Smart growth news – December 13

Imagining a City Without Its Public Transportation
The Atlantic Cities, December 12, 2011
Officials from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are out in the city all the time talking about the costs of the capital region’s transit system – the money it takes to run the thing, the investments required to expand service and build new lines, and the fares needed to pay for it all. But no one talks much about the benefits, the real benefits, not just for faster commuting times, but for the region on the whole.

Study: As Gas Prices Rise, Americans Drive Less And Seek Public Transit
Gas 2.0, December 12, 2011
A new study by Bradley Lane of the University of Texas at El Paso has found a strong link between gas prices and shifts in American transit ridership. Bradley Lane’s study concluded that for every 10% increase in the cost of fuel there was a 4% increase in bus ridership and an 8% increase in rail travel.

Transit’s Not Sucking the Taxpayer Dry — Roads Are
Streetsblog, December 12, 2011
“Taxpayers cover costs that should be borne by road users,” asserts the State Smart Transportation Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Road subsidies push up tax rates, squeeze government services, and skew the market for transportation.” SSTI, along with the smart growth group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, published a study in October showing that “between 41 and 55 percent of [Wisconsin’s] road money comes from non-users.”

Smart growth news – December 5

Ventura mayor plans to move to D.C. after leaving office
Ventura County Star (Calif.), December 2, 2011
Bill Fulton, whose term as mayor of Ventura ends Monday, will leave town in the spring for a job with an urban planning think tank in Washington, D.C.

A new challenge for this politician
Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2011
Fulton announced in July he wouldn’t seek reelection when his term was up this year. In a few months he will move to Washington, D.C., where he’ll work for Smart Growth America, a think tank that advises cities and counties on development issues.

‘Smart growth’ advocates study Williamson’s efforts
The Tennessean, November 30, 2011
Quality-growth experts from throughout the country visited Williamson County as part of a three-day visit to Nashville to learn about successful quality-growth models and best practices in Middle Tennessee…A model region is selected every year by the Smart Growth America network as part of its convention. Smart Growth America is a national organization that works with communities to implement smart growth planning and development.

Smart growth news – November 30

Beyond Sprawl: Gambling On Downtown Las Vegas
KPBS (Calif.), November 30, 2011
Like most Southwest cities, the Las Vegas growth model was to expand out, creating sprawling suburbs and quiet gated communities. But one trendsetting local business – the online shoe company, Zappos – thinks an urban setting would be a better fit for its employees and industry.

Cleveland Turns Uptown Into New Downtown
New York Times, November 29, 2011
Since 1950, when its population peaked at 914,808, Cleveland has steadily shed residents and jobs. In 2010, just 396,815 people lived within the city limits, almost 81,000 fewer than a decade before, and about the same number of people who lived in Cleveland in 1900…But in recent years Cleveland’s municipal government and its Regional Transit Authority have rallied major employers, banks, foundations and developers around a central goal of rebuilding the city’s core according to the new urban market trends of the 21st century — health care, higher education, entertainment, good food, new housing and expanded mass transportation.

KC mayor develops priorities so progress can continue
Kansas City Star, November 29, 2011
Q: What can the city do to promote economic development on the East Side?
A: It’s hard to economically develop a place where people don’t feel safe…That has an impact on how people feel about things. It depresses property values. It makes businesses unwilling to invest in an area. It traps people who don’t have means to get out while others do. You perpetuate a demographic. The first thing is let’s make people safe. Let’s deal with the crumbling housing, foreclosed housing and infrastructure issues.

Smart growth news – November 29

The city that floats
Salon, November 28, 2011
Whether out of High Line envy, Olympic fever or a pining for its days as a naval superpower, London has hatched a plan — a big, wet one — for the north bank of the river Thames. A sleek, kilometer-long floating promenade running from the Tower of London to the Millennium Bridge, London River Park will create an instant walkable waterfront in a stretch of the city where there is none.

‘Brain Hubs’ Like Austin, Texas, Create More Work for Less-Educated Residents
Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2011
In recent decades, a select number of brain hubs like Austin have attracted a higher percentage of well-educated workers and a lopsided share of new investment and young companies. In 1970, the top 10 most-educated metropolitan areas among the nation’s 100 largest had an average of 23% of workers holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 10% in the bottom 10, according to an analysis of Census data by Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser. The 13-percentage-point gap has widened every decade since, and had doubled by 2010. Beyond creating new middle-skill jobs, such brain hubs have generally higher incomes and for the most part have performed better through the recession. In Austin, the 7.1% average unemployment rate in 2010 was well below the nation’s during the same period.

Manheim Township ordinance allows for increased density
Lancaster New Era (Pa.), November 29, 2011
Manheim Township commissioners approved a revised zoning ordinance that will allow for increased density in hopes of guiding development using “smart growth” principals on Monday night.

Smart growth news – November 22

A land bank helped Flint, Michigan, expert says, and could help New York cities, too
The Business Review (N.Y.), November 22, 2011
Daniel T. Kildee, founder of the Genesee County Land Bank in Michigan, told a group of about 80 public and private sector officials in Albany, New York, that land banks can help local counties, cities and towns make better use of tax-foreclosed properties.

Valley gets $3.4 million to study development
The Morning Call (Pa.), November 21, 2011
Developers have long tried to lure commute-weary homebuyers with signs that say “If you lived here you’d be home by now.” A consortium of Lehigh Valley planning groups has been awarded $3.4 million by the federal government to try to make that dream — of living closer to work and enjoying an improved quality of life — reachable for more people.

N.J. gets $5 million HUD grant for regional planning
The Star-Ledger (N.J.), November 21, 2011
Federal officials today awarded New Jersey a $5 million grant to develop regional economic plans for 13 northern counties to attract businesses and jobs to areas with solid residential communities and good transportation systems.

Smart growth news – November 15

Tech firms give downtown a new vibe
Northern Nevada Business Weekly, November 14, 2011
A handful of businesses are slowly changing the perception of downtown Reno. Longtime Reno residents still can call up images of gamblers walking Virginia Street cradling buckets of quarters and nickels. That image is changing as a growing number of software development and technical-services companies take downtown office space.

Add education to Zappos’ downtown investment forays
Las Vegas Sun, November 10, 2011
Hsieh (pronounced “shay”) said he was drawn to the program for several reasons, including a hope that the teachers will consider working and living downtown, where the company will move its headquarters in 2013. “We are excited about our partnership with Teach For America as well as the opportunity to help bring more energy and passion to downtown Las Vegas,” Hsieh said.

Baltimore-Washington region’s aging infrastructure a roadblock to growth
The Gazette (Md.), November 11, 2011
From both the public and private sectors come calls for more mass transit, including rapid bus transit. For Montgomery County, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s recommendations include expanding transit, bike paths and sidewalks “to achieve more sustainable, less congested communities.” The commission also recommends “building future homes near transit [to] create more opportunities for people to avoid driving.”

Smart growth news – November 7

Sprawl’s spread speeds up
Sacramento Bee, November 7, 2011
Goodbye, farm. Hello, subdivision. Despite talk of smart growth, urban Sacramento didn’t check its sprawl in the past 10 years, but ballooned instead, spreading out at a faster pace than in decades past, according to a Bee analysis of new census figures.

U.S. House Likely to Address Infrastructure Bill by Year-End, Boehner Says
Bloomberg, November 6, 2011
“You’re going to see the House move, I think, before the end of the year on an infrastructure bill,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week.” Boehner said last week the House will consider legislation to finance infrastructure construction, in part, by expanding energy production.

Dan Gilbert’s development blueprint for Cleveland looks similar to Detroit’s
Detroit Free Press, November 6, 2011
If you think Quicken Loans founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert is having an impact on downtown Detroit, you ought to see what he’s doing in Cleveland. Since Gilbert bought the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2005, he has renovated Cleveland’s renamed Quicken Loans Arena (The Q), opened a mortgage banking center that now employs 300, built a $25-million practice facility for the Cavs, and is deep into construction for a $350-million Phase I of his future Horseshoe Casino in a former department store downtown, with a 16-acre new casino to follow in a few years. Gilbert’s investments in and around downtown Cleveland will total close to $1 billion.

Smart growth news – October 31

San Jose’s updated general plan emphasizes ‘smart growth,’ healthier communities
San Jose Mercury (Calif.), October 31, 2011
Called Envision San Jose 2040, the city’s fourth general plan since the mid-1970s is the community’s land-use constitution. The report lays out a long-term vision for the amount, type and phasing of development needed to meet the city’s social, economic and environmental goals. … For many, he said, it’s not having to drive as much. Horwedel and other planners envision “urban villages” closer to where San Jose residents live that offer a variety of ways to live, work, shop and play all at one location.

Suburban plight for poor
The Buffalo News (N.Y.), October 30, 2011
Buffalo may be one of the poorest cities in America, but a majority of the region’s poor now live in suburbia. Of the 159,000 people in the region living below the poverty line, more than half — 52 percent — reside in the suburbs of Erie and Niagara counties, according to an analysis of 2010 census data by a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

What’s up downtown?
The Roanoke News (Va.), October 30, 2011
Downtown Roanoke has seen its population surge from fewer than 50 residents in 2000 to more than 600 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The arrival of new businesses and the expansion of the Jefferson College of Health Sciences show the need for more downtown living spaces, more retail and more office space, Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill said.

Smart growth news – October 21

Smaller is more beautiful
The Economist, October 22, 2011
Flint is in the middle of developing a 20-year master plan, the first since Jack Kennedy was in the White House. The old thinking was to sell tax-foreclosed property to whomever, even speculators. The new thinking is that land is an asset for the city. Since its creation in 2002, the Genesee County Land Bank has had the power to take control of and to redevelop vacant, abandoned or tax-delinquent properties.

Social Security office moving to high-visibility location
The Anniston Star (Ala.), October 20, 2011
A high-profile strip mall on Quintard Avenue at Eighth Street will be getting a facelift from a new tenant set to move in after the first of the year, and city officials hope the whole downtown core will benefit. The Social Security Administration will be moving to 801 Quintard from its current 13th Street office, where it’s been since 1967. The Quintard address had previously been occupied by Advance Auto Parts but has been empty for about five years.

Sprawl not part of plan for jobs
Albany Times Union (N.Y.), October 20, 2011
If we’re going to grow, let’s not sprawl. That’s the message from the Capital Region Economic Development Council, which is moving forward on a five-year strategic plan for the greater eight-county area Hudson Valley region. Part of its draft plan would require new projects to conform to “smart growth” criteria adopted last year by the state.

Smart growth news – October 20

Christie announces new state plan that focuses on business and job creation
NewJerseyNewsroom.com, October 19, 2011
The plan also calls for “effective planning for “vibrant regions,” including areas designated as “Priority Growth Investment Areas” where an effort would be made to promote urban areas with access to quality education, housing, public transportation and infrastructure, parks and recreation.

Administration Wants to Shelve Smart Growth Map
NJ Spotlight, October 20, 2011
The Christie administration is proposing a radical overhaul of the State Plan, a blueprint state officials devoted years trying to achieve, mostly unsuccessfully, by steering growth to established urban and suburban areas and away from open space and farmlands.

So happy together
The Economist’s Free Exchange blog, October 19, 2011
Taken together the data are suggestive of a recovery in housing driven by renters. This isn’t entirely surprising. New home construction has been at record low levels for several years now, amounting to a shortfall in construction far bigger than the deviation above trend from 2002 to 2006. Meanwhile, America’s population has kept on growing. This mismatch has begun to translate into falling rental vacancies and rent increases, which has in turn generated an small but growing upswing in construction of multifamily housing.