Every now and then Strong Towns hits one out of the park, like they did a few years ago with an essay by Grant Henninger about how to make his hometown a better place. He grew up in a place that was once fresh and new, yet with no sense of community or identity and nothing that made it unique. As years go by, residents and businesses that once chose to locate in those places become disenchanted with the downward spiral, abandon hope, and opt to flee. Sound familiar?
While it’s not easy to fix those kinds of problems - which are our community’s problems - it is possible. In his article, Henninger recommended three steps for building community, towards making a neglected place livable:
- “Get involved in the existing community. If there isn't an existing community, start building one. Talk to others in your hometown, find the people that are committed to the place, and start building a network of like-minded people. While a single person can do a lot to change a place, a community of people working together can be transformative.
- Determine what you want for your city and set goals to help ensure the community is pushing towards the same objectives. Make sure your network of like-minded people are truly like-minded. The list of goals doesn't need to be anything incredibly specific or necessarily ambitious; a broad outline of simple goals like safer sidewalks or better parks will do. Accept that not everyone will support every goal, but that generally everyone will be moving in the same direction.
- Create a plan once there is general consensus on a list of goals. This plan doesn't even need to be written down, just some key stepping stones to achieving the broader goals. Specifically, find those intermediate steps that help move you closer to multiple goals at the same time. If two of your goals are to increase the walkability of the streets and to minimize infrastructure costs, a good intermediate step would be to narrow the roadway widths, which helps achieve both goals at the same time.”
We agree. We are deeply committed to seeing Arden Arcade become a place that’s worth living in, worth working in, worth having a business in, worth raising a family in, worth retiring in, worth visiting, and, frankly, fun to be in. That’s why we exist, maintain our blog, have a presence on social media, and hold community meetings. We are co-sponsors of the “Forum on our Future” meeting series, which has been pretty much following the community-building steps Henninger recommended. It has been great to see the community start to come together at those meetings. As friends and neighbors, we have expressed a strong preference for democracy and local control and have identified a range of issues that we, who live and work here, need to deal with. Our next meeting in the series will begin to address goals and objectives for our community. There are some excellent speakers lined up for a panel on “the vision thing” and there will be time for group discussions about what we want Arden Arcade to be and how to get there. The meeting will be on December 2nd from 7:00pm-8:30pm at Howe Park. More information will be posted here as we get closer to the meeting date.