MORE: My 2014 Wishes for Good Places

Last year, my wish/new years resolution was to maintain.

Overall, I think we succeeded in that. Downtown continues to grow. Even as beloved spaces elsewhere close, new ones spring right back up in their place, like a sushi bar right across the street from the bar I mentioned above. I’ve maintained employment. I’ve reconnected with family as family has passed on.

Therefore, as we look ahead into 2014, the word that stands out for me this year is simply:


How does more relate to good places? Here’s how:

More tiny houses

I was delighted to hear this story of how the Occupy Madison group managed to build a tiny house for a homeless couple. Far too many offshoots of Occupy have been blamed for being delinquent, whiny, and entitled. However, this group of folks actually did something about the problems facing our cities. They hope to build a whole village of these homes for people.

I also like tiny houses because they recognize that sometimes people can’t afford a certain amount of square footage, but that doesn’t make them incapable of owning their own home. We laugh at trailer parks, but honestly, at least those people have a roof over their heads. We used to laugh at apartments too, but I’m sitting in a luxury one.

More opportunities for youth to learn good citizenship

I’ve bled a lot of ink and blurred a lot of pixels about the cost of not engaging all of our youth and our citizens. The issue is near and dear to my heart, because I became engaged in placemaking and civic governance as a young child. My parents made sure I went to the library and they encouraged me to learn. So many people don’t have parents that do that, but there’s plenty of people in our community who can serve in that role for our youth. I want to find a way to do more of this myself, in a more productive and proactive way. I also think that if we don’t engage our youth, we will never be able to realize our placemaking dreams.

More parks

Thanks to where I work, I’m able to see a lot of new, cool things that are being built. I also have had a chance to see what’s planned for our new LeBauer Park, along with what’s been dreamed up thus far for the Union Square Park. I hope that these new parks, despite being public-private partnerships, hold true to the spirit of the public piece of the  partnership that is propelling them forward.

More books and reading and writing

I never imagined that by the end of 2013, I’d be walking to my very own local indie bookstore which stocks brand new books, smart magazines and used classics. I never imagined I’d be front page news and make news and have the bylines that I’ve had. In that spirit, I hope that Scuppernong revitalizes its block, not just with libations, but budding librarians. You’re seeing more posts from me here and who knows, I might whip up another book.

More microeconomies

As I talked about above with the support of tiny houses, some of our Occupiers have evolved into a group spearheading a new grocery co-op on the traditionally black east side of Greensboro. Meanwhile, opposition is growing for a Trader Joes (again) on a particular plot near the more wealthy communities of Greensboro. However, if it weren’t for Trader Joes offering some of the foods that make me stick my pinkies out while holding food, at a price that doesn’t make me feel like I’m breaking my pinkies, I wouldn’t be as proactive about healthy food. You already know the mind games I play when thinking about groceries. The more niches a market has, the better the market actually serves people and actually holds true to the notion of being free.

More transportation

I’m now part of a group called the Transit Alliance of the Piedmont, a group formed because of the need for real, not just realistic, regional transit. I hope to channel some of my dreams for transportation (more bus shelters, shorter headways, a serious rail plan, business support) into action in the coming year. We will have a website and some information up soon on how those of you in the Triad area can help. I’m also on the Bike Share Task Force led by Action Greensboro, another group working to bring new transit options to Greensboro.

2013 was one of the hardest years, from losing my father, to feeling alienated, to a major case of writers block. My hope is that my 2014 will be full of abundance, and that abundance starts with doing what I can to cultivate good places.

About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.