Incrementalism in an urban setting...what is it exactly? Dictionary.com defines it as a policy of making changes, especially social changes, by degrees; gradualism. But applied to a city like Indianapolis, what exactly does it mean and why is it important? Here is how Strong Towns begins to define one aspect of incrementalism - incremental growth.
So towns and cities used to be built in a very gradual manner, one that was built on building almost exactly what was needed and nothing more. It was not fueled by debt or by bureaucrats armed with zoning laws. No, it was defined by copying exactly what early settlers in the US and around the world knew and saw others do. It did not take a great leap of the imagination to envision adding another story or two to an existing building if demand clearly showed that it was time to do so. Development had to build upward and intensify because transportation was slow and cumbersome - it was very hard to get to anywhere far in any reasonable amount of time. In other words, cities were built around things that made it very convenient to walk to things.
So in an era of fast automobiles, cheap gasoline and plentiful fast roads, why exactly is compact, incremental development an important thing today? Why does it matter that Indianapolis should continue to intensify its existing development pattern upward instead of outward? This is something we'll be exploring in greater depth at our next Strong Indy meetup on August 17th. We'll be hearing from a handful of people on what incrementalism is to them and how it applies to Indy. We'll have time for discussion afterwards and hope to do a follow-up to this post with thoughts from everyone.