. We understood that we did not share the same values as the place that was helping to shape our children. There seemed to be a disconnect between the community the schools served and the schools themselves. The community in which every institution is housed has a direct impact on all of those institutions. The well being of the community as a whole effects everyone and everything in it. The school made a decision based on its own best interest, but neglected to consider how it would affect the community as a whole.

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Amber Davidson
Shirt Happens.

Revitalize, or Die. Is launching an Urbanist Apparel shop as a means to help give people additional ways to demonstrate support for their town and for other issues associated with community building, revitalization and strengthening the local economy. 

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Amber Davidson
All Politics is Local

We have to be willing to set party aside and debate the merits of policy. It’s not anti-business to favor local business owners. Its not socialism to foster local ownership. It’s not a violation of property rights to enforce regulations. These are common sense policies that strengthen the local community and economy. To argue otherwise is to have an agenda and that agenda is unlikely concerned with putting the community first.

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Amber Davidson
Wise Council

Local city councils need to start this process now. They have to look at existing legislation and determine what policies favor out of town investment and encourages the sprawl economy. These policies need to be systematically removed from the books. In addition, council should begin to look at policy that makes it easier for locals to invest, while penalizing vacant and blighted property. Policies need passed that favor walkable businesses and densely built buildings and housing. Budgets need to reflect that traditional neighborhoods and residents are more of a priority that national chains.

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Amber Davidson
Overeducated - The Higher Cost of Higher Ed

We can’t keep sitting idly by while national chains destroy our towns. Ideally a community would work to keep them out, but at the very least we have to compete. We have to put people to work rebuilding sidewalks and roads. We have to put people to work renovating buildings and developing infill. We have to put people to work working for themselves. When we take back control of our economy, we take back our community. We can provide people with meaningful work in a place they have roots. We can restore the structures our ancestors built. We can spend money with people we know. When we do this we can make the type of town a kid would never want to leave. 

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Amber Davidson
A Return to Old Urbanism

We have to rethink the entire way we look at city development. We have been told the same story for so long, that we don’t even know the truth anymore. Many cities don’t even realize there is an alternative to sprawl development and believe that if we just invite enough outsiders in, we can fix the problem. The problem IS the outsiders. We spend far too much time worrying about how to bring more people into our community and not nearly enough time considering the people that are already here. Stop trying to make tourists love your community and instead try and get residents to love it. Stop courting chains to open in your community and instead train a new generation of entrepreneurs. Stop making it easy to build disposable buildings on the edges and use those resources to discover and train your town’s newest developer and building renovation expert.

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Amber Davidson
The Fabric of Community

One of the metaphors I find the most helpful is the concept of community being a fabric. A fabric is made up of threads and the strength of that fabric is dependent on the amount of those threads and how they are woven together. A community fabric is made up of personal interactions and the strength of that fabric is dependent on the amount of interactions and how they are woven together. As people move about their community on foot, they encounter one another face to face and bonds are forged.

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Amber Davidson
Setting the Standards

All this is to say, dear community leaders, be very careful in letting your standards decline. Standards, like a retaining wall, are up against constant pressure. There are always forces at work to see them fall, yet it takes a constant commitment and effort to ensure they remain. They must be bolstered at times to continue to be effective. Once allowed to fall, the prospect of restoring them is exponentially harder than the act of maintaining them. Standards matter. 

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Amber Davidson
Own Your Issues

Revitalization is a simple enough proposition. The buildings that make up a downtown must be economically productive. Economically productive = buildings in good shape, and occupied by successful commercial tenants. This is it. This is the ultimate goal of any revitalization effort and if this is accomplished, you’ve succeeded. Any initiative that works towards this end is positive and any initiative that doesn’t impact this area is unproductive and needs reconsidered. Reason being, at the end of the day, a downtown must be economically viable, which means the buildings must be economically viable. What is downtown after-all, but an area of public space defined on its edges by buildings. The public space can and should be highly inviting, attractive and walkable, but will never be the true draw of its own. This space must be encompassed by attractive, productive buildings. It is the buildings people use and visit. A healthy commercial district might be full of beautiful civic buildings and have perfect sidewalks and lush hanging baskets, but unless it is also composed of privately owned buildings and businesses, it will never function properly. 

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Amber Davidson