Smart Growth America's Top 12 of 2012: Creating new reports and resources

Christopher Leinberger, President of LOCUS, presenting new research at George Washington University.

We’re doing a special blog series highlighting some of Smart Growth America’s favorite accomplishments from 2012. This is the third of twelve installments.

In the past year, Smart Growth America has conducted new research and created new resources for our allies in the field.

In March, we released From Vacancy to Vibrancy, a guide to redeveloping underground storage tank sites through area-wide planning. The guide provides an overview of the tools and strategies available to leaders who want to transform vacant properties with hazardous underground storage tanks into economic and community assets, setting the stage for redevelopment and revitalization of brownfields. This guide is a valuable tool for any town or city that is looking to redevelop their vacant brownfields and help their economies and communities thrive.


Smart Growth America's Top 12 of 2012: Helping governors support state economies

From left to right: Parris Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and former governor of Maryland; Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey; James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania.

We’re doing a special blog series highlighting some of Smart Growth America’s favorite accomplishments from 2012. This is the second of twelve installments.

In July, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design kicked off a new partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The announcement marked the beginning of a new, collaborative effort between the three agencies and the Institute, which was established in 2005 and is administered by Smart Growth America.


Smart Growth America's top 12 of 2012: Honoring leaders in the field

From left to right: Managing Director of LOCUS, Christopher Coes; Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO); Senator Mark Warner (D-VA); President of LOCUS, Chris Leinberger; President and CEO of Smart Growth America, Geoff Anderson.

For the next two weeks, we’ll be doing a special blog series highlighting some of Smart Growth America’s favorite accomplishments from 2012. This is the first of twelve that we’ll be rolling out, so keep an eye out for a new one every day!

In February, we presented Smart Growth America’s 2012 Leadership Award to Darrell Steinberg. Steinberg, California State Senate President Pro Tem, received the award for his incredible efforts in championing and helping to pass SB 375, legislation that integrates greenhouse gas reduction goals into California’s existing regional transportation planning process, and encourages planners to locate homes near jobs and create more transportation options. The bill not only fights climate change but also gives towns across the state the power to make land use and transportation decisions that strengthen local economies, reduce sprawl, preserve farmland and spur business development, furthering the cause of smart growth in California and setting an example for states across the nation.


Spotlight on Sustainability: Tampa, FL uses new technologies to chart a new direction for the city

A downtown Tampa streetcar. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Willamor Media.

Leaders in Tampa, Florida are working to reverse the sprawl that has left their downtown area sparsely populated and stifled economic development. A Community Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is aimed to help make it happen.

The city’s planning efforts, organized under the banner of InVision Tampa, aim to create a vision plan for a downtown core, a transit corridor plan to increase transportation choices in the region, and update the city’s building codes. Each of these are designed to stimulate downtown Tampa’s residential, business, and retail economy, and set the entire city on a course for a better future.

“We are hoping to change the entire face of our urban core. Our urban core is quite a bit like other aging cities. Suburbanization and forces over 50 years have pushed people out,” says Randy Goers, Urban Planning Coordinator and Project Manager for InVision Tampa. “Over the next 15 years, we want to remake the urban core and create a dense, diverse, populated area.”

While Tampa, like many cities, has always had a central business district that composed its downtown, it was not until the 1980s that any residential development was put in place. The city is seeking to jumpstart residential downtown activity, identifying spots along the river as opportunities for redevelopment.


Partnership in the News: Granite State Future ramps up community engagement outreach

Nine of New Hampshire’s planning commissions coordinated together to apply for a Regional Planning grant from the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They won a $3.37 million grant to coordinate their planning efforts for the state’s future, forming Granite State Future.

One of the first truly state-wide planning efforts, Granite State represents the desire for people across the state to work together to solve regional issues and ensure economic vitality and a better quality of life for all. Part of the effort involves a robust online community engagement effort.

“The foundation of this plan is what people want in their communities,” says project manager Jeff Belanger, “We want all views represented.”

The next step for the project is to put together their online data and proceed to public meetings to present ideas before communities across the state. They hope to be finished before the grant ends in 2015.


Local Leaders Council Advisory Board Member Madeline Rogero highlighted for Knoxville's success

According to a recent report from the Brookings Institute, only three major U.S. cities are currently experiencing a recovery. One of those cities, Knoxville, TN, has seen a steady recovery under Local Leaders Council Advisory Board Member Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Retailers moving into old downtown buildings, an abundance of freshly planted greenspaces, and a stream of new jobs in Knoxville, Tennessee, are all signs to Mayor Madeline Rogero that for the last year prosperity has been blooming in her city.

“We feel very good about how we’re coming out of this recession,” Rogero said. “We see new interest. We see new development that’s occurring. We’re optimistic that this recovery is going to continue.”

Rogero has only been in office for a year. But she remembers, as a resident and as director of the city’s community development office, when the recession hit. Sales tax revenues fell. The building inspections department that had always funded itself from fees had to tap the city budget.

“People were losing their jobs. People were losing their homes,” she said.

Nonetheless, the city continued investing in infrastructure and fostering private investment, often using funds from the 2009 federal stimulus plan. The goals were to attract businesses and to keep people working on construction jobs such as a housing project for the elderly.

Smart Growth America is proud to be working with Mayor Rogero as Knoxville continues to thrive.


Smart Growth Stories: LOCUS President Chris Leinberger on the power of walkable development

Over-building of drivable suburban development was a major part of the U.S.’s economic slowdown, and changing development strategies to meet shifting market demand will play an equally important role in repairing the national economy, says Chris Leinberger, President of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS.

As a vocal advocate for transit-oriented development (TOD) and walkable urban places, Leinberger sees how new demand for real estate is fundamentally changing the country – and its potential to revitalize economies across the nation.

“We’re in the middle of a structural shift in how we build the built environment in this country. The structural shift that we last had that was of this magnitude was back in the fifties where we shifted from investing in our cities to building the drivable suburban nature of our country,” he says. But now, “the pendulum is coming back to building walkable urban places.”

Leinberger detailed the rise of walkable urban places in the Washington, D.C. metro area in a recent report called “The WalkUP Wake Up Call,” which emphasized the economic potential of these places. “What you see created throughout the country as these walkable urban places get created is an upward spiral of value creation,” he says, whereby walkable development sets into motion a chain of events that ultimately enables neighborhoods to thrive.

Local Leaders Council LOCUS

Partnership in the News: Rhode Island taking steps towards statewide economic plan

On November 9, Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln D. Chaffee announced a multi-agency effort to develop an integrated and statewide approach to economic development. Funded by a Regional Planning grant from the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development, the project will assess the state’s economic assets and situation to plan for future development.

“I agree with all Rhode Islanders that we need to take steps to improve the economic climate of the state. In 90 days we will have data analysis that we will use to inform decisions to use our assets wisely, prioritize our ideas and focus our resources in specific areas where we can make a real difference,” said Governor Chafee.


Smart Growth Stories: A region collaborates in Southern Maine

Balancing development with environmental and economic concerns is one of the biggest challenges facing Southern Maine today.

“Maine has a lot going for it: its sense of place, its scenery, its quality of life,” says Carol Morris, President of Morris Communications and lead consultant for Sustain Southern Maine, a regional partnership of organizations, communities and businesses working to make Maine’s economy, environment and sense of community stronger. “If we lose that, we’ll never get it back, and people understand that, so there’s a fair amount of local support for balancing it all together.”

Sustain Southern Maine is addressing these important challenges with a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach to planning. Aided by a Regional Planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the partnership is working to make sure development in small, rural communities as well as larger urban areas like Portland – Maine’s biggest city – will benefit the communities and economies of the entire region.


Partnership in the News: Cincinnati approves comprehensive plan for city

Last month, the Cincinnati City Planning Commission approved Plan Cincinnati, a comprehensive, community-based approach to future development. Part of this plan was funded by a multi-million dollar HUD Community Challenge grant intended to help the city to streamline its land use codes, facilitating future development.

The Plan is an opportunity to strengthen what people love about the city, what works and what needs more attention, says Katherine Keough-Jurs, senior city planner and project manager.