Building Economy
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in the inner city
In September 2000, I was given a tour of Baltimore and asked for my recommendations for designing a viable community concept. The work below is my answer. This was submitted to a major foundation for planning funding however they backed the plan to build a bio-technology park with John Hopkins University of instead [link: bio technology park]. The residents were given a chunk of cash to go someplace else and a portion of the ghetto was raised - problem solved and proving once again that it how how a situation looks which is often considered important by those in power rather than what it actually is. The project will generate thousands of jobs, provide needed research facilities and provide mixed use housing - all good things yet if it results in a sustainable economy-ecology it will be a miracle.
Interest in this paper did bring me two projects: Sojourner Douglass and the UniCredit navCenter in Turin, Italy. These are another story. The Challenge that the Concept Paper presented remain unmet. This, in my view, is beyond tragic.
the Emergence of
a Replacement Economy
The task is to break the cycle, install new rules of engagement, rebuild community and make an economy. These are the steps to be taken. They are not a metaphor. They are real. There is no shortcut.

What exists today, despite all efforts, is the shattered debris of a society. The model to follow is not the so-called communities of the affluent ghettos - their economy/ecology is not sustainable either - merely nicer.


Both kinds of ghettos have already collapsed - with one, we just have not noticed it yet. Who is buying the drugs?


The task is to build what has never been built before: a human society based on a new set of social and economic principles. Many of these principles have been around a long time and practiced well. Some are newer and have just achieved intellectual credibility and demonstration. A few have to be invented which means tested and engineered. ALL have to be woven into a new fabric. This makes what has to be done unprecedented. This means every premise has to be challenged. A socially acceptable “good idea” is likely to lead back to the same old result.


An economy has to be built. Not rebuilt. Not improved. BUILT.


This economy has to built from the inside out - it cannot happen from the outside in. It has to be a replacement economy. It has to build itself. The outside can only provide a critical catalyst and an opening market move.


The economy will happen only because of the genius of the people who live in the community and the people who will move there. This genius has to be freed and facilitated. It can be educated (“to lead out”) but it cannot be directed. By definition, it will spring from it’s own well - or, not at all.


This is about trusting people.


A PROCESS can be put in place to facilitate this happening. This process will have to be sustained for a long time. If there is not willingness to do this, it will be kinder to leave things the way they are.


Elements of an economy - a market - can be put in place, as Capital investment, but these will fade unless a true self-generating economy/ecology emerges from the community itself. The good news is there has never been a better time for this to happen. There are more than enough resources available - if they can be integrated instead of remaining self canceling in their efforts.


There are a number of elements that have to be part of this new approach:

social entrepreneurship:

This project will come about only by an exercise of social entrepreneurship. The focus of the project is on building a new viable economy in the neighborhood. A regular economy. However, the neighborhood as it exists today is not able to get sufficient capital from the “regular” economy to build a sustaining base.


In January, 2001, Matt and Gail Taylor did four workshops for the World Economic Forum at Davos. One of the workshops focused on social entrepreneuring. Future Views by iterations collected information and links relevant to this subject. They provide both possible resources and examples of the kind of work that is necessary to make what is described below work.


Architecture is too often thought as a visual art and plaything of the rich. It is far more than this. Architecture is the experience of the built-environment.


The experiential impact of this communities’ environment is almost overwhelmingly depressing. This is a place where most would leave if they could. And, many have, thus, contributing to the environmental decline - a possitive feedback loop.


We do not want to improve this. We do not want to fix it. We will not settle for nice decent, “affordable” housing for the poor - architecture that has charity and dullness written all over it. Great architecture is the heritage of every human and nothing less than this is acceptable.


We will help the community produce great architecture - a good as exists anywhere. And more sustainable than exists almost everywhere. Architecture that reflects the art of the people not some developer’s standard blueprint.


The ability to create environment, like the ability to grow food and educate the young, is a necessary ingredient of any healthy economy and community.


Great architecture does not necessarily mean expensive.

We start with the school building restoration. It will be the place of rebirth, a symbol of it and the studio for the community to learn how to build and use architecture. It’s renewal will create jobs. The first choice of employment will be those living in the community. Skill training will be a part of the building budget. Go a little slower, keep money in the community, build pride and ownership.
The project will require a blend of restoration and new construction. The existing buildings do not have the density, variety nor technical infrastructure necessary to support a viable 21st Century community.
Goal: in two years there is a recognizable renaissance of the built-environment in this community being done by members of the community itself, many of whom now see it as their professional work. Their design/build services are being demanded elsewhere in the Baltimore area.

When people are driving down here to see what is going on, then you will know we are started. When Alexander’s pattern language is evident, everywhere, you will know we are well on on our way. When a new architectural character emerges, unique to this community - and expressive of it - and not some other place’s template, then you will know a self-sustaining place has been created.


This is, of course, a new model of development.


The economy we create here has to be a natural, replacement economy (Jane Jacobs). One that is ecologically sustainable and one that can be fit in the emerging global economy. This is an economy refelctive of Natural Capitalism as described by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins. It avoids upsidedown economics.


This means it has to be built, from the ground up, by employing members of the community in real, useful, creative work.


This will take capital investment in three areas: the community infrastructure (which is almost totally non existent), education of community members (in 21st century work not menial jobs), and, the creation of new, small scale, owner-operated enterprises.


Like any viable economy, failure has to be allowed and it has to be sustainable. Lots of little mistakes - not a few big ones.


The capital base has to be capable of - and used for - the creation of a positive return economic cycling. A fair return for the investment can come out of the community but ownership of the created capital base must remain in the community.

The beginning capital will be used to rebuild the community infrastructure and to educate residents but in a way that simultaneously creates long term career options within the community. This means that the task of creating this new community has to be seen as a market opportunity for it’s members - first “at home” and then, as a service to “export.”

The people living here, and who will be attracted to live and work here, have to become experts at the process of community making and at running the various enterprises that make a viable community.

Goal: in 6 months the word is out. Move to this community because there are opportunities here. Stay here because there is a future here. Build here because you can build capital here.


It will do little good to “rebuild” the economy of this part of the city by establishing it on the old energy, food, material use cycles that are not sustainable. This will only be leaping from the frying pan in to the fire. No sooner will something be starting to happen and the infrastructure will collapse again requiring another intense round of startup capital.


I propose that the opposite is done. I propose that an aggressive program of sustainable ecological practices be installed which will launch this community into a new economy including the ability to “export” new goods and services to the rest of the city, and ultimately, the world.


Good ecology is good economics. Sustainable practices will save money, build community, create useful work and launch new enterprises.


Good urban spaces are, themselves, complex ecologys and rarely understood as such. There is a great deal to learn and document in this realm.

Goal: in three years this community is recognized as the leading edge of sustainable urban ecology and the driving force in a broader Baltimore environmental transformation.


It begins and ends with education but not school-focused “education.”


Watch ducks. Ducks teach baby ducks how to be successful ducks. They do this by a very systematic process. The whole duck community is involved. The price of failure is death. Humans are not so good at this. We teach things - not living skills. And, we teach different things to different people.


The difference between poor people and affluent people is that the affluent know where the levers of the society are and how to work them. They make sure that their baby “ducks” get training and access to these levers (which are jealously guarded). There are those out of the game who do not even know there is a game.


We are going to break though this totally unfair and viscous circumstance.


The navCenter will be a portal to education. Education opportunities will be sponsored and linked to enterprise opportunities as investments. Learning, productive work and learning how to live successfully will be closely linked.


Scholarships will be available through the Community Credit Union as an investment.


To the extent possible, educational opportunities will be imported so that they can be accessed in the community. A portion of the school will be dedicated to this.

Goal: Lifelong learning for practical profit and for personal self improvement become the ideal of this community. In four years, 75% of community members are actively learning and/or teaching in community based programs.

business development:

This approach does not see a difference between business development, community development and personal spiritual development. Each are a facet of what make a whole human experience.


What is striking when you drive into this neighborhood is the obvious lack of commerce. How much of this community’s income comes from outside the community and is spent outside of it? Where is the business base?


The prime measure of this community’s economy is it’s own number of locally owned and operated businesses. Businesses that provide a wide spectrum of the community’s needs. Businesses that house enough capital, know-how and capable people to reinvent themselves as the market shifs. Businesses that sell outside the community and import cash and opportunity into the community.


This community, today, is a colony. Someone is getting rich but it is not those who live in it.


This project has to set as it’s highest goal to attract local business. To make real jobs. To incubate new business startups. To help people find and make 21st Century jobs. In the new economy, you lead or you are out. We cannot settle here for old economy, minimum wage service jobs from imported franchises. We have to see the creation of valuable services and goods. This does not mean that they are all high tech. It means a mix.


If a significant number of people cannot earn a living where they live there will be no community. No community, no future for the children. No future for the children and the old self-defeating cycle repeats itself.

Goal: A hundred new startup businesses that make it in two years. Of the total community revenue base, over 25% is earned and half of it spent in the community within three years. 25% is earned outside the community by the “export” of skilled work and community manufactured goods.

community development:

A community is a place. It has an image. It is different than being elsewhere. It attracts. It means something to live there. It has pride. It largely polices itself. It knows how to raise a future generation. The streets are active and one is never afraid to walk them alone. There are front porches, and celebrations and open doors. People know one another and look out for one another. You can get most of what you need without going somewhere else.

Communities become a container for human activities. They act as a natural support system and infrastructure for individuals and families. Communities are made up of a million little ties. They have to have a certain critical mass to exist. Communities are made one relationship at a time. They are built on a series of positive common experiences.

Goal: A clear sense of commons exists when the community celebrates Spring 2002 with gardens, dances and trade fair - the first of an annual affair that attracts people from several states.

spiritual development:

This is not just about the building of economy and the improvement of the physical environment. It is not just about education to be competitive in the global economy. It is about the spirit of each individual in the community.


It will not do to promote mindless materialism as the salvation of all human problems. In concert with the body of the community improving, the soul has to find new health and expression.


This means a diverse and tolerant life of the mind and spirit. It means art, music, political life, libraries and meetings, active churches, science and garden clubs. It means theater and town halls. It means sister cities and high speed Internet access in every home that wants it. It means community sports and parks and places to meet. It means open markets and street celebrations. It means nature is present in the city not blocks and blocks of hard surfaces that cannot shelter and interact.


It means involvement for the elderly, mentors for the young. It means involvement in life beyond survival. It is seen in active, exciting social spaces that never sleep interlaced with private habitats that are secure, reflective places of personal quietude.

Goal: This is easy. You can see it in the faces.

master planning:

By master planning, I do not mean a PLAN. I mean a planning process supported by a method and system AND the capital base to launch the enterprises that comes out of that process.


This process will be housed in the school navCenter and supported by professional and community staff.

Goal: In one year a community vision has emerged that is the context in which all development options are considered. This vision is derived from and sustained by intense community involvement. It is constantly updated as real work is done. It is a living artifact, feedback driven, vision driven.

rules of engagement:

The condition of this community is the result of exploitation - it will not be improved by exploitation of another kind. Unfortunately, most well meaning attempts to help people end up keeping them where they are. Many community investments, in reality, spend a lot of money on folks from outside of a community to come in and deliver goods and services - no economy is built this way. When improvement is made, values go up and those living in an area are forced out. How can we prevent this?


By changing both the structure and the rules.


In terms of structure, a development trust has to be set up that buys up a significant part of the real estate and other assets, invests in people improving them while making new businesses and then sells it to those people at a fair price at a fair return. This way the “them that has, gets,” cycle is broken and development does not lead to exploitative ends. This process, by the way, takes more money but it also reduces risks because it is an asset based approach from the beginning.


In terms of rules, certain agreements have to be in place. First, if you make money here and that money is coming from the project, you have to live and spend it here. This means investing in the Community Credit Union. In the beginning, the market has to be protected and wealth has to be concentrated. Else, it just quickly dissipates along the well worn channels already in place. The idea is to attract talent and investment back into this community and involve all the residents in making change. It will take two or three years of this kind of intense investment to make a significant shift in the economic critical mass.


Businesses that sell into this community have to be told that they will deliver the same quality of goods and services for the same price point that they do in the more upscale regions of the city or face systematic exposure and competition from the project. They also have to provide equity for the Credit Union. Be a member of the community or get out of it.


The NavCenter will post, publicly, the ownership of all property in the community and an P&L of the investment, expenses and return coming from that property. This will turn the spotlight on. Price comparisons of all goods and services will also be posted. Buying cooperatives will be organized. The buying power that exists here has to be leveraged to the benefit of those spending the money.


All of this is done by free enterprise means. It just requires a big enough player in the market that will establish the new rules and will compete with anyone who does not. This venture should make money for it’s investors. Decent profit rightfully earned for the service of being a catalyst. The wealth, however, must stay in the community and go to those who produce it - those who live there and actually transform the place. The task is not done until the community has the means, within it’s own control, to replace it’s economy when and as required by future economic change.


Goal: From the beginning, the new rules are in place and understood. This is a social and financial investment with the expectation of profit and return. These measures will be set up front and the project will be managed to them as is any business enterprise. Politics will be kept out of it. Multiple funding sources will be sought and different arrangements negotiated for each source. To the community, however, the interface will be transparent, the rules fair and simple and the same for everyone.


Transformation is not accomplished in the abstract it is done one project at a time within a systematic framework - a strategy of change. There are a number of seed projects that are necessary for staring the community process. Each plays a vital role and each must be sustained through the period of capital formation.


This is a full scale world-class Center capable of serving the project and the community and also capable, from the beginning, of pulling business in from the entire metropolitan region.


It will be housed in the school.


The navCenter will house and facilitate the Community Master Planning Process; provide personal life planning work shops (TOOLS); provide multimedia, computer technology and networks (a PORTAL to the world), maintain the community knowledge-base and Capasity Guide (matching opportunity to people to learning options to capital).


It will serve as town hall and be the neutral place where controversies can be resolved by design not compromise. It will provide training in knowledge work by employing community members in the work.

Gardens and Greenhouses

Good food is the life blood of a community. Growing food is also a means to creating community. Of our entire modern enterprise, the lack of quality and high cost of our food is perhaps the most tragic circumstance we face.


This is doubly hard on poorer populations. We now have a generation of children many of whom do not even know what healthy food is.

Community gardens and greenhouses can be a business. They can provide inexpensive, fresh food in the form of fruits, vegetables and fish. These greenhouses can be tied to sustainable waste management and energy generation technologies. They can provide entry level jobs that can evolve to professional level careers.

They can bring nature back into the city.

Home Improvement Center

This is a business. It offers classes, design services, do-it-yourself support and a network of local craftspeople. It can arrange grants and loans through the Community Credit Union.


It has expertise on architectural alternatives, energy efficient and ecologically sustainable building practices. It’s own environment is an example of sustainable development like the “Real Goods” home office and Store.


Everything necessary to build, furnish and maintain a habit can be found here at VERY competitive prices. This place is so good that people come her to shop from all over the region.


Startup capital flows through this enterprise to start the infrastructure rebuilding process in the community and to create entry level jobs that can grow to professional level opportunities.

Business Incubator

The real path to the American dream is owning your own enterprise. New technologies offer the promise of smaller and smaller scaled businesses. The HyperCar, for example, can be profitably manufactured at small scale in local enterprises of 20,000 square feet. The project will actively seek these kinds of business opportunities.


Building new skills is useless if the only option is to go work in a modern sweat shop or corporate oligopoly.


If we are to facilitate a new economy we have to facilitate the entire opportunity including the enterprise creation process. Incubators pay. They do not, however, have to be just high tech. A community incubation process must focus on all the businesses that make up a viable local community. These business have to be strong enough to compete against franchises that do little to foster local diversity and capital formation.

Credit Union and Investment House

All the capital invested in the project will be invested here. This will be run as a for-profit enterprise based on a generational return (the 2020 project). Community residents can buy in by contributing services to designated community projects. Outside businesses earning profits from this community will be encouraged to invest based on a pro-rata formula.

ALL projects will require a plan and an investment review processes passed by an outside board. The criteria will be based on a balance of solid economics, ecological sustain-ability, community good and individual worth. 

Financial planning, investment, insurance, banking and other financial products will be made available to community members.


Loans to community members (who have developed their plan in the NavCenter) for home improvements, education, business start ups and so on will be made through the Credit Union.


It will be a contract requirement that those who work for the project or it’s funded projects and those who get investment from the Credit Union will invest back into the Union. The objective is to build capital in the community and to make the success of every individual and venture in the interest of all community members.


All financial dealings of the Credit Union will be published and transparent. All meetings will be run by sunshine rules.

The Credit Union will be professionally run as a concession under the supervision of the project.

Arts Center

“Without vision the people perish.” Art brings vision. Art of all kinds. When there is art there is civilization. This means art of all kinds: performing, visual, craft, musical. To be real, it has to be a mixture of professional and community art. There has to be a school. It has to be supported by the community.

The Thurgood Marshall Arts Center will be a world-class, region-wide, attraction from the beginning drawing attendance to it’s productions. This will put the community “on the map” and highlight what is being done here. Care will be taken that these productions and events remain community centered and attended by all who choose to come.

New productions will be a serious part of the Center’s funding commitment as well productions featuring local community members. Artist workshops and residency programs will be funded. Events and festivals promoted. The objective to to build an arts center. An attraction for the neighborhood.

Community Shops

This is a necessary element to both community development and business development. What is required is a professional level, professionally run complex of shops: wood, plastic, electronics, metal, machine and so on. This is the nucleus for business start ups, hands on learning, R&D, invention. This is basic industrial capacity - without it no true economy can evolve.


As all the other seed facilities, this will be run as a business. Users will pay in cash, or in-kind services. Investment and scholarships will be available through the Community Credit Union.

These shops will take on outside work from the beginning and therefore be a source of employment and revenue to the community.

These projects are the seed projects. They get things started. They remake social and technical infrastructure so that the real projects, generated by the people, can get started. These seed projects provide a cycle of capital to start an economic flow. They are to stimulate and support “natural capitalism.” A beginning.

in summary:
Six years. The “secret” of the affluent is their children know that it will take them six years to become anything: a lawyer, doctor, architect, technology entrepreneur. There is a path to follow. It is not easy nor is success guaranteed - but it is not a mystery either and the way is facilitated for those who will try.

We have to be able to sustain this project for a minimum of three six year cycles - half a generation.


The infrastructure that facilitates this has to be in place in the community and progressively run by the community. This is what we have to build and keep in place long enough for it be become integrated and self-sustaining.


How to be successful has to be taught. Learning, work and the opportunity to own capital have to be closely coupled. Careers have to be build on dream-stuff (what I want to be) not on mind numbing, paralyzing compromises (this is what I can get - what I am allowed to be).


We have to foster a revolution and provide healthy, creative expressions for the energy which is released. We have to offer opportunity and new rules to prevent early exploitation of another kind.


We have to foster a revolution and provide healthy, creative expressions for the energy which is released. We have to offer opportunity and new rules to prevent early exploitation of another kind.

A word about money. There is plenty to do this. It will, of course, take several sources. This project is far more affordable than letting what exists there to continue the way it is. How much is being spent there now - year after year - to disappear in a slowly declining circumstance?

It is time to get serious about this or end the pretense. It is no mystery how to build an economy. The question is if this process will be made available to everyone.


I see busy streets with people relaxed in their presence on them. I see trees and flowers and healthy food being grown in community gardens and greenhouses. I hear music and laughter and children playing. I can shop in many stores run by their owners who are proud of the goods they make and sell. Everywhere, is a sense of hope and growth and the expression of a unique place - a place of opportunity and soul.


This is a complete community. It’s businesses span all the services necessary to sustain it. There are crafts, light manufacturing, professional services, design and engineering studios, high tech startups - there is capital here. People come here to eat and buy and visit. There are no absentee landlords and investors. The drugs are gone - no longer the best option for the young. The poverty is gone - replaced by a natural economy that sustains. The despair is gone - replaced by a realistic optimism based on experience, not promise.


This is an ethnically mixed community based on choice - not default. This is an income diverse community because people want to stay here - rich, middle income and poor alike all learning from one another. It is a shinning light to the world because everyone needs to discover better ways. No one is very far ahead when it comes to the future. It is here the field is level.

Why not?
April 17, 2010 Notes:
click on drawing to go to Domicile Design Development page
Employing iteration and recursion in all aspects of work is a key discipline of the Taylor Method. This technique is practiced in the making of any one work and applied to our body of work as a whole.
Thus, the concept of community development presented on this page is an integral aspect of the Domicile Community program on it’s level of recursion. In turn, a development project like the Baltimore Concept can utilize solutions like Domicile for reasons which should be obvious after reading the Domicile materials.
Even though of different scales, as projects, they inform one another and fit within one another. They are fractals of the same idea set. And, like any complex system, they both are emergent systems which means their major design challenge is the design of the processes by which they are created and sustained.
Return To Index
GoTo: A Future by Design - Not Defaults
GoTo: A Future by Design - Worthy Problems
GoTo: Affordable Housing - A Method
GoTo: American Myth - the flaw
GoTo: Curriculum For the 21st Century
GoTo: Domicile One - CoHousing Alternative
GoTo: Katrina - An Unnatural Disaster
GoTo: REAL Estate Development
Matt Taylor
September 28, 2000
In Flight: Baltimore to San Francisco

SolutionBox voice of this document:

click on graphic for explanation of SolutionBox

posted September 28, 2000

revised April 17, 2010
• • •
• • •
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(note: this document is about 85% finished)

Copyright© Matt Taylor 2000, 2001, 2010


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