The small town of West Windsor, NJ is home to one of the busiest commuter rail stations in the country, and the town has plans to put that station at the heart of a new walkable neighborhood.
West Windsor is one of New Jersey’s 26 state-designated transit villages, meaning the town has shown a commitment to revitalizing and redeveloping the area around its transit stations into walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with a strong residential component.
Smart Growth America is proud to announce the launch of our new Local Leaders Council, a nonpartisan group of local elected officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities, and communities.
Representing diverse communities of all sizes from across the United States, members of the Local Leaders Council are using smart growth strategies to help their hometowns compete and grow in today’s economy, generate better return on taxpayer investment, provide transportation and housing choices for their residents, and create vibrant places where people want to live, work, and play.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Bay, FL, overlooking the Tampa Riverwalk, will host this year’s Republican National Convention. Photo by Flickr user Judy Malley.
Republicans and Democrats alike will be enjoying the benefits of smart growth strategies later this summer as both parties prepare for their respective conventions.
The Republican National Convention will take place in late August at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a 670,000 sq. ft. arena that’s normally home to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena overlooks the scenic Hillsborough River and the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile riverfront walkway that connects the Forum with restaurants, shops and parks in the area.
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.
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.”
Boise writes new city blueprint Idaho Statesman, November 8, 2011
Boiseans don’t like strip malls. They don’t like architecture that’s out of scale with pedestrians. Nor do they like development patterns that line thoroughfares with parking lots. They do like walkable mixed-use developments like Bown Crossing, Hyde Park and the 36th Street Garden Plaza, with homes, cafes and parking lots tucked out of sight and the needs of pedestrians balanced with those of drivers. That’s what Boise city staffers learned during the past four years as they worked with residents to develop a new comprehensive plan, the first since 1997.
The myth of the progressive city Salon, November 7, 2011
[T]wo or three decades ago, there may have been some truth to the notion that the American city is a union-driven bastion of populist progressive economics. But today, while cities may still largely vote Democratic, they are increasingly embracing the economics of corporatism. The result is that urban areas are a driving force behind the widening intra-party rift between the corporatist, pro-privatization Wall Street Democrats and the traditional labor-progressive “Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.”
A Bridge Too Far? U.S. Infrastructure’s Future Depends on Current Debate International Business Times, November 7, 2011
America’s bridges are crossed an average of 4 billion times every day; 282 million of those treks involve structurally deficient spans. As America’s infrastructure ages, the ranks of deficient bridges will grow, doubling by 2030 if not addressed, according to Transportation for America.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mark Cornett (R) is making his city more attractive to businesses, tackling a public health crisis and he’s using smart growth strategies to get it done. Cornett gained notoriety for tackling Oklahoma City’s obesity epidemic by changing the landscape of the city. After setting a goal in 2008 for the city to lose a million pounds, he passed a massive $777 million “Metropolitan Area Project” in 2009 that made jogging and biking trails, sidewalks and neighborhood parks a priority in downtown development.
The project aimed to make Oklahoma City’s residents healthier, but slimmer figures weren’t Cornett’s sole goal. Mayor Cornett also understood that an obesity epidemic could deter businesses that might consider locating in Oklahoma City. He recently told Next American City, “if I’m a job creator, and I see Oklahoma City on the list of the most obese cities in the country, I’ve got to think: What are my health care costs going to be? What’s my absenteeism rate going to be? Why would I create jobs in a city that doesn’t value health?”