The Smart Growth Cycle

Ann Arbor’s Lower Town Project vs. East Lansing’s City Center II

SMART GROWTH CAN be viewed as any combination of strategies, planning, policies, legislation, regulations or procedures that attempt to manage the growth of a community. The following is just one example of a typical set of goals for smart growth policies, according to smartgrowthamerica.org:

  • Neighborhood livability.
  • Better access, less traffic.
  • Thriving cities, suburbs and towns.
  • Shared benefits.
  • Lower costs, lower taxes.
  • Keeping open space open.

Although these are all admirable goals, there tends to be a disconnect between the desired ends and what actually is achieved by smart growth policy. This essay will provide key information about two specific smart growth projects in Michigan, and help trace each project's development. These two projects include Ann Arbor's Lower Town Project and East Lansing's City Center II.

Smart Growth: Ann Arbor's Lower Town Project vs. East Lansing's City Center II - click to enlarge

Both projects are in different stages of development, and offer valuable insights about the typical development of Smart Growth projects.

It would appear as though there is a typical pattern of development that arises amongst smart growth projects. Unfortunately, the bulk of the problems for these projects may still lie ahead. As Russ Harding, director of the Property Rights Network, says, "No matter how much smart growth is extolled as the preferred land-use policy, it will not succeed. Smart growth suffers from the same fatal flaw that plagues all central planning: a misguided belief that the planners somehow know what choices people should make and that people will make those 'correct' choices if the planners institute the proper incentives." Time will tell whether or not these projects are a success, and PRN will continue to keep you updated in future issues of The Refuge.

Dr. Phil Bellfy's research regarding East Lansing's City Center II - click to enlarge