When I first read the article “The Real Estate Deal That Could Change the Future of Everything” by Emily Badger which was published in The Atlantic Cities, I was reminded of a movie I recently watched. A beloved classic that is a staple for many American families during the Christmas season, It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 film directed by Frank Capra. Somewhat similar to A Christmas Carol, the main character was shown the different he made to his world through his actions.
Confused on the similarity? In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey was shown a vision on what the town would have become if the community bank, Building and Loan’s was taken over by the richest man in town. Without the bank to give and service loans for community projects, the town would have become a place filled with sleazy night clubs and pawn shops. Well, to me, that sounds a lot like what happened to Washington DC’s H Street Northeast Corridor. The corporate giants with enough money were able to take over the place, using the real estates as investment vehicles with a life span of five to seven years. With no initiative for community building, the place became a cookie-cutter area, similar to others invested by corporation.
The concept of building a community instead of just places to make profit is an old one. In fact, it is a reason for the migration of families from cities to suburbs, to search for a place that they can raise their family with other families. In the article “Restoring our Faith in Investment” by our lecturer A-P Hurd, she mentioned how the citizen of this country has lost faith in both public and private sector to make good investments. I would go further and said that we did not lost faith in others. We actually lost faith in our belief system on community building. With the Savings and Loans crisis from 1986 to 1995, most borrowers became disillusioned with the banking system. Instead of trusting banks to use savings to provide residential loans for others, they began to diversify their investments. This led to less focus on communities, and more in terms of profits and earnings. The need of one became more important than the need of many.
This again changed with the financial crisis of 2008, when citizens realized that corporate greed has a huge effect on their personal finances. It seems we are in the phase of growing awareness on importance of community building. Will this phase last? And will it gain momentum and create better towns and cities?