Smart Growth News – September 28, 2012

Top stories:

Downtowns enjoying robust population growth
USA Today – September 27, 2012
“People recognize the lower cost of living near things,” says Ilana Preuss, vice president and chief of staff at Smart Growth America, a national group that fights suburban sprawl. “The trend toward downtown living is both in big cities and small cities. … Suburban tracts have lost a huge amount of their values.”

Relic of an Era, Revitalized
New York Times – September 25, 2012
Once a dormant area of empty warehouses, the River North section of Chicago has evolved into a nexus of dining, night life and, most recently, an aspiring rival to Silicon Valley. Its 45 square blocks are home to the headquarters of Groupon, the Chicago offices of Google and several hundred technology start-ups.

Vitality Reborn, New Orleans Draws Developers
New York Times – September 25, 2012
It has been seven years since Hurricane Katrina brought New Orleans to its knees and a month since Isaac threatened to push the city down again. But the region’s new $14 billion levee system held back the tide and within hours of Isaac’s departure the city sprang back to life to host Labor Day visitors. A deeper sign of the city’s resilience can be found in the national developers and retailers now coming to town as first-time investors.

Regional transit still on table in Legislature
The Detroit News (MI) – September 28, 2012
Legislation creating a regional transit authority to coordinate public transportation in southeast Michigan has been jump-started in the state House after stalling in the Senate.


The Neighborhood of the Future

According to renowned architect and city planner Andres Duany, that future will look a lot like smart growth. In an interview with USA Today, Duany — who designed the now famous Seaside community in Florida as a kind of walkable paradise — tells national correspondent Rick Hampson that in only a few decades, based on current market trends, demographic changes and economic realities, the town of the future will be a place where people “will walk and ride more and drive less. And they will like it.”

In the next American metropolis, people will live in smaller homes, relax in smaller yards, park their smaller cars in smaller spots. They will be closer to work, to play and, above all, to one another.

That doesn’t mean “conventional suburbia” will disappear. If anything, far from it. Duany estimates that at least 40 percent of homebuyers will still favor big houses on big lots with room for a few cars. But as the millennial generation comes of age and demographic changes continue across the country, the market demand for walkable communities will only continue to escalate. And with that rise in demand, Duany notes, a wide range of housing choices will emerge. America 30 years from now will be a place with a diversity of housing and building types.


Smart Growth News – September 27, 2012

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City living will feel like a blast from the past
USA Today – September 18, 2012
In the next American metropolis, people will live in smaller homes, relax in smaller yards, park their smaller cars in smaller spots. They will be closer to work, to play and, above all, to one another.

Judge will consider request for high-speed rail injunction
Fresno Bee (CA) – September 26, 2012
A Sacramento judge will consider a motion for a preliminary injunction that could derail California’s high-speed rail project in the central San Joaquin Valley.

San Francisco Is America’s Best City in 2012
Business Week – September 26, 2012
For the ranking, once again teamed up with Bloomberg Rankings to evaluate data on 100 of the country’s largest cities.

‘Smart City’ Planning Needs the Right Balance
The Wall Street Journal – September 26, 2012
In the pantheon of Next Big Thing trends, the concept of “smart cities” is one of the trendiest.


Pennsylvania's land bank bill to come before the State Senate

A land bank can make reusing vacant buand put them back into usefficient. Image from Take Back Vacant Land.

Members of the Pennsylvania State Senate will vote this week on proposed legislation that would make it easier to buy and redevelop blighted properties in the state.

HB 1682 would enable local leaders in Pennsylvania to establish land banks, entities that can hold and manage vacant properties to help get properties into the hands of responsible new owners more quickly. The bill passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in February and now awaits consideration by the Pennsylvania State Senate.


Georgia DOT adopts Complete Streets policy

The corner of Bull and Perry Streets in Savannah, Georgia, features several Complete Streets features. Photo by Ken Lund, via Flickr.

September 20, 2012 marked a significant day for the Complete Streets movement: the day the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) adopted a Complete Streets policy.

That policy is the product of years of work done by the state’s Complete Streets supporters, including Georgia Bikes, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the cities of Atlanta, Decatur, and Roswell; several transit agencies, and leaders within GDOT. Gerald Ross, GDOT’s Chief Engineer, coordinated a policy task force and collaborated with several stakeholder groups. The comprehensive final policy calls for the Department to “routinely incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit (user and transit vehicle) accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects as a means for improving mobility, access, and safety for the traveling public.”

Complete Streets

Smart Growth News – September 26, 2012

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Consulting team helps Eastport chart an eco-friendly course for the future
Bangor Daily News (ME) – September 26, 2012
Eastport is one of 15 cities and towns nationwide selected by the EPA to work with planning consultants from Smart Growth America. The Washington, D.C.-based firm advocates for comprehensive planning that can help communities such as Eastport maintain and sustain its small-town charm in economically viable and eco-friendly ways.

Bike/pedestrian plan could make San Clemente ‘a model for everybody’
Orange County Register (CA) – September 26, 2012
Implementing road-use projects that put cycling and walking on a par with cars will be a challenge but will produce ‘demonstrable results’ in encouraging people to forgo driving, advocates tell the Planning Commission. More discussions will come next month.

Uptown district proposes transit project
Houston Chronicle (TX) – September 25, 2012
Hoping to link residents, shoppers and workers to Metro transportation options, Uptown Houston officials have voted to commit $85.5 million toward a project that would provide transit-related improvements along Post Oak Boulevard and construction of a transit center near Bellaire.

Seeing the back of the car
The Economist – September 22, 2012
A growing body of academics cite the possibility that both car ownership and vehicle-kilometres driven may be reaching saturation in developed countries—or even be on the wane, a notion known as “peak car”.


New resources for communities interested in applying for free technical assistance

Smart Growth America is currently accepting applications for our 2012 free technical assistance. Two webinars will help communities interested in applying for this free resource.

On Friday, Smart Growth America, Project for Public Spaces, Forterra, and Global Green participated in a webinar to discuss free technical assistance currently being offered by each organization. Hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program, the webinar gave a brief overview of the workshops offered, application process and timeline for each organization’s program.

Technical assistance

Smart Growth Stories: More choice for less cost in Washington state

“We cannot continue as we did in the 50s and 60s and 70s to sprawl out,” says John Hempelmann, one of the founding partners of Seattle-based law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann. “We need real economic opportunity for the development community building in the cities and building close to the transit hubs.”

Founded in 1987, Cairncross & Hempelmann is located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District, highlighting its investment in maintaining the city’s distinct character. John Hempelmann is also a member of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors committed to creating livable, economically vibrant places.

As a lawyer who represents real estate developers, Hempelmann keenly follows market trends in his hometown of Seattle. By helping developers build walkable neighborhoods, Hempelmann is giving consumers more options, allowing them to choose for themselves what kind of development they’d prefer.

“We are now providing an urban walkable option and we’re finding that a lot of people are opting for that choice,” he says. “It allows you to reduce transportation costs and allows you to spend more on housing so there’s an economic value to both the buyer and the seller.”

Local Leaders Council LOCUS

Smart Growth News – September 25, 2012

Top stories:

Data Barns in a Farm Town, Gobbling Power and Flexing Muscle
The New York Times – September 23, 2012
Set in the dry hills and irrigated farmland of Central Washington, Grant County is known for its robust harvest of apples, potatoes, cherries and beans. But for Microsoft, a prime lure was the region’s other valuable resource: cheap electrical power.

Chrysler workers move to new downtown Detroit office space
Detroit Free Press (MI) – September 24, 2012
Chrysler Group leased nearly 33,000 square feet of space encompassing the top two floors of the 23-story former Dime Building. The employees of Chrysler’s Great Lakes Business Center relocated to the 23-story office tower near downtown’s Campus Martius Park over the weekend.

Urban apartment living becoming popular
Ventura County Star (CA) – September 20, 2012
What’s trendy in housing? Apartments and in-town living. So said industry leaders in real estate who gathered Thursday for the Ventura County Housing Conference in Camarillo.

Recession worsens brownfields backlog in Wisconsin
The Post Crescent (WI) – September 23, 2012
Long after a red icicle’s discovery, industrial pollution haunts a Lake Michigan neighborhood.