Smart Growth Stories: Mayor John Engen on Missoula, Montana's sense of place

Since taking office in 2005 as the 50th Mayor of Missoula, Montana, John Engen has emphasized the importance of economic development, community building and affordable housing. His goal?

“When I’m done, I hope folks will say, ‘We worked to keep Missoula a place,'” Engen says.

For Missoula to achieve economic success and to remain a close-knit community in Montana’s picturesque mountains, Engen believes his administration should do everything it can to ensure the city is appealing to families and investors. That means having a thriving ‘Main Street’ downtown; amenities catering to young professionals and college students; access to transportation and housing options; and protection of natural land assets.

“We don’t have much going for us if we don’t have a decent place to live,” Engen says, noting that over the past several decades, Missoula has been forced to transition from a town with a resource-intensive economy (chiefly timber) to a services economy with ties to recent graduates and more experienced professionals who want to live in a small, rural town but still travel/telecommute to work in larger cities.

As mayor, Engen recognized early on that for this new type of economy to be successful, Missoula would have to seek community feedback about anticipated growth and plan for the future in a more coordinated way. He also understood that economic development is not separate from neighborhood development; investments in how a town looks and in how residents move around and interact with each other are intimately related to a town’s financial wellbeing.

When more people have quality jobs and access to affordable housing, fewer people have to make the kinds of difficult choices – such as a decision between food and shelter – that hold back community growth, Engen says. If the quality of life for most Missoulians increases as a result of efforts to reinvigorate downtown business corridors and to take advantage of the city’s unique assets, more Missoulians will be able to engage in community projects, schools, family programs, and local politics.

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Upcoming summit to celebrate and inspire placemaking in Northern Michigan

Great places where people want to visit, live, work and play are vital to any region’s economic success. The work of creating these great places is called “placemaking,” and in Michigan, many communities are already using placemaking strategies to attract jobs, entrepreneurs and economic development.

The Northern Maine Michigan Placemaking Summit in Traverse City and Petoskey on May 21, 2012 will focus on placemaking as a tool to build community pride and prosperity. Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS, will deliver the keynote address at the event. This year’s Summit is sponsored by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments in partnership with the Michigan Land Use Institute and the Michigan Municipal League.

LOCUS

Smart growth news – November 23

That Thanksgiving dinner? Mostly from out of state
Baltimore Sun, November 22, 2011
According to a survey by the land preservation group 1000 Friends of Maryland, 48 percent of our Thanksgiving staples overall are produced in-state. Just 44 percent of the turkeys eaten are raised here, 41 percent of the potatoes (that seems high to me, frankly), 32 percent of the apples, 17 percent of the sweet potatoes and only one-half of 1 percent of the carrots.

Gwinnett to Receive Smart Growth Assistance
Norcross Patch (Ga.), November 23, 2011
Smart Growth America has selected Gwinnett County as one of 15 to receive free technical assistance, it announced last week. The program, which includes a workshop that will be held in Gwinnett sometime in 2012, was made possible from a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

TEDx: The economic power of great places
Ted.com, November 17, 2011
Making great places is key to turning around our economy. In this passionate talk, Ilana Preuss shows us why we need to do this better and why these places are in high demand.

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Smart growth news – October 4

Build communities around people and their needs
The Grand Rapids Press (Mich.), October 4, 2011
Dan Gilmartin, the executive director and chief executive of the Michigan Municipal League, advocates building communities around people as a means of economic prosperity and sustainability. The league, headquartered in downtown Lansing, is bringing about 500 people to Grand Rapids this week to discuss issues facing municipalities and how to lead the state out of the doldrums.

Study: Transit Ridership Up in 2011
Transportation Nation, October 3, 2011
Transit ridership increased by 85.7 million trips, or 1.7 percent nationwide, in the first six months of 2011, according to a report released today by the American Public Transit Association, the pro-transit lobbying group.

Montgomery legislators to vote on controversial development proposal
Washington Post, October 3, 2011
The plan would help create a string of small, walkable cities in traditionally suburban areas where the county wants mass transit. Supporters say it could usher in a new era of more coordinated growth.

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Smart growth news – August 5

Michigan’s Viral-Video Placemaking
Sustainable Cities Collective, August 3, 2011
Train stations and outdoor plazas are typical locales of flash mobs due to their vast performance spaces and pedestrian-friendly hubs. Participants tell their friends to join expected tourists, and everyone has a good time. It’s rare thousands of residents participate and rarer a city’s downtown on a Sunday afternoon is the backdrop. But what happened in Grand Rapids, Michigan in January 2011 was the exception.

City is thriving despite state’s trend
Livingston Daily (Mich.), August 5, 2011
In the face of one of the worse economic downturns in Michigan’s history, downtown Brighton has become a poster child for economic health. “I’m not aware of any significant vacancies there,” Matt Modrack said about the downtown area.

USF closer to roots with Folger building purchase
San Francisco Chronicle, August 4, 2011
The Folger Coffee Building is about to become the “downtown hub” for the University of San Francisco. USF said Wednesday that it is buying the historic building at 101 Howard St. for $36.5 million and will be locating several of its academic programs and departments there.

Developer Aims To Bring Residential Spark To Downtown Brooklyn
NY1, August 4, 2011
It’s had a gray flat frontage for decades, but now the layers are being stripped off a city office building in downtown Brooklyn. Inside, magnificent archways, grand columns and an adorned ceiling have been uncovered in what used to be an old judge’s chambers. […] Muss Development bought the first two floors of the building from the city. Now it’s restoring the space as a restaurant and retail location.

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Walkable Greensburg ready for a sustainable future

The hearing before the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence just wrapped up on Capitol Hill a few minutes ago. SGA’s David Goldberg, along with Steve Winkelman of the Center for Clean Air Policy, did a superb job in their testimony before the committee. They made a good case for how better … Continued

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