Old Town Fairfax, VA. Photo by Brandon Wu via Flickr.
City Councilmember Michael DeMarco may just be in his first term of elected office, but he has a strong vision for the future of the City of Fairfax, VA.
As the previous Chair of the city’s Economic Development Authority, DeMarco is focused on smart growth and development for his city of 6.3 square miles and just under 25,000 residents. Fairfax is located in Northern Virginia and part of the growing greater Washington, DC metro region. “It’s not a question of when we will grow,” says DeMarco. “It’s a question of how we will grow.”
Residents of Flint, MI, at one of the many community meetings that informed the city’s new comprehensive plan. Image via Imagine Flint.
The last time Flint, Michigan approved a master plan for the city’s development, Dwight Eisenhower was president and the city’s population was nearly double what it is today. Now, for the first time in over 50 years, Flint has a comprehensive plan to guide future growth that accurately reflects the opportunities and challenges facing the city today.
The city of Flint was a 20th century boomtown, but decades of job losses, disinvestment and population decline took a hard toll on the community. Flint mayor Dayne Walling, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, knew the city needed a new comprehensive plan that would update city policies and guide future public investments in a way that acknowledged these changes.
The Sun Link streetcar line is a catalyst for investment in downtown Tucson. Photo via the City of Tucson.
Downtown Tucson, AZ is undergoing a revival, and smart growth strategies are a major factor behind it according to Mayor Jonathan Rothschild.
Rothschild, a native Tucsonan and a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, has experienced firsthand the rapid growth of greater Tucson over the past 50 years. “When I was born, there were 50,000 people in this community. Today there are over one million. We’ve grown at a remarkable rate,” says Rothschild.
Ryan Coonerty, former Mayor of Santa Cruz, CA and Co-founder of NextSpace, discusses what Santa Cruz is doing to attract the new creative class of residents and businesses. See more video interviews with Local Leaders here >>
Rockville Town Square, in Councilmember Riemer’s district of Montgomery County, MD. Photo by Dan Reed via Flickr.
Councilmember Hans Riemer has a problem. Residents of the greater Washington, DC metro area increasingly want to live in attractive, high quality, urban neighborhoods—but there aren’t enough of those neighborhoods in his home district of Montgomery County, MD, to meet the demand.
“Cities are reviving and becoming incredibly attractive places to live,” says Riemer, a charter member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We’re seeing the impacts of that in Montgomery County. Where people used to prefer the suburbs, they now want to live in cities.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington DC. Photo by Ryan Orr via Flickr.
This is the second in a series of posts discussing recommendations from our new platform Federal Investment in Real Estate: A Call for Action. The series highlights what is lacking in current federal real estate policy and how our recommended improvements could generate better returns for families, communities and taxpayers.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has helped millions of families purchase their homes, and ensures mortgages are widely available during times of economic distress when banks and other financial institutions tighten lending standards. As the housing market rebounds, however, it’s time to refocus this program on its original mission.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI)’s annual housing conference brings together housing professionals from across the country to discuss current challenges and opportunities for supporting a full spectrum of housing choices in cities and suburbs increasingly challenged by the new economy.
Joining the discussion at this year’s conference is LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. LOCUS Managing Director Christopher Coes and Steering Committee member John Hempelmann, of Seattle-based business law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann, will join a panel discussion at the conference about federal involvement in real estate and how it might be reformed.
In July 2012, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration to identify policies and tool to meet the State’s housing needs. Last week, Governor Patrick announced an ambitious housing policy initiative that builds on those strategies.
“We cannot continue as we did in the 50s and 60s and 70s to sprawl out,” says John Hempelmann, one of the founding partners of Seattle-based law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann. “We need real economic opportunity for the development community building in the cities and building close to the transit hubs.”
Founded in 1987, Cairncross & Hempelmann is located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District, highlighting its investment in maintaining the city’s distinct character. John Hempelmann is also a member of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors committed to creating livable, economically vibrant places.
As a lawyer who represents real estate developers, Hempelmann keenly follows market trends in his hometown of Seattle. By helping developers build walkable neighborhoods, Hempelmann is giving consumers more options, allowing them to choose for themselves what kind of development they’d prefer.
“We are now providing an urban walkable option and we’re finding that a lot of people are opting for that choice,” he says. “It allows you to reduce transportation costs and allows you to spend more on housing so there’s an economic value to both the buyer and the seller.”
Since taking office in 2005 as the 50th Mayor of Missoula, Montana, John Engen has emphasized the importance of economic development, community building and affordable housing. His goal?
“When I’m done, I hope folks will say, ‘We worked to keep Missoula a place,'” Engen says.
For Missoula to achieve economic success and to remain a close-knit community in Montana’s picturesque mountains, Engen believes his administration should do everything it can to ensure the city is appealing to families and investors. That means having a thriving ‘Main Street’ downtown; amenities catering to young professionals and college students; access to transportation and housing options; and protection of natural land assets.
“We don’t have much going for us if we don’t have a decent place to live,” Engen says, noting that over the past several decades, Missoula has been forced to transition from a town with a resource-intensive economy (chiefly timber) to a services economy with ties to recent graduates and more experienced professionals who want to live in a small, rural town but still travel/telecommute to work in larger cities.
As mayor, Engen recognized early on that for this new type of economy to be successful, Missoula would have to seek community feedback about anticipated growth and plan for the future in a more coordinated way. He also understood that economic development is not separate from neighborhood development; investments in how a town looks and in how residents move around and interact with each other are intimately related to a town’s financial wellbeing.
When more people have quality jobs and access to affordable housing, fewer people have to make the kinds of difficult choices – such as a decision between food and shelter – that hold back community growth, Engen says. If the quality of life for most Missoulians increases as a result of efforts to reinvigorate downtown business corridors and to take advantage of the city’s unique assets, more Missoulians will be able to engage in community projects, schools, family programs, and local politics.