An Alabama city grapples with its development decisions


Atmore—a rural city in southern Alabama—is poised to make some key land use decisions that will have a great impact on both its long-term economic prosperity and its fiscal health. To grapple with these choices, the city partnered with Smart Growth America to gain a better understand their impact.

Economic development Technical assistance

New analysis examines the fiscal implications of development patterns in West Des Moines, IA

fiscal-implications-wdm-coverIn early April, Smart Growth America released a new model for analyzing the fiscal performance of urban development. The City of Madison, WI, was the first city to use the new model in their development planning.

Today we’re proud to release new analysis of development patterns in West Des Moines, IA. The new research examines four different strategies for West Des Moines’ growth over the next 20 years. Each scenario assumes the development of 9,275 housing units and 2.69 million square feet of commercial space, which is in keeping with West Des Moines’ current growth.

The four scenarios have different densities and a different mix of home types. A “base density” scenario approximates the average density of development in West Des Moines today; a “low density” and “higher density” scenario represent incrementally lower, and higher development densities, respectively, than the base. And a “walkable urban” scenario has the highest density of all scenarios considered and represents a more dramatic departure from the typical development pattern in West Des Moines (though does not propose any high-rise development).

The model calculates average annual public costs for each scenario. Our researchers subtract that from the average annual public revenues generated by each scenario. The result is the net fiscal impact of each type of development.

Local Leaders Council Uncategorized

Introducing "The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns"

A smart growth approach can help municipalities support their long term financial health, and a new tool will help local leaders understand specific ways this approach can help their community.

The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns, released today by Smart Growth America and real estate advisors RCLCO, is a new model for analyzing the fiscal performance of urban development.

It is designed to help towns, cities, and counties understand what financial returns their development currently generates—and what strategies could generate better returns in the future.

This new model is unique in that it is sensitive to both geography and density. We allow municipal costs per capita to vary based on these factors.

Join today’s kickoff event

Smart Growth America will be presenting this new tool at a live event today at 2:00 PM EDT in Madison, WI. The event will also be live streamed on the web, and we invite you to watch.

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Madison is the first city in the country to use our new model, and today’s event will also include a demonstration of how the model applies to Madison’s development specifically.

Smart Growth America is always working to help towns and cities better understand the impacts of their development choices. Our new model is the most recent in this line of work and we look forward to sharing it with you. Join us later today to learn all about the new resource.

P.S.—Want to conduct this analysis in your town, city, or county? Contact us to learn about our consulting services.

Local Leaders Council Uncategorized

Harris County, TX works to align economic growth and public health

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A bird’s eye rendering of Pasadena’s growing local economy. Graphic via the City of Pasadena.

In Harris County, TX, the Department of Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES) knew that encouraging smarter development could benefit both public health and the local economy. But creating real change meant more than just having the knowledge. If smart growth was to become a reality, local officials, business leaders, and interested citizens needed to join the process and feel ownership.

So HCPHES brought in the experts.

Technical assistance

Pasco County, FL hosts workshop on revitalizing U.S. 19 corridor

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A building in New Port Richey, Florida. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.
On July 30 and 31, 2014, officials and local residents of Pasco County, FL met with representatives from Smart Growth America as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. The workshop aimed to provide Pasco County with tools and techniques to implement plans to revitalize the Harbors, a portion of the U.S. Route 19 corridor that follows the county’s coastline.

Technical assistance

City of Indianapolis, IN hosts workshop to inform Plan 2020: The Bicentennial Plan for Indianapolis


The City of Indianapolis is embarking on Plan 2020: The Bicentennial Plan for Indianapolis, an unprecedented initiative to update and integrate the City’s core planning documents. To complement this effort, Indianapolis 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. The workshop focused on how shifting development patterns towards more compact, transit-oriented development could benefit the local economy and local government finances, both of which are important components of Plan 2020.

Technical assistance

Since the workshop: Fairfax, VA identifies new development potential along Fairfax Boulevard

Dover Kohl VisualizationA visualization of the Northfax node along Fairfax Boulevard illustrating a potential future condition. Photo courtesy of Dover Kohl & Partners.

In June, 2013 Smart Growth America visited the city of Fairfax, VA to help city leaders there figure out new strategies for development. How is Fairfax using that workshop to inform its work today?

Since 2007, the City has been working to revitalize Fairfax Boulevard, the main commercial corridor running through the city. The boulevard is currently home to strip mall-type retail and other low-density commercial businesses but recent developer interest in projects along Fairfax Boulevard made the City realize that low-density development on the corridor would not support the community over the long term. So the Department of Community Development and Planning applied for one of Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance workshops, viewing it as an opportunity to ground public discussions about development in sound fiscal policy.

Technical assistance

Reno, NV hosts workshop on smarter development

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Downtown Reno and the Truckee Meadows. Photo by Tonya Poole via Flickr.

In October Smart Growth America visited Reno, NV, to meet with residents and local officials there as part of a “Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health” technical assistance workshop.

The workshop aimed to lay the groundwork for the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency (TMRPA) to examine different development models for the region, with the ultimate goal of creating a regional plan for sustainable development.

Technical assistance

Since the workshop: Charlotte, NC plans for economic and fiscal health with Smart Growth America workshop

The City of Charlotte, NC, is working to spur economic development and community reinvestment within five geographic areas with the help of a technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America.

Property values have increased in many of Charlotte’s neighborhoods over the past decades. However, several areas in Charlotte have lagged behind.

This observation prompted the City to apply for technical assistance from Smart Growth America. In May, our staff visited the city to host a “Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health” workshop. At the workshop, Smart Growth America’s experts and City officials discussed strategies for attaining quality growth throughout Charlotte, and how better development strategies could contribute to the city’s economic competitiveness and stability.  Five areas in Charlotte were targeted for city investment including: Whitehall/Ayrsley, Prosperity Village, West Trade/Rozelles Ferry, Sunset/Beattie’s Ford, and Central/Eastland/Albemarle.  In their “next steps” memorandum after the workshop, Bill Fulton and Roger Millar of Smart Growth America recommended a number of possible high-impact public investments for each of the five target neighborhoods. Ultimately, the hope is that these types of investments will strengthen the five areas by making them more desirable for commercial and retail markets and middle-income housing.

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