Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smart Growth America’s state smart growth partners meet to discuss shared goals

Coalition members visited Winthrop, MA, pictured above, to learn about smart growth strategies in the small coastal town. Photo via Facebook.
Smart Growth America works with over 50 organizations from across the country as part of our coalition of allied non-profits. Many of these organizations work exclusively on smart growth issues in their respective states, and last month these partners came together to discuss shared challenges and goals.
Town officials give coalition members a guided tour of Winthrop, MA.
Our coalition partner the Massachusetts Area Planning Commission(MAPC) hosted this year’s meeting, which took place from November 21 to 23, 2013. MAPC staff kicked off the meeting at their offices in Boston with a discussion on ways to increase diversity within the smart growth movement. MAPC staff led the conversation and shared what their organization has done to diversify both their external partners and internal staff. Coalition partners highlighted the need to engage and collaborate with non-traditional partners outside of the smart growth field to make sure future projects are shaped by wide spectrum of residents and stakeholders.
Then, on November 22, coalition partners traveled to Winthrop, MA, an ocean-side community outside Boston. Town officials met with coalition members to give an overview of the town’s history, discuss how the town is working to protect itself from future natural disaster, and their strategies for attracting residents and businesses before leading a tour of the town.
providence-riProvidence, RI’s Riverwalk was part of the coalition’s tour.
On November 23, the group traveled to Providence, RI, for a tour of how Providence is restoring and revitalizing historic areas, and new initiatives being undertaken to continue those efforts. Leading the tour were coalition members Scott Wolf of Grow Smart Rhode Island and Dan Baudoin of The Providence Foundation.
After the tour of Providence, administrators from the New England regional offices of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agencies joined the group for a presentation on historic preservation in Rhode Island by Scott Wolf and a presentation about the newly released report on infill housing by Matt Van der Sluis of California’s Greenbelt Alliance.
The next meeting of our state and regional smart growth coalition partners will be in the spring in Washington, DC. If your organization is dedicated to smart growth issues at the state or regional level, consider becoming a coalition member today.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

LOCUS talks about new development in Somerville and state policy change at two events in Massachusetts

The Community Corridor Planning Collaborate (CCP) held multiple station area design sessions and community planning workshops in anticipation of the Green Line Extension in Somerville. Photo by Interactive Somerville via Flickr.
In November, LOCUS kicked off a series of events in Massachusetts that connected real estate developers with local and state officials to discuss new smart development opportunities and policy changes needed to facilitate walkable, sustainable development throughout Massachusetts.
First, on November 19, LOCUS brought together real estate developers and Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville and his staff to discuss the new transit-oriented development opportunities created by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s decision to extend its Green Line. City officials described the need for more economically, socially and environmentally responsible development in Somerville. LOCUS developers proposed development ideas that would meet those needs while also supporting Somerville’s economy. The ideas will join those of Somerville residents in informing the city’s plan for the new station areas. As the conversation continued, a call to action was placed on LOCUS and its members in Massachusetts to develop a series of policy and regulatory changes in conjunction with city and state officials that will support more walkable, sustainable places in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
Then, on November 20, LOCUS joined developers, advocates and elected officials from across the Commonwealth at theMassachusetts Smart Growth Conference. Hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, the conference focused on how smart growth developments can save public and private dollars.
LOCUS coordinated a panel session for the conference, which included LOCUS Steering Committee Member Don Briggs, Senior Vice President of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust; Chryse Gibson, Chief Administrative Officer of Oaktree Development; David Perry, Senior Vice President of the Hines Interest Group; and was moderated by Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS. The panel discussed the barriers to market-driven smart growth in Massachusetts.
The conference panel cast new light on the previous day’s conversation by including state-level policies that affect smart growth development. Each panelist highlighted a major project that their company is working on as well as what the state could have done to speed up the project approval process and reduce construction delays. The presenters identified issues such as the lengthy environmental approval process and access to patient capital as limits to smart growth development, but cited the state’s current investments in transit and the strong market demand for walkable development as factors that will lead to more walkable places in Massachusetts.
Among the wide range of issues addressed at both events, strong local leadership came up again and again. Communities across the country have such visionary leaders, without whom many of these types of projects would not be built. On June 17 and 18, 2014, LOCUS will bring together many of these leaders at the 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit. If you are a real estate developer or investor interesting in supporting walkable development in Massachusetts and across the country, we hope you’ll join us then.