Tag: sustainability

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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How two major cities are fighting climate change

Chicago Nightscape Chicago’s skyline at night. Photo by Jon Herbert, via Flickr.

Climate action plans—sets of strategies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts—play a critical role in realizing a community’s sustainability vision. While dozens of cities have such plans, few have the supplemental programs to set them in motion. However, there are leader communities that are making notable efforts on implementation.  Chicago, IL and Boulder, CO are two of those cities, and they are using benchmarking and pricing to reduce carbon emissions.

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Councilmember Brent Bolin on building around Mount Rainier, MD’s transit history

Rhode Island Avenue, Mount Rainier, MD

Brent Bolin, Councilmember for the City of Mount Rainier, MD is building on the City’s transportation assets to create a walkable and sustainable community. “There are different eras of transportation history present in Mount Rainier. The City was incorporated as a streetcar town that borders the District of Columbia, and now we have high levels of bus service that have taken the place of the streetcars. We are trying to build on that as a community asset,” explains Councilmember Bolin, who is a member of the the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

Mount Rainier is a historic and diverse community of 8,500 residents with a working class history. Although the City has access to public transportation, it is struggling to fill the commercial spaces on main street. “Redevelopment of our commercial space is our biggest challenge. Rhode Island Avenue is our main street that evolved as a streetcar corridor. We have historic storefronts and infrastructure but these are an awkward fit with the automobile culture that people expect by not living in downtown DC,” says Bolin. “Finding the right mix of small businesses to service the City but also draw people from adjoining neighborhoods has been a big challenge for us. There are a lot of empty buildings on our main street.”

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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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Hernando, MS Mayor Chip Johnson on turning our home towns into healthy towns

Court_House_Hernando_MS

Hernando, Mississippi has grown considerably in the past decade. With its good schools, historic town square, and small town charm it’s not hard to understand why. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find what may be a whole other set of reasons that more and more people are choosing to call Hernando home. At the center of it all is Mayor Chip Johnson and his mission to change the dialogue on health in the state with the highest obesity rate in the country.

Research on the cumulative impacts of overweight children led Johnson, elected to the Mayor’s office in 2005, and others in city government to work to create an environment in Hernando where activity is implicit in the daily routine of residents.

The city passed design standards requiring sidewalks in all new development and redevelopment projects. This means new neighborhoods, especially those constructed during the last housing boom are connected to other parts of town.

A complete streets policy, championed by Johnson, requires new road construction to consider pedestrians and bicyclists. Today, many of the roads in Hernando include designated bike lines in addition to sidewalks and other pedestrian safety improvements.

Additionally,  a land use ordinance passed by the city requires developers set to aside 10% of their land as open space, which when coupled with the first parks department in Hernando’s history, created by Johnson in 2006, provides more recreation opportunities for residents.

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Spotlight on Sustainability: South Central Kansas plans for a sustainable future

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Historically, local jurisdictions in South Central Kansas often competed against each other for jobs and economic growth. But thanks to a Regional Planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they can now focus on working together on collective vision for their future development, instead of competing with one another.

Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is the population and economic center of the South Central Kansas region; a region that includes Butler, Harvey, Reno, Sedgwick and Sumner counties. In February 2012, the region’s council of governments, the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), received a three year, $1.5 million grant from HUD to create a long-term regional plan for ensuring the health and productivity of the local economy – a plan now known as the South Central Kansas Prosperity Plan.

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Vice Mayor Gant: Environmental initiatives making Edmonston, MD more attractive

Edmonston Green Street

Tracy Gant, Vice Mayor for the Edmonston, MD, is using environmental initiatives to make her community stand out. “We are using green technology to attract residents to Edmonston, and also to let people know about Edmonston,” says Vice Mayor Gant, who is the Vice Chair for the Advisory Board of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The Town of Edmonston, an historically working class town of 1,400 residents, sits on a branch of the Anacostia River in Prince George’s County, just two and a half miles from Washington, DC. “Edmonston is a great little town. We are a beautifully diverse community that can meet any need. The city is a just a couple of minutes away, but come within Edmonston and it is like you are walking into beautiful countryside,” says the Vice Mayor.

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Mayor Gee Williams on why Berlin, MD is the coolest small town in America

berlin-mdDowntown Berlin, MD is a National Register Historic District. Photo courtesy of Berlin Main Street.

In February, Berlin, MD (population 4,500) won the title of “Coolest Small Town in America” from Budget Travel. Mayor Gee Williams sees smart growth as part of why Berlin won the honor.

“We are proud of our 19th century charm, but we are a 21st century community,” explains Mayor Williams, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. Berlin’s historic downtown is a National Register Historic District, boasting 47 structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Local Leaders Council members share insights at the 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth conference

St. Louis, MO Council President Lewis Reed, Smart Growth America's Neha Bhatt, Columbia, MO Councilmember Barbara Hoppe, Queen Anne's County, MD Commissioner David Dunmyer and Las Cruces, NM Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas participate in a panel discussion at the New Partners for Smart Growth conferenceFrom left: St. Louis, MO Council President Lewis Reed, Smart Growth America’s Neha Bhatt, Columbia, MO Councilmember Barbara Hoppe, Queen Anne’s County, MD Commissioner David Dunmyer and Las Cruces, NM Mayor Pro-Tem Sharon Thomas participate in a panel discussion at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference.

Members of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council gathered in Denver, CO last week to share their smart growth experiences and ideas at the 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth conference. Over the course of the three-day event, Council members brought their unique perspective to the smart growth development discussion.

“Eight to ten people working really hard can go far in mobilizing a community,” said Councilmember Barbara Hoppe of Columbia, MO, expressing one of the core themes of the conference—the power of public engagement. 

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Councilmember Jenny Brekhus on refocusing a post-recession Reno, NV for stronger growth

renoDowntown Reno, Nevada. Photo by Kim Olson via Flickr.

In the early 2000’s, Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the country and cities like Reno saw an unprecedented, rapid boom in residential and commercial development.

Seemingly just as quickly, however, the recession hit and in short time foreclosure rates were soaring. The rest is a story all too familiar to communities across the country that, like Reno, are still struggling to recover from the resulting decline in property values and the decline in municipal revenues that goes with them.

“Neighborhoods were in decline before they even had time to grow up and be built,” says Reno Councilmember Jenny Brekhus, a member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council. “At the same time, our city amassed a lot of debt.” Exacerbating Reno’s compromised ability to provide vital city services, the city lacked clearly defined municipal boundaries. As the city sprawled, the cost of infrastructure and services like water, sewer and emergency response grew.

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