A few years ago I went on a field trip to an Atlanta suburb that was reinventing itself as a vibrant small town. I heard the planning and economic development director talk about how to re-create a downtown. One of the keys, she said, was to convince her city government colleagues to change their default response from “no, because” to “yes, if.” No, you can’t build residential downtown because zoning prohibits it. No, you can’t make the sidewalk wide enough for an outdoor café because blah blah blah. Instead, her approach was to think about what the city needed to get in exchange for a yes. Yes, you can make the sidewalk wide enough if you agree to pay for a bump out in the street to slow traffic. Yes, you can build residential there if you create public parking spaces for the ones you’re displacing.
Imagine all the cool stuff we could do by changing our approach from “no, because” to “yes, if.”
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