US EPA: 2012 Awards for Smart Growth Sustainability-Minded Projects

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The U.S. EPA recognized seven communities with its 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. Specific initiatives include improving transportation choices, developing green, energy-efficient buildings and communities, and providing community members with access to job training, health and wellness education, and other services.

Overall Excellence in Smart Growth

The EPA award in Overall Excellence in Smart Growth went to the Boulevard in Lancaster, CA.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized communities that exhibited outstanding achievement for environment and community sustainability goals in 2012. The Smart Growth awards are given for creative, green initiatives that better protect the health and the environment of our communities while also strengthening local economies.

The 2012 award winners are being recognized in four categories: Overall Excellence in Smart Growth, Equitable Development, Main Street or Corridor Revitalization, and Programs and Policies. Specific initiatives include improving transportation choices, developing green, energy-efficient buildings and communities, and providing community members with access to job training, health and wellness education, and other services.

The 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement winners are:

Overall Excellence – Winner: BLVD Transformation Project, Lancaster, Calif.

EPA Smart Growth Award

“Today, just over two years since the project broke ground, our [Lancaster, CA] downtown has already become a major regional destination for shopping, dining, entertainment and the arts,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris.

The redesign of Lancaster Boulevard helped transform downtown Lancaster into a thriving residential and commercial district through investments in new streetscape design, public facilities, affordable homes, and local businesses. Completed after eight months of construction, the project demonstrates how redesigning a corridor guided by a strategic vision can spark new life in a community. The project has generated almost $300 million in economic output and nearly 2,000 jobs.

Equitable Development – Winner: Mariposa District, Denver, Colo.

Denver's South Lincoln neighborhood redevelopment

Denver’s rejuvenated South Lincoln neighborhood, being redeveloped in phases, will be walkable, transit-oriented, equitable, green, and perfectly located in close proximity to downtown jobs and services.

The redevelopment of Denver’s historic and ethnically diverse La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood is turning an economically challenged area into a vibrant, transit-accessible, district. Based partly on a compendium of maps called the Denver Regional Equity Atlas, done by Reconnecting America and Mile High Connects. The community’s master plan preserves affordable housing while adding energy-efficient middle-income and market-rate homes. The new community will include 457 homes, including over 300 public housing residences, workforce homes and other affordable housing. 147 units will be made available at market rates, creating a mixed-income neighborhood.

In addition, Landscape Architects Wenk Associates have developed an open space and parks system for the redeveloped neighborhood that integrates sustainable principles and stormwater management strategies.  Green spaces will range from small courtyards to larger parks with playgrounds, picnic areas and a community garden. Because of extensive community engagement, development will include further actions to improve the health of residents, reduce pollution, and control stormwater runoff.

EPA smart growth awards for green building

The $10 million Brattleboro Food Coop building provides 23,000 square feet of commercial space, 10,600 square feet of office space and 24 units of affordable housing, mostly in one-bedroom and efficiency units.

Main Street or Corridor Revitalization – Winner: The Cooperative Building, Brattleboro, Vt.

The Brattleboro Food Co-op, the town’s only downtown food store, made a commitment to remain at its downtown location by constructing an innovative, four-story green building on Main Street with a grocery store, commercial space, offices, and affordable apartments. The Main Street location provides healthy food, new jobs, and housing within walkable distances of downtown businesses and public transit.

Programs and Policies – Winner: Destination Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Va.

Destination Portsmouth

Destination Portsmouth has created a comprehensive plan for areas such as the Olde Towne Business and Historical District, adjacent to High Street rendered here, that encourages a combination of preservation and redevelopment.

The city of Portsmouth revised its comprehensive plan and undertook a broad review of its development and land use regulations. As a result, Destination Portsmouth prepared a package of new plans, zoning ordinances, and other development policies in collaboration with community stakeholders. Bordering the Elizabeth River with a waterfront in the Hampton Roads harbor on Chesapeake Bay, Portsmouth’s reputation is that of a quaint port town despite a population of almost 100,000. The overhaul of the city’s codes encourages development in targeted growth areas and helps businesses to locate in the city while also protecting the character of Portsmouth’s historic neighborhoods including Olde Towne and Cradock.

Equitable Development – Honorable Mention: Northwest Gardens, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Northwest Gardens is an affordable multifamily housing development on brownfield land to help alleviate a housing shortage in the Fort Lauderdale’s Northwest-Progresso-Flagler Heights community redevelopment area, designed to meet the highest standards in energy efficiency and overall sustainability, with LEED for Neighborhood Development certification.

Through safer streets, job training and education programs, and high-quality, affordable homes, the once struggling Northwest Gardens neighborhood is rapidly becoming a model for economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The redesigned neighborhood offers a range of energy-efficient, affordable housing choices and is one of the first communities in the nation to receive LEED for Neighborhood Development certification. With a focus on urban self-sufficiency, Northwest Gardens has empowered residents with tools such as a robust urban farm, community gardens, a social entrepreneurship program, direct support for grandparents taking care of grandchildren and onsite construction training for disadvantaged youths as they complete their GEDs.

Main Street or Corridor Revitalization – Honorable Mention: Larkin District, Buffalo, N.Y.

Larkin District - Buffalo, NY

Larkin District – Seneca Street, Before and After, a partnership with the Univ at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning

Community organizations and a local developer partnered with the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning to help revitalize the Larkin District, an old manufacturing district located one mile from downtown Buffalo. Architectural students worked with the developer and the city to create a master plan for an urban village that now features new office space, restaurants, apartments, parks, and plazas. New sidewalks, lighting, crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and bus shelters reduce pollution from vehicles by making walking, biking, and public transit more appealing.

Programs and Policies – Honorable Mention: Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund, San Francisco, Calif.

Bay Area Transit Oriented Development Affordable Housing

Eddy and Taylor Housing – Transit-Oriented, Affordable Housing Development in San Francisco’s Tenderloin – from David Baker and Partners Architects

The Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund is providing loans for developers to build affordable homes near public transportation. At this point, the fund has provided loans for a 153-unit high-rise for low-income families in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood located two blocks from a Muni transit station, and for a 64-unit building for seniors close to a light rail station that will provide free transit passes for all residents.

This year’s winners and honorable mentions were selected from 47 applicants from 25 states. The winning entries were chosen based on their effectiveness in creating sustainable communities; fostering equitable development among public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders; and serving as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development.

EPA created the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to recognize exceptional approaches to development that protect the environment, encourage economic vitality, and enhance quality of life. In the past 11 years, 54 winners from 26 states have shown a variety of approaches that states, regions, cities, suburbs, and rural communities can use to create economically strong, environmentally responsible development. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities manages the awards program.

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Jack Eidt

About Jack Eidt

Writer, urban theorist, and environmental advocate, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion - Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Planners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com.