Scaling Back the Bureaucracy:
Neighborhood revitalization unleashed by making small-scale projects easier
Project for Lean Urbanism announces Pilot Projects in Lafayette, Chattanooga, Saint Paul, and Savannah
Four cities have been chosen to test a new approach to neighborhood revitalization. The community-driven method, called Lean Urbanism, enables citizens to more easily shape their communities. Lean Urbanism makes small-scale development and entrepreneurship faster and more affordable by providing tools and lightening the burden of government bureaucracy.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has found that unnecessary government regulations increase the cost of constructing housing by up to 25 percent. The Project for Lean Urbanism has selected four cities for pilot projects to make housing more affordable and stimulate entrepreneurship and economic growth. Where it is now too difficult to renovate or develop a property, or to open or run a business, the processes will be made easier. The focus will be on reducing the requirements, complexity, and costs that unfairly burden small-scale developers and entrepreneurs, spurring revitalization by allowing more people to participate in the building of their homes, businesses, and communities.
After a national call for entries, the Project for Lean Urbanism selected Lafayette, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Savannah, Georgia to host pilot projects. The cities were chosen for their commitment to lowering the barriers to small-scale economic development. In each city the project team will work with city authorities, entrepreneurs, activists, and nonprofits to select a neighborhood, identify impediments to small-scale projects, create an action plan of projects to begin the revitalization, and develop a custom kit of tools to make them possible.
“We want to unleash the energy of small businesspeople and people who want to improve their neighborhoods, whether they are millennials wanting to start a project in their home town, down-shifting baby boomers, or hard-working immigrants who want to move from construction into development. We aim to lower the barriers so that small-scale development is less complicated and time-consuming,” said Andrés Duany, chairman of the Project.
Working in targeted neighborhoods or districts in the pilot cities, the Project team will identify local barriers to small-scale development and entrepreneurship, create a “Pink Zone” where the red tape is lightened, and develop tools to make the projects possible. Each pilot project should last 18 to 24 months. At the end, the community will have an environment in the Pink Zones that enables economic development, projects coming out of the ground to begin the revitalization, and a kit of tools for future projects. Each city will have tested a set of new requirements and procedures, and be able to apply them in other places, whether in additional Pink Zones or citywide.
“The backbone of every city’s economy has always been small business. That’s where jobs are created and how neighborhoods rebound,” said Hank Dittmar, director of pilot projects for the Project for Lean urbanism. Without avoiding health and safety rules, the Project will define thresholds to avoid onerous requirements, find workarounds and hacks, and seek pre-approvals for development like the four- or six-unit building, the rehab of the much beloved movie theater, or bringing abandoned homes back to life.
The Project for Lean Urbanism is led by internationally renowned experts including town planner Andrés Duany, designer of Seaside, Florida, founding partner of the design firm DPZ Partners, and cofounder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and Hank Dittmar, former head of the Prince’s Foundation in the UK and Reconnecting America in the United States. They will assemble an expert team for each site, and work to mentor a local team over the two years of each pilot’s duration. Projects will begin in late 2016 and early 2017.
About the Project for Lean Urbanism
With the motto of Making Small Possible, the Project for Lean Urbanism seeks to reverse decades of rules and regulations that burden small builders, small entrepreneurs, and community organizations while privileging the large-scale developers and businesses that have the resources to hire experts to navigate the often-tortuous processes of project approval.
The Project for Lean Urbanism is a program of the nonprofit Center for Applied Transect Studies, and is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.
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