Independent Cities

I’ve been thinking for a while that the energy, ecological, and economic crises that we are in will really force some deep re-thinking about American life.  If we are to improve our quality of life, we must decouple from the global system and reactivate local life.  This is a path to independence.

Recently I had the chance to work with my friend Tad Long at the Kentucky League of Cities on a project in Bonnieville.   Bonnieville is about 30 minutes south of Elizabethtown off of I-65.  The town itself is very small.  But it has retained it’s own identity – it is one of the last Interstate interchanges in this portion of the USA to have absolutely no development of any type associated with it.  No gas stations, fried food pits, wal-marts, adult book stores, etc.

After spending much time in the community – Tad conducted at least 4 workshops over the last 8 weeks including a great design charette, it dawned on us that what we were hearing was the desire for the community to set it’s own course – to become independent.  Here are the main points:

The Big Idea!
Create a Sustainable and Independent
Community
The first impression of Bonnieville for most
outsiders is the entrance from I-65. The gateway
should reflect the community’s traditional culture
and entrepreneurial spirit. It is Bonnieville’s
STATEMENT TO THE WORLD – “Here we
are – authentic, genuine, and independent.”
We recommend:
􀂊 Development of the motel property into a
public/farmers market.
􀂊 Grow the market into subsidiary businesses
where local citizens can afford to establish
small attached booths or stores to sell local
crafts, teach local trades, and market other
local tourism opportunities.
􀂊 “Market the market” to draw customers
from the region, state, and country. Ideas
include developing an outdoor classroom –
“How Bonnieville went from dependent to
independent” – free from global markets,
economics and outsourcing.
􀂊 Collaborate with regional, state and
educational institutions to bring free or lowcost
resources in developing the concept.
􀂊 Seek other national nonprofit partners for
funding, planning and development.
􀂊 Equal parts local production and global
marketing.
A sustainable and independent economic
development strategy accomplishes several things:
􀂊 Establishes Bonnieville as one of America’s
first sustainable and independent communities
– locally owned, produced and sold.
􀂊 Honors the community’s values.
􀂊 Provides an economic opportunity for local
citizens.
􀂊 Creates local jobs.
􀂊 Invites and welcomes newcomers without
jeopardizing the small town charm.
􀂊 Visitors arrive, learn, buy, spend and leave.
􀂊 Leverages other opportunities for
sustainable business growth such as bed-andbreakfasts,
local arts and crafts stores, farmto-
table restaurants and historic tourism.
􀂊 Integrates the market as part of a “cultural
tourism experience” that includes the local
Amish population, future baseball event
attendees, Civil War re-enactments, and
Frenchman’s Knob visitors.

I also did the vision illustrations in the report – here’s an example- turning a dead motel property into a community market:

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