How to Animate a Community

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Mar 21

By Bruce M Firestone and Linda Pond

Animate: bring to life; make lively, vivacious, or vigorous


1. add a corner store at the entrance of the community – make it convenient for residents

2. create summer flea market/

winter vehicle storage

3. build affordable Tiny Houses, duplexes and triplexes, in-home
apartments, granny flats/garden suites


4. make storage–lockers available

5. create shared community garden/build tool shed to share equipment—brings more revenue
to the community, helps people buy local/produce local; add dachas and

Dachnik community a service like where neighbors rent everyday items with 1 another/owner lists an item/renter borrows and returns it/owner keeps 90% of rent/heynay handles transaction/reduce consumption by borrowing from neighbors…


6.  embrace 3-d ponics,

7. transform public room with lighting, street art, murals and public art, eg, the Cartier avenue Quebec City lampshade project, which combines both


8. integrate pedestrian and bike pathways

9. create more space virtually—ie, enter 1 room to
get to another, 

eliminate corridors

10. encourage co-living, co-housing, roommates,, farm stay and home stay networks


11. ensure communal babysitting, home schooling alternatives available

12. add sports area for Pickleball, bocce, beach volleyball, paddle tennis,
shuffleboard, outdoor ping pong, badminton, rope drop, badminton, waterslide, 3 on 3 basketball court, mini putt, outdoor chess, horseshoes, other sports

13. create boardwalk along waterways and around ponds and other features

14. add frontyard/sideyard/rearyard parking, hardscaping, porous pavers

15. brand community and streets with meaningful names; theme each community/neighborhood both architecturally (covenants/materialtiy) and in terms of programming/events that bind the community together/give it purpose;

make events, festivals, competitions, games, learning part of every month; create memorable taglines 

How do you get projects approved these days? This is often the most difficult part of the animation process. 


Listen to what Helen Marriage says about how she gets her massive public art ideas (shown above and below) launched:

“I’ve evolved an understanding of why people say no. It’s fear, mostly, and not wanting to be accountable. Let someone else decide. And although there are no real shortcuts around it, what I’ve found is that if you say something is happening, and I need you to help me, people assume that some other authority has sanctioned your right to do this. Somehow, engaging people in a task rather than seeking permission unlocks the whole thing. They don’t so much say yes as stop saying no.”

-Bloomberg Businessweek April 11-21, 2016

In other words, entrepreneurs would rather ask for forgiveness than beg for permission and they “intricate” people–getting them involved/committed a bit at a time…

Read more at,


16. incorporate micro-workshops – auto repair, wood
working, maker space, gardening, sports, games, books, winemaker, other learning opportunities…

17. add outdoor summer kitchens, community brick oven, gathering space, council ring, micro amphitheater, bbq pit

18. ban fencing/create private open space to allow wildlife migration/kids playing together, more social
interaction amongst adults

19. strict poop and scoop regulations and other environmental
regulations like no non native plants, no herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc

20. only hand spraying of round up to control noxious weeds

21. add plugs with USB ports at wheelchair heights


build into one or more homes: arts and craft hut/micro retail—supplies, ideas and learning


23. one or more home to have micro bakery/c-store with real food/pre-prepared food   

24. install shared backup generator/battery storage

25. add benches with fold up seats with storage underneath

26. install staircases with drawers in stairs

27. add home elevator

28. add foundation plaque on each home

29. add garage doors with person-doors in them and lights/convert
garages to office space, micro retail, mini flats, maker space, workshops


30. add lofts to garages


31. teach ‘personal business for life’ to entrepreneurs (PB4L,

32. help elders, shut-ins and others to keep connected and develop

33.  teach computer skills such as social media, how to use for craft sales so people can continue to contribute to society, how to use Shopify, Instagram, facebook, skype… with keep connected tutorials

34.  make sure preconditions for economic takeoff, are in place

35. require 0-step entry – no stairs, visitable homes, wider corridors, artistic grab bars, walker-friendly bathrooms, barrier free with roll-in showers/senior friendly


encourage active signage, architectural signage

37.   make available high speed Internet, Netflix, Magic Jack, d-link
Ethernet, basic cable, Aetonix communications/security/fall protection-alert

38.   green your home for real,


offer density bonuses for developments that include a residential component (apartments, co-ops, condos, hotels…)


mandate not just more density but more intense land use—mixing together of various uses on a single site

41.   employ people as ‘GO’ – gentile organisateur – event organizers,
like an adult camp councilor, Club Med style,
also used by Daniels Corp in their condo communities

42. use negative property taxes where warranted to allow less desirable uses to find a location (like group homes)

43. register your community via Google+ for Google maps

44. curate your community via Twitter and other SM; eg, here’s what Sweden does,; more about curation


exploit vertical rent curves as well as horizontal ones; eg, have 2-story street-facing towns at base of condo or office towers

46. create shared building projects/construction co-op, where residents volunteer to help neighbors, and get chore help in return

47. have uniform vertical transition lines and step back of buildings at transition points 

48. communal heating/cooling, communal services like well water, septic services

49. add tiny houses to existing housing stock– room for visitors, more affordable housing, more density

50.  plant organized street trees 

51. allow farmgate marketing

52. create on-farm restaurant

53. start direct-to-home and direct-to-restaurant farm deliveries/sales

54. create food truck city with outdoor sports zone and inflatable rides for kids/teens

55. micro garden plots for rent 

56. design boulevards with animations such as cafes, art shops, seating, games, public art…

57. start community-run campsites

58. build community-run RV and tiny house sites for lease

59. create community-run “motel”

60. offer community-run storage/backyard storage sheds for rent

61. build community-run restaurant, eg, Jon Bon Jovi’s Soul Kitchen restaurant,

62. offer land lease community

63. create vacant land condo community

64. offer freehold opportunities as well

65. offer space for lease, micro retail, office, learning, storage, playing

66. create “points” program like “air miles” but for renters/turn renters into owners

67. offer in-home services for elders*

68. build off-grid, net zero housing with grid backup


add leisure uses… everywhere including sports and street art and performance art

70. run house exchange program with other communities

71. run sports camps and learning camps

72. create live-work-play-learn-shop-grow-build-make-affordable-diversified-sustainable-visitable-neo-urbanist

73. create shared workshop and build area

74. start mural arts program

75. use performance zoning where everything is permitted except that which is expressly forbidden 

76. put on coffee house/resident show

77. encourage business setup coaching, business and life coaching

79. allow outward expansion of cities to naturally drive up density in existing areas/provide for different lifestyles

80. make sure business services, financing, marketing, accounting, bookkeeping,
legal, banking, tech, sales assistance available…

81. offer land leases/parking for tiny houses/RVs/mobile homes on craigslist or

82. require window on the world/at grade openings to the street; no curtain wall at grade


add accessory residential uses to industrial/commercial zones

84. add swimmable nature ponds to property

85. no 1-way streets

86. all street patterns in grid/so all streets share some traffic

87. allow on-street parking

88. allow mixed use

89. add accessory residential and other services + public transit to industrial parks; learn how to re-animate industrial parks

90. encourage front porches

91. bring buildings close to streets/sidewalks to create cozy public room; have build-to lines instead of setbacks

92. do not tolerate petty vandalism or graffiti

93. make sure all buildings open to street–eg, no mirrored glass curtain wall

94. add density bonus for residential type uses  

95.reduce or eliminate sideyard/rearyard setbacks

96. have minimum heights/not maximum heights

97. require minimum densities/not maximums

98. encourage more not less ingress/egress on streets and highways

99. allow work from home with up to 5 employees

100. embrace principles of conservation subdivision design,

101. base planning decisions on highest and best use rule,

102. combat NIMBY forces,

103. ban gated communities

104. embrace micro-planning where every square meter counts,

105. mix social and racial classes together

106. avoid ghettoizing impoverished people

107. ensure that policing is based on community acceptance not enforcement/adopt-a-cop programs: direct community interaction with police

108. encourage volunteerism/reduce rents for students willing to provide community serivce hours

109. maintain public infrastructure

110. mix together building forms to produce variegated skyline and individuation of address

111. survey informal settlements and convert slums to deeded lands/provide clear legal title/home equity is no 1 source of startup capital worldwide

112. encourage home ownership, debt reduction and belongingness (identification by people with their surroundings giving them mental, physical, spiritual and, eventually, a financial stake; a feeling of possession)

113. present buildings to the street (eg, +.5 meter above road grade)

114. permit all left turns

115. parks require active uses (eg, c-store, teahouse, art studios, restaurants) before they can act as a hub for community– passive recreation is not sufficient not will it improve community safety

116. vertical windows

117. golden section design

118. steep pitched roof lines with eaves

119. complete roof treatment

120. civil dialogue between urbanists and environmentalists

121. consensus or, at least, a process for reaching civic consensus (eg., charettes) amongst community groups, urban planners, municipal politicians, developers, residents, conservationists and other special interest groups

122. respect sanctity of contracts

123. protection of private property rights from confiscatory policies restricting uses including building form and type of use, rent control, density limits, downzoning, signage, wind rights, air rights, riparian rights, subsurface rights, grazing rights, arbitrary expropriation…

124. create enterprise zones

125. make micro-loans available for local entrepreneur start-ups

126. tax abatements for brownfield redevelopment

127. repopulate downtown with density bonuses and lower development charges

128. encourage organic architecture–structures that seem to have grown on their sites rather than having been constructed

129. prosecute corruption in government

130. combat homelessness

131. encourage public transit and more density/intensity close to public transit nodes

132. create an “eyes-on-the-park” program to add more residential uses around existing public parks, on land leases to benefit charities/churches/NFPs/cities/towns/townships and provide affordable building lots; also improves public safety/park utilization

133. support services like, where owner lists item/renter borrows and returns it/owner keeps 90% of rent/heynay handles transaction/reduces consumption by borrowing from neighbors/be cool to add that users can also elect to set aside 5% for favorite charity/NFP

134. add social enterprises to your community where profits go to support charities/NFPs/foundations/causes

135. embrace real estate invention,

136. improve walkability by adding sidewalks, mixed uses, bus/transit shelters, density/intensity of land use; test the walkability of your home/property here,

137. revive the family farm like Bill and Anne Saunders did with

138. create social enterprises to fund NFPs/charities/foundations, like adding residential rentals in church basements or renting surplus land for development on long term land leases  

139. add mini contractor yards/create truck parking by stacking sea cans 2-high and adding roof/double end it w/ storage as well

140. add accessory residential and other non traditional uses to industrial parks/office parks,

141. mash together two non obvious uses like say a plant greenhouse with a biomass power plant, where the plants thrive on CO(2) proudce via power generation

142. create private outdoor space for tenants using chain link fencing with fabric screening

143. create a “human terrarium” where offices/workstations/meeting rooms are in nature inside a glass dome (as proposed for the Googleplex expansion in 2015); allow public to access parts of industrial/office park buildings

144. add a tribal council ring inside office spaces and in community parks 


145. put in raised garden beds

146. add outdoor kitchens/create outdoor “room”

147. convert garage to micro retail/mini office/workshop/bachelor pad and install carport in driveway

148. use accessible ramps to get to roof or next floor instead of stairways

149. build a media tower/add a TGB, tethered gas balloon


150. make office space and retail space more of a meeting/learning/gathering curated places


151. encourage/allow agra entertainment/tourism (eg, Saunders Farm), farmgate marketing, direct-to-table/restaurant marketing

152. encourage diversity not only in built form but also lifestyle choice; for example, allow for rural settlement and conservation subdivision design in addition to urban, high density living condition/not everyone wants to live on the 30th floor of a condo building downtown above a pub

153. Teach entrepreneurship to residents

154. Give out copies of $100 Startup

155. For office buildings, add GOs too/build linkages and community

156. Go door to door to identify opportunities for residents

157. Create entrepreneur mentor position in each community; someone who does home and business “house” calls 

158. Make a tech package to available to each tenant/resident/business including high speed Internet, wi-fi, basic cable, Netflix, net phone, large screen wall-mounted TV

159. Add pool and ping pong tables to communal areas such as coworking spaces and laundry rooms to help residents/co-workers mix

160. Build micro suites, coworking spaces like WeLive in NYC


161. Animate a city or town via public art; above is a 42-ton mechanical pachyderm designed by Helen Marriage (the Sultan’s Elephant project), which drew an audience of one million out into the streets of London

Preconditions for Economic Takeoff

Animation is not just about getting urban design and the built form right. It is also about getting the preconditions for economic takeoff right. A vibrant economy is like a computer; it depends for its success on getting both hardware (urban form) and software (political/economic/social/environmental factors) right. 

I met Walt Rostow when he visited Ottawa in the 1960s, and enjoyed listening to the great man hold forth on his ideas about how to establish the preconditions for economic takeoff in Developing Nations. Walt Rostow’s work of the 1950s and 1960s and recent work by Hernando De Soto and others (I have dared to add in a few suggestions) that what is needed for economic take-off today.

Preconditions for economic takeoff include:

1. education
2. health
3. supply of and private ownership of housing (safe, affordable, privately owned)
4. clear title to housing and accurate addressing and surveying
5. tolerance of and legalization of cottage industries
6. tolerance of mixed use neighborhoods where people can work, live, shop, trade, play, entertain all in the same location
7. effective legal system, respect for the rule of law and contracts
8. moderate levels of taxation/avoidance of confiscatory levels of taxation
9. reintegration of black and gray markets (deeding of lands and title in squatter settlements)
10. active capital markets (borrowing circles and financial recycling of savings and investment, home mortgage availability)
11. culture of and support for entrepreneurship and innovation
12. widespread Internet access and effective communications system
13. sound public infrastructure
14. extensive private ownership of economy
15. respect for human rights
16. protection of private property rights
17. good, honest and transparent government
18. social peace and harmony
19. strong civic institutions
20. civil defense
21. trust, courage, hope and faith.

You can read more about this at,

How to Super Charge Your Economy

So what are the main economic engines of the future? They’ll probably include:

-technology including green tech, quantum computing and communications

-health and elder care

-education, lifetime learning, mentoring, coaching, teaching, speaking

-arts, entertainment, music, books, blogs, social media, events, festivals

-sports and sports leagues

-real estate


-trades, apprenticeship, internships



-artisanal industry, 3-d printing

-artisanal farming/foodie culture

-energy production and energy saving/conservation


-space exploration and settlement

-military and intelligence spending

-financial planning






-marketing, marketing agencies



-not-for-profit/social enterprise

-micro-business/micro-retail/personal business for life

-infrastructure development and spending

-Internet and Internet of things










-coding/software arts

-personal service/personal care workers

-repair and renovation


-event organizer

How to Super Charge Canada’s Economy

I also asked myself the question: what could a small nation like Canada do to supercharge economic development? Well, it could do worse than develop–

a)  individual centers of excellence across Canada providing education/training/research and other support for each principal economic driver 

b) a 4-lane national road from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island/improving the pathetic state of the trans-Canada highway

c) truly broadband speed comparable to those in South Korea, nationally available

d) centers of sports excellence, modeled after Australia

e) high schools of the arts, technological arts, entrepreneurship, healthcare and trades in all cities and towns in the nation

f) burying all electric utility wires in Canada/hardening them to weather and other untoward events

g) light rail and subways in every major town and city

h) fast rail connecting cities across the country and connecting to the US/on a par with Euro Rail or perhaps leapfrogging them with something akin to Elon Musk’s hyperloop

There, that’s a start.

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

* services for elders, eg: nurse visit, social support, baseline health monitoring, cleaning service, meal plan, excursion service, personal care worker, personal security and
health monitoring, life coaching, physio, yoga and other
health-related visits, lock it and leave it
service, family video/audio/text
communication system, emergency alert, fall alert, security alert,
telemedicine, reminders, events, peer-to-peer socialization, and more

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.