Spotlight on Sustainability: Madison, WI

Unsustainable growth, lack of economic opportunities, community health concerns, and loss of natural resources—these are issues facing cities and towns across the country, and Madison, Wisconsin is no exception. But, regional planning organizations in the Greater Madison area are now attempting to confront these endemic issues in a strategic and sustainable way that utilizes Madison’s strengths rather than allowing its weaknesses to be barriers to an effective response.

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LOCUS Developers gather in Washington DC to push for transportation bill improvements


The Navy Yard Metro station in Washington, DC is a recent example of development near transit stations. Photo by Flickr user M.V. Jantzen.

The hotly debated federal transportation bill could better support development near transit stations – if the House and Senate adopt a key amendment in their negotiations.

Members of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS, a coalition of real estate developers and investors, are gathering in Washington this week to call on Congress to pass a transportation bill that makes it easier to build transit-oriented and walkable development projects across the country. LOCUS developers will deliver that message as part of the 2012 LOCUS Leadership Summit, a three-day event that includes educational forums, walking tours of smart growth in the DC region, the inaugural LOCUS leadership awards and presentations by Obama Administration officials.

LOCUS

Spotlight on Sustainability: Austin, TX

The neighborhood of Colony Park in east Austin, Texas, is historically underserved and underutilized. Despite previous local investment in new infrastructure and a recreation center, there is still a significant lack of mixed-income housing and transportation options for residents. A new community pilot project aims to change all that. With a $3 million HUD Community Challenge grant through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, the City of Austin has a unique opportunity to foster a mixed-income neighborhood that could be used as a model for sustainability and economic development.

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Greer, SC explores transit options along Route 29 with help from Smart Growth America

Community leaders in Greer, South Carolina, are trying to figure out if and how the town might create better transportation options for its residents and earlier this month, Smart Growth America went to Greer to help those leaders answer some of these questions.

Smart Growth America and our partner Strategic Economics led a workshop on Implementing Transit-Oriented Development. Transit-oriented development, or TOD, means building homes, offices or stores close to public transportation stations. This strategy supports the businesses along the public transportation line, and makes commuting more convenient for residents – even those who don’t ride public transportation. The one-day workshop laid out both the short and long-term benefits such a strategy would bring to Greer’s transportation and planning staff members as well as business and community leaders.

“Greer is extremely interested in smart growth solutions, as our fiscal and environmental well-being depends on having a thoughtful and reasonable pattern of growth across our region,” said Mayor Rick Danner in a statement. “In fact, we see smart growth solutions as the only responsible way to address our transportation needs. Our community faces a choice between an expensive expansion of the I-85 corridor or an enhanced transportation corridor along Highway 29.”

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Many commuters are trading a backyard for a train station

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to discuss the rising popularity of living near public transit.

Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

Tom and Pat Kelly spent 22 years living what many people consider the American dream: They owned a four-bedroom home with a pool and a big yard in Turnersville, N.J. They traded that in to live near a train station.

With two of their three children living on their own, the couple no longer wanted to spend time raking leaves, shoveling snow and doing other maintenance their large home required. So they moved to LumberYard, a mixed-use condominium development near their son’s and daughter’s homes and within walking distance of the local train station.

Now, instead of spending two or more hours commuting daily in his red Volkswagen Beetle, Mr. Kelly, 56, hops on the Patco high-speed train line and gets to his Philadelphia law-firm job across the Delaware River in about a half-hour. “It’s just a much more enjoyable life,” he says.

LumberYard is a transit-oriented development, or TOD, one of a growing number of mixed-use developments that combine town houses or condominiums with retail shops, hotels and other businesses—all perched near a train station.

Transit oriented development—a term some credit to urban planner Peter Calthorpe—started to take off in the mid-1990s. But, the financial crisis slowed TOD projects along with other residential developments, says Christopher Leinberger, a Washington, D.C. urban land-use strategist and partner in developer Arcadia Land Co. Now, developers say they are dusting off old plans and starting new ones.

Read more: Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

LOCUS

New Jersey isn't capitalizing on demand for walkable places

The following was crossposted from Smart Growth America’s coalition partner, New Jersey Future.

A 2008 survey found that 77 percent of Millennials – the generation of 20-somethings – want to live where they are “close to each other, to services, to places to meet, and to work, and they would rather walk than drive.”

New Jersey, with its extensive rail transit network and “streetcar suburbs” with pedestrian-friendly downtowns that surround many of their stations, is well poised to take advantage of the rise in demand for this walkable urbanism.

The New Divide: Walkable vs. Drivable
New Jersey is an anomaly among the 50 states in that it is highly urbanized yet lacks a major center city to claim as its own. The state’s home-grown urban centers all live in the shadows of their much larger neighbors, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, New Jersey is widely perceived as consisting mainly of suburbs serving these two cities, even if many of its small towns do not fit the low-density, single-use stereotype of a “suburb.” The distinction, however, between city and suburb as the defining paradigm for describing the built environment is giving way to a new dichotomy: walkable urbanism versus drivable sub-urbanism. New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this change.

LOCUS

“Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” webinar materials and answers to your questions now available

Thank you to everyone who attended Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network webinar “Transit Corridors for Sustainable Communities: Planning Transit to Connect the Dots” earlier this week. This webinar was hosted by Smart Growth America, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, and the National Housing Conference.

Listen in: Click here to view the archived webinar

Speaking on the webinar were Dena Belzer, President of Strategic Economics and partner in the Center for Transit-Oriented Development; Crista M. Gardner, Senior Planner at Portland Metro; and David Johnson AICP, Director of Planning, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The webinar was moderated by Elizabeth Wampler, Program Associate at Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.

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"Promoting Affordable and Fair Housing near Transit, Jobs, and Town Centers" webinar materials now available online

Thank you to everyone who attended Smart Growth America’s Sustainable Communities Network webinar “Promoting Affordable and Fair Housing near Transit, Jobs, and Town Centers” last week. This webinar was hosted by Smart Growth America, PolicyLink, Reconnecting America, and the National Housing Conference.

Included on this webinar are practitioners taking steps to ensure that housing for families at all income levels is available in location-efficient and opportunity-rich areas. Following an overview of tools available to create and preserve affordable homes in areas where transportation costs are likely to be low, learn how some of these tools have been implemented in Denver, Colorado as Denver expands its public transportation system. Included is a discussion of policies and legal decisions that help to ensure communities create their fair share of homes for low- and moderate-income families in New Jersey, as well as strategies to build public support for well-located affordable homes.

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Arlington, Virginia's story of smart growth: The movie

If you’ve been around the conversation on growth and development for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone bring up Arlington, Virginia. Arlington is the bit of Virginia just across the Potomac River from the monumental core of Washington, DC that leveraged the arrival of two Metro rail lines in the 60’s and 70’s to renew and revitalize their county into a prosperous, enjoyable and livable community that is a sought-after destination for employers, businesses, residents and visitors.

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