El Paso’s Transnational Trolley: How art can help imagine creative transportation solutions

What begun as a sort of arts-driven guerilla marketing campaign for the fictional return of a historic streetcar in the border communities of El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, is becoming a reality, illustrating the power of the arts to capture the imagination of a community and help them look at old problems in different ways and imagine creative solutions.

Creative Placemaking

North Central TX tweaks development codes for transit readiness

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A station on the DART orange line. Photo via Wikipedia Commons.

The Dallas, TX light rail network (DART) is expected to add more suburban stations over the next decade, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) wants these communities to be transit-ready.

Transit works best when the stations are within easy walking distance of a mix of homes, jobs and shops—but when a station is planned for a suburban community, this compact, walkable development is rarely present. In fact, the zoning code often prohibits it.

To identify priority zoning code fixes that can encourage more mixed-use, transit-oriented development in proposed light rail station areas, NCTCOG brought in Smart Growth America to provide our Smart Growth Zoning Codes for Small Cities technical assistance tool.

Technical assistance

Harris County, TX works to align economic growth and public health

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A bird’s eye rendering of Pasadena’s growing local economy. Graphic via the City of Pasadena.

In Harris County, TX, the Department of Public Health and Environmental Services (HCPHES) knew that encouraging smarter development could benefit both public health and the local economy. But creating real change meant more than just having the knowledge. If smart growth was to become a reality, local officials, business leaders, and interested citizens needed to join the process and feel ownership.

So HCPHES brought in the experts.

Technical assistance

Planning for livable military communities in North Central Texas

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Near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Tarrant County, TX, locals have a saying about the aircraft reverberations in the sky: “That noise is the sound of freedom.”

Despite the noise, the Joint Reserve Base forms a big part of the area’s identity and economy. The seven cities that surround the base—Benbrook, Fort Worth, Lake Worth, River Oaks, Sansom Park, Westworth Village, and White Settlement, TX—have a vested interest in supporting that economy, and in growing together as a region. In 2010, they came together to form the Planning for Livable Military Communities (PLMC) project, made possible by a Community Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Uncategorized

Since the workshop: Houston, TX continues to improve streets for all users

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A scene from Sunday Streets HTX on Westheimer Road. Photo by Andrew Seng / University of Oregon Emerald via aaonetwork.org 

It’s little secret that Houston, Texas, is on the rise. From 2000-2010, Census data shows that the city’s metro population grew by 26 percent to 5.95 million people. In 2013, that number had risen to 6.34 million, and the Houston metro expects to add another 1 million residents by 2020. While this growth is exciting, it also creates new challenges like stress on existing street infrastructure.

Complete Streets Technical assistance

Since the workshop: Port Isabel, TX looks at the bigger picture of redevelopment

port isabel4Skyline view of Port Isabel from the Laguna Madre Bay. Photo by Valerie D. Bates

Smart Growth America visited Port Isabel, TX in May 2013 to provide the City with tools to implement smart growth strategies. In particular, the City was looking to revitalize two main areas in its south side—the Old Garcia Street District and the South Shore Drive District. These two neighborhoods, characterized by lasting damages from Hurricane Dolly in 2008, vacant or abandoned properties, as well as obsolete businesses, had fallen behind their counterparts in the northern part of the city.

At the workshop on May 22, 2013, Smart Growth America’s experts met with City officials, residents, and business owners to discuss smart growth in the context of Port Isabel, a small community of about 5000 people. Port Isabel, with historic development patterns and architecture dating to the turn of the 20th Century, is in stark contrast to the high-rise hotels and condominiums of South Padre Island, directly across the causeway. The City’s revitalization plans are part of a larger effort to distinguish Port Isabel as a different type of tourist destination, as well as a comfortable place for families to live year-round.

Technical assistance