Since the workshop: Region-wide prosperity is collaborative effort in Graham County, NC

graham-county-ncA new regional vision will help Graham County, NC and its neighbors work together to achieve shared goals.

In April 2013, Smart Growth America traveled to Graham County, NC to hold a “Smart Growth 101” workshop for county staff. The workshop was designed to provide an introduction to smart growth development strategies, including ideas about how the county could work with other jurisdictions in the region to achieve its long-term goals.

This past January that work took a big step forward with the release of Opt-In SWNC: The Regional Vision. The report was authored by the Southwestern North Carolina Planning and Economic Development Commission, which represents a seven-county region in southwest North Carolina that includes Graham County.

Technical assistance

A transportation engineer on what convinced him to use a Complete Streets approach

west-jefferson“Crazy ideas” in action: Complete Streets features in downtown West Jefferson, NC.

On Tuesday we hosted a panel discussion about Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, new research from the National Complete Streets Coalition on the outcomes of Complete Streets projects across the country. If you missed the event, read our full recap and watch the recorded webinar.

Dean Ledbetter, a Senior Engineer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), joined the panel to discuss the Complete Streets project in downtown West Jefferson, NC. There were so many questions about working with transportation engineers, and for Dean specifically, that we said down with him for a follow-up conversation.

Alex Dodds: You mentioned that you initially thought that Complete Streets was a “crazy idea,” but that eventually you changed your mind. What convinced you?
Dean Ledbetter: I don’t know if there was one specific thing. I think I had to go through the [Federal Highway Administration’s] training several times for the reality of something new to overpower the existing “knowledge” I had about what my job was supposed to be. And I have to admit that we only went to those classes to get the free Professional Development Hours not because we really expected to learn anything useful.

Complete Streets

Since the workshop: Charlotte moves forward planning $120 million neighborhood investment

charlotte, nc
Charlotte, NC skyline via Flickr.

The last time we checked in with Charlotte, we learned that the City Council had approved a Capital Investment Plan for $120 million for catalytic economic development and community reinvestment projects.

Now, the public has given their go-ahead. This November, voters approved the first two-year, $20 million investment in the program.

These funds will go to high-impact projects in five targeted areas of the city, namely Whitehall/Ayrsley, Prosperity Village, West Trade/Rozelles Ferry, Sunset/Beattie’s Ford and Central/Abermarle/Shamrock. The goal? To strengthen these neighborhood by making them more desirable for commercial and retail development and mixed-income housing.

Technical assistance

Person County, NC plans for residential and economic growth

roxboro
Uptown Roxboro, NC. Picture via Roxboro Development Group.

Person County, NC’s community’s workshop goal: “To help local leaders and community members identify how Person County can manage growth and economic development in such a way that our strategies for these two issues complement one another and both contribute to the vision set forth for Person County in the Person Futures Strategic Plan.”

On December 2 and 3, representatives from Smart Growth America (SGA) met with county and municipal leaders and residents to provide assistance under the Planning for Fiscal and Economic Health tool, supported by a grant from the U.S. EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.

Technical assistance

Council Member Vi Lyles on expanding transportation options in Charlotte, NC

lynx-light-railA planned expansion of the Blue Line on Charlotte’s LYNX light rail system will connect the center city to the NoDA art district and University of North Carolina Charlotte Campus. Photo by Reconnecting America, via flickr.

Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina, with a metropolitan area population of 2.3 million as of 2013. Over the last half century Charlotte’s economy grew primarily around the financial sector, and as the home of Bank of America’s headquarters, the former headquarters of Wachovia, and a host of Fortune 500 companies the city was the  second largest banking hub in the country when the economic recession hit in 2008. In recent years leaders in Charlotte have worked to make the city’s economy more resilient by cultivating and expanding other industries, particularly energy, logistics, defense and healthcare.

In line with these efforts, there is a growing movement among many city leaders to provide a high quality of life in Charlotte’s unique and diverse neighborhoods, which radiate out from the historic center city, in order to attract and retain new businesses and residents and promote Charlotte as a great place to live, work and play. At-Large City Council Member Vi Lyles, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to provide these neighborhoods with a greater variety of transportation options to help foster a sense of community and connection to the city among residents. “We are focusing on making Charlotte a place where people want to be. To do that, we have to provide those people with choices,” says Council Member Lyles.

Local Leaders Council

Mitch Silver shares secrets to Raleigh, NC's success in attracting innovative companies and talent

Fayetteville StFayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Photo by Ted Buckner via Flickr.

Mitch Silver, Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer for Raleigh, NC, and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is using a variety of smart growth tools to help manage the city’s population growth and to support a dynamic and innovative business climate.

Raleigh is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. It is also one of the anchors for North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which is widely known as a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Local Leaders Council

Calvin Mercer on linking natural assets in Greenville, NC

The South Tar River Greenway in Greenville, NC.
The South Tar River Greenway in Greenville, NC. Photo by Mark A. Neal via Flickr.

Calvin Mercer, At-Large City Councilmember in Greenville, NC and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is a champion for active living, recreation and broader community awareness of smart growth.

Mercer has served on Greenville’s City Council since 2007 and stresses walkability, bike paths and greenways and parks as important components of what he calls “quality growth.” Greenville is home to an extensive greenway network, and though its inception predates Mercer’s elected leadership, he views it as a vital part of Greenville’s continued pursuit toward quality growth. Since 1991 the city has added 4.5 miles to the greenway system, which consists of multi-use paths and repaired or added sidewalks.

Local Leaders Council

Video: Joe Minicozzi on the fiscal benefits of a revitalized Asheville, NC

Many communities are coming to realize smart growth provides substantial economic benefits in addition to creating great neighborhoods. Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council recently sat down with Joseph Minicozzi, the principal of Urban3, LLC, a private consulting firm specializing in land value economics, property tax analysis and community design, to discuss how some communities are using smart growth strategies to their economic benefit.

Local Leaders Council

Partnership for Sustainable Communities celebrates 4 years of work in Asheville, NC

Speakers in Ashveille, NC
From left: Land-Of-Sky Regional Council Executive Director Joe McKinney, Congressman Heath Shuler and HUD Regional Field Director Christian Stearns. Photo via City of Asheville

The City of Asheville, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and federal partners gathered in North Carolina last week to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities – a collaboration between the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency that helps communities across the country develop in more economically sustainable ways through the exchange of ideas, planning tools and public engagement.

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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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