To Be Realized, The Grand Vision May Need To Lose Itself
Last week I asked, where is the Grand Vision in your life? There was a mixed response. Depending on your perspective it is either an exercise in futility or accomplishing what it set out to do, suggested as articulating a community vision.
However, it was always more than simply a vision. There were wide expectations that the public process and subsequent study would result in enough common ground for implementation of Grand Vision Goals and Objectives—I understand now, that will not be the outcome. Rehashing the past will get the community and region nowhere fast; history is always selective and filtered.
The next question is, how will the community move forward? The answer apparently is, “the same as it ever did.” That will mean different things to different people, but one way to describe past community development is disjointed, opaque and myopic.
We simply haven’t had the leadership, from luminaries, neighborhood groups, government units, agencies and organizations to apply community wide vision and strategies outside narrow interests. When I’ve been to Grand Vision working group meetings, and I look around the table, I typically see representatives from organizations and agencies paid to represent their interests. Some are more pro-active and others are more defensive; all of them are well intentioned and good people, however, the result is often inaction. One could argue, it’s a success that at least they are at the same table. I agree with that.
Luckily, Times Change.
Across the country people are expressing a desire to live in more walkable neighborhoods, focused around plenty of creative parkland, vibrant public spaces and with a hyper-local focus–the 20-minute neighborhood is a clear example. The future cultural and economic engine isn’t suburbia, but rather the re-emergence of neighborhood life.
An article in the latest Washington Monthly titled, The Next Real Estate Boom, sums up the situation well:
“The baby boomers and their children, the millennial generation, are looking for places to live and work that reflect their current desires and life needs. Boomers are downsizing as their children leave home while the millennials, or generation Y, are setting out on their careers with far different housing needs and preferences. Both of these huge demographic groups want something that the U.S. housing market is not currently providing: small one- to three-bedroom homes in walkable, transit-oriented, economically dynamic, and job-rich neighborhoods.” (Article written by Patrick C. Doherty and Christopher B. Leinberger.)
I would also add, that it’s not just the housing market that’s lagging. Looking at the Grand Traverse region, our planning and infrastructure are simply not laying the ground work for the needs of the next 30-years.
The city, despite good intentions with its infrastructure policy of spending $1-million/year on streets and sidewalks, continues to prefer status-quo maintenance over building what we will need in 30 years. It’s important that we get it right the first time, because once completed, we won’t return to a street for another 30-40 years. To achieve this, in the city and the region, demands applying what we know about the current situation:
- Gas prices will increase. 2008 wasn’t a fluke.
- Our current infrastructure model is not economically/ecologically sustainable.
- Collaboration across agencies and interests is vital.
- What motivates new, innovative, entrepreneurial people is not suburbia and streets built solely for cars.
The Grand Vision Realized
The several year process of the Grand Vision has raised awareness of the need for planning and, to some degree, is improving the planning literacy of the public. The breakdown of the Grand Vision into interconnected networks has made clear that when we talk about transportation, we are primarily talking about land use issues and how those policies impact, and are impacted by, economics, agriculture, energy, housing and natural resources–loosely, including transportation, the six working groups regional networks of the Grand Vision.
At times I’m ready to call The Grand Vision dead. But, that’s not how visions work. Visions live and breathe. They change and become reflective. Often, they are forgotten only to be remembered in a flash of clarity when we stop, look around and notice that our paths have taken us to exactly the place we had hoped. Visions are realized by embodying them and making them a part of our daily choices.
Next week, I hope to will have a short list of actionable items that I’d like to see come out of the brand/organization/money attached to The Grand Vision.