Category: Blog

Introducing Urbanful: A new way to celebrate the best of our communities

At Smart Growth America, we work to make neighborhoods great, provide a range of housing choices, support thriving businesses, and create more options for how we get around. Now, we’re launching a new project to celebrate the result of all that hard work – the fun, vibrant side of city living – Urbanful.

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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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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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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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Getting back to Fairfax, VA’s historical roots for the benefit of future generations

800px-Old-fairfax-city-hall036Old Town Hall. Fairfax, Virginia. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. 

Fairfax is a small city, with close to 24,000 residents, located in the heart of Northern Virginia. Built as a historical town center, anchored by the former site of the Fairfax County Courthouse, the city served as a regional hub of economic and civic activity throughout the 19th century. A trolley line built in 1904 connected Fairfax, then an active, urban community, to Washington, DC. But, rapid home growth and the suburban expansion of the 50s and 60s have meant that Fairfax’s 6.3 square miles have largely been built out since the mid 20th century. Today, the city, with an aging population as well as aging infrastructure and housing stock, is on the cusp of some major, needed change.

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