Sunday, March 07, 2004


Accelerating pace of change in most areas defines the modern world. More than ever, people move about between places, changing them more rapidly than ever. Revitalizing traditional downtowns is still a policy goal even though these are less important than ever. There are no correlations between the welfare of downtowns and the welfare of surrounding metro areas and the policy rationalizations are generally thin.

More significant are large numbers of suburban "lifestyle centers" in the U.S. These are the places where shopping, visiting, socializing and relaxing now occur. Developers have their ears to the ground and innovate continuously. There are no closed malls under construction in the U.S. today. No one knows how they will evolve in the coming years. There are payoffs to getting it right and this is why competing developers within a climate of flexible rules are the way to efficient outcomes.

Survey results published by I-Sung Kang of Florida State University show that five new planning tools are widely used; some introduce flexibility (performance zoning and transfer of development rights); others limit flexibility (density bonuses and urban service boundaries).

The weight of other evidence for net outcomes throughout the U.S., however, points to a loss of land market flexibility.