With LEED-ND, Sanford, FL could be the next best example of green development

A rendering of Sanford’s historic downtown district. Photo courtesy of Littlejohn.

Sanford, FL wants to create better, more sustainable, well-connected neighborhoods—particularly around the recently opened SunRail commuter rail station and the city’s Lake Monroe waterfront property. To help achieve that goal, Sanford sought assistance from Smart Growth America with a technical assistance workshop, held on August 4 and 5, 2015.

Sanford leaders want to look beyond the development of individual buildings to a larger district. Smart Growth America’s workshop provided an overview of one such way to do that—the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards. LEED-ND is about realizing how each piece of development plays a critical role in the performance of a community as a whole.

On August 4, the City of Sanford held a public presentation on pertinent topics about Sanford including a focus on tactics for economic development within LEED-ND. The following day, the City gathered a group of invited local stakeholders interested in sustainable development in Sanford. Participants concentrated their conversation and problem solving on two focus areas: the land near Sanford’s recently opened SunRail commuter station and the City’s downtown and waterfront property.

Workshop participants recognized the SunRail station area as an opportunity to support Sanford’s economy and connect residents to jobs in the broader region. Meanwhile, Sanford’s downtown and waterfront districts provide the foundation for a compact, walkable, vibrant, mixed-use and mixed-income urban core. These areas are readily connected to nearby neighborhoods and could soon command a premium as a destination type where more and more people are choosing to live, work, play and learn. Focusing on Sanford’s walkability in particular could breed great change since market studies indicate that more people would prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods if such places were available. Therefore, with walkability a developmental priority, Sanford could become a draw for new renters, homeowners and local business.

“Compact, walkable neighborhoods produce more business opportunities, jobs, household savings and other fiscal benefits,” Mayor Jeff Triplett said. “The City is committed to a smarter and greener future and open to innovative approaches for economic development and sustainable growth. With technical help from Smart Growth America, we can incorporate the smart growth principles in neighborhoods throughout the city.”

“Using LEED-ND as a lens for evaluating neighborhood plans and community policies can help Sanford get the most out of its development opportunities in terms of environmental benefits, economic competitiveness, and social vitality,” said Eliot Allen, Principal of Criterion Planners, Inc., who helped to lead the workshop.

The City of Sanford is well positioned to make thoughtful steps in planning and development, capitalizing on tools like LEED-ND to keep local goals like economic prosperity and environmental health at the forefront. The workshop outlined ways other cities have successfully done this, and provided Sanford leaders with next steps for how to make it work in their city.

The technical workshop program is made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, which seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Two other nonprofit organizations—Global Green USA and Project for Public Spaces—also received competitively awarded grants this year to support communities in their efforts to bolster smart growth initiatives.

Workshop Materials:

Technical assistance