The former Heidelberg brewery in Tacoma’s Brewery District neighborhood. Smart Growth America’s 2012 workshop looked at ways to revitalize the neighborhood. Photo by Corey Knafelz via Flickr.
Tacoma, WA is growing fast. The area is projected to be one of the top 10 U.S. metro areas for job growth through 2020, and City leaders are working to support and sustain that economic growth with a smart growth approach to development.
Tacoma’s leaders were already thinking about these strategies back in April 2012, when Smart Growth America conducted a technical assistance workshop with the City. Staff from Smart Growth America and our partner Criterion Planners worked with Tacoma officials and local residents to understand how a smart growth approach could support revitalization in the Hilltop/ Martin Luther King Jr. neighborhood and Dome/Brewery District. The workshop focused on using the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) tool to help city officials establish a framework to set goals, measurements, and eventually brand these neighborhoods as center for green development.
In January Tacoma took a major step in this direction when the City Council approved the citywide strategic plan and vision Tacoma 2025. The plan outlines community priorities over the next 10 years, including the goals of increasing transportation options, creating more transit-oriented and infill development, and reusing historic buildings and districts. By implementing these community priorities, city officials can help build the foundation for a sustainable and economically vibrant Tacoma for years to come.
Tacoma’s commitment to neighborhood development and sustainability was encouraged in a Smart Growth America workshop on April 5-6, 2012. Staff from Smart Growth America and Criterion Planners worked with city officials and other stakeholders to help aide in the economic revitalization of the Hilltop/ Martin Luther King Jr. neighborhood and Dome/Brewery District. The workshop focused on using the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) tool to help city officials establish a framework to set goals, measurements, and eventually brand these neighborhoods as center for green development.
Elliott Barnett, a city planner with the City of Tacoma, credits the Smart Growth America workshop for reinforcing the city’s commitment to sustainability. “One of the biggest findings of the Smart Growth America workshop was that growing in existing cities and in centers within cities is a significant part of sustainability. The workshop instructors made the case that by investing in existing urban neighborhoods we can not only encourage economic development, but also grow in a sustainable manner that meets our community’s environmental goals”.
Following the workshop, the City of Tacoma approved a series of subarea plans that encompassed various downtown neighborhoods—including the Hilltop/MLK neighborhood and Dome/Brewery District—which emphasized the connection between neighborhood development and sustainability. The goal of these subarea plans was to anticipate, support, and guide long-term community development by providing a clear benchmarking tool for local government and neighborhood groups to evaluate, quantify, and promote livability and sustainability efforts throughout Downtown Tacoma.
Even with the city’s success in promoting sustainable development and revitalizing several downtown areas, city leaders continue to see opportunities to create a more livable Tacoma. City officials are currently drafting a Subarea Plan for the 485-acre Tacoma Mall. The goal of this project is to create a “second downtown” and set the stage for a transition from an auto-centric regional shopping area into a compact, complete community. As with the downtown subarea plans and Tacoma 2025, the Mall project signals Tacoma’s commitment towards creating a dense, livable, and sustainable city.
Smart Growth America’s free annual technical assistance program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.