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Overcoming the addiction to quantitative growth, fortunately, is compatible with great qualitative changes.
René Dubos

Our Programs: Sustainability


A central core that’s alive with shopping, entertainment, and job opportunities day and night,

or a sprawling collection of franchises and strip malls that suck life out of downtown.

Recipe for a Donut

  • The design of growth can be more harmful than numbers alone. The well-known "donut" metaphor means that as areas grow, development moves outward into vacant, cheaper land – usually one of the worst patterns possible. Existing services downtown go out of business, leaving most "goodies" on the fringe and little in the middle, i.e., a donut.

  • Not only is this bad economic news for downtown, but the spread-out design means residents can’t do anything without a car, which isn’t healthy for the environment or pocketbook. It creates more congestion and accidents, disenfranchises those who don’t drive (children, elderly, disabled, poor), and forces cash-strapped cities to spend more on roads and parking instead of schools and other needed services.

  • These suburbs, exurbs, and edge cities, as they’re sometimes called, seldom create a sense of place, since they’re little more than boxy office buildings, malls, and parking lots. Economically, they’re not as sustainable. Notice how often mall businesses turn over, and entire malls may fail when a new one is built – a regional mall, even farther away!

  • Small business owners are often cajoled into the growth-at-any-cost campaign because they’re told more people moving to the area will mean increased sales for them. Don’t bet on it, especially if your business is downtown. Most growth will be on the outskirts, and it will attract national franchises that put smaller shops out of business. Notice how few locally-owned stores are located in shopping malls.