Sustainable Communities Network

Spotlight on Sustainability: A smart growth corridor plan in North Central Massachusetts

Hmong Focus Group
A Hmong community focus group providing input for the Wachussett Smart Growth Corridor Plan.

A new smart growth corridor plan for North Central Massachusetts will set the stage for housing growth, mixed-use development, new jobs, and tourism opportunities, thanks to the combined efforts of local authorities and community leaders.

The Wachusett Smart Growth Corridor Plan is an ambitious effort to transform the North Central Massachusetts region into a destination for visitors and a transit-accessible magnet for housing and employment growth. The Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) is working to coordinate the process, with three nearby municipalities—Fitchburg, Leominster, and Westminster, MA—serving as partners.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: Equitable transit-oriented development in Seattle, WA


Images from the Community Cornerstones Project Brochure.

Southeast Seattle is home to the most diverse and immigrant-populated neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington. Now, as a result of the Community Cornerstones project, it could become the City’s next equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) success story.

Part of the strategy is to attract dense mixed-use development to several of Southeast Seattle’s neighborhoods that are in close proximity to the light-rail system opened in 2009, while also preserving the area’s affordability for existing residents through partnerships with community development and financial institutions. The area is already home to one of the most transit-utilized areas of Seattle, and through the project the area is likely to grow with more people, businesses, and jobs.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: South Central Kansas plans for a sustainable future

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Historically, local jurisdictions in South Central Kansas often competed against each other for jobs and economic growth. But thanks to a Regional Planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they can now focus on working together on collective vision for their future development, instead of competing with one another.

Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is the population and economic center of the South Central Kansas region; a region that includes Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. In February 2012, the region’s council of governments, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), received a three year, $1.5 million grant from HUD to create a long-term regional plan for ensuring the health and productivity of the local economy – a plan now known as the South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.

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Local leaders, regional teams gather in Salt Lake City to talk smart growth implementation

LLC in Salt Lake CityFrom left: Mayor Tom Beehan, Councilmember Edmund Ford Jr., Councilmember Charles Landreth, Mayor Ruth Randleman, Council President Lewis Reed, and County Board Member Chris Zimmerman.

Elected officials, urban planners and municipal staff from ten regions across the country met in Salt Lake City, UT this week to learn and strategize about the implementation of major regional planning and sustainability projects funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities program.

Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, opened the three-day event by speaking about how regional planning has benefited his city. “If you look at what’s happening in our downtown or with our transit system; if you look at the University of Utah and how it catalyzes economic growth; or if you look at our growing diversity, it is clear that in this community there is a common sense of purpose for who we are, what we want to be, and how we’re going to get there.”

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What smart growth advocates need to know about the omnibus appropriations bill

Congress
Last night, Congress released a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014, which lays out funding for agencies and their programs working to help communities build in smarter, stronger ways.

The bill contains many high points for smart growth advocates, and if you were one of the many people who encouraged Congress to pass a strong appropriations bill in the past few days, thank you. Your voices were heard!

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Upcoming webinars: January 2014

Want to learn about new, innovative strategies for creating great places? Several upcoming webinars provide ideas and inspiration for local leaders.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership
January 15, 2014 — 2:00 PM EST
Join NALGEP, EPA’s Mathy Stanislaus, and several local leaders for a webinar on the Administration’s new “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” (IMCP). The IMCP encourages communities to devise comprehensive economic development strategies that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains. Phase 2 of the IMCP was recently announced. In this competition, up to 12 communities that come up with winning strategies will receive a designation of “Manufacturing Community” that gives them elevated consideration for $1.3 billion in federal dollars and assistance from 10 cabinet departments/agencies. Register >>

Directions in Federal, State, and Local Transportation Funding
January 22, 2014 — 2:00 PM EST
Community Builders, a project of the Sonoran Institute, aims to help local leaders build successful communities in the American West–communities with strong and diverse economies, quality growth, vibrant downtowns, and complete neighborhoods. The Community Builders Webinar Series showcases the stories of people in the business of building stronger communities. During this hour-long webinar, consultant Jim Charlier will share insight into existing and upcoming sources for transportation funding for federal, state, and local agencies Register >>

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Congress is nearing a budget deal – speak out today

This is a crucial time for national community development programs.

Today, committees in both the House and Senate are working on bills to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year—including key programs at the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency. How much these programs receive in the coming year is currently under debate.

The bills will soon go to a vote, and so now is the time to speak out for these important programs.

Tell Congress to support community development in this year’s budget: Send a letter to your representatives today.

Together we can help communities clean up brownfields, reuse already developed land, revitalize neighborhoods and expand transportation options.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ planning grants, brownfields assessment and clean up assistance, and the innovative TIGER program are all critical to this work. These programs get more out of public investment and help communities build in ways that will support local economies for decades to come—but Congress needs to hear from you.

Tell Congress to fund community development programs: Send a letter to your members today.

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Spotlight on sustainability: Doña Ana County, NM prepares comprehensive plan for sustainable development

Las Cruces, NM train station. Photo via Flickr
New Mexico’s Doña Ana County is facing a number of challenges as it plans for the future. Compared to the rest of New Mexico, the county has a younger population, higher poverty rate, larger Hispanic population and higher combined transportation and housing costs. Now, Doña Anna County is implementing a new plan to address these challenges, made possible through a grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The project is called Camino Real: Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, and it will address the county’s long-term growth trends, capacity of infrastructure, and the ability of the county to serve its residents.

In 2012, the region adopted One Valley, One Vision 2040, the first ever comprehensive plan encompassing Doña Ana County, the City of Las Cruces and other municipalities within the county. However, this plan dates back to 1995 and did not anticipate factors including a nearly 25% growth in population and major investments in multi-modal rail in surrounding areas. In order for Doña Ana County to realize it’s goals of sustainable growth over the next 25 years, a new comprehensive plan was needed in preparation.

Doña Ana County is expected to grow by nearly 90,000 residents by 2040 and nearly half of it’s current residents are under the age of 30. A future development plan will account for a range of housing choices connected to regional transportation networks and consider ways to ensure mobility for an aging population, expanding rural transportation, providing low-cost and efficient transportation and better integration of transportation and land use.

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Partnership in the news: Smart Growth in the Military

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In 2010 the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) was awarded $640,000 for the Planning for Livable Military Communities project to provide improved transportation and housing conditions for families in the US armed forces. The award comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Challenge Grant, which is an initiative of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
North Central Texas is home to Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Joint Reserve Base. Many of the military families live off base, in surrounding communities including Fort Worth, White Settlement, Westworth Village and River Oaks. Planners intend to use the community challenge grant in a number of studies aimed at integrating smart growth strategies in the surrounding communities.

The NCTCOG will conduct a number studies that will create short- and long-term recommendations to improve transportation options, establish a model building code for greater energy efficiency, and update the City’s zoning, ordinances and comprehensive plan.

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Partnership in the news: Re-imagining the Washtenaw Avenue corridor

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Later this month planners in Washtenaw County, Michigan will unveil a plan for a re-imagined Washtenaw Avenue, a 4.5-mile corridor connecting Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, MI. The corridor will undergo a makeover to better support all modes of travel and mixed-use development, thanks in part to a $3 million grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Washtenaw Avenue is the busiest corridor in in the county, averaging between 28,000 to 40,000 vehicle trips per day. However, the auto-centric pattern of parking lots and strip malls lacks mixed-use development and is not safe for pedestrians and bicyclists using the roadway. Planners evaluated different strategies for improvements to the corridor and will reveal their detailed plan to the public on December 11, 2013.

County planners took a careful look at redeveloping the corridor through a mixed-use, transit-oriented development lens in order to capitalize on the avenue’s potential for economic development. Their strategy is to promote infill development at key locations, foster new mixed-use neighborhoods, revitalize existing neighborhoods, improve alternative transit choices, and promote an active urban setting. They will also make significant roadway improvements including dedicated bus lanes, buffered bike lanes, wider sidewalks and landscaped green spaces that will make for a more attractive and safer roadway for all users.

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