Treasuring Places of Character

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One of my greatest joys over the last two plus years has been watching my son grow up. On the cusp of moving from toddler to little boy, I increasingly see the all-important role Paula and I have in shaping his character (enter, “timeout”). But environment has an impact too, and one of the best places for him to exercise his character is on the playground. Here, there are opportunities to take on new challenges such as scaling the ladder and trying out the big slide, to utilize his creativity in the sandbox, to learn how to interact with both the bigger and smaller kids alike. But as we explore playgrounds around Austin, we notice they’re not all equal. Continue reading

Local Land Ownership and the American Dream

imageThree years ago Paula and I became first time homeowners and landlords when we purchased our central Austin duplex. Despite all the paperwork (I never knew I could sign my name so many times), it was all pretty thrilling. But looking back at it now, I can see more clearly than ever that this process, more than anything else we have done so far, helped us better secure our financial footing by giving us the ability to make payments as if we were renting, but build equity in the process. And of course, it gave us a sense of ownership and control over our own little piece of the American Dream. Continue reading

Growing Deep

imageThe unique flavor of local businesses is as beautiful as it is important, helping to make each place special and combating the spread of “Anywhere, USA” towns. Yet one thing that has perplexed me is how do these same businesses retain their local image in the face of success? Isn’t expansion and the franchising of stores the logical next step?

Well, I recently discovered that growing deep in place can be an alternative to growing broadly. Here are two great examples of this concept: Continue reading

A Place Worth Coming Home To

imageIn my last post I made the argument that in order to build a legacy, LeBron James needed to root himself deeply in community, to become as closely associated with Cleveland as Michael Jordan was with Chicago. Cleveland is LeBron’s home, and I think most of us were thrilled to hear that he will be returning this coming year. He explained his decision by reflecting on his deep ties to Northeast Ohio – ties so strong that four successful years with the Miami Heat weren’t enough to make him forget. LeBron is coming home.

LeBron’s story is a great example of the kind of migration that hometowns across the nation are experiencing. Continue reading

Placemaking The Spaces In-Between

fencePlace matters, yet for most of us it’s hard to see how one can make a difference in this area. Between zoning and building codes, we often leave the built environment to developers and urban planners, figuring if real change is going to happen it’ll need to be big.

But what if that wasn’t the case? Continue reading

The Farmers’ Market: Hipster Loitering or Legitimate Shopping Experience?

imageThis morning the Golbabai family visited a farmers’ market in an Austin mall parking lot. Similar to my mother-in-law’s recent discovery of the usefulness of Google, I find myself a tentative and extremely late discoverer of this Saturday morning phenomenon. As someone who is more comfortable at the supermarket, the farmer’s market provided an excellent on-the-ground opportunity to compare the localist values I aspire to and the globalist world I’m used to.

Some observations comparing the supermarket and the farmers’ market from the perspective of a consumer: Continue reading