Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Communities: Some Spatial Considerations

More people will want to move to thriving economic regions in the near future, but not everyone will be able to enter the places where prosperity is already a given. This also holds true to some degree, for those who live in the under served areas of developed nations. As a result, individuals and groups alike need to actively reconsider, what economic access and participation actually mean. How might new communities start from scratch, in an era when knowledge use has become an important time based service product? How can new community starts contribute to aggregate supply and output, instead of having to knock at the closed door that is economic stagnation?

Communities have had little opportunity to evolve in meaningful ways, and recent additions to existing infrastructure appear as though extensions of the old. Or occasionally, someone constructs a sentimental throwback to the Main Streets that baby boomers such as myself remember from childhood days. But how useful are these design elements in the present, especially given the forms of service product which remain in short supply in the marketplace? Especially since the environments which do exist for important time based services, are primarily structured for higher income levels.

One thing to consider is the fact that in general equilibrium conditions, those with higher income levels have been willing to pay more for both housing and related amenities - both for the additional security they provide and the greater ease of getting things done. Lower income levels will want varying degrees of (lifestyle) self selection, but they will need to utilize infrastructure and related resources quite differently. For decades, however, security has been a problem at low income levels. Hence some families and individuals will understandably prefer to maintain their living quarters along the outer edges of newly generated communities, so as to have a buffer from the mixed use neighborhoods which lie closer to the center, where living space would often be adjacent to retail and service formation.

A different approach for security would be tapped for those who live near the community center, in that these groups would benefit from a constant variety of ongoing activity in the public and private areas of downtown. These are the most logical places for many among the young, old, and the disabled to work and congregate, particularly to break the cycles of isolation such groups have too often experienced in schools, assisted living facilities and rural areas.

Central locations for these individuals would also ease the commuting burdens that can be especially stressful for low income families. Families with young children or aging parents would gain access to living quarters near downtown, alongside older individuals who face the additional stresses of living alone with few family or friends nearby. These flexible ownership patterns would alleviate what can be considerable institutional costs, in general equilibrium conditions. A services oriented Main Street might resemble campus settings. These flexible "campus" arrangements could be interspersed with public spaces, alongside the privately owned enclosures that would serve as space for time arbitrage settings.

Walkable communities are a high priority, since they represent a logical starting point on an income continuum which has yet to be taken into account in general equilibrium conditions. For those with small wages and income, walkable communities would present a full range of opportunities that make it easier for everyone to generate ongoing employment - even those who face health and age related issues which occasionally limit participation.

The hub and spoke option is advantageous for walkable communities, where the center or downtown exists as a hub. From this center, a series of transportation pathways and roads (spokes) would radiate out to more traditional forms of transportation (i.e. highways, railroads, rivers and the like) along the town boundaries. Each spoke could specialize in a different form of transportation, and individuals could seek out living options along the spokes which are their personal preference at any given point in time.

These communities would in many instances not be designed for substantial expansion. Rather, they would provide a full range of living and working options, which would in turn could begin a replication process in other locations, once a certain population density is reached.

Design particularly matters for anyone with a limited amount of mobility for whatever reason, and the heart of these communities would provide ample room for these groups at its center. Ultimately, the result would be fewer individuals who remain dependent on government assistance as in the present. Areas closer to the hub or downtown, could provide living arrangements for families currently providing for either young children or elderly parents. Also, older citizens who live alone with no family nearby, would gain living quarters near the community center.

Fortunately, design for low income community structure is one of the more obvious economic patterns that would provide immediate benefit for those who are presently impacted by the spatial requirements of automobile defined towns and cities across the country. New community formation needs to address the most pressing aspects of this reality first, before moving up the spectrum to provide broader options for the middle classes which are also experiencing their own pressures in general equilibrium conditions. Indeed, much of their "beef" with higher income levels, revolves around the framework for lifestyle patterns which appear as though necessary in every instance. It always helps to ask: is this really true?

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