Is the Idea of Building New Cities or Towns Worth the Impact?

Yesterday I happened upon an interesting and disheartening thread about someone who went to an event in downtown St. Louis with her daughter. She was surprised to find how vacate and decrepit the area was (which isn’t the case across all of downtown, but certainly in some parts).

St. Louis has a number of different “downtown” areas, each feeling more and more like the suburbs the further west from the Arch (I like and work in one such area called the Central West End). There are many areas of St. Louis filled with beautiful old brick houses and magnificent stone buildings that have long since fallen into disrepair. Offices, businesses, and people have moved away from downtown in lieu of shiny new places with the hope of prosperity.

This is a multifaceted issue, though I should say that I don’t think any specific area is more deserving to thrive than any other area. Not every area can thrive.

That said, the drive to build new structures seems odd to me when there are so many structures that already exist. There’s the financial cost along with the environmental cost (though on both accounts, I’m sure that many buildings constructed today have higher safety and environmental standards than those built 100 years ago).

This came to mind when reading about a new city that a billionaire wants to build. It looks cool, but is that really more effective than investing the proposed $400 billion in cities that already exist?

At the same time, there are examples of new towns that far outshine existing cities in terms of sustainability. After the recent hurricane in Florida, I learned about a solar-powered town in the hurricane’s path called Babcock Ranch. In addition to 700,000 solar panels, the streets in the town were designed prevent house flooding, and power/internet cables are buried to avoid wind damage. Could such a renovation have been applied to an existing town? Maybe. But perhaps sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch than undo and redo something that was built suboptimally the first time.

I’m processing this topic, obviously not taking a hard stance on it. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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