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Economic Perspective: Mini Cities

Downtown Raleigh, east of campus.
Downtown Raleigh, east of campus.


“Today’s program looks at mini cities. Mike, there’s a new development concept being implemented around the country, including in North Carolina. It’s called ‘mini cities’. What are mini cities, and how are they different?”


“Well some people call them, ‘Live, work, play developments,’ and the concept is actually quite simple. It’s to build a new development where you have all the activity that you need in that development. So you’d obviously have residences. You have businesses. You have work areas where the people who live there will work. You have schools. You have medical facilities, et cetera. Everything in that development, and the benefit is that people don’t have to travel as much.”

“In fact, in many mini cities people will walk, or you will build in mass transit to the development. Now one of the issues is how do you attract a wide range of income people, and you would have to develop structures that every income range can pay for. And one of the things that developers of mini cities say can happen is that the builders and businesses may be willing to subsidize some housing there because they will have a reliable labor force.”

“There are benefits obviously to the environment. If people are not getting into their vehicles every day and driving several miles to work. So this is a new concept. In North Carolina, probably Chatham Park, which is near Pittsboro, is the best example we have of a mini city. And in fact, two other mini cities have just been proposed for the Triangle region.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.