Downtown Memphis from across the Mississippi River. Photo by Joel, via Flickr.
Like many large southern cities, Memphis, TN’s growth over the past few decades has been characterized largely by sprawl and a focus on automobile travel. Josh Whitehead, Planning Director for Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County, is working to promote development downtown through the use of the city’s new Unified Development Code (UDC), which gives more flexibility to developers in order to facilitate infill growth.
A community garden in Sacramento, CA. Photo by Annie & John via flickr.
Councilmember Steve Hansen has a history of advocating for and working with community members in Sacramento, CA’s historic downtown neighborhoods, serving in recent years on his neighborhood association, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Board of Directors, and the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Now, just one-and-a-half years into his first term in elected office, Councilmember Hansen is working to promote policies and encourage development that will make Sacramento’s downtown more vibrant for residents.
“We have such an opportunity – particularly in the older parts of the city – to build housing, to bring vitality back, and ultimately to create a vibrant modern city,” says Councilmember Hansen, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We want to respect historic structures but revitalize them, and to bring communities that were displaced by redevelopment and highway construction back to life.”
Hansen explains that redevelopment projects in Sacramento’s downtown neighborhoods currently face a number of barriers, including policies and standards that make infill development and redevelopment complicated and costly compared to new development in the city’s outer suburbs.
The popularity of infill development and walkable neighborhoods continues to grow, according to a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions focuses on 209 metropolitan regions between 2000 and 2009 and offers a look at trends in residential infill development, i.e. new homes built in previously developed areas. The main findings during that period:
Nearly three out of four large metropolitan regions saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. Among the 51 large metropolitan regions (population one million or greater) examined in this study, 36 saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. In many regions, this increase was substantial. Miami increased from 40 percent infill to 49 percent infill. Providence, Rhode Island, increased from 20 percent to 29 percent. Several medium-sized metropolitan regions (population 200,000 – one million) saw even greater shifts towards infill housing.
Every city has limits, even in the big state of Montana. And just as roads have their cutoff points, city budgets only stretch so far, too.
Mayor Tom Hanel of Billings, Montana, knows this well. As a long-time city employee, Hanel has plenty of experience crunching the numbers behind the scenes. Hanel realized that if Billings was to keep its books in order, the city would needs to make well-planned and well-informed decisions about development.
East Liberty finds formula for success
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 25, 2011
When East Liberty Development Inc. officials were roughing out strategies to improve the Pittsburgh neighborhood, a big question was what to do with some 50 vacant properties. The properties were robbing tax-paying homeowners of their equity, discouraging investment and exacerbating crime and other factors. This had led the neighborhood to become what Rob Stephany, director of the city Urban Redevelopment Authority, calls “below the line” — a place you don’t visit. They decided to buy them all, rehabilitate some themselves, sell others to rehab-minded buyers and tear down the rest.
Suburban Ghetto: Poverty Rates Soar in Suburbia
Time, September 26, 2011
For well over half a century, the American dream has typically centered on life in the suburbs. A move to the idyllic suburbs—picket fences, sidewalks, cul-de-sacs, the whole deal—has traditionally signified success, a move up the economic ladder. Lately, however, the ‘burbs host millions more residents living below the poverty level than do America’s “poor” inner cities, and poverty rates in suburbia are rising faster than any other residential setting.
In-fill proposal looks to give Stockton a greener image
The Record (Calif.), September 23, 2011
With the right kind of development, downtown Stockton could become the kind of place where people live in apartments or condominiums, commute by train to Silicon Valley jobs before returning home, where they can bike or walk to do their shopping or run other errands.
How can we cut our emissions, fuel consumption, while also reducing congestion and providing more space for jobs and housing? The US EPA’s smart growth office released a new study (5 mb pdf) examining the impact that good infill development can have on reducing transportation demand and lowering emissions. In some ways, this study picks … Continued