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The small towns and cities of America are once again becoming the new frontier for development.
Having languished for decades with the decline of the manufacturing economy, these communities lost population, jobs, and capital. However, today an intersection of three overarching phenomenon presents a unique opportunity to reconsider these communities as places worth our time and investment:
The Great Migration: Americans, young and old are gravitating towards communities that are mixed use, walkable, diverse and transit served. This puts an extraordinary burden on our Gateway Cities that currently exhibit such characteristics. At the same time, Suburban Settlements are ill equipped to provide such amenities to residents in the near future.
A Systemic Failure: The Great Recession clearly exposed the shortcomings of our financial, civic and infrastructure models along with their decision making processes. A recalibration is in order. Gateway Cities, due to their sheer size, make such restructuring difficult, while the isolationist frameworks of Suburban Settlements lack the interconnectedness of systems and concentration of critical mass required to generate resilient prototypes.
A Widening Rift: Across the country, we see an increasing gap based on income and wealth. The American Dream is predicated on a strong middle class, and yet it is rapidly shrinking today. Gateway Cities are self-segregating themselves into homogenous pockets in terms of income, race and ethnicity, with the middle class being pushed outward. Suburban Settlements on the other hand are incapable of supporting diversity and encouraging upward mobility, the impetus for growth for middle class.
We assert that mid-tier towns and cities provide us with the right opportunities to build on our past while accommodating these societal changes positively. They present us with Investment Ready Places (IRP’s), whose resilient chassis in fact, benefit from change and deliver a stronger framework to future generations for realizing their dreams.
We outline a set of characteristics inherent to IRP’s that allow us to fulfill our basic human needs and achieve our creative potential as individuals and community. Organized under six categories, these characteristics double as a diagnostic tool to determine places where we should invest at a time when investment is at a premium.
We recommend strategies that can maximize the development potential for IRPs. These strategies build upon the resilient DNA of IRP’s and help identify short and long term actions that communities can undertake to maximize returns on their investments.
We provide you, the reader with a tool kit to help navigate this “new” terrain and undertake projects in your local IRP’s.