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Welcome - my name is Kevin Klinkenberg, and this site "The Messy City" is my blog and company website. I started blogging on urban planning and design issues in 2007, and began working in the field in 1993. Please feel free to connect with me on any of the social media sites listed here. Thanks for reading.

Development from the bottom-up

Very often when we discuss economic development it's about what a city can do or what its leaders should do. That's appropriate, but it's also important to build from the bottom-up or from the grass roots. Four stories this week of bottom-up ideas or approaches, concluding with a really great TED talk.

Eric Alexander writes about the long, slow but vital work necessary to actually connect with people in order to move redevelopment ahead.

The journey has been long, but the result has been a local smart growth movement made up of civic organizations, chambers of commerce, and a healthy segment of the building industry — some of whom were former skeptics. A local businessman who was a huge critic now is the co-chair of our board and a passionate supporter.

It is worth noting that the successes we have achieved in our suburban region of Long Island were derived without one big project, federal or state grant, or plan or directive from a regional body or higher level of government. The progress has simply been a series of strategic interventions over a long period by community, government, and business leadership.


We are a movement that enjoys ideas and placemaking excellence and are proud of our progress. We shouldn't stop developing the big ideas but also listen to local people who make the decisions for the future of our communities. Take a moment and talk to ten random people in your downtown: Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them how they are doing and what should we be doing to advance placemaking in their community?

Next up, a great new tool to examine property ownership patterns and more, in map form, in your community. Why don't we own this? is still a new site, but the mapping and data is impressive. It's a serious step up from what is commonly available online in terms of local property information.

And next... a successful and interesting bottom-up model to help with food deserts from the Bay Area and SPUR:

SEFA launched the Food Guardian Project to increase access to healthy food by improving the retail environment. Building on lessons learned from previous healthy retail efforts in the Bayview, the Food Guardian Project trains residents of the neighborhood to become food justice experts who act as community liaisons with local food retailers. A key goal of the Food Guardians’ healthy retail model is to strengthen — not burden — local, independently owned businesses and help them with education, technical assistance, equipment and funding.


The healthy retail model being implemented in San Francisco includes both the business side, to help stores shift their business model, and the community engagement side, to create demand, raise awareness and strengthen community. By institutionalizing support for these healthy food retail initiatives within a city agency, San Francisco has a unique opportunity to change the landscape of many of its underserved communities.

Finally, from Ron Finley, my favorite TED talk of the year (so far). Plant some shit!

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