Tag: redevelopment

Councilmember Steve Hansen is working with community members to create a vibrant and healthy Sacramento, CA

sacramento-urban-agA community garden in Sacramento, CA. Photo by Annie & John via flickr.

Councilmember Steve Hansen has a history of advocating for and working with community members in Sacramento, CA’s historic downtown neighborhoods, serving in recent years on his neighborhood association, the Downtown Sacramento Partnership Board of Directors, and the Sacramento Redistricting Citizens Advisory Committee. Now, just one-and-a-half years into his first term in elected office, Councilmember Hansen is working to promote policies and encourage development that will make Sacramento’s downtown more vibrant for residents.

“We have such an opportunity – particularly in the older parts of the city – to build housing, to bring vitality back, and ultimately to create a vibrant modern city,” says Councilmember Hansen, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “We want to respect historic structures but revitalize them, and to bring communities that were displaced by redevelopment and highway construction back to life.”

Hansen explains that redevelopment projects in Sacramento’s downtown neighborhoods currently face a number of barriers, including policies and standards that make infill development and redevelopment complicated and costly compared to new development in the city’s outer suburbs.

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Mayor Elizabeth Kautz on creating a thriving downtown – from scratch

Heart of the City in Burnsville

Community transformation typically requires both strong leadership and widespread buy-in from residents and business owners. Over the past 20 years, Burnsville, MN Mayor Elizabeth Kautz worked together with her community to shape a common vision for the city’s future growth and on the path to becoming more walkable, vibrant and sustainable.

Elizabeth Kautz is the mayor of Burnsville, MN and member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Located in the greater Minneapolis area on the Minnesota River, the site of what is today the city of Burnsville was dominated by agriculture until the middle of the 20th century. The population grew quickly during the subsequent decades but the city’s development pattern was heavily oriented to the automobile, leaving little infrastructure for pedestrians and no discernible downtown or urban center.

Since taking office in 1995, Mayor Kautz has taken steps to make the city more walkable and to implement smart growth development principles. Some of these strategies include creating a trail master plan, a Complete Streets policy that builds off a strong transportation system, and “a sustainability plan that incorporates a comprehensive look at our city including redevelopment, streets, our carbon footprint, and recycling.”

In a recent interview with Smart Growth America, Kautz identified the lack of a downtown as a significant issue for the city’s development efforts. In seeking to improve this, Kautz explains, “we put all of the regulatory and economic tools in place to create an urban center that is pedestrian-friendly with a beautiful urban park and performing arts center.” This plan came to fruition when the site of an outdated shopping center was transformed to become an economic development engine and cultural center called the “Heart of the City”. The 54-acre site is a smart growth project aiming to create a mixed-use, walkable downtown area. It has multiple retail shops, businesses, a community arts center, a park, and diverse housing options.

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Mayor Madeline Rogero on brownfields redevelopment in Knoxville, TN

Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council recently interviewed Madeline Rogero, mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, to ask her how local governments can catalyze brownfields redevelopment and jumpstart revitalization. In the video above, Rogero discusses how strategic investments by local government have made brownfield sites in Knoxville more attractive to potential developers.

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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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Breathing new life into a symbol of Atlanta’s past


A rendering of the Atlanta BeltLine project. Photo courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. / Perkins + Will /  Field Operations. Used with permission.

Despite its reputation as a sprawling capital of the New South, Atlanta, GA is a city with a rich history and industrial legacy. Now, as part of the massive Atlanta BeltLine project, historic buildings that encapsulate the city’s past are being repurposed to meet the growing demand for walkable urbanism in the region. One such example of this type of revitalization is the Ponce City Market, which will restore the expansive Sears, Roebuck & Co. building in Atlanta.

The project is being developed by Jamestown Properties and Green Street Properties, and will bring new life to 1.1 million square feet of the old building which has been largely unused for over 20 years. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Sears, Roebuck & Co. building was built in 1926 to provide space for the company’s regional offices and a retail store. The building was expanded several times and even hosted farmer’s markets, but it closed in 1987. The city of Atlanta later purchased the building, but after renovations were delayed, sold it to a developer in 2006.

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From Vacancy to Vibrancy: A guide to redeveloping underground storage tank sites through area-wide planning

A new guide for town, city and county leaders outlines a new tool they can use to build the financial and political support needed to reclaim and redevelop the thousands of abandoned gas stations, auto body shops, and industrial facilities nationwide.

From Vacancy to Vibrancy focuses on underground storage tank (UST) sites – properties with buried or partially buried tanks that have been used to store petroleum or other hazardous substances. When gas stations, auto body shops, industrial facilities or other types of development close down, these tanks are often left behind. As they age, the tanks are prone to leakage and can contaminate both soil and groundwater, posing a serious environmental threat. The new guide takes aim at one of the primary reasons these types of properties remain vacant for so long: many officials just don’t know what to do with them.

The regulatory issues associated with vacant properties containing a UST, as well as the time and money involved in cleanup, often makes revitalization seem like more trouble than it is worth. These challenges are overshadowed, however, by UST sites’ potential for neighborhood revitalization. From the Executive Summary:

UST sites are often both small and centrally located, and both these traits make them unique opportunities for revitalization. As demand rises for housing in neighborhoods close to town and in city centers – persisting in spite of larger challenges in the real estate market nationwide – UST sites are in a position to catalyze reinvestment and redevelopment initiatives.


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Smart growth news – February 8, 2012

National News:

It’s Up To The Cities To Bring America Back
Business Insider – February 2, 2012

But more than 60 million Americans toil in low-wage, low-skill service jobs in everything from food prep and retail sales to personal care. We can transform them into good, family sustaining jobs, the same way we made manufacturing jobs good jobs decades ago, by creatifying them— tapping the knowledge and creativity of workers as a source of productivity, which in turn will generate higher wages.

Why Planners Need to Take Agenda 21 Criticism More Seriously
The Atlantic Cities – February 7, 2012

It’d be easy to wholly dismiss the Agenda 21’ers, the nickname that’s stuck here in Texas for those who believe that a non-binding, 1992 United Nations action plan aimed at aiding world governments in pursuing sustainability is the source of a vast urban planning conspiracy. These individuals have interpreted the UN’s Agenda 21 as an international plot, implemented by a Town Hall near you, to herd humanity into habitation zones and save the rest for the animals at the behest of enviro-fascists and their bicycle advocate shock troops.

Alliance of business, labor on infrastructure begins to fray
The Hill – February 7, 2012

The Chamber executive said she couldn’t say whether the business group would oppose the overall bill if the Ways and Means Committee proposal survived.

US Transportation Secretary LaHood to Visit Siemens Light Rail Manufacturing Plant in Sacramento
Press Release – February 7, 2012

Siemens recently hired an additional 200 workers in Sacramento after winning a $466 million contract to build 70 electric locomotives for Amtrak’s Northeast and Keystone Corridor lines. Following his tour of the Siemens Plant, Secretary LaHood will deliver the keynote address at the “Next Generation Rail Supply Chain Forum,” where he will discuss how President Obama’s commitment to rail is spurring American innovation and creating quality American manufacturing jobs.

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Smart growth news – February 6, 2012

National News:

Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot
New York Times – February 3, 2012

Ilana Preuss, vice president of Smart Growth America, a national coalition of nonprofits that supports economic development while conserving open spaces and farmland, said, “The real danger is not that they will get rid of some piece of software from Iclei” but that “people will be too scared to have a conversation about local development. And that is an important conversation to be having.”

House GOP Takes Aim At Safe Routes To School, Mass Transit
Huffington Post – February 3, 2012

“The leadership of the House is looking to support highways. It seems that they’re not wanting to support bicycle, pedestrian or transit use,” said Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. The decision was particularly disappointing, she said, because “one of the biggest problems facing America right now is childhood obesity.”

U.S. overbuilt in big houses, planners find
San Diego Union Tribune – February 2, 2012

America has too many big houses — 40 million, to be exact — because consumers are shifting preferences to condos, apartments and small homes, experts told the New Partners for Smart Growth Thursday, holding its 11th annual conference in San Diego through Sunday.

“Smart Growth” Experts Tout San Diego
NBC News – February 2, 2012

“San Diego is investing in the right things,” said Ilana Preuss, vice president of Washington D.C.-based Smart Growth America. “Looking at how you create whole neighborhoods where people can live near where they work, have jobs near shops and schools. We’ve found that that’s really a key to the economic development of the 21st century.”

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Smart growth news – January 10, 2012

White House wants to convert foreclosed houses to rentals
MSNCBC – January 9, 2012

The Obama administration, in conjunction with federal regulators and led by the overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are very close to announcing a pilot program to sell government-owned foreclosures in bulk to investors as rentals, according to administration officials.

Factbox: Fed doves look to spur housing, hawks balk
Reuters – January 9, 2012

Federal Reserve officials are divided over the need for more accommodation to ensure the economic recovery gains enough velocity to pull free from its stop and start slog, despite rock-bottom interest rates for more than three years and $2.3 trillion in bond purchases designed to stimulate growth.

The Fed’s Housing Politics
Wall Street Journal – January 10, 2012

These columns have defended the independence of the Federal Reserve from attacks on the right and left, but after last week the central bank is on its own. It’s impossible to defend the Fed’s rank electioneering as it lobbies for more political and taxpayer intervention in the housing market—just in time for the election campaign.

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Smart growth news – January 6, 2012

Ben Bernanke’s Solution To The Housing Crisis: Renting Foreclosed Homes

Huffington Post – January 5, 2012
While millions of foreclosed homes languish on the market at lower and lower prices, new data supports the idea that renting out these foreclosed homes could be the long-sought solution to the housing crisis. Rental units are leasing quickly, and the vacancy rate for apartments is at its lowest level in a decade, according to data released Thursday. In many areas, rents are rising.

Washington Wades Deeper into Housing
BusinessWeek – January 5, 2012

Lawmakers began 2011 with sweeping ambitions to shrink the U.S. government’s involvement in mortgage finance. They ended the year enacting policies that increase it. An 11th-hour extension of the payroll tax cut, signed into law on Dec. 23, will for the first time divert funds from Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC), the two mortgage finance companies under U.S. conservatorship, to pay for general government expenses. Congress also took steps that are likely to increase the role of the Federal Housing Administration in the market—at the same time that the agency’s reserves hit a record low. And some economists are charging that the FHA’s finances are even worse than they appear.

Conservative Pols Hate Government Subsidies, Unless They Subsidize Sprawl
DC Streets – January 5, 2012

For a place that’s on the forefront of a heavily-subsidized brand of taxpayer-funded suburban sprawl, Celina is steeped in the kind of conservative politics that generally eschews government subsidies.

Schumer: ‘I’m going to lead fight’ on commuter tax break
The Hill – January 6, 2012

Schumer suggested that Thursday that lawmakers should use a package of pending tax breaks to extend a provision from the 2009 economic stimulus package that allowed public transit users to set aside $230 per month before taxes for commuting expenses. Because Congress has not yet extended the provision, which expired on Jan. 1, the limit was reduced to $125 at the beginning of the new year.

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