Introducing "Amazing Place"

A new trend in local economic development is emerging. Talented workers—and the companies who want to employ them—are increasingly moving to walkable neighborhoods served by transit, with a vibrant mix of restaurants, cafes, shops, cultural attractions, and affordable housing options.

Economic development

Recorded webinar: "(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization"

rebuilding6Are you interested in helping your community revitalize its downtown, but don’t know where to start?

Yesterday, Smart Growth America released (Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization, a new resource for local leaders who want to re-invigorate and strengthen neighborhood centers of economy, culture, and history through a smart growth approach to development. The guide lays out in straightforward language seven main steps to help (re)build downtowns and Main Streets, and is designed to be used by any community, no matter where they are in the revitalization process.

As part of yesterday’s kickoff, we hosted an online conversation all about downtown revitalization. Participants heard an overview of the new guidebook, and discussed revitalization efforts in three different communities. A recorded version of the webinar is now available.

Local Leaders Council

Introducing "(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization"

Downtowns, Main Streets, and city centers across the country are witnessing a renaissance. As more Americans chose the convenience and connectivity of walkable neighborhoods, communities are seeing new businesses, restaurants, and shops open in areas that were formerly vacant or economically distressed.

This movement is an exciting opportunity for communities. But for many places, the work needed to create a vibrant downtown can seem daunting. A new guidebook is designed to help.

(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization, released today, is a new guide for local elected officials who want to re-invigorate and strengthen neighborhood centers of economy, culture, and history through a smart growth approach to development. The guide lays out in straightforward language seven main steps to take, and it’s designed to be used by any community, no matter where you are in the revitalization process.

We’ll be talking all about this guide during a kickoff panel discussion today at 1:00 pm EST. Register to join us for this free online event.

Joining the conversation will be Alex Morrison, Executive Director at Macon-Bibb County, GA Urban Development Authority; Mayor John Engen of Missoula, MT; and Will Schroeer, Executive Director, East Metro Strong of Saint Paul, MN. We welcome your questions and ideas for our panelists or about the new guidebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at the hashtag #RebuildingDowntown.

Today’s new guide is a fantastic resource for any community interested in a stronger, more vibrant downtown. Check out the new guidebook to learn more.

Local Leaders Council

"Evaluating Complete Streets Projects: A guide for practitioners" now available

ecsp-coverCommunities have seen amazing results from their Complete Streets projects. These projects have made streets safer, increased the number of people biking, walking, and taking transit, and have been related to broader economic gains. But too few communities measure these results.

Our newest guide is designed to make it easier for transportation professionals to understand and use new measures of success. Evaluating Complete Streets Projects: A guide for practitioners is a beginners guide to performance measures for Complete Streets projects published today by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Meant for agencies interested in but just beginning their project evaluation efforts, this resource provides general first steps to take in evaluating projects, useful measures and metrics for common Complete Streets goals, tips for sharing successes, and further resources for those ready to dive deeper into the why and how of performance measurement for Complete Streets.

Measuring project performance can help transportation agencies understand what’s working and what’s not. It’s a crucial way for agencies to align project decisions with established goals, and can clearly demonstrate a project’s success. All of this can help transportation agencies build public support for their work and get the most out of their investments. Our new guide is a great first step in achieving these goals.

Complete Streets

A new resource for engaging community members in brownfield redevelopment

OPTIONs Workbook coverDo you know the ten smart growth principles by heart? Me neither, but there’s one I never forget: Encourage Community and Stakeholder Collaboration in Development Decisions.

Engaging community members in decisions about where, what, when and how to invest, build, and preserve is what makes smart growth smart. As basic as this principle is, though, it is not always easy to do. There is a learning curve for everyone involved in the development process and this is particularly true for brownfield sites—properties that are or are suspected to be contaminated by hazardous materials. Brownfields are some of the most complicated redevelopment projects and the more people and official processes that are involved in the process, the steeper the learning curve.

That’s why Smart Growth America is happy to release a new tool designed to help communities organize for effective public outreach. The Organizing to Promote Targeted Improvements in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs) Community Engagement Workbook is a series of seven worksheets with instructions designed to help community groups think about how to organize, what they need, and how to build a strategy to participate in the redevelopment process. Community groups can use these tools on their own, but they can be just as useful for local governments seeking working with partners in federally- and state-mandated community engagement programs.

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Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative release a new tool for state transportation officials

Faced with revenue shortfalls and shrinking budgets, state transportation officials can employ a wide range of innovative transportation reforms to improve service while making the most of limited funding, according to a new policy and practice report from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

The Innovative DOT: A handbook of policy and practice surveys best practices nationally and takes stock of the ways in which state Departments of Transportation can provide taxpayers and travelers with a better return on their investments and better accessibility to destinations.

“Fundamentally, it’s about looking at all the ways to solve a problem so you can pick the one that provides the most benefits for the least cost—which is essential with budgets so tight,” says Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “Transportation is not an end in and of itself — rather, it’s a path to our nation’s economic prosperity and to a better quality of life for all Americans. Adopting this mindset changes the focus from delivering projects to delivering outcomes.”

The Innovative DOT is broken into eight focus areas, but a number of common themes run through the report. Increasing collaboration between state agencies and local partners, breaking down government silos, “right-sizing” transportation projects, investing in multi-modal solutions and streamlining processes are some of the primary ways state DOTs are extracting more value from limited funds.

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New report and companion workbook highlight successful Complete Streets policies from across the United States

Communities across the United States adopted 146 Complete Streets policies in 2011, and over 350 policies are now in place across the country. A new report looks at some of the best of these policies, and a new resource can help community leaders bring these practices to their town or city.

The National Complete Streets Coalition’s 2011 Policy Analysis surveys the over 350 Complete Streets policies that have been approved by communities across the country. These policies are working to make streets safer, more livable and more welcoming for everyone, and the 2011 Policy Analysis surveys the most successful and robust.

“It’s great to see such a surge in Complete Streets policy adoption over the past year,” said National Complete Streets Coalition Director Roger Millar. “But this growth is also reflective of changing times and attitudes about transportation.”

Local policies of particular note are highlighted throughout the report, providing a comprehensive examination of best policy practices across the country. Complete Streets policies in New Jersey, Louisiana, California, Minnesota, and Connecticut are among the report’s most successful examples.

Complete Streets

From Vacancy to Vibrancy: A guide to redeveloping underground storage tank sites through area-wide planning

A new guide for town, city and county leaders outlines a new tool they can use to build the financial and political support needed to reclaim and redevelop the thousands of abandoned gas stations, auto body shops, and industrial facilities nationwide.

From Vacancy to Vibrancy focuses on underground storage tank (UST) sites – properties with buried or partially buried tanks that have been used to store petroleum or other hazardous substances. When gas stations, auto body shops, industrial facilities or other types of development close down, these tanks are often left behind. As they age, the tanks are prone to leakage and can contaminate both soil and groundwater, posing a serious environmental threat. The new guide takes aim at one of the primary reasons these types of properties remain vacant for so long: many officials just don’t know what to do with them.

The regulatory issues associated with vacant properties containing a UST, as well as the time and money involved in cleanup, often makes revitalization seem like more trouble than it is worth. These challenges are overshadowed, however, by UST sites’ potential for neighborhood revitalization. From the Executive Summary:

UST sites are often both small and centrally located, and both these traits make them unique opportunities for revitalization. As demand rises for housing in neighborhoods close to town and in city centers – persisting in spite of larger challenges in the real estate market nationwide – UST sites are in a position to catalyze reinvestment and redevelopment initiatives.

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A Citizen's Guide for land use and transportation planning from Idaho Smart Growth

Over the past two years, Smart Growth America’s coalition partner Idaho Smart Growth has helped more than 20 communities around Idaho advocate for and implement healthy living policies. To help community members better engage in local planning decisions, Idaho Smart Growth recently published a new free and easy tool to help you. Idaho Smart Growth’s Citizen’s Guide can help advocates create vibrant, healthier communities that include parks, stores, restaurants, schools, and businesses all within a walkable neighborhood.

With funding and support from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho Smart Growth developed this guide as a resource for citizens who are interested in helping shape the future of their community and for people who are concerned about a specific land use or transportation proposal. The goal of the guide is to help citizen advocates get started by sharing background information on land use and transportation planning in Idaho, suggesting some steps you can take to get more involved, and defining the basics of smart growth.

The guide contains information specific to Idaho, as well as information that’s helpful to anyone interested in community planning, including tips for effective input on local comprehensive plans, steps for addressing development issues, and an overview of the benefits smart growth strategies can bring to a municipality. The guide also includes resource links and information about partner organizations.

Visit Idaho Smart Growth’s website to download the Citizen’s Guide >>

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