Author Archives: Alex Dodds

It’s smart growth week in the U.S. Senate

Well, it isn’t really smart growth week in the Senate. But it sure feels that way.

Senate committees will consider three different bills this week that will impact federal housing, transportation, and community development programs.

First, the Environment and Public Works committee will consider the DRIVE Act, the newest version of the federal transportation bill, which will either expand or curtail crucial transit-oriented development and Complete Streets programs. The bill includes several strong points, including making transit-oriented-development eligible for the TIFIA program, and lowering project cost thresholds from $50 million to $10 million. It also requires that all modes of transportation be considered when designing National Highway System projects and improves design standards for all roadways by integrating the NACTO Urban Design Guide into federal design standards. The bill incorporates resilience and system reliability as considerations for regional and statewide transportation and slightly increases the funds provided to local communities and regions by five percent through the Surface Transportation Program, and by fully directing all Transportation Alternative Program funds to locals communities through competition. The bill could do more, and we encourage the Senate to do as much, but this is a solid first draft of the bill.

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Watch the recording of the #CoreValues kickoff panel

Yesterday we released new research all about companies that are moving to walkable downtowns. Core Values looks at why companies want to be in walkable places, and what they look for when choosing these locations.

To kick off this research and to hear more about the issues firsthand, we invited representatives from three companies included in our survey to join us in Washington, DC yesterday for a panel discussion. If you weren’t able to watch the live stream of the event, a recorded version is now available above.

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Join us on June 18 for the launch of “Core Values”

Bumble Bee Seafoods, which moved to downtown San Diego in 2014, is one of the companies included in forthcoming research from Smart Growth America. Photo courtesy of Bumble Bee Seafoods.

Over the past five years, hundreds of companies across the United States have moved to and invested in walkable downtowns. Why did companies choose these places? And what features did they look for when picking a new location?

Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown is new research coming out on June 18 from Smart Growth America in partnership with Cushman & Wakefield and the George Washington University School of Business’ Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis.

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Watch the recorded webcast of “The Fiscal Implications of Development Patterns”

To what degree does the choice of development pattern impact costs for a local government? How do these decisions affect a municipality’s budget and tax revenues, and the cost of infrastructure and services it must provide?

The Fiscal Impact of Development Patterns, a new model from Smart Growth America and real estate advisors RCLCO, is designed to help municipalities answer these questions.

The new model was unveiled yesterday morning, and as part of the kickoff Chris Zimmerman, Smart Growth America’s Vice President for Economic Development, and Patrick Lynch, Smart Growth America’s Research Director, presented an overview of the new resource at an event in Madison, WI. The presentation was webcast live yesterday afternoon and a recorded version of their discussion is now available above or on YouTube.

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A transportation engineer on what convinced him to use a Complete Streets approach

west-jefferson“Crazy ideas” in action: Complete Streets features in downtown West Jefferson, NC.

On Tuesday we hosted a panel discussion about Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, new research from the National Complete Streets Coalition on the outcomes of Complete Streets projects across the country. If you missed the event, read our full recap and watch the recorded webinar.

Dean Ledbetter, a Senior Engineer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), joined the panel to discuss the Complete Streets project in downtown West Jefferson, NC. There were so many questions about working with transportation engineers, and for Dean specifically, that we said down with him for a follow-up conversation.

Alex Dodds: You mentioned that you initially thought that Complete Streets was a “crazy idea,” but that eventually you changed your mind. What convinced you?
Dean Ledbetter: I don’t know if there was one specific thing. I think I had to go through the [Federal Highway Administration’s] training several times for the reality of something new to overpower the existing “knowledge” I had about what my job was supposed to be. And I have to admit that we only went to those classes to get the free Professional Development Hours not because we really expected to learn anything useful.

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A new bill in Congress would create new financing option for transit-oriented development

booker-tod

Transit-oriented development (TOD) can make it easier for people to live and work near public transportation. These places are in high demand and real estate developers are eager to build them, but because they’re often complicated TOD projects can be difficult to secure financing for.

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Transportation and infrastructure take center stage in President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal

2016-federal-budget

President Obama released his proposal for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 federal budget yesterday, and if passed, it would be an enormous help to communities looking to grow in better, more economically vibrant ways.

Most notably the proposal includes significant investment in transportation and infrastructure programs (there’s even a photo of a bridge on the cover). Building on the Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, the budget proposes $94.7 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Transportation and sweeping improvements to its programs as part of a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization. That would be a $176 billion increase over the last authorization, and $76 billion more than the four-years of funding proposed in the GROW AMERICA Act last spring.

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Smart Growth News — January 6, 2015

Young Drive an Urban Rebound
Wall Street Journal — January 2, 2015
America’s biggest cities have seen a resurgence as employers and residents show a growing preference to live and work in urban areas. Experts expect the trend to continue—and even spill over into midsize and small cities.

Smart Growth assistance awarded to Bentonville
Arkansas Online — December 30, 2014
The city has been recognized with a national award for its work to make downtown a walkable and attractive destination.

More Nashville Office Workers Expected Downtown As Demand Shifts From The Suburbs
Nashville Public Radio — January 5, 2015
Bridgestone Americas’ decision to move its headquarters from the airport area to downtown Nashville illustrates a larger trend: more businesses are eyeing downtown relocations and more inventory there is being prepared for office tenants.

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Voters strongly support smart growth measures on Election Day 2014

bar-harbor-meMaine’s small businesses, like these in Bar Harbor, will get new help thanks to yesterday’s passage of Question 3. Photo by Duluoz via Flickr.

On Tuesday, voters across America passed statewide, county-wide, and citywide measures in support of smart growth and better development strategies. Here’s a short roundup of what passed, what failed, and what it means for community development.

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Smart Growth News — October 17, 2014

Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible—Move to Des Moines
National Journal — October 16, 2014
Ambitious minds are in the process of building a new Des Moines, a tech hub in Silicon Prairie, an artistic center in the Heartland, a destination for people who want to create something meaningful outside of the limits imposed by an oversaturated city like Chicago or New York.

The link between housing policy and student achievement
Washington Post — October 16, 2014
It is impossible to divorce a student’s life outside of school with how well he or she does in class.

A Chat with Amtrak’s CEO on the State of U.S. Passenger Rail
City Lab — October 16, 2014
Year after year, Amtrak sets ridership records along with the pace of intercity travel in the all-important Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston via New York, where it reaps big profits. And year after year, Amtrak gets hammered for needing huge amounts of federal taxpayer money to maintain costly (yet mandatory) long-distance operations—even as highways require far, far greater subsidies.

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