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We use the term "localism" in the sense of attempting to put into
practice some of the positive elements of village or small
community living in
today's more complex world. Author Patricia Netzley summarizes some of the advantages of small communities:
- it is too difficult to enforce moral behaviour in a large community
- agricultural and business practices are more likely to be ecologically sound in smaller communities
- people feel more fulfilled in smaller communities
- reducing an area's population reduces the environmental impact.
But some elements of globalism are here to stay, and
global solidarity is a positive human attitude. We are highlighting in this
websites a number of practical examples of positive localism.
Location has allways been an important ingredient of
Traditional small towns have provided opportunities for
local business to flourish.
As large commercial chains and online shopping have hurt many small businesses,
there has been a renewed interest in the advantage of proximity. The value of nearby or
walkable business units is beginning to be more recognized, even if there is some price
penalty. People often
do not include transportation expenses and resulting environmental effects in
their purchasing equations. The influential Walkable Communities organization provides a
useful description of the term "walkability":
Walkability focuses on neighborhood or village scale development, with many
nearby places to go and things to do. Truly walkable communities are
characterized by much more than good sidewalks and street crossings; they
include many attributes: a mix of uses, frequent street connections and
pedestrian links, timeless ways of designing and placing buildings. They create
desirable places to spend time in, to meet others.
The bottom line of this localism is the development of a conscioussness
in a member of a community so that this person
may be willing to patronize a local business that may not be able to compete in
absloute prize with a remote chain business because this person is aware of the savings
in transportation costs
and environmental issues
and he or she may know the owner or the employees of the local business and
is aware of the emphasis in quality and honesty of this establishment. Of course this does
not apply to everything. This person may not be able to buy a car locally, but perhaps
the lesser use and the excellence of public tranportation may result in not needing to buy a second
car for the family. We are not only talking about buying locally, but also about the increased use of public transportation for access to the other items.
Mixed Use Organization
As indicated in the Introduction, part of the New Urbanism movement is the return to
older urban structures, which have been given the name of "Mixed-Use".
The influential book
Mixed-Use Developments: New Ways of Land Use, published by the
Urban Land Institute in 1976, defined a Mixed-Use Development as having:
"Three or more significant revenue-producing uses (such as
retail, office, residential,
hotel/motel, and recreation- which in well-planned projects are mutually supporting)."
Mixed-use was the traditional urban style through much of history, but in the
twentieth century several factors led to lower density and more dispersed land
use. These factors included the rise of automobile transportation and a growing
affluence in North America and Europe which allowed the increase of large homes
in large lots, or what we know as "suburbia". Also, the implementation of land use
zoning regulations, which "intended to create order
through the control and separation of land uses, essentially made it illegal to
mix uses in newly developing areas." The movement to return to more efficient and
naturally encourages mixed-use, and most local governments
are now willing to provide more flexible zoning laws for well-planned projects.
In historic neighborhoods, a common mixed-use was that of business owners living
above their businesses. This is generally more difficult in the complex world of today,
but it is quite practical in our examples of Crosstown Concourse and
Bethesda Row that include
residences, and in all of our examples
there is a natural effect of local workers patronizing tne nearby businesses.
The Commercial and Mixed-Use Development Code Handbook, prepared as part of the
Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program offers the following objective
and itemized list of the principal benefits for these developments:
Objective: Develop different types of compatible land uses
close together in appropriate locations, to shorten trips and facilitate
alternative modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling and
Mixed-use development is appropriate in downtowns, neighborhood-oriented
centers, transit nodes, main streets, and some community commercial centers. Locating
store, offices, residences, public services, and recreation spaces within walking distance
of each other in these locations promotes:
-Independence of movement, especially for the young and the elderly
who can conveniently walk, cycle, or ride transit;
around-the-clock presence of people;
-Reduction in auto use, especially for
-Support for those who work at home, through nearby services and
The advantages of nearness
are accentuated when there is some effort
to co-locate businesses
that may have a synergistic or mutually advantegeous relation.
At Crosstown Concourse,
for example, synergy was part of the planning objectives,
anchored in arts, education and healthcare which were viewed as existing strengths
of its region. Quoting Dr. Richardson, one of the planners: "The planning
teamís goal was to go beyond mixed use ó to put people and partners not just near each other,
but in connection with each other. Organizations have actually taken the initiative
to figure out how to be better together and not just co-locate, whether it be programs
or space or actually sharing employees." To facilitate these conversations,
Crosstown created a "Better Together" department that helps current
and potential tenants see the possibilities of local cooperation.
Another example of synergism is at the
Flint Farmers' Market, which includes a children's clinic within the market building: The clinic provides families
with medical services as well as an on-site nutritionist and, thanks to the marketís
proximity in the same building, produce prescriptions, which they can conveniently
redeem in the very same visit:
Flint Farmers' Market,
Flint Farmers' Market Grocer
Programs that integrate the clinic and the market
are so popular that during the Flint Water Crisis, the NBA Foundation caught
wind of this work and generously offered a gift
of $25 to each child in
Flintís schools to be used at the market. Tom Gores, the owner of the Detroit
Pistons foundation, then matched this gift resulting in approximately $325,000
worth of food vouchers for families who were then able to support the marketís
Another positive eement of localism
is the involvement of an Urban Space in the
issues of its surrounding environment. This is consistent with the recommendation
of the Project for Public Spaces to "engage the edges".
The BOK Center, for example,
provides the use of its event spaces at no cost to host dance recitals, graduation ceremonies,
and a weekly gathering of a local non-profit refugee-founded agency of Southeast Asian elders
who live in the neighborhood. Several of our example spaces host exercise and day-care facilities.
A more complex level of involvement is provided by the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC)
at the The Detroit Neighborhood HomeBase.
Where a major university, the University of Detroit Mercy
has established a center on the
edge of its campus, so that its School of Architecture and Community Development can participate
with other community agents in the design, planning and execution of projects that answer to
the needs of the community, with the "belief that local expertise leads to the best
design strategies." The scope of this center is not restricted to local projects, but
they are its focus.
 Wikipedia: A Blueprint for Survival
 Walkable Communities Inc.
 Robert Witherspoon et al, Mixed-Use Developments: New Ways of Land Use
(Washington DC: The Urban Land Institute, 1976), 6.
 Dean Schwanke et al, Mixed-Use Development Handbook, second edition (Washington DC: The Urban Land Institute, 2003), 1.
 Oregon Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) Program,
Commercial and Mixed-Use Development Code Handbook, 5-6.
 Robert Witherspoon et al, Mixed-Use Developments, 78.
 PPS: A (Market) Place for Everyone
 CNU: Bok
 Detroit Collaborative Design Center