A Better Way To Do Development

Otis White’s Civic Strategies newsletter reports on a Los Angeles-based real estate developer, Rick Caruso, who is finding that the most effective way to get big development projects done is to work with neighborhood and community groups on plans and designs from the very beginning rather than shutting them out of the process:

"…Caruso’s secret seems to be working with the neighbors in the earlydesign stages and not walking through the door with renderings inhand. This approach works not only in California but in citiesaround the country. Recently, a developer wanted to build a 40-storydowntown condo tower in St. Paul, Minn., where people are sensitiveabout high-rise buildings overwhelming the city. The company metwith neighborhood groups more than a dozen times and ran through 24 different designs before coming up with one that satisfied theneighbors and make sense financially…."

  • People realize that particapatory, clean, development raises their property values. Developers, if they are financed well enough, can reap larger financial rewards if the blend into the community.

    People want to get along with their neighbors. It makes me think of some hilarious high-rises going up next to public housing projects in NYC nowadays. Do you think they spoke to the people in the jex? Hardly.

  • Mitch

    I’m proud to say that in Madison, Wisconsin, where I live, it’s almost impossible to push through a development project in most parts of the city without the neighborhood’s participation.

    Some developers complain bitterly that they have to defer to the opinions of people who do not know as much as they do about architecture and real estate. But in most cases, in my opinion, the design we see at the end of the process is better than the original proposal.

    It’s probably easier to assert the community’s power in a smallish city like Madison than in New York, but community involvement is worth fighting for.

  • I’ll say, Mitch. Brooklyn, New York might be one of the most under-represented precincts in the entire United States. The borough has a population of 2.5 million. I think Brooklyn would be something like the 4th largest city in the USA were we on our own. Yet, these 2.5 million don’t have their own mayor or City Hall. We don’t even have our own daily newspaper or television news channel.

  • Ditto on that Aaron. See Paul Moses’s observations: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.


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