“When I first got on [the City] Council there was just a mindset of, ‘Annex, annex, anything you can just grab it.’ One night we annexed 1,600 acres at one time. And since that time, in our 2030 plan, it is actually written that that is not a good idea. That now we should see … Continued
On the campus of Montevallo, AL. Photo by Larry Miller, via Flickr.
This is a guest post written by Ryan Parker, of our coalition partner Conservation Alabama.
Montevallo, AL is preserving its unique blend of college culture and country charm by making intentional decisions about expansion and development.
The small town of 6,000 residents in the heart of Alabama has a vibrant downtown, a Greenway National Recreational Trail, three beautiful parks, an art gallery, and Alabama’s only public liberal arts college, the University of Montevallo.
Over the last several years the City and the University have worked together on projects to make downtown Montevallo an even better place to live and work. “The very best colleges in the country, most of them have lively, attractive downtowns,” said John Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “We literally want Main Street and the campus to blend into one plan.”
LOCUS is proud to formally announce that we are expanding our efforts to six key regions across the country with LOCUS state chapters. LOCUS state chapters, working closely with LOCUS members in these states, will complement and enhance our ongoing national work to promote walkable development through education, advocacy, and technical assistance.
We have already begun work in the chapters states of Alabama, California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington. Thank you to the LOCUS members and allies who have met with us in these states thus far.
LOCUS members are invited and encouraged to join the work of these state chapters. If you are not yet a LOCUS member and are interested in joining, submit a membership application today.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. Now in its fourth round, the program remains critically underfunded. DOT received 703 applications, totaling $10.2 billion in requests. Out of those, 47 projects were selected to receive a total of close to $500 million.
The TIGER grant program provides a unique opportunity for DOT to invest in road, rail, transit, and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives. Now in its 4th round, the TIGER 2012 grants are attracting media attention nation wide. Read Part I of this coverage.
In the new round of TIGER grants announced recently, $10 million will go to the City of Birmingham, Alabama to repair its streets and build new sidewalks, bike lanes, paths and pedestrian corridors. Improvements in Pratt City, hard-hit by a tornado last year, will be the main focus of the project, called “Roads to Recovery.”
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.
“I’ve been in this town 10 years, and I love this little town,” said Juanita Syljuberget, a resident of Notasulga, Alabama, who works as a contract and grant specialist at nearby Auburn University. “There’s nothing fancy about it, but it’s a quiet little place, and everyone is very nice.”
“But it’s going to dry up and go away unless we do something.”
The plight of Notasulga and its 850-some residents in rural Macon County is not unlike hundreds of other small communities across the country. Years of changing economic and development patterns limited growth opportunities, and the very nature of remote towns left local businesses and municipal services more vulnerable than their counterparts in busy urban centers.
But while the story of a “Small Town USA” grappling with tough financial decisions has been played out countless times nationwide and even in emotional books and films, there is something that sets Notasulga apart: strong local leadership.
In 2000, the average resident of Birmingham, AL drove 34.8 miles each day, and only 2% of residents took transit or walked to work. Now, Birmingham is looking to change these trends and asked Smart Growth America for ideas about how to do it.
The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham invited Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoff Anderson and LOCUS President Chris Leinberger to come to Birmingham last week to speak about smarter growth. In a joint presentation, Anderson and Leinberger discussed new trends in neighborhood design and what they could mean for Alabama.
A Complete Streets resolution recently adopted in Birmingham, Alabama will help the community become a more accessible, healthy, and vibrant community.