To help it create a more sustainable community, this inner suburb of Detroit sought a zoning code audit from Smart Growth America and Clarion Associates. The audit focused on stormwater management, green infrastructure, and housing diversity. Since the audit, Royal Oak has made significant progress around its land use and sustainability goals.
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.
Green Carts in New York City, NY. Photo via the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. How difficult is it for you to pick up a tomato for tonight’s dinner or some apples for the week? Unfortunately, for over 23 million people in the United States it is extremely tough. They live in food deserts—urban and rural neighborhoods … Continued
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.
This week, LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a program of Smart Growth America, announced a three-part national strategy to address housing and social equity calling upon developers to join them in the cause. The proposed initiative would be centered around new conscious place-based social equity metrics.
The announcement came Tuesday during the third annual Walkable Urban Places Conference, co-hosted by Urban Land Institute Washington and the George Washington University Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. LOCUS sponsored the event along with Venable LLP.
Chicago’s skyline at night. Photo by Jon Herbert, via Flickr.
Climate action plans—sets of strategies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts—play a critical role in realizing a community’s sustainability vision. While dozens of cities have such plans, few have the supplemental programs to set them in motion. However, there are leader communities that are making notable efforts on implementation. Chicago, IL and Boulder, CO are two of those cities, and they are using benchmarking and pricing to reduce carbon emissions.
Brent Bolin, Councilmember for the City of Mount Rainier, MD is building on the City’s transportation assets to create a walkable and sustainable community. “There are different eras of transportation history present in Mount Rainier. The City was incorporated as a streetcar town that borders the District of Columbia, and now we have high levels of bus service that have taken the place of the streetcars. We are trying to build on that as a community asset,” explains Councilmember Bolin, who is a member of the the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.
Mount Rainier is a historic and diverse community of 8,500 residents with a working class history. Although the City has access to public transportation, it is struggling to fill the commercial spaces on main street. “Redevelopment of our commercial space is our biggest challenge. Rhode Island Avenue is our main street that evolved as a streetcar corridor. We have historic storefronts and infrastructure but these are an awkward fit with the automobile culture that people expect by not living in downtown DC,” says Bolin. “Finding the right mix of small businesses to service the City but also draw people from adjoining neighborhoods has been a big challenge for us. There are a lot of empty buildings on our main street.”
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.
Hernando, Mississippi has grown considerably in the past decade. With its good schools, historic town square, and small town charm it’s not hard to understand why. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find what may be a whole other set of reasons that more and more people are choosing to call Hernando home. At the center of it all is Mayor Chip Johnson and his mission to change the dialogue on health in the state with the highest obesity rate in the country.
Research on the cumulative impacts of overweight children led Johnson, elected to the Mayor’s office in 2005, and others in city government to work to create an environment in Hernando where activity is implicit in the daily routine of residents.
The city passed design standards requiring sidewalks in all new development and redevelopment projects. This means new neighborhoods, especially those constructed during the last housing boom are connected to other parts of town.
A complete streets policy, championed by Johnson, requires new road construction to consider pedestrians and bicyclists. Today, many of the roads in Hernando include designated bike lines in addition to sidewalks and other pedestrian safety improvements.
Additionally, a land use ordinance passed by the city requires developers set to aside 10% of their land as open space, which when coupled with the first parks department in Hernando’s history, created by Johnson in 2006, provides more recreation opportunities for residents.
Historically, local jurisdictions in South Central Kansas often competed against each other for jobs and economic growth. But thanks to a Regional Planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they can now focus on working together on collective vision for their future development, instead of competing with one another.
Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is the population and economic center of the South Central Kansas region; a region that includes Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. In February 2012, the region’s council of governments, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), received a three year, $1.5 million grant from HUD to create a long-term regional plan for ensuring the health and productivity of the local economy – a plan now known as the South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.