Gustavus Adolphus - Gustaf Adolfs torg

Town Founders were real estate developers

We used to call them our founders, and we honored them by erecting their statues in our town squares. Today we just call them “developers.” — Andrés Duany, Cofounder, and leader of the New Urbanism. The urban planner of Porta Norte.

It is human nature to resist change. When we were cavemen, if something changed in our environment, it may mean death (intruders, animals, etc.). We have evolved to resist change.

Today, real estate development is one of the most tangible ways a society changes, so society tend to resist it.

Real estate developers of the past were called Town Founders. They were the primary protectors of towns from intruders, animals, etc. by building forts, moats, walls, residences, commerce, etc. Interests were aligned, hence the excellent reputation of “Town Founders”.

So, continuing our survival patterns of resisting change without the added incentive of our survival (we don’t have our life at stake anymore), society tends to resist new developments. For example, you live in a house in a low-density area. If a developer wants to build a high rise, the community will fight them. The residents do not want the added traffic, construction noise, pollution, and the workers for two years in their neighborhood. The developer wants his project built. Short-term interests are opposed. We tend to think lowly of people who degrade our quality of life, hence the bad reputation of “greedy developers”.

The long-term interests of the neighborhood and real estate developers are aligned. Increased density makes us less reliant on the car by making it feasible for new businesses to survive. Increased demand leads to more products and services offered nearby.

The job of our modern-day Town Founders, real estate developers, is not to protect our lives anymore but to create a vibrant town were economic life, health, community, and cultural life thrives. If developers do not provide any of these, by all means, resist!

If you think someone is doing an excellent job of founding a town or improving our cities, help or join them. 😉

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