“Incremental development” is a term you might’ve heard if you’ve been following Strong Towns for a little while. This concept refers to small-scale projects like updating downtown commercial spaces or renovating duplexes; the main thing is that these projects are led by individuals or teams of local residents, not huge companies.
So, encouraging and allowing incremental development is one of the single biggest things a city can do if it wants to become a strong town. Not only does this increase housing and small business options, it also puts power back into the hands of residents, allowing them to build wealth for their families and shape the future of their neighborhoods.
Today’s guest on The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast is Jenifer Acosta, a community revitalizer and incremental developer working in the Tri-Cities region of Michigan, near the shores of Lake Huron. Her focus is on adaptive reuse projects—taking historic structures like old bank and newspaper buildings and turning them into updated housing and commercial spaces. She finds that sweet spot between preserving history while also modernizing and allowing these old buildings to take on new life so they can last another hundred years, even as the needs of a community change.
Acosta is particularly driven by a desire to create more rental and multifamily housing opportunities in a region that is mostly dominated by single family homes. She is also on the faculty of the Incremental Development Alliance, where she helps train other small-scale developers across the continent.
In this interview with Rachel Quednau, Acosta talks especially about her experience being a woman in a male-dominated industry—how she has found fellow female developers, built a support system, and persevered even when people in the industry didn’t always welcome her.