As different as any two groups of people can be, there is usually something that binds them. Many of us would think of the residents of Greenville and those of Townsend as drastically unalike, but as you’ll read in “A Tale of Two Town Centers” (page 72) by Richard L. Gaw, that’s not entirely true.
Both groups are neck deep in battles to stop or modify major developments planned for their neighborhoods. The scale of the projects may differ, but the reasons for the opposition are the same: stress on existing infrastructure and a fundamental change in the character of the areas.
A mixed-use complex almost as big as King of Prussia Mall is planned for Greenville, an island surrounded by some of the most congested roads in the state. Townsend is looking at a more modest project, but one the neighbors are no less concerned about.
Such scenes play out over and over again across the state. And as passionately as some of us may oppose them, they happen for one simple reason: demand. There is always a developer looking at an opportunity, and, yes, they stand to profit greatly. But they profit off our desire for convenience. On some level, we want these projects.
But we want it all, don’t we? A chunk of property and a new home, shopping and services that are near but not too near, and convenient driving are all part of what we’ve been conditioned to expect. Evidently, we don’t want open space as much as we claim—or we want our own open space, right at home.
Open space for all is important. Saving what’s left seems to require one of two things: curbing population growth (impossible) or developing differently: higher density and better services in confined areas. That may mean reaching upward. Think small, pre-war American cities with the latest technology.
It’s economical. Dare I say that, done well, and with mass transit, it’s green. So maybe it’s time to re-think what development could be—and re-think our own needs. The world is only getting smaller.