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Town Building the New American Town

December 12th, 2016 by

Much has been written about the changing nature of the workplace and the market demands of fulfilling the needs of distributed workers, the need for employers to attract knowledge workers, and town design that thwarts rather than supports sprawl by bringing the neighborhood and workplace together. 

The Town Builders Collaborative (TBC) represents leading edge thinkers in providing solutions to the development of towns that support a better quality of life in the new and evolving economy. This national collaborative integrates the disciplines of Place-making, Community Building and Economic Development as the foundation of building the New American Town. The integrator of the TBC is the Marquette Companies, a Chicago based real estate investment consortium representing institutional investors nationally.

The TBC is building real life places that prototype the applications of research in the arenas of New Economy Community and Work life. One goal of the TBC is to help provide sophisticated national solutions and competencies to town building stakeholders in local, more parochial regions of the country.

Town Building is distinguished from the traditional discipline of real estate development by its holistic view of planning and building meaningful places that broadly influence and contribute to the health and well being of town and city residents.

  • Town building focuses on creating market demand rather than capitalizing on markets where demand already exist 
  • Town Building integrates the multi-disciplines of place-making, community building and economic development as a unified civic entrepreneurial effort 
  • Town Building creates value by working to fulfill the entire hierarchy of customer needs ranging from physical, to informational, to emotional, to spiritual needs 

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  • Town Building integrates diversity of residents and the housing types that support them into its neighborhoods. Broad income levels are accommodated by providing tax credit multifamily apartments, market rate luxury apartments, and for-sale single family attached/detached homes. These include homes for economically disadvantaged families provided by community wide volunteer programs such as Habitat for Humanity, and local and regional charitable organizations. 
  • Town Building community programs generate a ripple effect of benefits to not only the local neighborhood stakeholders, but the broader community as well.

Town Building is the antidote to sprawl and many of the social and economic dysfunctions fostered by the more static, single use and fragmented building patterns of the post World War II generation of real estate development. 

The New American Town is the result of applying Town Building Disciplines that integrate live, work, learn and play environments in compact, walk able, mixed use neighborhoods that foster a significantly higher quality of life than we currently experience in communities developed by adhering to our current obsolete development patterns and practices.

Technology and its growing information-based “new economy,” now provides business owners, employers and the creative talent they depend on with the freedom and choice to locate where quality of life is highest. Town Building is emerging as an industry in response to the quest for towns that provide a higher quality of life that is fit for our times.

The TBC applies 3 core disciplines that form the pillars of Town Building to nurture high quality-of-life neighborhoods:

1. Place-Making

High quality neighborhoods foster an enduring sense of place based on time-tested Place-Making principles that generate memorable attachment to its environment, streets and neighborhoods. Several conditions nurture that affinity or attachment including a wide diversity of building uses, close-grained scale of blocks and buildings that nurture frequent engagement of people, integration of old and new buildings, well-used public amenities, and a compact residential population. People can walk from home to work, church, school, recreation, shops, cafes and entertainment venues; all serving as the armature for genuine community building and economic growth.

2. Community Building

Collaborative working structures are a main organizing principle in our new and evolving economy. Social capital (networks of people with shared norms and trust) are as important as physical capital (plant, equipment and technology), and human capital (intellect, character, education and training) in driving innovation and growth.

Social capital thrives in the quality of our relationships that we have with others as we build friendship, membership, partnership and ownership in our neighborhoods; the 4 experiences of building genuine community. Town builders work to build quality relationships and the programs that support them with public and private stakeholders for the benefit of the whole community. 

Providing centralized municipal services and programs is expensive to a growing town. The New American Town is designed to provide decentralized municipal services and capitalize on empowering local non-profit organizations as agents for the delivery of community programs, mobilizing residents to utilize assets within their own neighborhoods, solving local issues from within the neighborhoods, and building neighborhood social capital that focuses on what the community “can do”, as opposed to focusing on its deficiencies. Local non-profits also act as a conduit for municipal, private, and faith based initiatives in the community as they bridge the gap between state, county, city and neighborhood boundaries, mapping assets in the neighborhood and creating value for residents through the dissemination of information and fostering partnerships with local agencies.

The New American Town Community Building Model has been developed by the Institute for Community (IFC), a national non-profit organization operating in Illinois and Georgia.  The IFC is experienced in partnering with for-profit developers and piloted its community building programs at Highpoint Community, in Romeoville, Illinois, located 30 miles southwest of Chicago, Illinois.  

The IFC has effectively coordinated city, county, and state services in the community while integrating a local church, arts center, recreation center, and family resource center into the wheel-of-lifev2neighborhood at no cost to the local municipality. The neighborhood consists of 552 multi-family units (120 of which are tax credit apartments), 600 single family attached/detached homes, a bank, 100,000 SF community retail center, and a neighborhood town center featuring a 27,000 SF Recreation Center, 22,000 SF Creative Arts Center and planned Neighborhood Retail and Creative Arts Day Care. The Recreation Center is constructed by the developer, financially supported by the neighborhood, and managed by the IFC. On completion of the housing, the IFC assumes ownership of the Recreation Center while assisting a local church start-up within the IFC facilities. 

 As the church grows, it contributes back to the community by offering its “Wheel of Life Programming” in the areas of volunteerism, family programs, and arts based initiatives. The neighborhood center, while located within a specific neighborhood, is available for participation from the broader municipal and county communities. 

Each neighborhood center is capable of creating jobs and anchoring retail initiatives at the local level. Through collaborative partnerships with development, municipal, and local partners, the community can provide job training, financial planning, and home ownership opportunities. 

3. Economic Development

Town building serves as a strong economic development catalyst for local communities. The information age of work/life integration is replacing the industrial age of work/life segregation. Employers, for the first time, are chasing knowledge-based talent. And that talent is choosing to locate in vibrant, mixed-use, integrated communities that embrace diversity and where affordable housing, transportation options, social activities, networks and recreational opportunities abound. 

Properly crafted neighborhoods provide a bridge from the old economy to the new, transforming markets with new found wealth. By attracting emerging knowledge workers and promoting local entrepreneurship, they help build local businesses that compete globally….all from diverse mixed use neighborhoods that allow you to both live and work in the same environment.

New American Towns are breakthrough opportunities

The New American Town is the product of breakthrough thinking about the future of our towns and is currently being applied not only in Highpoint but also in a 3000 home community called “Magnolia” in LaGrange, Georgia. Other breakthrough communities are being planned for New American Towns, like LaGrange in other areas of the country.  

ma65  These towns are being planned and built adhering to the 3 core principles while providing decentralized community services through local non-profit neighborhood organizations operating from within each neighborhood town center. The financial burden for providing those services is born by the developer, and the local residents through offsetting costs of local volunteer service. The ripple effect of the influence provided by the civic minded and accountable neighborhood residents is extended throughout the broader community. Each 400 acres of planned growth area can support the infrastructure and programming costs needed to support this community model. 

urbansprawl Its application is fit for not only new Greenfield communities in the path of suburban sprawl, but also those hard hit by natural disasters begging to be built in a manner that fulfills the holistic needs of its suffering residents. The opportunity to reinvent a higher quality of life for the American people is here.  


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