Smart Growth World Blog


Smart Growth is the Way

By Roger Carson and Melissa Pippin-Carson via The Santa Fe New Mexican

Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico

Downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico

We recently took a trip to Orlando, Florida, to attend the National Association of Realtors annual conference. It’s a big deal with all the best and brightest in the industry and keynote speakers like Colin Powell and Lawrence Yun. We wanted to look at what global and national economic issues are affecting real estate and how they are relevant back home in Santa Fe. After attending many lectures, workshops, and roundtable discussions, we came up with three prevailing themes: densification, innovation, and the environment.

Urban living is on the rise and cities are on the offensive to attract a new generation of homeowners from rural and suburban areas. From an economic point of view, it is more cost-efficient to feed and service people in cities so high-quality, high-density living with walkability is booming. As a result, businesses are moving back into cities, municipalities are working to improve schools in cities, and it is projected that 85 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Likewise, Santa Fe, albeit a small city, will become more crowded, too. Growth is not an option; it will happen. Choosing to grow smarter is the option, so we all need to ask ourselves what that will look like and how we can be Density Different.

As a market town for over four hundred years, our economy is dependent on people coming here for our goods and services. But traditional businesses and service providers are losing ground daily to the emerging virtual economy of Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and WeWork, to name but a few. People are moving toward online, shared, and experiential commerce. Traditional mom-and-pop stores and local commerce will need to innovate so outside commerce doesn’t dictate to us. Instead, we will provide to it. More investment in a better broadband infrastructure will allow Santa Fe to create new business models for the digital future.

In 1913, the National Association of Realtors adopted a Code of Ethics and the first words to the preamble begin, “Under all is the land.” With the growing world population, there is pressure not only to figure out how to best use the land, but how to best protect the land. Businesses and investors are becoming less interested in cities that are fossil fuel-dependent and looking for cleaner, alternative-energy-minded cities for long-term investment. The economic powerhouse of Germany is thriving with investment and industry and it is not only one of the largest economies in Europe but is one of the greenest. Germany will be off oil and nuclear power this century. Solar energy is now 75 percent more efficient and 75 percent less expensive than it was a decade ago. Santa Fe can attract more business by making a stance with solar energy. Commercial real-estate owners can attract new business tenants by investing in solar energy. It’s that simple.

So, with all that in mind, we believe our real estate here at home is in a pretty good place. We have for centuries been addressing many of the issues that the rest of the country is just now waking up to. By continuing to grow smarter and greener, we will preserve our history and grow our economy. Let’s continue to make smart choices and keep Santa Fe one of the most desirable cities for our future generations to live and visit.


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