How-to workshops help small towns implement smart growth strategies

Cross-posted from Engaging Cities.

A new series of free workshops on smart growth development are catching the attention of policy makers and community leaders across the country.

The set of 12 workshops, run by Smart Growth America and several partner organizations, are designed to show local leaders how smart growth strategies can support a local economy and protect the environment while preserving the character of a town and making it more attractive to visitors or new residents.

The one or two-day workshops address a number of smart growth topics, including how to create pedestrian-friendly streets, the benefits of regional planning, innovative parking policies, and zoning changes that benefit small cities. “Transportation Performance Measurement,” for instance, empowers citizens and elected leaders to look at the roads, transit systems, walkways and bike lanes in their area as tools for achieving their objectives for economic vitality, public health, environmental protection and neighborhood character – in addition to the classic transportation objectives of access, circulation and travel.

It’s not just big cities that are interested in these strategies: leaders from across the country want to use smart growth strategies, and so far there’s more demand for these workshops than there is supply. With the application deadline still over a week away, civic leaders in 43 states and the District of Columbia have already expressed interest in the program, including towns as disparate as Mobile, AL; Boise, ID; Eau Claire, WI; and Tucson, AZ.

The workshop series isn’t scheduled to start until next year, but Smart Growth America has already led similar workshops elsewhere. In Billings, MT, the organization helped civic leaders develop an infill policy to revive neighborhoods struggling with blight. Leaders in Muskegon, MI, meanwhile, wanted help identifying smart growth strategies to promote business expansion and retention, another key part of this workshop series.

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