It is profoundly difficult to get to a destination without first having a plan, setting goals, tracking metrics, being held accountable and having a map. Yet this is precisely what many governments at all levels are doing—they know what they want when they see it, when it is brought forward by a proponent eager to change or reshape their community in new ways. More often, they know what they don’t want when they see it.
This random walk into the future—some projects supported and approved, others rejected—is a time-delayed, confrontational process bedeviling municipalities, townships, counties and regions all over Canada and, indeed now that the British planning system has more or less been adopted worldwide, affecting urban and rural land development everywhere.
But what if an approval authority—a town, city, village, county, township, province or state—decided to be pro-active, what would their economic development policy, land use plan, master plan or official plan and zoning ordinances/bylaws look like? They might look quite different—perhaps they would become places where instead of everything been prohibited unless specifically allowed, everything would be permitted unless expressly disallowed. They might be places that encourage individual initiative, where neighbors don’t fight over competing land uses, where economic and social development goes hand in hand. These communities might be places that hang on to their most precious resource—their children—instead of watching them move down the road to Ottawa, Toronto, Chicago, LA and New York not to mention London, Shanghai or Mumbai.
How can smaller communities keep their children? Young people are mostly looking for three things—a. economic opportunity, b. excitement/social interaction and c. quality of life. It turns out that adults are also looking for the same three things but it is how they define the latter two that is different. To an elder, weekly bridge meetings and access to nearby shopping might be enough. For young people, they want their community to score high on Richard Florida’s Diversity Index (sometimes called the Bohemian Index or Creativity Index).
Florida calibrates the Creativity Index via a mix of four equal factors: 1. the creative class share of the workforce; 2. proportion of tech industry; 3. amount of innovation and 4. diversity of the population. The Creativity Index is Florida’s baseline indicator of a region’s overall standing in the creative economy and his barometer of a region’s longer run economic potential.
London-based architect Eric Kuhne added his thoughts to this debate. Eric said, “Leisure is the new infrastructure.” By this he meant, that every project from mundane office buildings and industrial parks to shopping plazas and bucolic parks ought to have an entertainment dimension because it makes economic and social sense to do that.
This report explores what any place and specifically McNab Braeside can do to ensure its own economic future. Civic authorities should not wait for debt-riddled Ontario or deficit-plagued Canada or for that matter inwardly-focused state and federal governments in the US to come to their rescue nor do they have to spend huge amounts of their own precious tax dollars to carve out exciting economic and social futures for their community. No, all they have to do is show leadership which is what leadership must decide is in everyone’s best interests to do. The other thing they need? They simply need to know what to do…