Category: Local Leaders Council

Mayor Denny Doyle uses community input to improve Beaverton, OR

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A rendering shows possible results of the Creekside Redevelopment Plan via Beaverton Facebook.

Located just seven miles west of Portland, OR, the City of Beaverton is using community input to create an extraordinary small-town experience. Already well-regarded for its great schools and green space, Beaverton is home to Nike Headquarters, Columbia Sports, over 16,000 tech employees, and one of the busiest transit hubs in the metro region. This diversified economy has given rise to a diverse Beaverton: one out of every four city residents was born outside of the U.S., and over 100 different languages are spoken in area homes.

Mayor Denny Doyle, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, has taken all of these important factors into consideration during his six years in office. He considers Beaverton’s diversity a strong asset and works hard to see that every voice is heard. The City’s commitment to community involvement played an essential role in the recently adopted Creekside District Master Plan, which aims to restore three creeks and help create a thriving downtown near the busy transit stop.

The Creekside District Master Plan was started about three years ago. Partially funded by a Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Cities Grant, the plan aims to redevelop a 50-acre area around a local creek and transit center, with the ultimate goal of creating a central downtown where people can live and work near transit. “We want this area to come to life,” says Mayor Doyle of the project’s focal point. “It has been asleep for a long time.” The planned first step involves redeveloping a five-acre area next to Beaverton City Hall, which will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the area.

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Using accessory dwelling units to bolster affordable housing

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Accessory Dwelling Units, such as this one in Northern California, can provide affordable housing and rental income for homeowners. Photo via Forbes.

Creating affordable rental housing in a community is often a long and arduous process. One strategy to combat this is for cities to allow the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) through amended zoning codes. ADUs, also known as “granny flats” are small apartments built on a property with a preexisting home as the primary structure. Units typically function as studio apartments and tend to accommodate one or two people. ADUs can allow for seniors to age in place, provide homeowners with extra rental income, and fill a gap in affordable rental units.

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Building partnerships to support smart growth in Elizabeth, NJ

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A view of downtown Elizabeth, NJ. Photo via City of Elizabeth.

Home to more 125,000 residents and the largest industrial seaport in North America—all in the space of just 11 square miles—the city of Elizabeth, NJ presents unique challenges for fostering smart growth. “There’s not a lot of room to enhance our city or grow it by expanding the boundaries or adding residents,” says Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “So the process of smart growth—and making sure there is open space as well as economic development—is extremely important for the mayor of a community like Elizabeth.”

Through 32 years of service as an elected official—22 of them spent in the Mayor’s office—Bollwage has helped guide the city in striking a balance between environmental and economic responsibilities, supported by funds and expertise from diverse sources. One example currently under construction is the Elizabeth River Trail, connecting downtown Elizabeth with the nearby Arthur Kill waterway. When completed, the trail will be 2.5 miles long and accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, and features like kayak launches and public art.

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Director of Economic Development and Planning Hildy Kingma commits to sustainability in Park Forest, IL

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Local leaders are working to build a more sustainable Park Forest, IL. Photo via Facebook.

Founded in 1948, the village of Park Forest, IL is a suburb built for sustainability. Located 30 miles away from the Chicago Loop, Park Forest was one of the first planned communities built for veterans after World War II, and it was built with both automobiles and pedestrians in mind. Along with the classic suburban curved streets, the community’s original master plan was organized around open space, schools, and small commercial areas accessible on foot. In many ways, Park Forest was an early model for smart growth—decades before the term was coined.

Today, local leaders in Park Forest are committed to continuing that legacy. Hildy Kingma, Director of Economic Development and Planning and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is one woman behind the cause. After Mayor John Ostenburg—also a member of the Local Leaders Council—challenged the Village to think more critically about sustainability, Kingma helped oversee the passage of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan that affects every municipal department. “This is an effort that goes from the top to the bottom of our organization,” says Kingma.

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Real estate developers connect with local leaders and new opportunities at LOCUS LinkUp in Boston

warwick-ibcWarwick, RI’s Intermodal Business Center was one of the new projects discussed at last month’s LOCUS LinkUp. Photo via City Center Warwick.

On November 20, 2014, real estate developers and local leaders came together at a LOCUS LinkUp to discuss new opportunities for building walkable neighborhoods in the greater Boston area.

LOCUS President Christopher Leinberger framed the day’s discussion with a preview of forthcoming research part of The WalkUp Wake Up Call: Boston, which will take an in-depth look at where future development will likely occur in the region. Boston is already home to some of the country’s most walkable places—LinkUp attendees got a sneak peak of how that trend will bear out in coming years.

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Councilmember Kathy Galvin commits to bringing equitable development to Charlottesville, VA

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Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA. Photo by Bob Mical via Flickr

Charlottesville, VA, is setting itself apart from other college towns through a focus on equitable development. The city, which comprises just 10 square miles in central Virginia’s Albemarle County, boasts a rich heritage with connections to Thomas Jefferson and colonial America. Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia as well as many historic sites, most famously including Monticello.

For nearly 30 years, Albemarle County has protected its rural areas through strong preservation practices—and residents have felt the benefits. The city has a strong downtown and walkable core, including the downtown pedestrian mall—one of the most successful in the country—and much of the city is within a 15-minute drive from nearby natural areas. Councilmember Kathy Galvin, a long time Charlottesville resident and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is committed to further strengthening the city’s core and making sure it in an equitable place for all current and future residents.

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Leaders discuss strategies for supporting local smart growth

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Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council Advisory Board met in Washington, DC to discuss strategy and local progress.

On November 10, the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered for its third Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The central topic of discussion was how to support local leaders who are striving to build great communities through smart growth strategies.

“Interest in the Local Leaders Council has been impressive, and the incoming stories about local smart growth work are inspiring,” said Mark Mallory, former mayor of Cincinnati. “Opportunities for mayors, council members, commissioners, and other leaders to connect and support one another make a difference. As a leader, you know you are not alone and that you have smart colleagues in other communities who are willing to help you.”

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Councilmember Roger Berliner on creating a multimodal boulevard in Montgomery County, MD

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Woodglen Cycle Track in White Flint, MD. Photo courtesy of Dan Reed, via Flickr.

Home to more than one million residents and a thriving high-tech economy, Montgomery County, MD is far from a typical American suburb.

Located adjacent to Washington, DC, the county boasts strong research and biotechnology sectors, backed by one of the region’s mostly highly-educated populations: over half of residents above the age of 25 hold a college degree or higher. Now, thanks to the work of pioneering officials like Councilmember Roger Berliner, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Montgomery County has another badge of honor: it’s an emerging smart growth hot-spot.

“We have wonderful schools, wonderful green space, and one third of the county is set aside as an agricultural reserve. We are the economic engine of the state of Maryland,” says Councilmember Berliner. “We have historically been a suburban community and are now experiencing the growth of urban nodes and the benefits of those nodes in areas like Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Germantown.”

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