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  • Daniel Herriges

    The idea of the "next increment" is based on the observation that neighborhoods have historically evolved over time, typically through many separate actions taken by many people. An "increment" of development represents a step in this evolution. For example, a street lined with single-family houses might have seen many converted by their owners into duplexes or triplexes; later on, some of these might be torn down and replaced with larger, taller apartment buildings. Gradually it becomes a neighborhood of apartments. You can witness this process by looking at, for example, historic photos and sketches of parts of Manhattan.

    There is no fixed answer to the question "What is the next increment?" for a given location; it will depend upon the context, and ultimately is somewhat subjective. We can more easily identify certain changes as not incremental: the razing of an entire block of small buildings in order to build one large high-rise is an example.

    A good analogy is ecological succession. After a volcanic eruption or wildfire, small grasses colonize an area; over time the grasses will be replaced by low-lying shrubs, then small trees will appear, and eventually much larger and taller canopy trees will appear. The animals present will change with these stages as well. At all stages, there is diversity, so the "increments" of succession are not neatly defined, but rather an evolutionary process that unfolds in many small steps rather than one or two large leaps.

    Strong Towns advocates that all neighborhoods be allowed to develop to the next increment, meaning that the smallest practical, viable step to expand a building or replace it with something larger, denser, or more intense should always be legal, and available without huge regulatory hurdles. For more on this, see:

    Making Normal Neighborhoods Legal Again

    Two Simple Rules for Healthy Neighborhood Change

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