Place-based economic development in Pelahatchie, MS, Urbana, IL, and Stamford, CT at Policy Forum 2016

Libby Tyler speaks about place-based economic development in Urbana, IL as part of Policy Forum 2016.

Pelahatchie, MS, Urbana, IL, and Stamford, CT, are three very different communities with different economies and demographics. However, all of them are using a place-based approach to their economic development, and they have lessons to share with other communities interested in doing the same.

Local leaders from across the country came together in July for the Local Leaders Council Policy Forum 2016, a day-long summit in Washington, DC on revitalizing communities, placemaking, and preventing displacement. Place-based Economic Development was one of three tracks discussed at the conference. Revitalization without Displacement and Jumpstarting Revitalization were the other two.

Committed local leaders are a key advantage in free workshop competition

Councilmember Michael Trapp, right, at parking audit workshop in Columbia, MO in 2015.

“Involvement of key community leaders” is one of five criteria Smart Growth America uses to select which communities receive our free technical assistance workshops each year. In fact, a letter of commitment signed by “the mayor, county commission chair, or comparable elected leader” is one of the requirements for applying.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council are a natural fit for this requirement, with a demonstrated interest in smarter development strategies. Over the past five years, 23 of the more than 50 winning communities have been home to current and future Local Leaders Council members. Here’s a look at how Local Leaders Council members have used these competitive awards.

In 2013, the Village of Park Forest, IL won a sustainable land use code audit workshop, which served as a kickoff event for the Village’s work revising its zoning and subdivision ordinances. The workshop was an opportunity to fill in gaps in technical expertise, gauge public interest in sustainable land use codes, and bring a fresh set of eyes to the process.

Just the right size

IL Chicago Lawrence Ave Woman on bike credit Hanna Kite
A new bike lane on Lawrence Avenue in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. Photo by Hanna Kite

This post is the fourth in a series of case studies about Complete Streets people, places, and projects. Follow the full series over the next several weeks.

A road diet, bicycle lanes, and a profusion of pedestrian improvements have subtly transformed a low-key Chicago neighborhood.

The Ravenswood neighborhood in Chicago, especially the northwest section along Lawrence Avenue, has a quiet, residential feel. Many people in the neighborhood have lived there for decades, and the area attracts families with young children. Six bus routes and two train lines serve the neighborhood, and ridership rates are high. Buildings in the neighborhood are at most only three or four stories high, and a pharmacy, grocery store, handful of boutiques, and cafes serve local residents. In general, Ravenswood is mostly free from the hustle and bustle of the more hip areas of Chicago.

Director of Economic Development and Planning Hildy Kingma commits to sustainability in Park Forest, IL

Downtown Business Signs 053-1
Local leaders are working to build a more sustainable Park Forest, IL. Photo via Facebook.

Founded in 1948, the village of Park Forest, IL is a suburb built for sustainability. Located 30 miles away from the Chicago Loop, Park Forest was one of the first planned communities built for veterans after World War II, and it was built with both automobiles and pedestrians in mind. Along with the classic suburban curved streets, the community’s original master plan was organized around open space, schools, and small commercial areas accessible on foot. In many ways, Park Forest was an early model for smart growth—decades before the term was coined.

Today, local leaders in Park Forest are committed to continuing that legacy. Hildy Kingma, Director of Economic Development and Planning and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is one woman behind the cause. After Mayor John Ostenburg—also a member of the Local Leaders Council—challenged the Village to think more critically about sustainability, Kingma helped oversee the passage of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan that affects every municipal department. “This is an effort that goes from the top to the bottom of our organization,” says Kingma.

Diseños peligrosos 2014: Illinois

The National Complete Streets Coalition reports on the national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, offering county-, metro-, and state-level data on traffic fatalities and an interactive map of each loss in the decade 2003 through 2012. This resource specific profiles the state of Illinois. (Spanish language)

Dangerous by Design 2014: Illinois

The National Complete Streets Coalition reports on the national epidemic of pedestrian fatalities, offering county-, metro-, and state-level data on traffic fatalities and an interactive map of each loss in the decade 2003 through 2012. This resource specific profiles the state of Illinois.

Alderman Jane Grover is working to make Evanston, IL “the most livable city” in America

A cycle track on Church St. in Evanston, IL.A cycle track on Church Street in Evanston, IL. Photo by Steven Vance, via Flickr.

“Our vision is to be the most livable city,” says Alderman Jane Grover of Evanston, IL. A member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Grover is full of enthusiasm for her city and the work being done there.

Evanston, IL is an urban community with a population of 74,000 located north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. Northwestern University, a major institutional anchor in the city, has helped spawn businesses and contributes to the culture and demographics of this progressive community.

EPA recognizes seven communities with National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

Atlanta BeltlineThe Atlanta Beltline, one of this year’s award winners. Photo by Christoper T. Martin, courtesy of Atlanta Beltline.

This morning in Washington, DC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will recognize some of the best examples of smart growth projects in the country today.

The annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, established in 2002, recognizes exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, enhance quality of life, and provide new opportunities for disadvantaged communities.

Elizabeth Tyler on infill development and downtown improvements in Urbana, IL

Urbana, ILUrbana, IL’s Community Development Department runs the city’s farmer’s market (above), in addition to several other programs. Photo by Jeff E. via Flickr.

Urbana, IL has a lot to build on. The city of 41,000 is home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the school’s students and faculty make the most of Urbana’s great transit system, thriving downtown, small businesses and art scene. Urbana is working to improve all these features, and Community Development Director Elizabeth Tyler is helping to make it happen.

Tyler is a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a bipartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities. Since 2001 Tyler has served as Urbana’s Community Development Director and oversees planning and economic development initiatives in the city that range from providing assistance to new and existing business to managing the city’s public arts program and farmers’ market.

Village of Park Forest, IL hosts workshop on sustainable land use

Local residents and officials in Park Forest, IL met with representatives from Smart Growth America on April 18 and 19, 2013 as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. The workshops aimed to give Park Forest the tools to assess the effectiveness and sustainability of its current land use codes and create strategies to carry its smart growth vision forward.

“We are very pleased to have the expertise of our friends from Smart Growth America as we review our ordinances and make sure they are up-to-date, especially in regards to sustainability,” said Mayor John A. Ostenburg.