Category: Local Leaders Council

Downtown revitalization helps Cheyenne, WY remain competitive

The WranglerDowntown Cheyenne, WY. Photo by Cliff, via Flickr.

Cheyenne, WY is at a crossroads. As the state capital of Wyoming, the city of 65,000 residents has long represented the cultural identity and values traditionally associated with the rural American West. Yet just 90 miles north of Denver, CO, Cheyenne is also a growing participant in the economy of the Front Range region, which includes Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Ft. Collins among other major and mid-sized metropolitan regions in northern Colorado.

“Residents in Cheyenne want to become a part of that growing Front Range economy, while still being rooted in the values of Wyoming,” says Cheyenne’s Planning Services Director Matt Ashby, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. For Ashby, balancing these two sides of the city is about attracting new investment to Cheyenne while preserving the city’s unique character.

Posted in Local Leaders Council, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Placemaking done right: three successful approaches

soldotna
An improved storefront in Soldotna, AK. Photo courtesy of City of Soldotna.

It is often hard to quantify what makes a place memorable, successful or special, but to paraphrase an old adage, “You know it when you see it.” Some urban planners have described placemaking as the deliberate re-shaping of the built environment to facilitate social interaction and improve quality of life. While there is no universal blueprint for creating great places, there are successful examples worth noting, especially given the numerous benefits that come with great placemeking.

Placemaking improves the physical, psychological, health and public safety aspects of a community. Creating attractive places where people want to be increases foot traffic and helps support the local economy, which is critically important. Interesting places with more community interaction also reduce crime and instill a sense of identity to a neighborhood. So, how does good placemaking happen? The following examples from Philadelphia (PA), Soldotna (AK) and Orlando (FL) showcase three approaches on different scales, achieved by different means.

Posted in Local Leaders Council | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mayor Randy McClement on facilitating private investment

Carroll Creek Linear Park
Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, MD. Photo by Sarah Absetz.

Known as “The City of Clustered Spires,” Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland, with a population of 65,000 residents. Located an hour from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, the city boasts a 40-block downtown historic district and an unmistakable sense of place.

“Frederick is the second largest municipality in the state, but we still have a hometown feel. This is not just from the architectural character of the town, but also the character and personalities of the residents,” says Mayor Randy McClement, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The city has a history of revitalization, starting in the 1970s after several major employers had left the city and massive flooding devastated downtown Frederick. The resulting flood control project was designed to double as a downtown park and economic development tool. The first phase of the park project, called Carroll Creek Linear Park, was completed in 2006, and includes pedestrian paths, water features and an outdoor amphitheater. The $15 million project brought a $50 million return on investment to the city, adding 1,500 new jobs and transforming the downtown.

Posted in Local Leaders Council, Maryland | 2 Comments

Smarter parking codes to promote smart growth

local-leaders_8-2014_transportation-ordinance

Unless you’re walking to your destination in a busy downtown neighborhood, chances are good that you need parking at the end of the trip. Nowadays, several cities are changing their thinking on parking regulations in response to the growing demand for car-light living.

Typically, parking rules are used to establish the minimum number of off-street private car parking spaces that must be provided in new residential and commercial developments. This helps manage traffic and congestion as new projects and more people come to the area, and it helps keep parking demand from overtaking supply over time. However, the following cities are modernizing their approach and tackling the parking issue in new ways.

Posted in Blog, California, District of Columbia, Local Leaders Council, Pennsylvania | Leave a comment

Financing Smart Growth

DC streetcar tracks

Great smart growth developments start with a vision and good planning, but to build the actual project local governments, real estate developers and community members must secure the necessary capital funding. Innovative ways to finance smart growth projects was one of the main topics discussed at the June 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit in Washington, DC where members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council and the LOCUS developers’ network met to talk about what it takes to bring a smart growth vision into reality.

Ben Miller, cofounder of Fundrise, believes that the real estate investment system is set up for very large investors and makes it nearly impossible for smaller investors to support local projects. “What if we squared the circle and let the community become both a capital resource and a partner in our real estate projects, so they would have some skin in the game?” posits Miller.

Posted in Local Leaders Council, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

City Councilor Tim Lovain on promoting transit-oriented development in Alexandria, VA

King Street metro station

In a few weeks, Northern Virginia’s first bus rapid transit service will begin operations on dedicated busways through Alexandria, VA’s burgeoning Potomac Yard neighborhood. A visitor standing under one of the new station awnings can see a string of cranes stretching from north to south along US Route 1, at work on the planned 3000 residential units, 4 million square feet of office space, and 1 million square feet of retail space along the transit corridor. Alexandria City Councilor Tim Lovain, who championed the busway as an essential tool to support high-density growth in this corridor, smiles broadly as he describes the accomplishment, but is even more interested in the transit lines still under development in the city.

Many of these transit projects are included in the Transportation Master Plan Councilor Lovain helped adopt in 2008 during his first term on the Council. In addition to the Route 1 corridor, that plan identified two more high-priority corridors where bus rapid transit will be developed in anticipation of future streetcar lines. Both of those corridors are in the City’s newer West End, which is characterized by car-oriented, lower density development. West End neighborhoods are more difficult to serve with transit, but Councilor Lovain makes the case for it as an essential tool for economic survival in the transit-rich metropolitan Washington, DC region.

Posted in Local Leaders Council, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating revitalization in slow markets

Small town main street

In communities where the market is slow, attracting developers and investors can be a tough challenge. A slow market can have many causes such as an economic downturn, a geographic disadvantage or a weak competitive edge within the region. Local leaders of small towns from states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Maryland and California discussed the issues that impact attracting growth and development in a weak market during a session titled “Creating revitalization in slow growth markets” at the June 2014 Local Leaders Policy Forum in Washington, DC.

“Slow growth is relative to the market,” remarked Mayor Andrew Fellows of College Park, MD, and other leaders agreed. Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, IA pointed to other communities in the immediate Des Moines metropolitan region as their major competition. Former Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian, MS suggested that sister cities in the greater geographic region and neighboring states were their biggest competition. “Our problem was that we were trying to be Gulfport of Biloxi, when we didn’t realize that we had strengths of our own,” said Smith.

Posted in Blog, Local Leaders Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Blog, Local Leaders Council | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment