Author Archives: Tyler Falk

Spotlight on Sustainability: Indianapolis, Indiana

It’s not a place where you might expect to see smart growth: the “Crossroads of America”, the home of one of the most significant motorsport races in the world, and a big city with some of the lowest ridership in the country.

But, a smart growth redevelopment district is looking to show Indianapolis residents how much the city can benefit from smart growth. With the help of a Brownfield Pilot Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Indianapolis is on the verge of making big changes to a once-neglected neighborhood.

“The city is looking to a number of programs, like the EPA and HUD grants, as a way to focus limited resources on an area that has a lot of need,” said Ryan Hunt, a senior project manager for the City of Indianapolis, who is working on the redevelopment project. “As a near downtown neighborhood, there’s a real opportunity here to take advantage of what’s out there. These programs give us the opportunity to see a lot of change.”

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Smart growth news – December 22

What the End of the Sustainable Communities Grants Means For Planning
Governing Magazine, December 21, 2011
One reason the program may have suffered is a general lack of appreciation for planning. “It’s a hard thing to defend in the sense that it’s not putting a piece of infrastructure in the ground,” said Geoffrey Anderson, head of Smart Growth America. “But then you think about building a building without planning. The idea is absurd.” Indeed, a different Sustainable Communities initiative, the Transportation Department’s TIGER grants, survived. It provides over $500 million to highways, transit, bridges and ports.

Cities Face Tough Choices as U.S. Slashes Block Grants Program
New York Times, December 21, 2011
The shrinking federal program, called Community Development Block Grants, was devised by the Nixon administration to bypass state governments and send money directly to big cities, which were given broad leeway to decide how to spend it. This year the federal government is giving out just $2.9 billion — a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, and even less than it gave during the Carter administration, when the money went much further.

Transit as a Stepping Stone to Prosperity
Regional Plan Association Blog, December 21, 2011
Christmas came early to the tri-state region this year. In the span of a week, two high-profile, competitive awards landed on Long Island and in Stamford, Conn. While they have different objectives and scopes, both should help further the twin goals of revitalizing the metropolitan economy and supporting more sustainable, transit-oriented development.

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Smart growth news – December 21

Morning Read: Smart Growth, or “War on Rural Maryland”?
Baltimore Sun, December 19, 2011
Glendening, 69, praised Plan Maryland as a “major movement ahead.” The plan spells out criteria for judging which types of development projects are viewed as desirable — and worthy of state infrastructure spending. “Land use planning is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for people who are anxious to get things done quickly,” said Glendening.

Maryland To Offer Preferential Funding For Smart Growth
WAMU (DC), December 21, 2011
The rate of land consumption in Maryland is three times the rate of population growth, according to the state’s department of planning. That’s a lot of urban sprawl for a small state. Governor Martin O’Malley issued an executive order for a strategy called PlanMaryland, which is designed to limit sprawl, but it’s set up tensions around the state.

The Future of Retail
BusinessWeek, December 20, 2011
Modernize our nation’s aging infrastructure: It is critical that the US transportation infrastructure — including our ports, airports, rail lines and roads — can meet future demands. We need a national freight policy that will support US competitiveness, economic growth and job creation.

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LOCUS developer project will turn strip mall into transit-oriented development

It’s an all too common sight throughout the U.S.: a big-box retailer surrounded by a sea of parking lots, with a gas station near the entrance, the whole area spotted with a handful of token trees.

LOCUS Steering Committee member Ed Lipkin and his firm EBL & S Development had other ideas for a generic lot just like this in San Mateo, Calif.

His project, Station Park Green, is a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that will be located on a site once home to a Kmart, Michaels and a gas station. The 12-acre project will include 599 residential units, 10,000 square feet of office facilities, over 60,000 square feet of retail.

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Smart growth news – December 20

Maryland governor signs land-use order
Washington Post, December 19, 2011
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Monday signed an executive order that is intended to curb sprawl and that could affect every facet of growth, from where schools are placed to which roads are built to whether rural landowners are permitted to develop their property.

The Lure of the City
Inside Higher Ed, December 20, 2011
Cornell, one of the only top private research universities in the country not located in an urban area, saw expansion into New York as a necessary component of its future ambitions…It also reinforces a growing notion that research universities are going to need access to the resources provided by urban areas to continue to serve as such engines. “We believe the city had the right idea at the right time,” Cornell President David Skorton said at the announcement. “The tech sector of universities is shifting from simply the pursuit of knowledge to service of business and industry.”

Smart Can Be Affordable
Shelterforce, Fall 2011
Despite fears that rising prices follow smart growth projects, smart growth and affordable housing advocates need each other to realize the promise of each.

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Smart growth news – December 19

New Study: Millennials Prefer Car “Access Over Ownership”
The City Fix, December 16, 2011
The “Millennial” generation is quickly adopting car sharing as a mainstream transportation solution, according to results from Zipcar’s second annual study of the personal transportation and car ownership behavior of 18- to 34-year-olds. The study found that 55 percent of this influential generation have made an effort to drive less, which is a 10 percent rise from 2010.

GAO report details local cost of vacant properties
American City & County, December 15, 2011
In 10 years, vacant properties in the U.S. have increased almost 50 percent, and local governments have spent millions of dollars maintaining them. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looks at how much those properties are costing local governments, and how cities and counties are responding to the issue.

Report: Big roads projects, big cities, big impact
Omaha World-Herald (Neb.), December 17, 2011
Building new roads doesn’t always boost economic development, a new study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln concludes, but large projects in larger communities have helped increase wages.

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DOT announces TIGER III grants to fund transit, road repair

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $511 million in funding for 46 transportation projects through the agency’s third round of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

This extremely popular program received 848 project applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, requesting a total of $14.29 billion, far more than the $511 million made available for grants. The TIGER III grants will help communities move forward on a variety of transportation infrastructure projects including road and bridge improvements; transit upgrades; freight, port and rail expansions; and new options for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. “That’s why we’ve taken action to get these grants out the door quickly, and that is why we will continue to ask Congress to make the targeted investments we need to create jobs, repair our nation’s transportation systems, better serve the traveling public and our nation’s businesses, factories and farms, and make sure our economy continues to grow.”

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Smart growth news – December 16

U.S. DOT Announces Third Round of TIGER Grantees
Governing Magazine, December, 15, 2011
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its third round of grant funding for the popular TIGER program today, awarding $511 million to 46 projects across the country.

Nearly Half of TIGER Award Money Goes to Roads, 29 Percent For Transit
Streetsblog, December 15, 2011
All in all, 48 percent of the projects fund roadwork, with about a quarter of those funds paying for complete streets treatments like the one in American Falls. Another 29 percent goes to transit – a far better shake for transit than generally comes of the normal Congressional appropriations process. Twelve percent went to ports, 10 percent for freight rail, and two percent for passenger rail.

Transportation OK’s $23 million for Ohio projects
WTRF (Ohio), December 15, 2011
More than $23 million in federal funds are coming for public transportation projects in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood scheduled a Thursday news conference in Cincinnati for announcement of the grants. Transportation officials say there will be $12.5 million for the Mayfield Road transit station in Cleveland and $10.9 million for Cincinnati’s streetcar.

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Smart growth news – December 15

Study: Single-Family Homes May Be History
KPBS (Calif.), December 14, 2011
A new study from the Urban Land Institute suggests single-family homes, the largest contributor to urban sprawl, may be a thing of the past. The study looked at California’s major metropolitan areas — including San Diego — and found that by 2035 the supply of homes in conventional subdivisions will far exceed demand.

How the Tea Party Is Upending Urban Planning
Atlantic Cities, December 14, 2011
Across the country, Tea Party activists have been storming planning meetings of all kinds, opposing various plans by local and regional government having anything to do with density, smart growth, sustainability or urbanism. In California, Tea Party activists gained enough signatures for a ballot measure repealing the state’s baseline environmental regulations, while also targeting the Senate Bill 375, the 2008 law that seeks to combat climate change by promoting density and regional planning.

Beyond Sprawl: Rethinking Development in Tucson
Arizona Public Media, December 15, 2011
Tucson and the city’s outskirts were riding high on growth several years ago, with developments seeming to pop up everywhere there was empty land. But that all changed when the housing bust and recession took hold. The Tucson area continues to suffer from the downturn, but does that mean we did something wrong?

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Smart growth news – December 14

Report: Housing shift seen as suburban spreads lose appeal
The Sacramento Bee, December 13, 2011
Is Sacramento’s long-standing love of suburban living winding down? A blunt new analysis says yes, but some local builders say no way. The report released this week by the Urban Land Institute contends that Sacramento and other California metropolitan areas are about to discover they have an “oversupply” of classic subdivision housing, thanks to a sea change in what buyers want and can afford.

Is the Housing Bust About to Slam City Budgets?
Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2011
City budget crises could be getting worse in the coming years as the housing bust shakes out by shrinking property tax revenues, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Lawmaker’s high-speed rail plan: Will it fly?
CNN, December 13, 2011
How fast can high-speed trains come to the Northeast corridor? Not fast enough for Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida. The chairman of the House Transportation Committee recently came out with a proposal to create a high-speed rail line – trains that can travel more than 200 mph – between Boston and D.C. in 10 to 15 years. Can it be done in half the time Amtrak said it would take?

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