Category: Local Leaders Council

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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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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Local leaders confront revitalization challenges

Policy Forum plenary panelistsChris Leinberger, President of LOCUS, Peg Meortl, PNC Bank’s Senior Vice President for Community Development Banking, Don Edwards, CEO of Justice and Sustainability Associates, and Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, OK discuss revitalization during the Local Leaders Policy Forum opening plenary.

Most American communities are actively seeking the benefits of local revitalization. But, how is revitalization measured and how can communities achieve the most lasting outcomes? This was the central question in the opening plenary session at Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Policy Forum held in Washington, D.C. on June 16th, 2014.

Job creation, attracting new businesses and supporting local entrepreneurs are undoubtedly critical goals of revitalization. However, communities are also concerned about making progress in other critical areas like health, social equity and sustainability. Leaders and experts offered diverse perspectives on the diverse roles of revitalization and innovative approaches that can maximize results that strengthen communities.

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Councilmember Brent Bolin on building around Mount Rainier, MD’s transit history

Rhode Island Avenue, Mount Rainier, MD

Brent Bolin, Councilmember for the City of Mount Rainier, MD is building on the City’s transportation assets to create a walkable and sustainable community. “There are different eras of transportation history present in Mount Rainier. The City was incorporated as a streetcar town that borders the District of Columbia, and now we have high levels of bus service that have taken the place of the streetcars. We are trying to build on that as a community asset,” explains Councilmember Bolin, who is a member of the the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

Mount Rainier is a historic and diverse community of 8,500 residents with a working class history. Although the City has access to public transportation, it is struggling to fill the commercial spaces on main street. “Redevelopment of our commercial space is our biggest challenge. Rhode Island Avenue is our main street that evolved as a streetcar corridor. We have historic storefronts and infrastructure but these are an awkward fit with the automobile culture that people expect by not living in downtown DC,” says Bolin. “Finding the right mix of small businesses to service the City but also draw people from adjoining neighborhoods has been a big challenge for us. There are a lot of empty buildings on our main street.”

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Leaders from communities around the country gather at the opening reception of the Local Leaders Policy Forum

Local Leaders Policy Forum reception
More than 70 mayors, councilmembers, commissioners, agency directors and other local officials from around the country gathered in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 15 for the opening reception of the Local Leaders Policy Forum, a conference for local elected and appointed leaders using smart growth strategies to revitalize communities. The Policy Forum is the first national convening of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The opening reception provided an opportunity for members of the Local Leaders Council to meet with each other and Smart Growth America staff to begin to discuss their strategies for redeveloping downtowns, revitalizing commercial corridors and making neighborhoods great for all residents.

Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, OK and former Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, OH, co-chairs of the Local Leaders Council’s advisory board, welcomed leaders to the reception. Both mayors pointed to the importance of building on the shared goals of the group and learning from each other’s experiences and approaches over the days ahead.

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Maryland local leaders gather to discuss revitalization

MML panelistsMayor Tracy Gant, Mayor David Gysberts, Commissioner Susan Burdette and Council President Jake Day discuss their strategies for revitalization during a reception at the Maryland Municipal League Summer Convention.

Over 45 Maryland local leaders, including members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, gathered on Sunday, June 8 to share their revitalization successes and challenges during a reception at the Maryland Municipal League Summer Convention in Ocean City, MD. Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland cosponsored the event.

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Councilmember Steve Hansen is working with community members to create a vibrant and healthy Sacramento, CA

sacramento-urban-agA community garden in Sacramento, CA. Photo by Annie & John via flickr.

Councilmember Steve Hansen has a history of advocating for and working with community members in Sacramento, CA’s historic downtown neighborhoods, serving in recent years on his neighborhood association, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Board of Directors, and the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Now, just one-and-a-half years into his first term in elected office, Councilmember Hansen is working to promote policies and encourage development that will make Sacramento’s downtown more vibrant for residents.

“We have such an opportunity – particularly in the older parts of the city – to build housing, to bring vitality back, and ultimately to create a vibrant modern city,” says Councilmember Hansen, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We want to respect historic structures but revitalize them, and to bring communities that were displaced by redevelopment and highway construction back to life.”

Hansen explains that redevelopment projects in Sacramento’s downtown neighborhoods currently face a number of barriers, including policies and standards that make infill development and redevelopment complicated and costly compared to new development in the city’s outer suburbs.

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