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New cities can make something meaningful out of nothing

It's fairly easy for a county to sprawl. All the Supervisors have to do is look kindly towards a developer who sees profit in paving over grazing lands. Presto! Instant subdivision. New residents snap up the houses in the far-flung areas with freshly-paved roads to carry them miles to the nearest stores and employment centers. The can is thus kicked down the road, which eventually crumbles to the point of needing to be repaved. Where does the county get money for that? From more sprawl, which in due course leads to even more sprawl. And so on. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that's what has happened around here.

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Rancho Cordova's Mills Crossing 10-acre project site

On occasion an aging, long-since-urbanized-area incorporates: think Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova. The new cities' elected leaders get to focus on what's inside their municipal boundaries. In response to their constituents' desires to "make things better", they set forth to deal with the mess created by the county's neglect of their community over the years. As previously noted in our blog,  Citrus Heights has focused on repurposing Sunrise Mall, Elk Grove has been improving its Old Town area, and Rancho Cordova established the Capital Village neighborhood with residences, a mixed-use mall and a civic-function-oriented park. Now Rancho Cordova is embarking on a new project, the Mills Crossing Civic Center. And Elk Grove is about to cut ribbon on a community gathering place, Old Town Plaza.

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Elk Grove's Old Town Plaza, which officially opens tomorrow.

On July 19th the Bee published stories on both the Mills Crossing and Old Town Plaza projects. The Bee's stories were the usual lazy journalism without any serious analysis. They didn't seem to notice the obvious connection between the two projects. Both projects are changing a lackluster place into a notable one. Both projects deal with Gertrude Stein's famous statement about her hometown of Oakland CA: "There is no there, there." Each project corrects the deficit of distinctive identity and absence of noteworthy characteristics of a place by creating a functional center point where something significant exists and special things can happen. Rancho Cordova's project is aimed at blending housing, retail spaces and civic amenities at a 10-acre site across the street from a light rail station. Elk Grove's project is about breathing new life into its historic core by giving people reasons to spend time there and, coincidentally, boosting the local economy. Could Arden Arcade make "something meaningful out of nothing"? Maybe - if Arden Arcade controlled its own destiny like Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova do. Oh, snap out of it! The County runs Arden Arcade! ...nevermind...

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