Is Small the New Big

Our common view of real estate development is that it occurs in big, expensive chunks – picture large-scale subdivisions and high-rise towers. That scale of enterprise often seems mysterious and expensive. It’s what we imagine the word “developer” to mean.

But there’s another reality to development that is often not discussed or simply overlooked – the small-scale, building-by-building improvements that make up where most of us live and work. Someone builds or renovates a home, a duplex, a quadplex or a small commercial building. That is essentially the definition of incremental development: city-building in small steps. The owner might be your neighbor, a relative or a local investor. Could it be you?

Incremental development is a way for anyone and everyone to get involved in building and improving their neighborhood. In an incremental approach, no project is too small and because of that, neighborhoods can evolve in a natural, community-led way. Incremental development actually helps neighborhoods become stronger with time by allowing them to mature gradually instead of locking them into boom-and-bust cycles that are common with larger developments.

Through this incremental, open-access approach to development, by slowly adding to neighborhoods we’re adding new energy and activity, helping reveal or “polish” the core value of the existing fabric. “Small” is often the seed that leads to transformation of and reinvestment in neighborhoods that may be considered undesirable.

Savannah Development and Renewal Authority partnered with the Incremental Development Alliance as well as The Georgia Conservancy and Historic Savannah Foundation to present the Small Real Estate Development Workshop on January 11, 2017.

The one-day workshop introduced the principles and implementation mechanisms behind neighborhood-based development projects. It offered specialized training about how to create small projects, like 1-3 story buildings with less than 20 units, which are residential, commercial or mixed use. Presenters at the workshop included developer, Monte Anderson who has spent years “in the trenches” finding ways to redevelop his community into a place where people want to live and work. Workshops like these are the first step to becoming a small developer yourself or creating a supportive ecosystem for small development in Savannah. If you’re interested in attending a future workshop, please email us and let us know.