The seven most innovative development projects – and policies – in the country

The BLVD in Lancaster, California is one of seven communities being honored this year by the EPA. Photo by Charlie Essers via Flickr.

What do a boulevard in California, a Denver neighborhood, new zoning ordinances in Virginia and an organic food co-op in Vermont all have in common?

They are all being honored with the 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Sustainable Communities. The seven winning communities – including four winners and three honorable mentions – were announced this morning. The winners are:

BLVD Transformation Project, Lancaster, Calif.
Winner, Overall Excellence
New streetscape design, public facilities, affordable homes, and local businesses have helped transform Lancaster Boulevard into a thriving residential and commercial district. Completed after just eight months of construction, the BLVD project demonstrates how redesigning a street or other “transportation corridor” can spark new life in a community. The project has already generated almost $300 million in economic output and 2,000 jobs. Learn more >>

Mariposa District, Denver, Colo.
Winner, Equitable Development
The redevelopment of Denver’s historic and ethnically diverse La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood is turning an economically challenged area into a vibrant, transit-accessible district. The community’s master plan preserves affordable housing while adding energy-efficient middle-income and market-rate homes. Thanks to extensive community engagement, development includes measures to improve the health of residents, reduce pollution, and control stormwater runoff. Learn more >>

The Cooperative Building, Brattleboro, Vt.
Winner, Main Street and Corridor Revitalization
As the only food store in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, the Brattleboro Food Co-op faced the difficult decision of moving to less expensive space outside of town or creating a new building big enough to accommodate the store’s expansion. The Co-op made a strong commitment to stay at its downtown location and the result is an innovative four-story green building on Main Street with a grocery store, commercial space, offices, and affordable apartments. In addition to offering classes on nutrition, the Co-op puts healthy food, new jobs, and housing within walkable distances of downtown and public transit. Learn more >>

Destination Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Va.
Winner, Programs and Policies
After completing a revision of its comprehensive plan, the city of Portsmouth undertook a broad review of its development and land use regulations. The result was Destination Portsmouth, a package of new plans, zoning ordinances, and other development policies developed in collaboration with community stakeholders. The overhaul of the city’s codes encourages development in targeted growth areas, encourages businesses to locate in the city, and protects the character of Portsmouth’s historic neighborhoods.Learn more >>

In addition to these winning communities, three runners-up will also be honored. They are Northwest Gardens, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; the Larkin District in Buffalo, N.Y.; and the Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund in San Francisco, Calif.

New development is hard enough: new development that supports a town’s economy and protects the environment is even more challenging, and the EPA’s awards honor communities that have done it well. According to the agency, winners were chosen based on their effectiveness creating sustainable communities, fostering equitable development, and serving as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on December 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.

The EPA’s work building sustainable communities goes far beyond these awards. It is also one of three federal agencies part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an initiative to coordinate federal investments in housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure. The Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are also part of this innovative federal project, and they’re helping make projects like this year’s award winners possible.

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