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EPA 2006 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement: Winners offer lessons for us all

By ArchNewsNow
November 16, 2006

As communities around the country look for ways to grow that protect and enhance their natural environments and create prosperity, many are turning to smart growth strategies. They are cleaning and reusing previously developed land; providing more housing and transportation choices; preserving critical natural areas; and developing vibrant places to live, work, shop, and play. In addition to creating great communities, these smart growth strategies also protect the quality of our air, water and land.


Now in its fifth year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday announced the winners of the 2006 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement at a ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. The five winners, selected from 50 applications from 22 states, were recognized for their innovative approaches to development that strengthen community identity and protect the environment.


And the winners are:


Overall Excellence


Commonwealth of Massachusetts for creating the Office of Commonwealth Development (OCD) to better coordinate state spending and policy decisions that influence where development happens, encourage innovative development locally, and make private investment in good projects easier. OCD uses financial incentives and outreach tools to ensure wise use of state tax dollars and to promote sound growth policies in the state’s 351 communities. Better natural resource stewardship is a key motivation for OCD’s smart growth efforts. For example, OCD has protected approximately 35,000 acres of land and taken growth pressure off of natural lands and undeveloped sites.


Built Projects


City of Wichita, Kansas, for the environmental clean-up and redevelopment of an abandoned warehouse district into a lively, pedestrian-friendly community known as “Old Town.” Among brick-lined streets, historic lampposts, and a collection of brick warehouses (circa 1870 – 1930) are approximately 100 businesses and 315 housing units. Through a public-private partnership, the city leveraged funds to encourage private investment for redevelopment. Old Town’s stores, recreational amenities, and homes capitalize on its walkable design, mix of uses, and the historic beauty of downtown Wichita.


Policies and Regulations


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development, for the Pennsylvania Fresh Foods Financing Initiative (FFFI), a public-private partnership between the state and three non-profit organizations which provides grants and loans to help supermarkets locate in underserved communities. The program gives lower-income people easier access to healthy foods and spurs development in neighborhoods that desperately need it. By restoring vital market opportunities and services to existing communities, the program reduces the pressure to develop farms, wildlife habitat, and open space; increases local farm income; and enhances the vitality of urban and rural communities.


Small Communities


The City of Winooski, Vermont, for revitalizing its downtown using Smart Growth principles. Winooski preserved or restored nearly 100 acres of natural habitat, returned vacant properties to productive use, and created several neighborhood parks. Building on the town’s rich history, the Winooski Downtown Revitalization project created a thriving, attractive center with much-needed housing, stores, offices, and public spaces. The city reestablished the street grid that had been demolished in the 1970s and added wider sidewalks. The city also opened RiverWalk, a promenade that gives the town a beautiful new connection to the Winooski River. The redevelopment capitalized on the city’s historic charm and, once again, made Winooski a place people and businesses want to be.


Equitable Development


City of Chicago for funding the development of Bethel Center in a “green” building erected on a former brownfield site. The Center provides the community with amenities such as employment counseling, commercial services, a technology center, child care, and retail space. It is the anchor for a transit-oriented development and a key step in the revitalization of the West Garfield Park neighborhood. The center’s transit-accessible, walkable location gives residents choices in how they get around.



The Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation (OPEI) is home to the EPA’s Smart Growth program which, in addition to presenting the annual awards, conducts research and policy analysis on growth issues, provides direct technical assistance to state and local governments, delivers outreach and public education and collaborates with partners in the Smart Growth Network, a coalition of more than 30 state and national organizations focused on development issues.


Click National Award for Smart Growth Achievement for detailed information about this year’s and past winners.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Overall Excellence: Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development (OCD) helps increase affordable housing in urban centers such as East Boston.

(Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Massachusetts OCD: Norwood, outside of Boston, added pedestrian amenities to downtown sidewalks

(Commonwealth of Massachusetts)
Massachusetts OCD: Communities, like Concord, are able to secure funding for mixed-use development and Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD) along existing transit lines

(City of Wichita)
Old Town Wichita (today): a mix of housing, shopping, and entertainment near downtown

(City of Wichita)
Old Town Wichita (before): a collection of underutilized buildings and surface parking

(City of Wichita)
Old Town Wichita: old warehouse buildings have been rehabilitated for retail, office, and residential spaces

Pennsylvania Fresh Foods Financing Initiative (FFFI): grants and loans to help supermarkets locate in underserved communities

(City of Winooski)
City of Winooski, VT: RiverWalk provides public access to the Winooski River and adjoining parks

(City of Winooski)
City of Winooski: New apartments and condos are being built near public transit

(Chicago Department of Planning and Development)
Bethel Center, Chicago: includes financial and employment counseling, a technology center, child care, and retail

(Chicago Department of Planning and Development)
Bethel Center: a green roof reduces stormwater runoff, and photovoltaic cells provide clean energy, and direct access to the Green Line "El" stop through a connecting bridge

© 2006