Five Low Cost Ideas to Make Your City Wealthier

Charles Marohn, the Founder and President of Strong Towns, shares five low cost initiatives that every city across the country should prioritize.

Yesterday we shared five ways in which federal infrastructure spending is making cities poorer. That piece included this observation:

What we have not figured out – and what we won’t figure out with another flood of federal infrastructure spending – is how to translate maintenance into growth. How do we go out and fill potholes and fix leaking pipes and have that result in additional wealth in our neighborhoods? This is a daunting challenge that requires us to rethink – from bottom to top – how we develop our places. We need to modernize our zoning codes, building standards, housing incentives, insurance programs, etc. There are a lot of people trying to do this, but they get cast aside every time the federal gravy train rolls into town.

Here are some of the low cost initiatives that every city across the country should prioritize.

1. The Better Block

There is no group that does more with less than The Better Block Foundation. Jason Roberts inspired us all with his TED talk and now, with the backing of the Knight Foundation, is working to scale his ideas for communities across the country.

The Better Block uses small, low cost interventions to prototype larger scale projects. Residents and stakeholders are able to co-create change and experience improvements as they go. It’s a true alternative to the big project model; a more sophisticated approach with lower risk and higher returns.

America is desperately in need of fine-grained, block level solutions to address the financial productivity gap in our cities. It doesn’t get better than The Better Block.


Better Block FoundationWikiblockInterview with Jason RobertsTactical Urbanism: Short Term Action for Long Term Change by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia