Smart growth news – August 8

America is Broken: Five Ways to Fix the Nation
International Business Times, August 6, 2011
1) Create a federal iBank — a public-private partnership to fund infrastructure investment in the nation. The infrastructure bank, or iBank, can get projects done including repair and building of subways, highways, bridges, dams and waterways without busting the budget.

Developing Dover: Measured growth, mixed use in Garrison City’s future
Fosters Daily Democrat (N.H.), August 7, 2011
[T]he Dover of five to 10 years from now will look like a more urbanized version of what can be seen today. Yes, mixed use development is coming, but what appears to be in the books for the city works hard to preserve the Hometown, USA attributes that make it such a desirable place to live.

No-charge Main trolley service fuels local ridership boom
The Durango Herald (Colo.), August 6, 2011
Public transportation in Durango isn’t your usual bus service. For starters, the most popular of its “buses” actually are trolley cars on wheels. And residents and visitors alike are exceptionally fond of the service.

Several new developments in progress despite national economy
Hudson Reporter (N.J.), August 7, 2011
While the nation still suffers from a slow economy, a number of luxury residential developments are rising from North Bergen to Jersey City, likely fueled by the proximity to Manhattan and to several forms of public transportation.


Smart growth news – August 5

Michigan’s Viral-Video Placemaking
Sustainable Cities Collective, August 3, 2011
Train stations and outdoor plazas are typical locales of flash mobs due to their vast performance spaces and pedestrian-friendly hubs. Participants tell their friends to join expected tourists, and everyone has a good time. It’s rare thousands of residents participate and rarer a city’s downtown on a Sunday afternoon is the backdrop. But what happened in Grand Rapids, Michigan in January 2011 was the exception.

City is thriving despite state’s trend
Livingston Daily (Mich.), August 5, 2011
In the face of one of the worse economic downturns in Michigan’s history, downtown Brighton has become a poster child for economic health. “I’m not aware of any significant vacancies there,” Matt Modrack said about the downtown area.

USF closer to roots with Folger building purchase
San Francisco Chronicle, August 4, 2011
The Folger Coffee Building is about to become the “downtown hub” for the University of San Francisco. USF said Wednesday that it is buying the historic building at 101 Howard St. for $36.5 million and will be locating several of its academic programs and departments there.

Developer Aims To Bring Residential Spark To Downtown Brooklyn
NY1, August 4, 2011
It’s had a gray flat frontage for decades, but now the layers are being stripped off a city office building in downtown Brooklyn. Inside, magnificent archways, grand columns and an adorned ceiling have been uncovered in what used to be an old judge’s chambers. […] Muss Development bought the first two floors of the building from the city. Now it’s restoring the space as a restaurant and retail location.


Companies migrate from suburbs to downtown Chicago

During the past five years, at least 10 companies have relocated some or all of their business to downtown Chicago, including United Airlines, BP, Thomson Reuters and Willis Group Holdings. Now, according to a story in this weekend’s Chicago Tribune, other major employers like Acco Brands, Sara Lee Corp. and Barilla are also considering moving back to the city – and they’re not alone.


Smart growth news – August 1

NY law allows land banks to address blight
Associated Press via Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2011
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law allowing for creation of municipal land banks, which take control of problem properties and then redevelop or dispose of them.

In search for talent, companies relocating to downtown Chicago
Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2011
As the office-space market slowly recovers, downtown Chicago is benefiting from a trend long in the making: companies relocating from the suburbs.

With no room to grow, Winchester has a plan to revitalize its core
Boston Globe, July 31, 2011
Winchester’s quaint town center, with its independent shops and boutiques, is known as the heart of the community, but a closer look reveals it is not beating as strongly as it could. With roughly 95 percent of Winchester’s tax base reliant on residential property and no open space for new development, town officials have turned their attention to the underutilized town center.

Louisville’s ‘brain gain’: Reversing a trend, number of better-educated young adults is on the rise
Courier-Journal (Ky.), July 29, 2011
Lynn Bosscher knew little about Louisville besides the Kentucky Derby when she moved here last year from Grand Rapids, Mich. Now some of her regular haunts are Cherokee Park and El Mundo — the cozy Frankfort Avenue restaurant where she takes guests from out of town.


Smart growth news – July 29

Blumenauer criticizes cuts to smart growth program
Environment & Energy Daily, July 28, 2011
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) yesterday took aim at language in the U.S. EPA spending bill that would eliminate an agency program that helps communities develop with an eye toward environmental and economic sustainability. The Smart Growth program would see its entire budget slashed in the Interior-EPA 2012 spending bill currently being debated on the House floor. The program offers technical and financial assistance to cities and towns looking to expand their infrastructure to emphasize livability and downplay driving and sprawl.

The Latest Target of House Spending Cuts: EPA’s Smart Growth Office
Streetsblog, July 28, 2011
For much of this week, the House has been debating next year’s appropriations bill for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The bill includes harsh cuts to many key safety and environmental programs, including the EPA’s Smart Growth Office. According to the Obama administration’s statement of policy on the bill, “The bill terminates funding for EPA’s Smart Growth program, which contributes to efforts to assist communities in coordinating infrastructure investments and minimizing environmental impact of development.” Smart Growth America opposes the cut, calling it “shortsighted” and saying it would be “detrimental to economic growth.”

Winning the Future by Supporting Local Innovation
The White House Blog, July 28, 2011
Today, I was proud to announce that we are making $95 million available in Regional and Community Challenge grants to support local efforts to build more livable and sustainable communities that ensure that all Americans can afford to live in places with access to employment, schools and public transit options.

$60.9 billion, 30-year transportation plan approved for region
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 27, 2011
The Atlanta Regional Commission on Wednesday approved the region’s 30-year plan to spend $60.9 billion on transportation projects and manage growth.


Smart growth news – July 26

The country’s most ambitious smart growth project shows some progress, much remaining potential
NRDC, July 26, 2011
I once called the Atlanta BeltLine “the country’s best smart growth project.” I still haven’t seen one that is better in concept. But now, with a few years of history, how is the implementation coming along? Is the reality matching the vision?

Pittsburgh: a sweet spot for post-young’uns
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 25, 2011
“Pittsburgh’s always behind the national trends.” With a shrug or an eye-roll, that’s our explanation for anything from the lack of gourmet food trucks on city streets to the persistence of mullets on local heads. But every once in a while, lagging behind can mean getting ahead. You examine the trendsetters’ mistakes and correct your own course while there’s still time. What if this were the case with Pittsburgh’s decades-long population loss?

Passing of transportation bill will help economy
The Birmingham News, July 25, 2011
Commerce is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy, and transportation infrastructure is its circulatory system. Without passage of a multiyear surface transportation bill before the current extension expires Sept. 30, American business will suffer as roads become more congested and their conditions continue to deteriorate. All levels of government must make long-term investment in transportation a national priority.

America’s Coming Infrastructure Crash
The Atlantic, July 25, 2011
When President Obama took office in January 2009, he promised that ” to lay a new foundation for growth….we will build the roads and bridges.” And in his 2011 State of the Union address, he promised to “put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges.” But as all attention is focused on the debt ceiling battle, here’s what’s happening on the infrastructure front. Highway, street, and bridge construction jobs through the first five months of 2011 are running 18% below 2007 levels, and the stimulus money is fading.


Smart growth news – July 25, 2011

Land Bank Act will help N.Y.
Times Union (N.Y.), July 22, 2011
New York cities face a daunting vacancy crisis. Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy and Utica all have vacancy rates over 10 percent, according to recent census data. Vacant properties pose a serious threat to New York communities by lowering surrounding property values, attracting crime, cutting into local tax revenues and perpetuating cycles of disinvestment.

U.S. Treasury to move into new building in downtown Birmingham
The Birmingham News, July 23, 2011
The U.S. Treasury Department will move its operations from Homewood to a new $19 million, 87,000-square-foot building to be built next to the new Social Security Building in downtown Birmingham.

Gas prices fuel mass-transit surge
The Miami Herald, July 21, 2011
From 1995 to 2009, national use of public transit increased by 34 percent, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association, a nonpartisan group that promotes mass-transit improvement. South Florida saw an increase of 37 percent from 2000 to 2009. In the state with the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities, venturing out of a car is especially risky. Miami residents’ commute time is also five minutes longer than the national average. But in the city that was recently ranked the eighth-most “walkable” in the country, people are willing to do it.

South San Francisco seeks to revitalize southern El Camino Real
San Jose Mercury, July 23, 2011
On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to consider approving the El Camino Real/Chestnut plan, which calls for high-density, mixed-use development in the area over the next generation.


Smart growth news – July 21

Economy could hamper Indy’s plans to redevelop 4 sites
Indianapolis Star (Ind.), July 19, 2011
On the edge of an eye-catching Downtown, they are among the eyesores — the empty Bush Stadium, the idled GM stamping plant, the crumbling Keystone Towers and a no-man’s land near Eli Lilly and Co. headquarters. In the past year, Mayor Greg Ballard has announced plans to redevelop those sites into new neighborhoods, with homes within walking distance of jobs, restaurants and stores.

Envisioning a new ‘old’ downtown Fayetteville
The Citizen (Ga.), July 20, 2011
“A History with a Future” may turn out to be more than the slogan associated with Fayetteville. A recently unveiled conceptual plan for “Fayetteville Downtown West” represents what organizers call a long-term development vision that would bring historically-oriented, pedestrian-friendly commercial and residential development to the 9.1-acre area immediately west of downtown between Stonewall Avenue and Lanier Avenue and extending to Tiger Trail.

Post-Katrina Rebuilding Includes Wider, Greener Transit Options
The Huffington Post, July 19, 2011
New Orleans–never a candidate for an underground, subway system–has had on-and-off success with public transit. But as roads became clogged and full of fumes in the post-Katrina era, the city and entrepreneurs have explored ways to expand streetcar lines, make buses greener and restore ferry service on Lake Pontchartrain.

Airports authority endorses aboveground Dulles rail station
The Washington Post, July 20, 2011
Washington’s airports authority Wednesday abandoned plans to build an underground Metro station at Dulles International Airport after months of bitter debate with the governments helping to fund the project to extend rail service to Loudoun County.


Smart growth news – July 20, 2011

The road to budget priorities is full of potholes
The Daily Astorian (Ore.), July 19, 2011
A coalition of citizens groups is working to shed light on this problem, including 1000 Friends of Oregon, Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. According to a coalition report, 43 percent of Oregon’s roads are not in good condition, and the cost of bringing these roads up to snuff increases every year.

California’s rough roads tough on motorcyclists
San Jose Mercury (Calif.), July 19, 2011
Although numerous paving projects are under way or soon to begin in the Bay Area, the hope for smoother roads is bleak. A report last week by Smart Growth America found that only 30 percent of California’s state-owned highways were in good shape.

Smart-growth principles can deflate congestion, drive economic growth
Sun Sentinel (Fla.), July 17, 2011
We all want our region to be competitive in the global marketplace. It’s how we make this happen that is the crux of this discussion. Transit and transportation choices are the bones of a sustainable, competitive Florida.

Does US-style planning and smart growth work elsewhere?
NRDC, July 19, 2011
Do American ideas of sustainable communities, smart growth and urbanism work elsewhere? Here are a couple of leading architectural thinkers discussing the challenges.


The suburban corporate headquarters is losing its charm

The suburban campus headquarters, once the pinnacle of corporate America, is on the decline. Two recent pieces from the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine explain that many companies are choosing to leave their suburban headquarters in favor of walkable downtowns with smart growth features.

“The youth of America, when they graduate, they’re looking to go to an urban environment,” Quicken CEO Bill Emerson explained to Fortune. Explaining that top recruits wanted to be in a place where they could live, work and play, Emerson added, “An asphalt parking lot is not necessarily the best way to do that.”

Features like mass transit, shorter commutes, the option of walking to work and access to restaurants and shops – all key principles of smart growth development – are forming a new model of what America’s most desirable workers want. Rather than trying to lure these workers out to the suburbs, many companies – including corporations like United Airlines,, Credit Suisse AG, Panasonic – are relocating to where young, talented professionals want to live. According to Fortune:

In general, suburban or rural locations are cheaper per square foot, have lower taxes, ample parking, and don’t require higher salaries for employees to feel reasonably compensated. But for companies looking to recruit younger people, all those factors have to be weighed against the reality that there is nothing hip about the ‘burbs.