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Community Advocacy Organization

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Community Growth

-By Brent Forsberg

In the late twenty-teens, I found a version of the meme shown above in an online discussion group focused on how communities grow. It spread for a short time under different headings, with some of the bingo spots changed out by those looking to make it more relevant to them. I got a good laugh when I looked at my home region and saw how many of the “unique” ideas from the top of the card were implemented there.

In thinking about this week’s Walkable Wednesday Article, the City Bingo card came to the top of my mind. After a few minutes of searching, this version came up on Reddit. While the top of the card remained the same, this one had a few other more severe outcomes related to the ideas of displacement and economic stratification. While every city might not have every square, I bet there is plenty to relate to for anyone living in a midsize to a major metropolitan population center.

While this meme was initially meant to be a snarky response to the growth many communities experienced between 2011 and 2020, I always found many of the squares quite fun.

Ideas of food, exercise, art, and gathering places are the building blocks of the places people want to be in for the most part. In a conference on Urban Sustainability at Portland State University in 2016, the growth patterns of neighborhoods were discussed in terms of coffee shops, food trucks, and retrofitting walkability into car-centric transportation patterns. Division Street was the first place I had Olive Oil flavored ice cream. It was fantastic. I think I had Earl Grey ice cream in San Francisco, but don’t hold me to that; it also has a fantastic flavor.

In reading through this card, I almost went back to search for the original one I had seen that was more cheeky and fun. This one covers the displacement of minorities, the idea of how expensive it is to live in many places, and the perception of the “old days” being better than what a place is now. It came to me that this card is a good representation of the ideas of what the building blocks of great places are and the awareness of the consequences that short-sighted policy can create. Just like the people who create and sustain the places humanity lives in our cities are imperfect.

Decisions and actions are sometimes based on irrational ideas. In some cases, keeping resources readily available for specific power structures has created problems that will take decades to unravel. Patrick Geddes, a city planner in England around the turn of the 20th century, argued our cities in their current state are a product of the past 50 years of decision-making. Our job should be to make sure our decisions create the outcomes we would like to see for the next 50 years. As the “This City is Making a Comeback” Bingo card has pointed out, the tools people use to create fun and exciting places are similar around the country. Also, the consequences of short-sighted policy have shown we can do better as we continue to evolve the places humanity calls home.

As you look around your community, what are the places you enjoy, and how can those places continue to evolve to bring value to the community as it changes over time?

As a developer, I focus on how the built environment can create long-term stability and opportunity in communities around the projects my company is a part of. My philosophy is that the built environment is an extension of what humanity is. It is a product of human thought and constructed to be an extension of human existence. It manifests in the art, the food, and the activities that bring fulfillment to people. It also manifests into the uglier sides of human nature as blight and displacement. Between these lies the opportunity for people to continue to evolve to be better.

A fundamental change from the idea of governing uses and how we move cars to think about how humanity wants to live and what the values of a place should be. Our focus should be as our communities evolve over the next 50 years; what places foster the human experience that allows people to feel fulfilled? How can you help create the places people enjoy in your community?

Check out more from Brent Forsberg!



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