Smart growth news – August 30

As Detroit’s offices fill up, suburbs feel pain
The Detroit News, August 29, 2011
When MyInsuranceExpert.com announced last week it is moving its headquarters and 85 workers from Troy to one of the downtown Detroit office buildings bought by entrepreneur Dan Gilbert, the online life insurance brokerage firm joined a growing trend. And most of downtown Detroit’s gain is amounting to some pain for the suburban office market.

‘Land Bank’ Knocks Out Some Foreclosure Problems
NPR, August 30, 2011
Cities have been tearing down crumbling, vacant houses for decades. The money for municipal demolition bills usually comes out of city budgets, but in Cleveland the housing crisis has started to change that equation.

Regional planners to apply for $5 million Sustainable Communities grant
The Tennessean, August 29, 2011
The Metropolitan Planning Organization and other regional planning groups have given notice to the federal government that the coalition intends to apply for a $5 million Sustainable Communities grant.

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Smart growth news – August 25

Is this the world’s greenest neighborhood?
NRDC Switchboard, August 24, 2011
I am on vacation in Victoria, British Columbia, a wonderful city that – among other good things – is home to Dockside Green, which some people are calling the greenest development in the world. At least with respect to new, highly urban developments-in-progress, they may have a case to make: for starters, when NRDC, the US Green Building Council and the Congress for the New Urbanism first announced the LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot program to honor smart growth, the developers of Dockside Green made a point of being the program’s very first applicant. It has since earned a platinum rating under LEED-ND.

A building spurt in Minneapolis
Star Tribune (Minn.), August 24, 2011
It’s been one of the worst years in history for home builders, but not in Minneapolis. The city expects to issue permits to build more than 1,500 new housing units — mostly rental apartments, according to the Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department…It’s a boom that’s being fueled by the convergence of two trends: a return to city living and a growing preference for rental housing over homeownership.

City vision for downtown: better parks, urban rail, cheaper housing
The Statesman (Texas), August 24, 2011
Picture downtown Austin with spruced-up parks, urban rail, more tree-lined and wider sidewalks and moderately priced housing. Those are some of the ideas described in a $1.6 million master plan that the City Council may consider today . The plan lays out a vision for transforming downtown that would cost as much as $350 million to carry out over the next decade. It’s not clear where the money would come from, but the likely options are fees, bond elections or partnerships with private companies.

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Smart growth news – August 22

How Anchor Stores Keep Neighborhoods Afloat
NPR, August 20, 2011
When major anchor stores like the Borders bookstore chain close their doors, what happens to the surrounding neighborhoods? Guest host Jacki Lyden talks about urban development issues with Chris Leinberger, who directs the University of Michigan’s real estate graduate studies.

O’Malley, Md. counties begin battle over development plan
Washington Post, August 19, 2011
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and county officials who oppose his plan to curb suburban sprawl fired opening shots Friday in a battle to set a statewide land-use plan that could dramatically affect whether local communities would be eligible to receive state funds for everything from school construction to new roads.

Challenging Baton Rouge
The Advocate (La.), August 22, 2011
The great cities of the 21st century will be well-managed, have an educated population and a sense of vibrancy, Tom Murphy, a former Pittsburgh mayor, said during his opening remarks at the Baton Rouge 2011 Smart Growth Summit.

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Smart growth news – August 19

More homebuyers want walkable, transit-served communities
Greater Greater Washington, August 18, 2011
New research shows that a growing number of homebuyers are interested in walkable, transit-served communities, and are willing to sacrifice a bigger house for a better neighborhood.

Car, bus or rail: for some Americans none of above
Reuters, August 19, 2011
More than half a million households in the 100 largest U.S. cities do not have cars or any access to public transportation, according to a study released on Thursday by the Brookings Institution.

Seattle, After Decade of Debate, Approves Tunnel
The New York Times, August 18, 2011
On Tuesday, voters here gave what amounts to a final blessing to a $2 billion, 1.7-mile, 56-foot-wide, deep-bore highway tunnel that will run below downtown skyscrapers and behind a sea wall that holds back Puget Sound.

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Smart growth news – August 17

Transportation bill falls short of repairing our infrastructure
Orlando Sentinel (Fla.), August 17, 2011
A report from Smart Growth America says that 21 percent of Florida’s roads have fallen out of good condition. Yes, we need to make difficult decisions to get our nation’s fiscal house back in order; however, transit, active transportation programs, and repair of our roads and bridges should not be on the chopping block. Experts warn that America’s infrastructure is deteriorating so rapidly that it could undermine our ability to compete in a global economy. Spending $1 today to repair a road saves us $6 to $14 to rebuild that road in the future.

On Wide Florida Roads, Running for Dear Life
The New York Times, August 16, 2011
It is no wonder that four Florida metropolitan areas, led by the Orlando region, ranked as the most dangerous places to walk in the country, according to a recent survey by Transportation for America, a nonprofit safety advocacy organization.

Can Suburbs Be Designed to Do Away with the Car?
Scientific American, August 16, 2011
As a result of the new design sensibilities, the Congress for the New Urbanism highlighted King Farm in 2008 as an “exciting” development, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited it as an example of “smart growth.” The planned community checked off all the boxes of the “new urbanist” manifesto: a mix of housing types paired with centrally located amenities, designed for pedestrians and cars as well as public transport–oriented. Instead of embracing that transportation vision, however, the residents of King Farm and the Rockville City Council recently rejected the proposed transit plan—specifically, any light-rail line that would travel down the swath of green explicitly designed to host such a system.

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West Virginia capital will finally have a town square thanks to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities

In the heart of Charleston, West Virginia’s downtown is Slack Plaza. Located near the city’s main transit hub and Charleston’s central business district, the concrete-heavy plaza with more parking spots than park benches has attracted more crime than consumers.

But thanks to a Greening America’s Capitals grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, Slack Plaza will one day become a walkable green space that connects important business districts and downtown to transit.

The EPA recently released design plans for Charleston’s Slack Plaza that would make the plaza more inviting to pedestrians. EPA’s project team and landscape architects Origin 4 Design also came up with a design for the plaza that include more green space and permeable pavement; a projection screen for art, movies, or public gathering events; plenty of comfortable seating with ample shade; and LED lighting.

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Smart growth news – August 15

Downtown supporters: Time is now for revitalization
Midland Reporter-Telegram (Texas), August 13, 2011
Shelton said she’d support a mixed-use property that would allow for office space on the upper floors and retail or restaurants on the ground-level. Some members of the DMMD said the renovation of the Ritz Cultural Events Center could be a catalyst of sorts as it aims to bring several hundred people downtown at least a few nights a week.

Opinion

Smart growth can curb traffic deaths
The Seattle Times, August 13, 2011
A study by researchers of 280 U.S. counties rated by how sprawled-out their development is. The survey showed that the 10 counties highest in “smart growth” — i.e., compact and mixed forms of development — had less than a quarter the per capita traffic fatality rates than the 10 with the most scattered and single-use growth patterns.

Nassau needs a downtown
Newsday (N.Y.), August 12, 2011
A vibrant mixed-use development — a model of smart growth principles including green technologies — would propel our economy and add new dimensions to life on Long Island. The development should create office space for new entrepreneurial businesses, especially biotech, spurred by the nearby academic and research institutions. Rental housing could support these businesses, and attract young professionals, including graduate students and other new residents. The development should be a planned, walkable destination that includes restaurants, retail businesses and a downtown center similar to Reston, Va. — where people come to shop and to dine, to work, to attend a concert, to play or watch sports.

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Smart growth news – August 12

‘Walkable’ communities, transit lines touted
The Advocate (La.), August 11, 2011
Walkable urban communities and those along transit lines are where the money is in commercial and residential real estate development, a national real estate developer and visiting fellow of the Brookings Institution said Wednesday. Chris Leinberger, who will return to Baton Rouge next week for the Center for Planning Excellence’s Smart Growth Summit, told a group of local developers, architects and planners that the era of interstate-driven suburban development is tapped out.

Can a new plan to rent out foreclosed properties help the housing market?
Washington Post, August 10, 2011
First, there’s a glut of foreclosed properties out there putting downward pressure on home prices — and that weak housing market, as we’ve seen, is putting a damper on economic growth. At the same time, there’s an undersupply of rental units, which is causing rents to increase faster than inflation in places like San Jose, Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York, Houston, and elsewhere. Is there a way to address both of those problems at once? Possibly.

Bloomberg, Schwarzenegger: U.S. Must Modernize Its Infrastructure, Invest In High-Speed Rail
Huffington Post, August 11, 2011
With GDP languishing and job-creation rates well below what’s needed to put the economy back on track, the key to recovery lies with American infrastructure, says a bipartisan group headed by Michael Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Details emerge about planned multi-million downtown development
Midland Daily News (Mich.), August 11, 2011
“Midland has tremendous existing attractions with the Dow Diamond Stadium, a vital downtown and the Tridge,” said Pat Gillespie, president of the Gillespie Group. “At the Gillespie Group and Caddis Development, we recognized an opportunity to further enhance Midland’s appeal by developing a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood that would connect the stadium with the existing downtown. We believe the development is a natural fit for the city, as we envision it will support a diverse, walkable and vibrant neighborhood where residents can live, shop, work and play. We are excited about the possibilities.”

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Smart growth news – August 10

Detroit’s downtown ‘starting to fight back’
Washington Times, August 7, 2011
For the past seven months, geologist Dan Ten Brink has made his home in a loft in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, working at an upscale cafe to make ends meet while on the lookout for a more permanent job. He is part of a trend of young professionals who are relocating to Detroit.

Camden touts ‘Live Where You Work’ program
Courier-Post (N.J.), August 10, 2011
At a City Hall press conference Tuesday, city and state officials announced the availability of low-interest, fixed-rate home mortgages to prospective buyers who work in the city.

Young professionals drawn to urban living
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wis.), August 6, 2011
Bryan Cooper didn’t give much thought to where he’d live while working as an intern at GE Healthcare in Waukesha. But Cooper found that when he wasn’t at the office, he was spending a lot of time around downtown Milwaukee instead of hanging out at his suburban apartment.

Incentives, planned apartments heat up downtown rental market
Detroit News, August 10, 2011
With the launch of a major incentive program to lure more people to live in downtown Detroit, the rental market in the 48226 area code, which covers the central business district, promises to be competitive for at least the near future.

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Smart growth news – August 9

IBM Partners With Portland To Play SimCity For Real
Fast Company, August 8, 2011
Systems Dynamics for Smarter Cities, as the app is called, tries to quantify the cause-and-effect relationships between seemingly uncorrelated urban phenomena. What’s the connection, for example, between public transit fares and high school graduation rates? Or obesity rates and carbon emissions? To find out, simply round up experts to hash out the linkages, translate them into algorithms, and upload enough historical data to populate the model.

Study examines extending Woodward light rail from Detroit to suburbs like Ferndale, Birmingham
Detroit Free Press, August 8, 2011
Detroit’s momentum in bringing light rail to Woodward Avenue may finally do what years of talks, political promises and symbolic gestures have failed to do: lead to real regional cooperation.

Senator Warns NJ Transportation Projects, Jobs Could Be At Risk If Congress Fails To Approve Funding
NJ Today, August 8, 2011
Today, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez joined labor and transportation advocates to warn of the potential results if Congress fails to re-authorize the Surface Transportation Program next month. The federal program, which provides funding for road, bridge, and transportation projects, will expire on Sept. 30.

4 recommendations for smarter American infrastructure
SmartPlanet, August 8, 2011
As Congress gets ready to pick a “supercommittee” that must find at least $1.5 trillion to cut from the U.S. deficit, a bipartisan coalition backed by several political heavyweights has released a new report urging Congressional leaders to reconsider American investments in roads, ports, broadband and other elements of a high-tech transportation network.

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