Category: Local Leaders Council

Recorded webinar: “(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization”

rebuilding6Are you interested in helping your community revitalize its downtown, but don’t know where to start?

Yesterday, Smart Growth America released (Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization, a new resource for local leaders who want to re-invigorate and strengthen neighborhood centers of economy, culture, and history through a smart growth approach to development. The guide lays out in straightforward language seven main steps to help (re)build downtowns and Main Streets, and is designed to be used by any community, no matter where they are in the revitalization process.

As part of yesterday’s kickoff, we hosted an online conversation all about downtown revitalization. Participants heard an overview of the new guidebook, and discussed revitalization efforts in three different communities. A recorded version of the webinar is now available.

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Introducing “(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization”

Downtowns, Main Streets, and city centers across the country are witnessing a renaissance. As more Americans chose the convenience and connectivity of walkable neighborhoods, communities are seeing new businesses, restaurants, and shops open in areas that were formerly vacant or economically distressed.

This movement is an exciting opportunity for communities. But for many places, the work needed to create a vibrant downtown can seem daunting. A new guidebook is designed to help.

(Re)Building Downtown: A Guidebook for Revitalization, released today, is a new guide for local elected officials who want to re-invigorate and strengthen neighborhood centers of economy, culture, and history through a smart growth approach to development. The guide lays out in straightforward language seven main steps to take, and it’s designed to be used by any community, no matter where you are in the revitalization process.

We’ll be talking all about this guide during a kickoff panel discussion today at 1:00 pm EST. Register to join us for this free online event.

Joining the conversation will be Alex Morrison, Executive Director at Macon-Bibb County, GA Urban Development Authority; Mayor John Engen of Missoula, MT; and Will Schroeer, Executive Director, East Metro Strong of Saint Paul, MN. We welcome your questions and ideas for our panelists or about the new guidebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at the hashtag #RebuildingDowntown.

Today’s new guide is a fantastic resource for any community interested in a stronger, more vibrant downtown. Check out the new guidebook to learn more.

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Join us for the launch of (Re)Building Downtown

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You’ve read the research about downtown development. More and more Americans want to live in walkable, downtown neighborhoods, and companies want to locate in these places too. These neighborhoods generate strong tax revenues and have lower municipal costs per capita. And they are the often the heart of a town or region’s economic activity.

But one big question remains in your mind. How could my town do it?

(Re)Building Downtown:A Guidebook for Revitalization is a new guide coming out from Smart Growth America on December 14, 2015, and it’s a resource designed to be used by any community, no matter their size, to bring people and businesses back to downtown.

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Now hiring: Local Leaders Council Intern

Smart Growth America is seeking a ​Paid Intern to support the Local Leaders Council​ (LLC)​, a national network of elected and appointed leaders in cities across the nation.

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Maryland leaders talk innovative transit solutions

MD workshopMembers of the Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council gather in Baltimore to discuss local transit solutions.

Transit service makes walkable urban places work better for all users, but finding affordable, flexible, scalable transit is a major hurdle for communities pursuing smart growth. The Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council convened a workshop in Baltimore on November 12 to dig in to what works, considering very different solutions from three very different places.

Ten elected leaders and staff brought varying concerns to the table. Mayor Gee Williams of Berlin, MD, population 4,562, is focused on accommodating visitors. “During the last ten years we’ve become a destination community – this is now our chief economic driver. The vision we are in the early stages of discussing is how we can accommodate up to 3,000 guests in a small downtown area. We also have a challenge for our residents to access downtown services every day.”

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What could your community do with a free technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America?

Salisbury Walk AuditCouncil President Jake Day of Salisbury, MD participates in the Walkability Audit.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of free workshops to help communities use smart growth strategies to achieve their goals for economic and environmental sustainability. Local Leaders Council members have used these workshops in very different ways. “The workshops we offer range from general introductions to very specific tools like the Parking Audit,” explains Elizabeth Schilling, Smart Growth America’s Deputy Director of Policy Development and Implementation, who teaches the Smart Growth Implementation 101 workshops. “In our most successful communities, leaders pick the right tool for the problem at hand, then design an outreach strategy to engage really diverse groups of problem solvers.”

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Committed local leaders are a key advantage in free workshop competition

Councilmember Michael Trapp, right, at parking audit workshop in Columbia, MO in 2015.

“Involvement of key community leaders” is one of five criteria Smart Growth America uses to select which communities receive our free technical assistance workshops each year. In fact, a letter of commitment signed by “the mayor, county commission chair, or comparable elected leader” is one of the requirements for applying.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council are a natural fit for this requirement, with a demonstrated interest in smarter development strategies. Over the past five years, 23 of the more than 50 winning communities have been home to current and future Local Leaders Council members. Here’s a look at how Local Leaders Council members have used these competitive awards.

In 2013, the Village of Park Forest, IL won a sustainable land use code audit workshop, which served as a kickoff event for the Village’s work revising its zoning and subdivision ordinances. The workshop was an opportunity to fill in gaps in technical expertise, gauge public interest in sustainable land use codes, and bring a fresh set of eyes to the process.

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Saco, ME is breaking out of short-term cycles with long-term thinking

SacoPhoto: Saco, ME, Jasperado via Flickr.

Maintaining New England traditions is at the top of Saco, ME’s agenda. How can this small city maintain the physical, economic, and cultural assets that make it unique while also changing in ways that make it a desirable destination for tourists, homebuyers, businesses, and investors?

Saco recently wrapped up a future visioning process intended to answer these questions and guide future public investments and economic development initiatives. Mayor Don Pilon, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, explains that short Council terms (lasting just two years) were part of the impetus for the visioning process, known as Bridge 2025. “We all sit down and think through what we want to accomplish in the two years that we have,” Mayor Pilon explained, but there was rarely common vision for what should happen beyond that budget cycle. To establish that, Mayor Pilon deliberately stepped back and supported a process that put businesses, residents, and other stakeholders in the driver’s seat. “This had to be driven by the public,” he explained. “When we’re gone, this needs to be continued by the stakeholders. This is their product, not our product.”

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