Building in the Streets Should Happen Gradually

Though I’ve alluded to it before, it’s worth stating that my proposal to convert street space into housing should happen slowly, over many years.

The advantages of slow implementation are legion: there would be no single reduction in the tree canopy; smaller investors and community members could drive the development; building over time creates greater architectural diversity; moving slowly allows the community to emotionally process the changes and react to demographic shifts, among other things.

These homes could be built on streets all over the city. But that process ought to happen slowly, one block at a time.

We should get started on this plan soon — especially considering how inexpensive development is right now — but there’s no reason this project wouldn’t be ongoing even after each of us are long gone.

In a post on Better! Cities and Towns, Howard Blackson recently chronicled something similar, which he dubs “the new incrementalism”:

The latest design trend appears to be designing a place to be realized in very gradual stages. Not in terms of planning for phases of development pods, built-out in a predetermined sequence, but about individual lots changing — evolving — over time. Very rarely now are we designing to build immediately for a project’s absolute highest and best use or, as Nathan Norris calls it, its “climax condition.” This new incrementalism focuses on how lots change — how they’re built upon and reconfigured over time before, ahem, reaching their climax.

Though not all of Blackson’s points specifically apply to infill in Provo, his overall thesis is that change happens incrementally, lot by lot.

That’s a deceptively tough lesson to remember. As I consider the development going on right now in Provo — from the recent Joaquin Village to efforts to revitalize downtown — most of it seems to focus on big projects. That’s great, but it should also be combined with efforts to encourage and empower community members to incrementally improve the lots around them. Slowly adding a few houses here and there is just one way to do that.

Improving cities should, and often must, happen incrementally. In this picture a few lots have been added to a single corner, unlike some development that tries to tackle huge change.

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1 Comment

Filed under building, construction, Downtown

One response to “Building in the Streets Should Happen Gradually

  1. Pingback: Give People a Taste of Good Development | (pro(vo)cation)

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