As America continues to recover from the economic recession of 2008, urban planners stand at on the precipice of old and new ideas. This edge is not something new to planners, but it does play an important role in determining the future and direction of urban decision. Specifically, urban planners are now faced with continuing the accepted and ingrained practice of zoning communities for specific functions or choosing to embrace the ideals of Smart Growth and the compact mixed use developments that it supports. Not only will the decision play a role in the shaping of communities but it will also have a noticeable effect on how individuals interact with one another.

Hoboken Smart Growth

An example of Smart Growth

The main components of Smart Growth revolve around creating a community that is walkable, sustainable, and caters to people of different incomes. In this sense Smart Growth makes both a physical and social community. These two facets of Smart Growth are especially important for planners to consider as they have a responsibility to ensure that the communities that they design are both sustainable and inclusive. Sustainability means that the community has a wide variety of resources to draw from and that it offers enough activities and activities to keep the populace happy and engaged. A sustainable community will have an adequate supply of money from property taxes that will allow for facility maintenance and capital improvement projects that will keep the area safe and physically attractive. Inclusiveness will allow for people of all different salaries to live in the same community where they can interact with one another and share ideas. The diversity of individuals is important to the community as it prevents the stagnation of homogeneity and provides a way for individuals to advance up the social ladder.

Smart Growth Graphic

Smart Growth Principles

While Smart Growth appears to answer many of the problems urban planners have, it is difficult to convince the general public that this large policy shift is for the better. Unfortunately, many individuals still desire to live in the suburbs and promote urban sprawl in an effort to live in their own single family detached house. This mentality is a by-product of earlier generations that has continued to permeate throughout American culture. Although it may be difficult, a concerted effort by planners to adopt more Smart Growth policies may be able to change public perception and create a more sustainable and equitable urban design policy.

Suburban Sprawl

Why have this…

Smart Growth ExampleWhen you can have this?

Smart Growth, when done right, has the potential to alleviate many of the concerns that plague the modern urban planner. Homelessness can be reduced through the creation of mixed use buildings (that are more affordable), segregation and economic inequality can be remedied via access and contact with other social groups, and the environment will benefit from a policy shift away from urban sprawl. When considering the goals of the urban planner and the ways in which Smart Growth addresses them, it should be clear that this is the policy of the future.