Small places with big goals win national awards for smart growth achievement

Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America (left) with representatives from seven communities honored with the 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.

On Wednesday evening in a hearing room on Capitol Hill, the winners of this year’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement gathered to discuss how their projects are helping their communities become better places to live and work.

The awards this year went to projects that have improved streets, redeveloped historic buildings, built new homes and stores in the heart of downtown, created better transportation choices and more. And though the projects are all very different from one another, none would have been possible without community support and collaboration.

“That’s the word of the day, partnerships,” said Kenneth Chandler, former City Manager of the City of Portsmouth, VA. Portsmouth’s comprehensive overhaul of the city’s development and land use regulations won it the Programs and Policies award. Portsmouth’s new codes are already creating a more livable and pedestrian-friendly city with opportunities for economic development and reinvestment.

Many of Chandler’s fellow representatives echoed this sentiment, highlighting the community members, businesses and public offices that helped make their projects possible. In Brattleboro, VT, the town’s organic foods co-op partnered with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and Housing Vermont to create a mixed-use building with affordable homes and offices in the heart of downtown. “When I asked them if they’d be interested in using the second floor above the co-op, it took them about 30 seconds to say ‘Yes!’,” said Alex Gyori, General Manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op. The project won the award for Main Street or Corridor Revitalization.

Other project representatives cited state and federal programs that helped make their plans a reality.
Denver’s Mariposa District, which won the award for Equitable Development, was made possible with the help of a Regional Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD and EPA work together along with the Department of Transportation on the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which coordinates federal programs to achieve multiple goals. The Mariposa District is a prime example of the Partnership’s work in action: the historic neighborhood is building a vibrant, mixed-use district with affordable homes close to schools, jobs, and a light-rail station.

The BLVD in Lancaster, CA also used the help of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The BLVD won the award for Overall Excellence for its work transforming downtown Lancaster into a thriving residential and commercial district through investments in new streetscape design, public facilities, affordable homes, and local businesses.

Smart Growth America invited these four award winners and three honorable mentions – Northwest Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, FL; the Larkin District in Buffalo, NY; and the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco, CA – to tell members of Congress and their staff how federal investments can help or hurt projects like this. Programs like the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, HOPE VI, Choice Neighborhoods, Regional Planning Grants and many state-level programs help communities like these create better neighborhoods for businesses and residents.

Voice your support for projects like these: <a href="Click here to send a letter to your member of Congress.

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In the photo above, from left: Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America; Marvin Crist, Vice Mayor of the City of Lancaster, CA; Ismael Guerrero, Executive Director of the Denver Housing Authority in Denver, CO; Alex Gyori, General Manager of the Brattleboro Food Co-op in Brattleboro, VT; Kenneth Chandler, Former City Manager of the City of Portsmouth, VA; Scott Strawbridge, Director of Development and Facilities for the Housing Authority of Fort Lauderdale, FL; Robert Shibley, Dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning in Buffalo, NY; and Corey Carlisle, National Policy Director of the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco, CA.