Mayor Stodola on neighborhood revitalization through historic restoration

Downtown Little Rock, AR

For Mayor Mark Stodola, revitalization in Little Rock, AK began with his own home. He renovated his 1868 Victorian home, then moved to a Craftsman 4-plex, which he restored before moving and repeating the process again. He has restored six houses in historic neighborhoods across the City and watched their value increase. As Mayor, Stodala has taken restoration and reuse to a neighborhood-wide scale to generate activity and value in once-neglected neighborhoods.

Founded in 1821, Little Rock has great historic assets including the original state house and housing stock dating back to the 1840s. Stodala, explains that “Urban renewal wiped out a lot, unfortunately.” However, several adjoining core neighborhoods were preserved as historic districts. “Their distinctiveness was what saved these neighborhoods,” he contends.

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Local leaders share strategies for revitalizing underserved neighborhoods

East Baltimore

How does a community pursue smart growth in underserved neighborhoods where infrastructure problems, concentration of poverty and concerns about gentrification and displacement abound? Two-dozen leaders from diverse communities discussed this very question during the Local Leaders Policy Forum, held on June 16th in Washington, D.C.

Mayor Jacqueline Goodall of Forest Heights, MD shared her experience from living in several different cities over the years. “Gentrification and displacement are real, not perceived, concerns,” said Goodall. “Lower income and minority families can be very vulnerable to neighborhood changes that drive up costs even moderately. As leaders, we cannot overlook that threat.”

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Smart Growth News — July 21, 2014

Cities Use Civic Tech Tool that Maps Zoning Codes for Potential Businesses
Government Technology — July 18, 2014
To ease the burden on officials, required to regulate, and on business owners, who must navigate city codes, one civic tech startup has released a new question-and-answer tool that maps open zoning areas based on an applicant’s interests. The tool, called ZoningCheck, comes from OpenCounter, a Code for America Accelerator company and Knight Foundation grant recipient.
 
Opinion: As climate shifts, local government must change, too
HeraldNET — July 20, 2014
As climate change and its impacts on the environment become clearer, the need to address these impacts at the local government level becomes more pressing. These updates present an opportunity to adopt policies and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to prepare for changes already underway as a result of climate change.
 
What ‘urban physics’ could tell us about how cities work
Boston Herald — July 20, 2014
What does a city look like? If you’re walking down the street, perhaps it looks like people and storefronts. Viewed from higher up, patterns begin to emerge: A three-dimensional grid of buildings divided by alleys, streets, and sidewalks, nearly flat in some places and scraping the sky in others. Pull back far enough, and the city starts to look like something else entirely: a cluster of molecules.
 
What They’re Saying Around the Country: Build America Investment Initiative
Whitehouse.gov — July 19, 2014
This week, President Obama spoke about the importance of long-term investments in our country’s infrastructure in front of Delaware’s Interstate 495 Bridge. In his remarks, President Obama discussed how much the economy has rebounded over the past few years and how we’ve got a “huge opportunity to keep this momentum going…but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared.”

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Smart Growth News — July 18, 2014

The 15 Most Walkable States in America
The Weather Channel — July 17, 2014
Nobody likes braving the cold weather just to walk a few blocks to pick up groceries and other essentials. Driving or taking public transportation to the store can be a warmer, faster and more pleasant experience. But don’t tell that to people living in these states.
 
What Recovery? Home Building Took a Dive in June
The New York Times — July 17, 2014
Remember when 2014 was going to be the year home building finally got out of the doldrums and accelerated back toward health — or at least to filling something closer to its usual role supporting growth? Yeah, never mind.
 
Fed’s Rosengren Says Cities Program Helps in Ways Easing Can’t
Bloomberg — July 18, 2014
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said new community development initiatives to spur cooperation between cities and businesses can go beyond monetary easing as a way to support lower-income Americans amid an economic recovery that’s still incomplete.
 
Public Problems, Private Dollars: Obama Seeks Infrastructure Repair Money
The New York Times — July 17, 2014
How can a president fix more roads and bridges without any new money to spend? President Obama’s answer on Thursday was to announce new initiatives to encourage private-sector investment in the nation’s infrastructure

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Improved community outreach pays off for Tennessee Department of Transportation

Many state DOTs select transportation projects without much coordination with their local jurisdictions. Recently officials in Tennessee decided to do better. Now, key officials from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) have reinvented how the department interacts with local communities to create better outcomes for projects across the state while saving taxpayer money at the same time.

In our April profile of TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, we explained how Schroer initiated a “top to bottom” review of the department. Part of Schroer’s vision for TDOT is for state planners to work more proactively with local communities in the early planning and design phases of transportation projects. Schroer then created a new team tasked with changing the way TDOT plans, designs and funds transportation projects across the state.

The figure leading this charge for TDOT is Toks Omishakin, Assistant Commissioner of Environment and Planning. In 2011, Schroer appointed Omishakin as Deputy Commissioner with the aim of better coordinating TDOT’s long-range planning and project management. A planner by trade with a degree in Urban and Regional Planning and previous roles with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Omishakin is rethinking TDOT’s approach to community relations and transforming how TDOT plans and consults with local governments across the state.

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Obama announces new Build America Investment Initiative

Today, President Obama announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a new government-wide initiative to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure by expanding opportunities for the public and private sectors to partner and better leverage each other’s resources to grow jobs and strengthen the economy.

In addition, the initiative will create the Build America Transportation Investment Center within the US Department of Transportation, tasked with providing cities and states with both the tools and other forms of technical assistance needed to create innovative financing solutions such as TIFIA to fund transportation infrastructure improvements and the support necessary to remove regulatory barriers that prevent the public and private sectors from collaborating on ways to fund infrastructure.

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Smart Growth News — July 17, 2014

Automated cars may boost urban sprawl, fuel use, Toyota scientist says
Auto News — July 16, 2014
Toyota Motor Corp., among carmakers developing driverless technology, said the appeal of autonomous cars carries the risk of adding to urban sprawl and pollution as they may encourage commuters to travel farther to work.
 
Affordable Housing Leads to Smarter Kids
Governing — July 15, 2014
In the world of human services, everything is linked, and one of the main axles around which things connect and spin is stable, affordable housing. If ever there was any doubt about housing’s importance, particularly where it relates to the healthy development of kids, a new study erases it.
 
Rural Co-Ops See the Light on Renewable Energy
The Huffington Post — July 17, 2014
Today, thankfully, many rural electric co-ops are working on ways to bring the next phase of electricity — clean, renewable energy — to their members, giving farmers and other residents of rural areas the same sort of access to solar, wind and other forms of clean energy as the rest of America.
 
Obama presses for more lasting highway funding
Politico — July 15, 2014
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he supports temporary measures to keep federal transportation aid flowing to the states and to keep construction crews on the job, while he also pressed Congress for a more permanent solution to the longstanding shortfall in funding for road and bridge-building projects.

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Complete Streets News – July 2014

Policy Adoption

The Maine Department of Transportation adopted a Complete Streets policy on June 18. The internal policy directs MaineDOT and its partner agencies to improve conditions for all road users even during routine repaving and maintenance work, and appoints the Maine Bicycle and Pedestrian Council to oversee ongoing implementation of the policy.

In suburban Detroit, the Macomb County, MI, Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted a Complete Streets policy on June 19. In urging her colleagues to support the measure, Commissioner Toni Moceri cited the recent LOCUS report “Foot Traffic Ahead,” on the growing demand for walkable urban places.

The Township of Hopewell, in Mercer County, NJ, passed Complete Streets legislation in June, becoming the first New Jersey municipality to adopt Complete Streets by ordinance.

The Austin, TX, City Council also adopted a Complete Streets policy last month, via an ordinance. The comprehensive policy links the city’s commitment to safe streets for all users to its desire to create great places that incorporate green infrastructure. It also charges the city with developing new multimodal performance metrics. Local leaders based much of the document on conversations facilitated in a National Complete Streets Coalition policy development workshop last year.

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House Appropriations Committee markup cuts EPA funding

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. The legislation would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall funding by 9 percent in addition to cutting funding for EPA programs important to helping communities advance smart growth solutions.

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City of Portsmouth, NH hosts workshop on how to implement its Complete Streets policy

Picture for past workshops page- Portsmouth
View of downtown Portsmouth. Photo by nhlinux via Flickr

Portsmouth officials, regional transportation officials, and members of the public met with representatives from Smart Growth America on June 12 and 13, 2014 as part of a free, grant-funded technical assistance program. The technical assistance provided City decision makers and transportation officials with the tools to help develop an action plan for implementing the City’s Complete Streets policy, which was adopted by City Council last fall. Complete Streets are planned, designed, operated and maintained to be safe, comfortable and convenient for people of all ages and abilities, whether they are walking, bicycling, driving, or riding on public transportation.

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