Category: Featured Content

Tell FHWA to pass their proposed rule on street design

Last month, the Federal Highway Administration put forward a great idea.

The agency, which oversees the design of millions of miles of roads in the United States, proposed a new rule which would dramatically ease federal design standards for many of those roadways. It’s a move that would make a Complete Streets approach significantly easier for communities across the country.

You go, FHWA! Tell the agency to adopt its proposed rule.

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California governor signs bill to ease parking requirements and create more affordable housing

On Friday California Governor Jerry Brown signed into a law a bill that will help create more affordable housing by easing parking requirements for developers.

The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 744, Planning and Zoning: Density Bonus, will allow developers to request reduced minimum parking requirements within affordable housing projects. It also amends the parking ratio for affordable housing and senior housing to require no more the 0.5 parking spaces per unit, and amends the ratio for special needs housing to require no more than 0.3 parking spaces per unit.

Developers seeking to use these ratios must meet established guidelines regarding percentage of affordable units in the project, distance and access to a transit stop, availability of paratransit services, and access to fixed bus route services. The emphasis on transit access will bolster other efforts to make public transportation and active transportation options safer, more convenient, and more accessible for low-income families.

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What if we labeled unwalkable neighborhoods like we do cigarettes?

The Surgeon General of the United States will kick off a new nationwide Call to Action later this morning, aiming to help Americans lead healthier lives—by making walking and physical activity built-in features of more of our neighborhoods.

Over the past decade, scores of research has shown the correlation between physical inactivity and sprawl development. Today, 10 percent of the preventable deaths in America are related to physical inactivity and its related diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes—and communities without safe places to walk are part of the problem. Smart Growth America’s 2003 report Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl was one of the first to examine this issue. Today, the Surgeon General is making it a national health priority.

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In Macon, GA, smart growth would mean quadruple returns

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Actually, more than quadruple. It would generate 4.7 times the fiscal impact as development on the edge of town.

Back in April, we released a new model for analyzing the fiscal implications of development patterns. Since then we’ve analyzed development in Madison, WI and West Des Moines, IA.

Now, Macon, GA is the most recent city in which we’ve applied our model.

We looked at four scenarios of how Macon could grow over the next 20 years, and what each scenario would mean for the city’s finances. Our research found that development on the edge of town would generate about $165,000 for the city each year. The same development, if located downtown, would generate at least $428,000 per year for the city—and potentially as much as $788,000 per year if walkable places’ higher property values were factored in.

These results are similar to those from Madison and West Des Moines: building in compact, more walkable ways benefit a city’s bottom line. These strategies reduce the cost of infrastructure and services, while also generating more tax revenue per acre. The only question is, how much would your city gain with a smart growth approach?

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A new push to make brownfield cleanup more affordable

esty-brownfields-bill-2015Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty and Mayor Patricia Murphy of New Milford, CT visit New Milford’s Century Brass mill, a brownfield site, in 2014. Photos via The News-Times.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-5) is fighting hard to reinstate a tax incentive to help cleaning up contaminated land more affordable and more feasible.

Late last month, Esty introduced the Brownfields Redevelopment Tax Incentive Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2002), a bill to re-establish the Brownfields Tax Incentive which ended in 2011.

Originally signed into law in 1997 and codified through Section 198(h) of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax code, the Incentive allowed taxpayers to fully deduct the costs of brownfield sites’ environmental cleanup the year the costs were incurred—making the arduous process more affordable for those who take it on.

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Join the 2015 LOCUS Leadership Summit for walking tours that highlight infrastructure in action

It’s Infrastructure Week here in Washington, and everyone inside the Beltway is talking about the benefits of investments in roads, bridges, and transit. In two weeks, as part of the 2015 LOCUS Leadership Summit, we’ll hold three walking tours that showcase neighborhoods transformed by investments in infrastructure—and you’re invited to join us.

hstreet2 H Street NE
One of the Washington, DC’s most historic neighborhoods, H Street has been home to legendary performance venues such as the Atlas Theatre and the H Street Playhouse. Now the center of a redevelopment renaissance—including construction of a new streetcar line—H Street NE is fighting to maintain affordability for residents both old and new.
brooklnad Brookland
This once-small neighborhood has grown steadily over the last few decades, and more recently boomed with the construction of large mixed-use development project, Monroe Street Market, one of the most prominent examples of transit-oriented development in the DC metro area.
tysons Tysons, VA
Once an “edge city” of primarily office and retail space, Tysons has taken a leap into new residential and commercial markets. The Silver Line, Metro’s most recent addition to its system, has garnered interest in mixed-use development and walkability in Tysons. Explore the newest investments toward this goal, including the Greensboro Park Place.

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New analysis examines the fiscal implications of development patterns in West Des Moines, IA

fiscal-implications-wdm-coverIn early April, Smart Growth America released a new model for analyzing the fiscal performance of urban development. The City of Madison, WI, was the first city to use the new model in their development planning.

Today we’re proud to release new analysis of development patterns in West Des Moines, IA. The new research examines four different strategies for West Des Moines’ growth over the next 20 years. Each scenario assumes the development of 9,275 housing units and 2.69 million square feet of commercial space, which is in keeping with West Des Moines’ current growth.

The four scenarios have different densities and a different mix of home types. A “base density” scenario approximates the average density of development in West Des Moines today; a “low density” and “higher density” scenario represent incrementally lower, and higher development densities, respectively, than the base. And a “walkable urban” scenario has the highest density of all scenarios considered and represents a more dramatic departure from the typical development pattern in West Des Moines (though does not propose any high-rise development).

The model calculates average annual public costs for each scenario. Our researchers subtract that from the average annual public revenues generated by each scenario. The result is the net fiscal impact of each type of development.

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Secretary Anthony Foxx to deliver keynote address at 2015 LOCUS Leadership Summit


Great, walkable neighborhoods are stronger when people of all income levels can afford to live there. Next month, real estate developers from across the country will gather to talk about how they can help make that happen as part of the 2015 LOCUS Leadership Summit.

Transportation is a crucial part of this discussion and no one is more important in this arena than the U.S. Department of Transportation. The good news is that USDOT will join the Summit to speak frankly about how developers and transportation advocates can work together to build walkable, equitable communities.

We are excited to announce that U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will deliver the keynote address at the 2015 LOCUS Leadership Summit. Under Secretary Foxx’s leadership, USDOT is working to make sure transportation investments support working families and America’s broader economy. Foxx’s keynote will provide insights into USDOT’s current programs, its plans for the future, and how real estate developers can be part of the national effort for more equitable, walkable communities. Register today to join the event:

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