The Strong Towns Movement: Weighing the Pros and Cons

January 19, 2023
Rob Foster
Chief Experience Officer

The Strong Towns movement has gained considerable traction in recent years, advocating for a shift in urban planning and development practices that prioritize financial resilience and long-term sustainability. As cities grapple with the challenges of growth, infrastructure, and economic stability, the Strong Towns approach presents a compelling alternative to conventional planning methods. In this post, we'll explore the pros and cons of the Strong Towns movement, assessing its potential impact on the urban landscape.

The Pros of the Strong Towns Movement

  1. Financial Resilience:One of the core tenets of the Strong Towns movement is a focus on financial resilience. By advocating for incremental development, the movement seeks to reduce the risk of overbuilding and create a more sustainable growth pattern that better aligns with local needs and resources.
  2. Emphasis on Localism:The Strong Towns approach champions the importance of local decision-making, encouraging communities to take control of their development and prioritize projects that genuinely serve the needs of residents. This empowers communities and fosters a sense of ownership over the future of their neighborhoods.
  3. Adaptive Reuse and Incremental Development:The movement promotes adaptive reuse and incremental development as a way to make the most of existing infrastructure and resources. This approach can help cities avoid the pitfalls of sprawling development, which often strains public services and stretches budgets thin.
  4. Walkability and Complete Streets:Strong Towns emphasizes the importance of walkable, bikeable communities with complete streets that accommodate all users. This focus on human-centered design can improve the quality of life, public health, and overall livability of urban areas.

The Cons of the Strong Towns Movement

  1. Limited Scope for Large-Scale Projects:The incremental approach advocated by the Strong Towns movement may not be well-suited to addressing the needs of large-scale infrastructure projects or regional challenges. Cities grappling with significant population growth or extensive infrastructure needs may require a more comprehensive planning approach.
  2. Resistance to Change:The Strong Towns movement challenges conventional planning wisdom, and this can be met with resistance from established institutions and stakeholders. Implementing the principles of the movement may require significant advocacy, education, and negotiation to overcome entrenched perspectives and bureaucratic hurdles.
  3. Funding and Resource Constraints:Adopting the Strong Towns approach may necessitate changes in funding mechanisms and resource allocation. Shifting priorities toward smaller, incremental projects could require a reevaluation of existing budgeting practices, which may be difficult to achieve in some communities.
  4. Balancing Localism and Regionalism:While the focus on localism empowers communities, it may also create challenges in addressing regional issues that require broader collaboration and coordination. Striking the right balance between local decision-making and regional cooperation is essential for ensuring the overall success of the Strong Towns movement.


The Strong Towns movement presents a compelling vision for more resilient, sustainable, and locally-driven urban development. While it offers many potential benefits, there are also challenges to consider when evaluating its applicability to specific communities. By thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons, city planners and community leaders can determine whether the Strong Towns approach is the right fit for their unique circumstances and chart a course toward a more vibrant, sustainable future.

Rob Foster
Chief Experience Officer
Rob has been designing amazing customer experiences for over 20 years. He’s crafted delightful software and led design teams for companies such as Ancestry, Vivint Solar, Kuali, and many others. His product design contributions on these teams have resulted in major accolades from customers and have contributed to higher customer satisfaction for the products.

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