Tag: Economic Development

Jim Bacon explains the fiscal and economic benefits of smart growth

Jim Bacon is creator and publisher of Bacon’s Rebellion, a Virginia-based blog that covers a range of infrastructure, growth and policy issues. In an interview with Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, Bacon discusses how he came to see smart growth strategies as a fiscally responsible approach to development.

A former editor of Virginia Business Magazine, Bacon has been following community development and transportation issues since the 1980s when northern Virginia was experiencing a building boom. ”I was really concerned about costs of growth at the time,” says Bacon. “When you smear out growth over a large, huge land mass, it’s going to be far more expensive to build the roads, extend water and sewer, cable lines, and electricity.”

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Exploring the economic benefits of walkable, sustainable development along the Keystone Corridor with PennDOT


Coatesville, PA is home to a station on the Amtrak Keystone Line. Photo by the Chester County Planning Commission via Flickr.

The 104-mile long Keystone Rail Line that runs from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, PA, has played a significant role in shaping the towns around its 12 stations. Now, new investments in the line are creating opportunities for development along the corridor.

In 2006, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Amtrak completed a $145.5 million infrastructure improvement program to increase train frequency and service reliability along the Keystone Corridor. These improvements have the potential to attract new development – and new economic growth – to the areas around stations along the rail line.

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New report from GAO details bus rapid transit’s contributions to local economic development


An summary of bus rapid transit features. Image from the Government Accountability Office.

In a new report released this week, the Government Accountability Office explores bus rapid transit (BRT) as a less costly way for communities to meet their transit needs and spur economic development.

“Bus Rapid Transit Projects Improve Transit Service and Can Contribute to Economic Development” surveyed 20 BRT projects regarding their features, design, performance, ridership, cost, and effect on the community. Faster than regular bus service and cheaper to create than street cars or subways, BRT can improve transportation choices at a relatively low cost.

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Helping Byram, NJ turn its Village Center vision into reality


An architect’s rendering of proposed changes to Byram, NJ’s main boulevard. Photo via New Jersey Highlands Council.

Byram is a bucolic township of 9,000 people located amidst the lakes and hills of northern New Jersey 50 miles from New York City and 25 miles from the Pennsylvania border. Having embraced the land preservation goals of New Jersey Highlands Regional Master Plan, Byram has now set its sites on creating its first-ever Village Center on a 60-acre property – and some adjacent parcels – along New Jersey Highway 206, the town’s “Main Street.”

Byram’s vision for a Village Center has won wide acclaim, including a smart growth award from New Jersey Future, the state’s leading smart growth group and a coalition partner of Smart Growth America. But how to transform a vision into a reality – especially in a down economy and a slow real estate market?

Last week, Smart Growth America led a two-day workshop to help civic and community leaders in Byram grapple with this question. Participants included Mayor James Oscovitch, Town Manager Joseph Sabatini, other members of the Town Council and the Town Planning Board, business owners, property owners, and many interested Byram residents.

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Listen to market demand, says The Economist’s Ryan Avent

To create jobs, drive innovation, attract talent and keep housing costs affordable, American cities would be right to address the growing demand for smart growth development, says The Economist’s Ryan Avent in a recent interview with Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino.

“Well, my tendency as an economist, working for The Economist, my inclination is to say build with what the market will demand,” Avent says. “And so that’s why I think we have a great opportunity here, because what the market is increasingly demanding are homes that are within walking distance of job centers.”

Avent, a resident of Arlington, VA, and the author of The Gated City, emphasized that in building with market demand in mind, it’s also crucial to change common misperceptions about density. In his book, Avent uses the phrase “hogs stacked on hogs” to describe what makes people afraid of added housing units. The realities of increased density, however, are radically different and the addition of in-demand housing options contributes to robust regional economic growth.

“If you think about the sort of density that might work, if it builds around transit and a walkable environment, you don’t add a lot of the downsides that are typically associated with density, like congestion,” Avent says. “When you build in a sprawling pattern and force people into cars, that’s what actually causes congestion.”

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Funding Opportunity: Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge

Four federal agencies are offering $15 million in funding to spur economic growth in rural areas. The approximately 20 regions to receive funding will also be eligible for technical assistance resources from an additional nine agencies. From the U.S. Department of Agriculture announcement:

Funds awarded to the winning applicants can be used to support and accelerate a range of projects including improving rural communities’ capacity and ability to undertake projects related to housing, community facilities, or economic and community development along with creation of regional linkages that connect communities with innovation clusters and regional opportunities leading to job creation, expanded markets, and economic growth.


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Smart Growth Stories: A Mayor’s Perspective

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is on a mission to support economic development in his city, and he’s using smart growth and downtown development strategies to accomplish that goal.

“People were slow to embrace some of the changes we were proposing because they didn’t necessarily see how, say, the development of a street car would lead to more jobs,” Mallory says in Smart Growth America’s first “Smart Growth Stories” video interview. “They didn’t necessarily see how investing so much money in downtown allowed for improvements in neighborhoods. So I’ve had to explain to people that downtown is the engine, the economic engine, for everything that happens in our entire region.”

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New Jersey isn’t capitalizing on demand for walkable places

The following was crossposted from Smart Growth America’s coalition partner, New Jersey Future.

A 2008 survey found that 77 percent of Millennials – the generation of 20-somethings – want to live where they are “close to each other, to services, to places to meet, and to work, and they would rather walk than drive.”

New Jersey, with its extensive rail transit network and “streetcar suburbs” with pedestrian-friendly downtowns that surround many of their stations, is well poised to take advantage of the rise in demand for this walkable urbanism.

The New Divide: Walkable vs. Drivable
New Jersey is an anomaly among the 50 states in that it is highly urbanized yet lacks a major center city to claim as its own. The state’s home-grown urban centers all live in the shadows of their much larger neighbors, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, New Jersey is widely perceived as consisting mainly of suburbs serving these two cities, even if many of its small towns do not fit the low-density, single-use stereotype of a “suburb.” The distinction, however, between city and suburb as the defining paradigm for describing the built environment is giving way to a new dichotomy: walkable urbanism versus drivable sub-urbanism. New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this change.

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Complete Streets Success Stories Focus of New Report

It’s a Safe Decision: Complete Streets in California, a report from the National Complete Streets Coalition and the Local Government Commission telling the successes of a Complete Streets approach in California, was released last week at an event with Representative Doris Matsui (CA-5), one of the Congressional sponsors of a federal Complete Streets policy.

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With rapid growth, there’s no better time for tomorrow than today in Iowa

The population of Central Iowa is growing fast, and it needs new strategies for development if it wants to turn that growth into prosperity.

That was the theme of a presentation earlier this month by Bill Fulton, Smart Growth America’s Vice President of Policies and Programs. Fulton spoke to a group of elected officials, members of the board of Des Moines’ Metropolitan Planning Organization and other interested residents about how the region can use smart growth strategies to provide better housing and transportation options for its residents in years to come – and protect public budgets in the process.

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