Council President Jake Day of Salisbury, MD participates in the Walkability Audit.
Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free workshops to help communities use smart growth strategies to achieve their goals for economic and environmental sustainability. Local Leaders Council members have used these workshops in very different ways. “The workshops we offer range from general introductions to very specific tools like the Parking Audit,” explains Elizabeth Schilling, Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Policy Development and Implementation, who teaches the Smart Growth Implementation 101 workshops. “In our most successful communities, leaders pick the right tool for the problem at hand, then design an outreach strategy to engage really diverse groups of problem solvers.”
Last month we wrote about the advantage Local Leaders Council members have in applying for these workshops. Here’s a closer look at what some of those workshop partnerships have produced.
Shifting development patterns to support transit in Greer, SC
In May 2012 Greer, SC used a Transit-oriented Development 101 workshop as a forum to consider creating a multi-modal transit system, particularly bus rapid transit, as an alternative to widening a congested highway that created significant air-quality problems.
“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, a member of the Local Leaders Council. “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.”
Based on recommendations from the workshop, the City of Greer and its partner Upstate Forever have convened a working group of key stakeholders to establish a vision for Highway 29, organized tours for top decision makers to see multimodal transit systems in other regions, and are working with South Carolina Department of Transportation to advance innovative improvements to the corridor.
Getting ahead of economic change in Indianapolis, IN
In June 2014 Indianapolis, IN used a Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health workshop to begin implementing the employment and pubic finance components of the City’s Plan 2020, a comprehensive update and integration of six planning documents and vision for the city. The goal of the workshop was to convene a wide range of stakeholders to think about innovative strategies to energize redevelopment activity given the changing factors that are driving economic change across the nation.
After the workshop the City has worked to improve transit service—including breaking ground on a new Downtown Transit Center, passed a new zoning plan that encourages mixed-use and alternative transportation, and is developing a transit-oriented development plan.
Transportation choices in downtown Salisbury, MD
Among many other revitalization efforts, the City of Salisbury, MD has been working to use pedestrian and cyclist activity to reinvigorate its historic downtown. In June 2014 Salisbury used a Walkability Audit to complement the kickoff of a new Main Street Master Plan process and bring together residents and city leaders to discuss the current state of Salisbury’s pedestrian and cyclist network and the importance of walkability. Residents returned the following day for a bicycle tour and then walking tour to provide insight on challenges cyclists and pedestrians encounter.
“Salisbury’s economy can thrive with greater investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and with a greater density of economic activity in the core,” said Salisbury City Council President Jacob Day, a member of the Local Leaders Council. “This grant will help us plan our evolution.”
Following the workshop and recommendations, Salisbury passed a Complete Streets resolution, established a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, secured funding to purchase and install bike racks and wayfinding signage, and set aside funding for construction under the soon to be completed Main Street Master Plan.
Local Leaders Council workshop partnerships are often particularly fruitful, but membership is not a requirement to apply. “We do not have a specific preference for applications from Local Leaders Council members,” Schilling explains. “However, our application does ask for evidence of a commitment to smart growth, and membership in the Local Leaders Council is a good indicator.”
What could your community do with a free technical workshop from Smart Growth America? This is a great opportunity help your town or city take a proactive step forward. Any unit or subdivision of local government, Indian tribe, or regional government is eligible to apply for these free workshops. Applications are due by Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 5:00 PM EDT.