Tag: Economic Development

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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Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe connects and revitalizes corridors in suburban Louisiana

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Renderings from the Paul Maillard Road Corridor Revitalization Plan. Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, LA.

In St. Charles Parish, LA, local officials are betting that two ambitious new projects will spur economic development and noticeably improve connectivity—to a level seldom found in the suburbs.

St. Charles Parish, located 20 miles west of New Orleans, LA on the Mississippi River, boasts a population of 54,000 spread out among several communities. The parish has no concentrated population center, which allows for funding to be spread evenly but creates a unique landscape for smart growth. Buddy Boe, Chief Administrative Officer for the Parish and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working with residents to revitalize existing roads and create central corridors designed to bring the community together and diversify the local economy—currently reliant on industrial and maritime sectors—ensuring a prosperous future for the area.

Like many main thoroughfares in St. Charles Parish, Paul Maillard Road was once a thriving commercial corridor. Despite being home to a local hospital and connecting to one ferry landing and two state highways, the corridor has suffered from several decades of sustained disinvestment and population loss. The street was identified in St. Charles Parish’s Comprehensive Plan as an area ripe for investment and growth. Now, thanks to a 2011 Sustainable Cities Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), that vision for revitalization is coming to fruition. Just this week, the Paul Maillard Corridor Revitalization Plan was released to the public.

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Planning for livable military communities in North Central Texas

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Near the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Tarrant County, TX, locals have a saying about the aircraft reverberations in the sky: “That noise is the sound of freedom.”

Despite the noise, the Joint Reserve Base forms a big part of the area’s identity and economy. The seven cities that surround the base—Benbrook, Fort Worth, Lake Worth, River Oaks, Sansom Park, Westworth Village, and White Settlement, TX—have a vested interest in supporting that economy, and in growing together as a region. In 2010, they came together to form the Planning for Livable Military Communities (PLMC) project, made possible by a Community Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner is helping people stop, sit, and shop in Solana Beach, CA

Solana Beach, CASolana Beach, CA’s Cedros Avenue Design District. Photo via the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Solana Beach, CA is not your average beach town. By combining smart street design and placemaking strategies, the city is creating economic growth and drawing residents and visitors downtown.

“A sense of community really comes from the people, but can be promoted by the place. That’s why we are trying to create places in our downtown area,” says Lesa Heebner, the Deputy Mayor of Solana Beach and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Solana Beach is the second smallest city in the region, but that does not mean it lacks flavor. “We’re aiming to create quality locations that serve our residents and where visitors are welcome,” Heebner adds.

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Commissioner Conan Smith aims to improve opportunities for all residents in Washtenaw County, MI

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Downtown Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, MI. Photo by the Michigan Municipal League, via Flickr.

Washtenaw County, MI is located immediately west of the Detroit metropolitan area, with a population of just over 350,000 residents. A former manufacturing region, the county currently houses several major institutions that are playing a growing role in shaping the region’s economy and development patterns. The seat of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor, MI, is home to the University of Michigan, which employs more than 30,000 people and has contributed to the growth of a vibrant, walkable business and entertainment district in Ann Arbor’s downtown. The county also houses Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and a major U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.

While Washtenaw County has seen significant job growth over the past several years—a recent economic forecasting study estimates that between 2009 and 2016 the region will have gained 31,147 additional jobs—economic inequality is a growing challenge for the community. County Commissioner Conan Smith, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is working to address this issue by promoting economic development strategies that provide all county residents with greater access to opportunities.

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

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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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LOCUS announces place-based social equity and affordable housing initiative

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger introduces Place-Based Model for Social Equity
LOCUS President Chris Leinberger introduces Place-Based Model for Social Equity

This week, LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a program of Smart Growth America, announced a three-part national strategy to address housing and social equity calling upon developers to join them in the cause. The proposed initiative would be centered around new conscious place-based social equity metrics.

The announcement came Tuesday during the third annual Walkable Urban Places Conference, co-hosted by Urban Land Institute Washington and the George Washington University Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis. LOCUS sponsored the event along with Venable LLP.

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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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Financing Smart Growth

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Great smart growth developments start with a vision and good planning, but to build the actual project local governments, real estate developers and community members must secure the necessary capital funding. Innovative ways to finance smart growth projects was one of the main topics discussed at the June 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit in Washington, DC where members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council and the LOCUS developers’ network met to talk about what it takes to bring a smart growth vision into reality.

Ben Miller, cofounder of Fundrise, believes that the real estate investment system is set up for very large investors and makes it nearly impossible for smaller investors to support local projects. “What if we squared the circle and let the community become both a capital resource and a partner in our real estate projects, so they would have some skin in the game?” posits Miller.

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Creating revitalization in slow markets

Small town main street

In communities where the market is slow, attracting developers and investors can be a tough challenge. A slow market can have many causes such as an economic downturn, a geographic disadvantage or a weak competitive edge within the region. Local leaders of small towns from states like Mississippi, Louisiana, Iowa, Maryland and California discussed the issues that impact attracting growth and development in a weak market during a session titled “Creating revitalization in slow growth markets” at the June 2014 Local Leaders Policy Forum in Washington, DC.

“Slow growth is relative to the market,” remarked Mayor Andrew Fellows of College Park, MD, and other leaders agreed. Mayor Ruth Randleman of Carlisle, IA pointed to other communities in the immediate Des Moines metropolitan region as their major competition. Former Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian, MS suggested that sister cities in the greater geographic region and neighboring states were their biggest competition. “Our problem was that we were trying to be Gulfport of Biloxi, when we didn’t realize that we had strengths of our own,” said Smith.

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