Category: Smart growth

As Seas Rise, Americans Use Nature to Fight Worsening Erosion

Read the full story from Climate Central.

Centuries of dredging, diking and development have replaced wetlands throughout the U.S. with more than 10,000 miles of rocks, concrete and metal. For every seven miles of coastline in the Lower 48, scientists in North Carolina calculated that about one mile is hardened with a seawall, bulkhead or other hard structure to protect land and property.

Rising costs from flooding and erosion are prompting Americans, military bases and government agencies to opt for more natural alternatives. State and federal governments are changing permitting rules and taking other steps to encourage the switch, which can improve water quality, support fisheries and protect against storms and rising seas.

Rethinking Urban Sprawl: Moving Towards Sustainable Cities

Download the publication.

This report provides a new perspective to the nature of urban sprawl and its causes and environmental, social and economic consequences. This perspective, which is based on the multi-dimensionality of urban sprawl, sets the foundations for the construction of new indicators to measure the various facets of urban sprawl.

The report uses new datasets to compute these indicators for more than 1100 urban areas in 29 OECD countries over the period 1990-2014. It then relies on cross-city, country-level and cross-country analyses of these indicators to provide insights into the current situation and evolution of urban sprawl in OECD cities.

In addition, the report offers a critical assessment of the causes and consequences of urban sprawl and discusses policy options to steer urban development to more environmentally sustainable forms.


Chicago’s vacant Sears stores create new opportunities for mixed-use redevelopment

Read the full story at Curbed.

The shuttered Sears facility at the intersection of Chicago’s North and Harlem avenues is poised to get a new lease on life as a development containing both retail and loft-style apartment components.

The preliminary plan for the vacant North Side site straddling the Galewood neighborhood and Elmwood Park was announced Wednesday by Tucker Developer and Seritage Growth Properties—a spin-off of Sears’ former real estate arm.

The Tucker/Seritage joint venture also revealed plans to redevelop the Six Corners Sears at border of Chicago’s Old Irving Park and Portage Park neighborhoods. Sears announced in April that it would be closing the 4730 W. Irving Park Road facility—its last in the city.

Scientists just showed what building new suburbs does to the atmosphere

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

A team of scientists this week reopened the debate over suburbs vs. city centers, with new research showing that carbon dioxide emissions increased as suburban areas developed to the southwest of Salt Lake City in the past decade — while comparable population growth in the center of the city did not have the same effect.

Fish and Wildlife Service retracts concerns about massive housing plan

Read the full story from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month lifted its longstanding objections to the construction of a city-sized development that threatens the last free-flowing major river in the arid Southwest.

The San Pedro is a vital resource in the parched Sonoran Desert, sustaining some 400 species of migratory birds. The agency twice in recent years had warned that a key federal permit to build 28,000 homes, golf courses and other amenities near the San Pedro River in southern Arizona would have “appreciable” effects on wildlife. It cited substantial scientific research warning of risks to rare species such as the jaguar and yellow-bellied cuckoo.

Density Is The Best Way To Reduce A City’s Carbon Footprint

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Ending sprawl could be even more important than applying the latest energy-saving technologies as cities look to incorporate more energy-efficient buildings.

Boomtown, Flood Town

Read the full story from ProPublica and the Texas Tribune.

Climate change will bring more frequent and fierce rainstorms to cities like Houston. But unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone.

Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities

Many communities across the country have been revitalizing their older neighborhoods, traditional downtowns, and central business districts. However, economically distressed communities have been less able to attract this kind of infill development and attain the accompanying economic, environmental, health, and quality of life benefits.

EPA’s new report, Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies, can help these communities determine their readiness to pursue infill development and identify strategies to better position themselves to attract infill development.

  • It presents strategies and case studies to establish priorities, policies, and partnerships and change public perceptions, which can help make infill development more feasible.
  • It discusses innovative strategies to help finance infill development and replace aging infrastructure.
  • It includes comprehensive self-assessment questions communities can answer to determine if they are ready to pursue infill development and if particular strategies are appropriate for their context.

Many of the strategies in this publication stem from work in Fresno, California, that was part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative, which provides intensive technical assistance and capacity building to economically distressed cities. EPA and the state of California partnered with the city to convene a task force of experts in development finance, law, public policy, planning, and business to identify strategies to promote infill that were feasible in Fresno’s challenging economic and fiscal environment. EPA developed this publication based in part on the task force’s work.

How Small Towns and Cities Can Use Local Assets to Rebuild Their Economies

How can small towns and cities adapt to changing conditions that affect the industries, technologies, and land use patterns that help form the foundation of their local economies?

EPA’s new report provides case studies of seven communities that have successfully reinvigorated their struggling economies by emphasizing existing assets and distinctive resources. The report, How Small Towns and Cities Can Use Local Assets to Rebuild Their Economies: Lessons from Successful Places, draws on these case studies to offer strategies other communities can use.

To Sell Vacant Homes, Students Spotlight Their Histories

Read the full story in Governing.

Blight and vacancy are very real problems for municipalities and residents. About 20 percent of properties are vacant in Wilkinsburg, an area of about 15,000 people that separated from the adjacent Pittsburgh in 1871. That accounts for about 1,900 housing units, costing local governments about $26 million a year in services to keep them going and lost revenue from declining property values in surrounding areas.

Wilkinsburg developed a reputation as a gang-infested neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s. A well-publicized shooting at two fast food restaurants in March of 2000 by a mentally ill man hasn’t helped. But the area also has a wealth of durable historic housing, and local governments have tried to encourage redevelopment through tax incentives, as well as programs to fast-track sales and encourage existing homeowners to take on adjacent properties at discounts.

A group of five students from different disciplines at nearby Carnegie Mellon University learned about those offerings as they searched for solutions for a class blending design and public policy. As they met with existing Wilkinsburg residents and toured neighborhoods, they decided problems of perception and limited outreach will forever keep incentive programs underused.

“I think that’s when we realized the problem is a little beyond policy and the houses themselves,” said Rene Cuenca, one of the team members. “There’s this very impactful psychological state.”

See also House of Gold, a web site that documents the life of one of the houses in the neighborhood.

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