Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Market Magic?

"Ultimately,...the market...decides what works and what doesn't--a philosophy that Rybcyznski says has proven sound.'Real estate entrepreneurs...long ago replaced planners as urban strategists....'"

"Keynote: The Urbanist, Interview with Witold Rybczynski, by Marc Steiner, The Urbanite, No 72, June 2010.

The notion that planners are bad and that real estate developers and interests are good is a bit farfetched. Over time, public and private intertests have often been on the same page in promoting boneheaded ideas, and some good ones, for city development. Take your pick of examples.

Certainly planners have to carry a lot of the responsibility for the public housing debacle --but private interests pushed urban renewal legislation and implementation. And the disinvestment/redlining and panic peddling of the 1950s/1960s and the foreclosure crisis of today have been largely private -- with the addition of some serious public neglect.

And, of course, not all private, real estate interests are the same. Sometimes the big corporate cheeses act the same as big political planners in promoting mega urban development projects and events while real estate developers scratch their heads. And there is a whole history of planners, from the late 19th century forward, who have questioned private prerogatives and big projects. Many of them did not work for government, some did.

In some sense the tension is between big-scale visioning and investment and incremental, small-scale change. It's not simply about public planning or private real estate development.

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