Category: Local Leaders Council

Council Member Candace Mumm on making Spokane pedestrian-friendly

spokane A view of downtown Spokane. Photo by Mike Hoy, via Flickr.

In Spokane, WA safer streets and neighborhood vibrancy are going hand in hand. City Council Member Candace Mumm has a new crosswalk ordinance aimed at serving the community for both purposes. The ordinance – which passed with a 5 to 1 vote on September 8 – will require marked crosswalks to be installed at intersections adjacent to schools, parks, hospitals, trail crossings, and other high pedestrian traffic-generating locations.

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How two major cities are fighting climate change

Chicago Nightscape Chicago’s skyline at night. Photo by Jon Herbert, via Flickr.

Climate action plans—sets of strategies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts—play a critical role in realizing a community’s sustainability vision. While dozens of cities have such plans, few have the supplemental programs to set them in motion. However, there are leader communities that are making notable efforts on implementation.  Chicago, IL and Boulder, CO are two of those cities, and they are using benchmarking and pricing to reduce carbon emissions.

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Downtown revitalization strategies in Frederick, MD

Revitalization Strategies WorkshopMaryland local leaders participate in a walking tour of historic Downtown Frederick, MD. 

Nearly two dozen Maryland members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council met last Thursday for a Downtown Revitalization Strategies workshop sponsored by Smart Growth America and 1000 Friends of Maryland. Frederick, MD Mayor Randy McClement hosted the event, providing an in-depth look at the city’s revitalization successes. Following the workshop, Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development, and Kara Norman, Executive Director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership, led participants on a tour of Downtown Frederick that highlighted revitalization initiatives.

Mayor McClement kicked off the workshop by describing the core of Frederick’s approach to revitalization. “The City’s concentration is on Downtown Frederick. Although Frederick is not just a downtown, but 20 square miles, the downtown is the thing that drives the city.” He continued by asserting that much of Frederick’s success owes to strong partnerships. “You cannot underestimate the power of partnerships. Find them, enhance them, and use them. Every city has groups that are interested in standing up to help,” he said.

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Councilmember Velma Johnson on the importance of community in Midfield, AL


Midfield, AL’s Splash Pad. Photo by City of Midfield via Facebook.

In the increasingly technologically connected, fast-paced, global economy-driven world of today, it can be hard for even the small towns of America to retain their ‘small town’ feel. And yet, that’s exactly what Midfield, AL is striving to maintain and preserve.

Located just outside of Birmingham, AL, Midfield, with a population just over 5,000, is known as “the Convenient City”. It’s a place where residents make it a point to “eat, shop, and do all of their business right in the city,” says Councilmember Velma Johnson, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

Those who live in Midfield say they have a sense of belonging—of knowing and being known by so many others in the community. “As humans we want to connect to one another,” says Johnson. “In Midfield, we’re fortunate to live in the type of community where police officers know children by name.”

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Changing development codes to promote smart growth in Memphis

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Downtown Memphis from across the Mississippi River. Photo by Joel, via Flickr.
Like many large southern cities, Memphis, TN’s growth over the past few decades has been characterized largely by sprawl and a focus on automobile travel. Josh Whitehead, Planning Director for Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County, is working to promote development downtown through the use of the city’s new Unified Development Code (UDC), which gives more flexibility to developers in order to facilitate infill growth.

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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.

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Placemaking done right: three successful approaches

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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.

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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.

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