How does a city make sure it’s ready for investment? A question weighing on many municipal minds is how to organize planning, economic development strategies, and zoning regulations to make it clear to residents, developers, and investors that this is the right place to be. Further, how does a community encourage investment without sacrificing the characteristics that make it an attractive community to its residents?
With all of the attention showered on “Crystal City” (Arlington, VA adjacent to DC) and Long Island City (Queens, New York City) after being selected as Amazon’s second/third headquarters, what are the lessons to learn for the 236 other disappointed communities, and what strategies could improve their future prospects?
Amazon dropped a bombshell earlier this week when they announced that they’re going to expand from Seattle by building a brand new second headquarters in another city. Based on their RFP, regardless of where they land, it’s another example of how companies are increasingly seeking out vibrant, walkable, connected urban places as they try to attract and retain talent.
Vibrant, walkable neighborhoods can help attract new residents and jobs, support existing businesses, and benefit everyone’s quality of life. We’re excited to announce an in-person event exploring how these strategies are working in two particular cities—and how communities anywhere can use this approach.
Hundreds of companies across the United States are moving to and investing in walkable downtown locations. As job migration shifts towards cities and as commercial real estate values climb in these places, a vanguard of American companies are building and expanding in walkable downtown neighborhoods. Why are companies choosing these places? What are the competitive … Continued
The City of Salisbury, MD envisions its downtown as one that is both walkable and sustainable. To complement the city’s downtown revitalization efforts, Salisbury officials and local residents met with representatives from Smart Growth America on June 11 and 12, 2014, as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. Promoting pedestrian and cyclist activity downtown is a priority for the city in order to encourage residents to visit the area and patronize local businesses. Through a partnership with Smart Growth America, the City of Salisbury and its residents worked to identify solutions to challenges facing pedestrians and cyclists navigating the area.
“We want more people knowing how to discover our Downtown businesses,” said James Ireton, Jr., Mayor of the City of Salisbury. “Smart Growth America will provide us with the resources to focus our efforts on making it easier for more people to live, work, and play Downtown.”
On the first day of the workshop, residents attended an introductory presentation that discussed the current state of Salisbury’s pedestrian and cyclist network and the importance of walkability in achieving the city’s vision of a revitalized Downtown. Residents returned the following day for a bicycle tour and then walking tour to provide insight on challenges cyclists and pedestrians encounter.
In January 2014, Salisbury was one of 18 communities selected by Smart Growth America to participate in the free technical assistance program. Stretching from New Hampshire to Idaho, these communities represent major cities, suburban centers, and rural towns alike.
“We are excited to be in an elite class of cities receiving this support from Smart Growth America,” said Salisbury City Council President Jacob Day. “Salisbury’s economy can thrive with greater investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and with a greater density of economic activity in the core. This grant will help us plan our evolution.”
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.”
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is on a mission to support economic development in his city, and he’s using smart growth and downtown development strategies to accomplish that goal.
“People were slow to embrace some of the changes we were proposing because they didn’t necessarily see how, say, the development of a street car would lead to more jobs,” Mallory says in Smart Growth America’s first “Smart Growth Stories” video interview. “They didn’t necessarily see how investing so much money in downtown allowed for improvements in neighborhoods. So I’ve had to explain to people that downtown is the engine, the economic engine, for everything that happens in our entire region.”
What the End of the Sustainable Communities Grants Means For Planning
Governing Magazine, December 21, 2011
One reason the program may have suffered is a general lack of appreciation for planning. “It’s a hard thing to defend in the sense that it’s not putting a piece of infrastructure in the ground,” said Geoffrey Anderson, head of Smart Growth America. “But then you think about building a building without planning. The idea is absurd.” Indeed, a different Sustainable Communities initiative, the Transportation Department’s TIGER grants, survived. It provides over $500 million to highways, transit, bridges and ports.
Cities Face Tough Choices as U.S. Slashes Block Grants Program
New York Times, December 21, 2011
The shrinking federal program, called Community Development Block Grants, was devised by the Nixon administration to bypass state governments and send money directly to big cities, which were given broad leeway to decide how to spend it. This year the federal government is giving out just $2.9 billion — a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, and even less than it gave during the Carter administration, when the money went much further.
Transit as a Stepping Stone to Prosperity
Regional Plan Association Blog, December 21, 2011
Christmas came early to the tri-state region this year. In the span of a week, two high-profile, competitive awards landed on Long Island and in Stamford, Conn. While they have different objectives and scopes, both should help further the twin goals of revitalizing the metropolitan economy and supporting more sustainable, transit-oriented development.
Morning Read: Smart Growth, or “War on Rural Maryland”?
Baltimore Sun, December 19, 2011
Glendening, 69, praised Plan Maryland as a “major movement ahead.” The plan spells out criteria for judging which types of development projects are viewed as desirable — and worthy of state infrastructure spending. “Land use planning is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for people who are anxious to get things done quickly,” said Glendening.
Maryland To Offer Preferential Funding For Smart Growth
WAMU (DC), December 21, 2011
The rate of land consumption in Maryland is three times the rate of population growth, according to the state’s department of planning. That’s a lot of urban sprawl for a small state. Governor Martin O’Malley issued an executive order for a strategy called PlanMaryland, which is designed to limit sprawl, but it’s set up tensions around the state.
The Future of Retail
BusinessWeek, December 20, 2011
Modernize our nation’s aging infrastructure: It is critical that the US transportation infrastructure — including our ports, airports, rail lines and roads — can meet future demands. We need a national freight policy that will support US competitiveness, economic growth and job creation.