Growth is good, right? Well, not always. Since 1930, we’ve added less than 8,000 people to our City’s population, but our City has expanded from 12 to 48 square miles. That’s 4x more land, largely because we started building a City based not by how far a person can walk – but how far they can drive. Think about this: We have enough road in Peoria County to stretch from Peoria to Seattle and back. Infrastructure costs money to maintain and we haven’t grown our population to pay for our growth in infrastructure.
I’m an advocate of Smart Growth, which means I want to encourage growth in our urban core: our downtown and the neighborhoods that historically sprung up around it. These are neighborhoods that are dense, walk-able and produce higher value for the City per square mile. We can do this by identifying opportunities for meaningful incremental projects that don’t change the character of a neighborhood but are intended to meet the needs of the people that already live there, like reduce and re-purpose roads to make them more walk-able and bike-able, prioritize pedestrian and multi-modal infrastructure in the urban core, support small-scale developers to reinvest in vacant lots and buildings in their own neighborhoods, and investigate what tools might encourage growth in the historic parts of town, like community-based development corporations or public land trusts.
This is how we can grow in a sustainable way that brings communities together and allows us to pay for the infrastructure that we need.