Listening to NPR yesterday about the future of the US and world economy, one of the guests being interviewed said that an economy based on limitless growth is unsustainable. If a sprawl economy is based on constant growth, then does it follow that an economy which retrofits and maintains its older areas is more sustainable?
As we look to strengthen communities and our economy over the next 20-30 years, are there long term opporunities both in terms of jobs and economic growth by focusing on a program of community renewal? What would something like that look like? How would an economist measure the costs and benefits? We can use the St. Louis region as a case study.
Parts of the core of the St. Louis region have seen decades of dramatic disinvestment and decline. At the same time, the region has seen a nearly equal amount of sprawl based growth on the edges of the metropolitan area. Today, growth at the outer reaches of the region has slowed dramatically.
Housing developments in those areas have stalled, homebuilders have gone out of business, and property values are flat or decreasing. At the same time, values closer to the center of the region have been stable to slowly increasing. Are we better served working to maintain our established systems and built environment rather than constantly expanding them?
Are there opportunities to create a combination of more community gardens, farmer's markets, and expanded use of green building practices; increased school choice, expanded supply of affordable housing and more public transportation options; and support for small businesses, and retrofitting of commercial corridors to help position St. Louis as a region of choice for families and businesses over the next 30 years?