A view from the river: How the city of Nashville brought a neglected natural asset back to life

Cumberland Park, on Nashville, Tennessee’s Cumberland River waterfront. Photo courtesy of the Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency.

Nashville, Tennessee’s Cumberland River has long been viewed as an industrial thoroughfare for barges to transport cargo. But as the city looked to improve its downtown in the 1980s, it came to realize that the riverfront could be an incredible asset to its revitalization efforts.

“Riverfront revitalization got started about 25 years ago when we began to realize that the city had turned its back on the river,” said Rick Bernhardt, a Planning Executive at the City of Nashville.


Using complete streets to fight obesity in Jefferson County, AL

In 2007, over 100 organizations in Jefferson County, Alabama formed the Health Action Partnership, a collective effort aimed at making local neighborhoods healthier places to live, work, learn and play.

Reducing obesity was the Partnership’s main objectives from the outset, as Alabama’s obesity rate is the second highest in the nation. Recognizing that lifestyle change is critical in achieving this goal, the Partnership wanted to increase activity levels in the everyday lives of Jefferson County residents.

The organizations soon realized one answer to reducing obesity had been right beneath their feet all along: Complete Streets.

Making improvements to streets, sidewalks and paths would promote physical activity by making it safe and convenient for residents to walk outside for recreation, and would also makes it easier for them to incorporate functional walking and biking into their day-to-day lives.

Jefferson County’s streets are not currently friendly to pedestrians: most of the county’s sidewalks haven’t been updated in the past 50 years, and many are torn up or unsafe. Birmingham, the state’s largest city, also is just beginning to get back on its feet after a series of destructive tornadoes in 2011, which caused more than a billion dollars of property damage. Street safety is no minor problem, either: Alabama ranks fifth in the country for pedestrian deaths.

Since the Partnership came together, it has sought to leverage funding from a variety of sources to address local issues of public health and safety. One of the largest funding sources thus far has been a $13 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded in 2010. A portion of this grant is dedicated to fighting obesity in Jefferson County’s 35 municipalities.

Complete Streets

Real estate developers gather in Washington for first LOCUS Leadership Summit

Members of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors, gathered in Washington last week for the 2012 LOCUS Leadership Summit. The three-day event provided a unique opportunity to network, share best practices and rally around the common cause of advocating for Congress to pass a transportation reauthorization that supports the creation of walkable, transit-oriented communities.

The summit commenced with a keynote address from Janice Eberly, Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the US Department of Treasury, who spoke on the state of the U.S. economy and the nation’s real estate and housing markets. Members then explored the shift in market demand for walkable, urban developments through a panel with Patrick Phillips, President of the Urban Land Institute; Aaron Klein, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the US Department of Treasury; and Emerick Corsi of Forest City Enterprises.

In the afternoon, LOCUS members went on a walking tour of metro DC’s booming, mixed-use neighborhoods to see how the shift in market demand for walkable, urban developments is playing out in the nation’s capital. Members visited the Clarendon neighborhood in DC, where they heard from an executive at BF Saul about the firm’s Clarendon Center project, and Capitol Riverfront, where they heard from the director of that neighborhood’s business improvement district about the neighborhood’s incredible transformation in recent years.

On Day Two of the summit, LOCUS members embarked upon what many considered the highlight of the trip to Washington: Hill visits with members of Congress and Obama Administration officials. LOCUS members strongly encouraged these national leaders to pass legislation that would make it easier to build the kinds of transit-oriented, walkable projects in high demand across the country.

Specifically during their meetings with members of Congress and the Administration, LOCUS members encouraged senators to support transportation bill changes proposed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Warner (D-VA), which would create a credit enhancement for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. This amendment is one of many being considered as both houses of Congress work to find common ground on a final version of the bill.


Livable MHT interviews Bill Fulton on smart growth and prosperity in Manchester, NH

Crossposted from LivableMHT.

Boasting the Millyard and an accessible downtown, Manchester has a beautiful built environment that most cities would love to have. The city’s challenge now and in coming years, said Smart Growth America Vice President for Policy and Programs William Fulton, is how to best take advantage of our built environment and other assets.

In his keynote talk, “Pursuing Prosperity: Smart Growth in Manchester,” delivered Wednesday, June 6, as part of the 2012 Intown Manchester Annual Luncheon, the former Ventura, Calif., mayor said New Hampshire’s Queen City is positioned better than most cities to capitalize on our assets, but that we must focus on creating a quality of place where people want to live if we want to attract the high end talent and capital necessary to thrive new economy.

“Money and talent can and do go anywhere. The key is to create a desirable quality of place that can’t be moved and can’t be easily replicated,” he said.

Boomers and Millennials — the two groups driving both the housing and the jobs markets — are trending away from suburban living, he said. Cities that want to attract them must create environments in which it is possible to live in close proximity to all aspects of their lives — work, recreation, shopping, etc.


A collaborative blueprint for smart growth in Concord, CA

Photo of the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Photo by the Greenbelt Alliance via Flickr.

Thanks to feedback from community residents, business owners and environmental organizations, eight square miles of land in Concord, CA, which was slated for sprawling development will instead become home to a vibrant, transit-oriented and walkable neighborhood and protected open space.

The land in question was formerly the site of the Concord Naval Weapons Station, which closed in 2005. When the base was shuttered, Concord officials made plans to repurpose the site, which is adjacent to an underused transit station. The area includes several brownfield sites as well as stunning tracts of open space.

The City’s original plan was to develop homes in a manner consistent with the past five decades of exurban sprawl. But when word of the plan began to spread to local newspapers, residents North Contra Costa County spoke up.

“We raised our hands and said ‘We don’t want you to do that,’” says Rosanne Nieto, who lives near the former weapons station.

In turn, these neighborhood activists caught the attention of local groups, including Greenbelt Alliance, a nonprofit organization that brings stakeholders together to find innovative solutions to the Bay Area’s growth challenges.


Senators Warner and Bennet honored for their work promoting walkable communities at LOCUS Leadership Summit

LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors, met in Washington DC this week to push for improvements in the federal transportation bill that will help create more walkable communities across the country.

During the three-day event, LOCUS also recognized two Senators who have championed legislation that would support great neighborhoods and strong local economies across the country.

“It is with great pleasure that we honor Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Mark Warner with the first annual LOCUS Leadership Award,” said LOCUS President Chris Leinberger at a ceremony Wednesday evening. “They have been integral in strengthening our efforts to build transit-oriented and walkable development projects across the country.”


New Jersey Future to recognize 2012 Smart Growth Award winners at awards ceremony on June 7

Crossposted from our partner New Jersey Future.

The Smart Growth Awards celebration is considered one of New Jersey’s premier networking events, attracting more than 300 development industry professionals, as well as local, regional, and state leaders.

Awards Celebration
Thursday, June 7, 2012
5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Newark Club, Newark

Questions: contact Marianne Jann at (609) 393-0008, ext. 101 Registration information: Admission is $150; Day of event $175. Download the invitation to send a check. For sponsorship information, contact Dan Fatton at (609) 393-0008, ext. 105. For a current list of sponsors, click here.


Cracking the code to smart growth in Mesa, AZ

A vision for creating complete neighborhoods in downtown Mesa, AZ. Image from “Form-Based Code: Workshop Summary Presentation” via the City of Mesa.

Downtown Mesa, Arizona is already great a destination to go out to lunch or to shop. Now, the Mesa City Council is working to make downtown not just a destination but a neighborhood – and they’re using innovating zoning strategies to help make it happen.

“Walkable neighborhoods don’t just happen by chance,” said Mesa Councilmember Dave Richins. “You have to make your design standards a way that will enable people to build using smart growth principles.”


In New Brunswick, one development tackles multiple community needs

When Smart Growth America’s coalition partner New Jersey Future announced its 2012 Smart Growth Award winners in April, it was no surprise that New Brunswick’s Gateway Transit Village received the award for Transit-Oriented Development Partnership.

The Gateway Transit Village is a new development in downtown New Brunswick that includes parking, retail, office and residential space. Located across from the train station, the development encourages transit ridership and makes it easier for the building’s residents to get around without using a car.

“The Gateway project stood out because it satisfies so many of the requirements for a smart growth project,” says Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future. “Gateway provides direct access to transit for both commuters and students at neighboring Rutgers University, and serves multiple purposes with retail, parking and residential space for both renting and ownership.”

“In this particular case, Gateway was able to accommodate the broadest range of interested parties with differing needs,” Kasabach says. “The project was successful because it took advantage of community partnerships and creative financing to meet these needs.”

The New Brunswick Development Corporation (Devco), a nonprofit real estate company, helped get this complex project off the ground. Tasked with revitalizing New Brunswick’s transit corridor, Devco saw a specific under-utilized piece of land directly next to the train station as a key property for redevelopment.


Building a modern streetcar and a stronger downtown in Tucson, AZ

What do Tucson, Seattle, Washington DC, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Providence have in common? They are just a few of up to 40 communities across the country currently planning or building streetcar lines connecting neighborhoods to their downtowns.

Tuscon is the latest city to jump on the streetcar bandwagon. The city’s 3.9 mile, 196.6 million Sun Link streetcar project broke ground earlier this week, and once complete will offer direct, high-capacity transit connections between downtown Tucson, the University of Arizona and the Arizona Health Sciences Center. The project stems from a community partnership of diverse stakeholders, including Arizona’s Congressional delegation, the state’s Regional Transportation Authority, the University of Arizona, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, the city’s business community and neighborhood advocates who all worked together to make the streetcar project a reality.

Support for the project comes from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). TIGER grants are part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration between DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development which coordinates federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money and reduce pollution.