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How To Start Strengthening Your Town With Incremental Development

Regular readers of my articles know that I’m a big proponent of thickening the existing neighborhoods in my town (Fairhaven, Massachusetts) and revitalizing our walkable downtown areas. By thickening, I mean allowing neighborhoods to continue growing in the incremental way they used to grow before they were effectively frozen in time by restrictive zoning.

Thickening is a low-risk strategy for towns and has the highest odds of getting good results. It’s low-risk because it’s time-tested — we know that walkable downtowns with housing over shops work! — and because the potential for failure is spread across a multitude of actors, all of whom have significant skin in the game. When you encourage many small projects, then when one project flops, the town is still OK. For small towns, this matters. Heck, it even matters for L.A., where this tower ran into financing issues and its foreign owners can’t even be bothered to put a fence around it.

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