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Commercial Real Estate

Localism vs. the big bad developers

What is localism?

Localism as an idea (not is that everything that is local and small is good.

For many people today, localism is a counterpoint to globalization.  Everything that is big and bad, is mass produced mass marketed is mass everything.  The counter to that is anything “Locally-sourced” produce, local food (particularly slow food), and local crafts undo the sameness that globalization relentlessly imposes everywhere.

Localism is a reaction to the loss of place, or a space with significance, a space in which meaning is created out of activity or historical activity.  Think of a market in a town square to which the same people go daily to sell or buy products.

The thought is that connections and relationships are formed, knowledge and education are received on a personal level which creates a value not given in the mass produced environment.

We live in an overly saturated world

Most spaces or environments are spaces of transit that we pass through, disconnected from others, and are rapidly disappearing.  Instead, we live in an overly saturated world, and non-places become not spaces of disconnect but rather spaces in which we connect with others.

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Think of your local mall.  If you have children of a certain age is it not the hub of their social and (unfortunately for dad) economic activity?  Is this not where they meet and interact with others from all over their regional community?

What about the dreaded “Big Box” stores that dot most all of our cities and towns?  You of course never frequent or shop.  There they sit in seven acre slabs of concrete, an island unto themselves.  Created by the big bad developers or, the demand for consumer goods?

Localism isn’t a return to place

Localism is a simulation of the local.  We make connections, we have intense but fleeting relationships with others, generally based around consumption (booze?), and an example would be a local place to eat.  Of course never at the “chain” restaurants we all despise. We form ties with (either with the staff at our favorite local restaurant or with the friends we go there with), but for most of us it’s temporary.  Quick connection and off we go.  The ties break, or at best, are held together by ironically the Net which is of course global.

Are these environments created for a sense of place or connection?  Defend your local farmers market or co –op to the death.  Hug those beautiful historical buildings and wander through the quaint local neighborhoods.  Despise the out of town “Big Box” developers.

Localism is comic; at best a temporary reconciliation that everyone knows is momentary.  Place or a sense of place is somewhat tragic, a great hope.

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Protest, rant, blog, opine about the horrible ugly wretched real estate in your town.  Shop, live, frequent, and spend money there anyway.

CC Licensed image courtesy of Sara Robertson via

Written By

Broker/Owner in Lafayette, IN, whose passion is Commercial Real Estate with focus on Technology, Social Media, and Networking.



  1. Brad Nix

    May 6, 2010 at 9:13 am

    You say – “Localism is comic; at best a temporary reconciliation that everyone knows is momentary. Place or a sense of place is somewhat tragic, a great hope.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. Localism, place, sense of place, or however you choose to refer to it sounds a lot like HOME to me. Home as in base camp, as in where we all do the things that feel comfortable to us, where we see familiar faces and enjoy familiar surroundings. Home may change often throughout a lifetime, but it’s hard for me to agree that it’s ‘temporary’ or ‘momentary’. Feeling at home is a powerful emotion that many feel is a necessity for happiness.

    But what really confuses me is how Localism could be considered ‘comic’, ‘tragic’ or a ‘great hope’? Regardless of how much we travel, operate digitally, or live a mobile lifestyle most people still want a place to call home. In fact, I’d argue that Localism is growing in popularity BECAUSE of the digital and mobile lifestyles we live. Connecting locally with local people and local businesses has lasting value that’s hard to find in modern society. What’s funny or tragic about the desire to build connections with a local community?

    Our brokerage is specifically working harder to help define the local lifestyle benefits of each community we service. We’ve started by asking locals ‘what are you doing Saturday?’ we believe that Saturday defines local community lifestyles better than any other day. Whether you’re watching the kids play Little League, grilling out with your neighbors, eating at a local restaurant, playing in the park, or just shopping around town – Saturday is where Localism thrives! That’s not funny or tragic, that’s worth championing… Long Live Saturdays!

    • Duke Long

      May 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

      Thanks for your comments and points of view.

      • Brad Nix

        May 6, 2010 at 9:30 am

        Thanks for getting me fired up enough to leave a comment 🙂

  2. Chris

    May 8, 2010 at 9:17 am

    If I’m reading this right, you’re saying that localism is a trend rather than the reality of community connection. I’m not sure ugly real-estate is the driver for this trend – it’s just part of the sequence involved in setting up “faux local” environments. It is tragic, in a way, that people’s longing to connect is capitalized on – and it continues online with social media which was created not so much to allow people to create communities but to capture the information they divulge as they do “connect” for marketing purposes.

    If you’re asking for commercial brokers to stop the trend and refuse to be involved in big box deals….well, you’re asking a lot. But I do see many brokers involved in their communities – even developing some of that ugly real estate themselves as a gift to where they live.

    • Duke Long

      May 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

      Thanks for commenting.

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