A grassroots movement armed with policies to protect public health and the environment while boosting the local economy in the historic Old North community in St. Louis, Mo., was among five communities recently recognized for embracing “smart growth” approaches by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The 2011 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement acknowledge and support communities that use innovative policies and strategies to strengthen their economies, provide sustainable housing and transportation choices, and protect the environment, EPA said.
Old North St. Louis, Mo.
Through a neighborhood not-for-profit organization—Old North St. Louis Restoration Group—the historic community has implemented strategies to encourage a mix of land uses, promote walking, rehabilitate vacant buildings, and establish green spaces.
Photo courtesy EPA
|The Old North community in St. Louis, Mo., was honored with the EPA’s 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in “Overall Excellence.” The community physically and socially revitalized the neighborhood, the agency says.|
Following decades of decline and abandonment in the area, the Old North restoration troop recruited citizens to commit to its recovery in 1981, according to EPA’s report on the awards.
Nearly 200 homes have been built by renovating abandoned historic buildings rather than demolishing them and by developing vacant lots, EPA said. In addition, the area has seen a 28% population increase over the past decade.
The 27-building Crown Square redevelopment effort, which encompassed new homes, historically rehabbed apartments and new businesses also contributed greatly to the neighborhood-wide revitalization, EPA said.
“The redevelopment of Old North St. Louis is a project the whole community can be proud of,” said Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 administrator. “The residents of Old North St. Louis rallied together to restore the neighborhood in a way that strengthens the local economy, benefits residents, and protects and sustains the environment.”
Smart Growth and Green Building:
Silver Gardens Apartments, Albuquerque, N.M.
A former bus depot and repair shop turned affordable housing development along a main commercial street in downtown Albuquerque is transforming and revitalizing the area, EPA said in recognizing the Silver Gardens Apartments.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Coulie
|The Silver Gardens Apartments in Albuquerque, N.M., was recognized for smart growth and green building. The building is the first affordable housing project in the U.S. to sell its carbon offsets.|
The 66-unit housing development is the first affordable housing project in the U.S. to sell carbon offsets, EPA said. The building is also the Southwest’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum affordable housing development.
The colorful facility “creatively incorporates sustainable design and other innovative elements,” EPA said. The apartments boast blown-in cellulose insulation, energy-efficient windows, and Energy Star appliances. Other features include rooftop solar panels and a wind turbine.
Programs, Policies, and Regulations:
Plan El Paso 2010, El Paso, Texas
Recognized for its programs, policies, and regulations, the community of El Paso, Texas, faced concerns about automobile-oriented development that isolated residents and an expansion of a nearby military base that created a need for more housing units and expanded infrastructure.
The city implemented “Plan El Paso 2010,” an effort to create more environmentally and socially sustainable communities connected by a bus transit network.
EPA said the city has connected four key neighborhoods with the transit design while reinvesting in existing neighborhoods and preserving historic structures.
Rural Smart Growth:
Maroney Commons, Howard, S.D.
Smart growth is not restricted to cities, EPA said in singling out the small town of Howard, S.D., for revitalizing its downtown with a green building that houses training for green-energy and rural health-care jobs.
Photo courtesy EPA
|Maroney Commons in downtown Howard, S.D., is a mixed-use complex where training in green energy jobs and rural health care won recognition for “Rural Smart Growth” from the EPA. |
Maroney Commons is a mixed-use complex with a hotel, conference center, restaurant, and offices incorporating innovative environmental approaches that can spur economic development, EPA said.
One of the first LEED Platinum-certified buildings in the state, the building’s “green” elements include solar panels, a wind turbine, geothermal heating and cooling, pervious outdoor pavement, rainwater capture and storage, and native landscaping.
Materials collected from demolished Main Street buildings were recycled and reused during construction; the wood floor from an old gymnasium is now the floor of the restaurant; and Maroney Commons’ siding came from an old American Legion hall, EPA said in a report on the project.
Uptown Normal Roundabout, Normal, Ill.
Originally designed to manage traffic, the Uptown Normal Roundabout has evolved into a civic gathering place that increases business for local stores.
The EPA recognized Normal for transforming a busy five-way intersection into an attractive green civic space.
‘Smart Communities’ Address Environmental,
Economic Challenges, Agency Says
“Smart growth is a crucial strategy for tackling the environmental and economic challenges we face in the 21st century, and the communities we’re recognizing this year are leading the way with their successes,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
“By bringing together traditional ideas, innovative technology and commonsense planning, these communities are giving residents and businesses places that are healthier, safer and more economically and environmentally sustainable.”
This year’s winners were selected from a pool of 68 applicants from 27 states. The winning entries were selected based on their effectiveness in creating sustainable communities; creating a robust public-involvement process; generating partnerships among public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders; and serving as national models.
EPA created the program in 2002 to recognize “exceptional approaches to development that protect the environment, foster economic vitality, and enhance quality of life.”
In the past 10 years, 47 winners from 24 states have demonstrated the variety of approaches that states, regions, cities, suburbs, and small towns can use to create economically vibrant and environmentally responsible development, EPA said.
EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities (OSC) manages the award program. OSC helps U.S. communities turn their visions of the future into reality through research, tools, partnerships, case studies, grants, and technical assistance, the agency said.
More information: Smart Growth Awards.