Six state DOTS selected to receive hands-on assistance

We are proud to announce that six state departments of transportation will receive free technical assistance designed to develop flexible ways to meet their users’ needs with practical solutions that cost less to design, build and maintain.

State departments of transportation face increased demands on both their networks and their budgets. Our Accelerating Practical Solutions Program will work with six competitively selected states to help them make investments in transportation that put people first and don’t break the bank:

  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Virginia

Congratulations to these six states. Learn more about what the states we’ll be working with hope to achieve:

Iowa is committed to providing a transportation system that gets you there safely, efficiently and conveniently. We believe the principles taught in the Smart Growth America’s Accelerating Practical Solutions workshop will help us better utilize flexibility and innovation to achieve that goal.”

“The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development looks forward to finding additional ways to work with other federal, state, and local government agencies and engage the public to come up with transportation solutions that enhance communities and serve all users of the transportation system,” said Dr. Eric Kalivoda, Deputy Secretary of LADOTD.

“The workshop will be especially timely as the New Hampshire Department of Transportation develops new pedestrian and bicycle design criteria that considers safety and access for all modes of travel. The department extends a warm welcome to the Governors’ Institute on Community Design.”

North Dakota seeks to enhance integrated decisions about transportation and land use that meet the needs of all roadway users, and support healthy, vibrant, and economically strong communities.”

“We are honored to be selected for Smart Growth America’s Accelerating Practical Solutions workshop and look forward to learning how to expand and improve Virginia‘s efforts to plan and deliver efficient and affordable solutions to transportation challenges throughout the state.”

Technical assistance will also be awarded to the Delaware Department of Transportation as they work with the University of Delaware on improving access for people of all abilities.

Our expert staff will bring together DOT staff with MPOs, consultants, local governments, advocacy groups, transit agencies, and others for a technical assistance workshop in each state. We’ll explore a range of topics, such as balancing the needs of all roadway users in a variety of contexts, how to take advantage of existing flexibility in design, integrating transportation and land use decision-making, right-sizing projects, and how to make the organizational and cultural changes required to implement practical design.

Interested in this bringing this work to your state? Contact us to learn more about bringing a Practical Solutions workshop to your community >>

Resilience in the U.S. Virgin Islands


Our team was in the U.S. Virgin Islands last week to help the territory plan for resilience. “Overall, the workshop generated several powerful new ideas and identified a number of short-term solutions that the Climate Change Council can take action on immediately,” said Shawn-Michael Malone, Climate Change Council Chairman.

Over the course of the workshop, participants heard presentations on how to make the Virgin Islands more resilient in the face of hazards associated with climate change, including erosion, hurricanes and rising sea levels. At the same time, members of the Council educated the GICD team on the unique issues facing the Virgin Islands and on our community’s priorities.

On the first day, discussions focused on sharing that critical information and exploring different strategies for reducing risk and building long-term resilience. The second day began with a review of issues raised by the group, and continued with a presentation of possible recommendations for the Virgin Islands and a discussion of how the Climate Change Council could put them into action.

Recommendations included:

  • Developing a “resilience vision” for the Virgin Islands.
  • Altering the hazard mitigation planning process to include climate change strategies, proactive land management, scenario planning, and incorporating adaptation.
  • Educating the public on the hazards of extreme weather and climate change through local schools and universities, youth programs, and existing health and wellness programs.
  • Expanding the disaster recovery process to include climate change planning, while ensuring that citizens are not overburdened by new codes and standards.

The GICD team thanks Governor Mapp and his administration for their ongoing commitment to the protection of life and property in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Massachusetts announces a “common vision” for housing, transportation, and the environment

Boston skyline

In fiscally challenging times, states can achieve more when their agencies work together toward common goals. Massachusetts is doing exactly that.

Yesterday at the Multi-Family Housing Summit in Boston, three members of Governor Deval Patrick’s Cabinet announced their common vision for growth in Massachusetts. The vision highlights the housing, transportation, and environment agencies’ strong commitment to plan ahead for future growth and the Commonwealth’s Sustainable Development Principles. The goals are to:

  • Build 10,000 multi-family homes a year through 2020, particularly near transit, city/town centers and employment centers;
  • Shift the way we travel, by tripling the share of travel by bicycling, transit and walking; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from the 1990 levels by 2020.

“We will achieve [the vision] only if we work together,” Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said during the Multi-Family Housing Summit where the announcement was made. Understanding the key connections between housing, economic development, transportation, environmental protection, and land use, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki, whose agency hosted the Summit, said, “This [vision] is a pledge that we will think about each others agencies throughout our work.”

The 10,000 multi-family housing production goal was announced in November 2012 by Gov. Patrick as an outcome of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design workshop, which was held that summer.

In addition to the partnership, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development announced the formation of the Multi-Family Housing Advisory Committee to build broader support for multi-family housing and provide a structured forum for assessing and recommending new policies. The Advisory Committee will consist of 28 members, representing municipal and regional officials, members of the business and development community and non-profit and advocacy organizations, and will be staffed by state and quasi-public agencies. The formation of the Committee was also a recommendation made by the Governors’ Institute.

Similar stakeholder groups attended yesterday’s Multi-Family Housing Summit to discuss tangible strategies in achieving the 10,000 multi-family housing production goal. Bill Fulton, Director of the Governors’ Institute, presented on the recommendations that GICD provided in 2012 and facilitated the discussion.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick introduces new workforce housing initiatives, adopts GICD recommendations

In July 2012, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design met with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration to identify policies and tools to meet the State’s housing needs. Last week, Governor Patrick announced an ambitious housing policy initiative that builds on those strategies.

Speaking before an audience of almost 1,000 people at a statewide housing and community development conference in Worcester, MA on November 13, 2012, Governor Patrick announced a new statewide housing production goal of 10,000 multifamily units in the Commonwealth each year, and a new policy initiative called “Compact Neighborhoods.”

“To meet the needs of our workforce we need more housing for moderate- and middle-income families,” Governor Patrick said at the event. “We need more multi-family homes, rental apartments, and starter homes and we need these homes near jobs, near transit, and near city and town centers.”

“By 2020 across the state, we should see 80,000 new multi-family units. We can do this. In fact, we have to do this.”
– Governor Deval Patrick

The goal to build 10,000 new multifamily units each year, a first-of-its-kind housing production goal, is ambitious. But Governor Patrick and his Administration are determined to achieve this goal. By producing more housing that is affordable to moderate- and middle-income households—or “workforce housing”—that is reasonably dense and located near transit stations, employment and downtown centers, the Patrick Administration’s efforts will help build and retain a young and innovative workforce within the Commonwealth and strengthen the State’s economic competitiveness.

In addition to the housing production goal, Governor Patrick announced a new policy initiative called the Compact Neighborhoods program. The program provides additional incentives that encourage municipalities to identify as-of-right zoning districts (Compact Neighborhoods) and develop affordable and reasonably dense housing for working families near transit and town centers. Municipalities with Compact Neighborhoods can receive priority consideration for other state discretionary funding, including the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. Other funding programs will be considered this year to include a similar preference. The Compact Neighborhoods program complements Chapter 40R, the Commonwealth’s Smart Growth Overlay District Statute, by promoting neighborhoods with affordable housing choices near jobs and transit.

Both the housing production goal and the Compact Neighborhood program were among recommendations made by the Governors’ Institute to the Patrick Administration in a report last month, and support Governor Patrick’s comprehensive economic development plan. The Governors’ Institute has been working with the Patrick-Murray Administration on workforce housing policy since last spring. Workforce housing is a major issue in maintaining the Commonwealth’s economic competitiveness. Even though Massachusetts is the epicenter of the nation’s higher education system—350,000 students attend college or graduate school in the Boston area alone—the Commonwealth is often unable to retain this skilled young talent because of a shortage of affordable homes and lack of housing choices.

In July, the Governors’ Institute convened a high-level workshop that included Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, several cabinet members, agency directors, and key stakeholders, such as local officials, business leaders, and housing organizations, as well as the Governors’ Institute’s nationally renowned housing, transportation, and real estate experts, to discuss policy ideas on workforce housing. Subsequently, the Governors’ Institute provided a set of recommendations to guide the Administration in strengthening its housing initiatives.

The Governors’ Institute’s technical assistance is made possible and guided by the HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnerships promotes better coordination between housing, transportation, and other infrastructure investments to create more prosperous and vibrant communities. The Patrick Administration’s new initiatives are a great example of policies and initiatives that the Partnership encourages across the country.

GICD Official Kick-off Event in the News

Governors Get on Board With Smart Growth

Streetsblog — August 2, 2012
The Governors’ Institute on Community Design isn’t a brand new undertaking — it’s been around since 2005 — but it’s just gotten some high-profile support which could catapult it to a different level. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of six governors and ex-governors celebrated the new support of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities – the collaboration of HUD, DOT, and EPA — for the Governors’ Institute. This kind of collaborative work, among federal agencies and with the states, is “common sense writ large,” said U.S. DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari at the event.


Perdue to next governor: you have to make tough decisions

The News & Observer (NC) — August 1, 2012
Perdue was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with a long list of governors and former governors to discuss the infrastructure challenges facing state leaders during tough economic times. The event was organized by the Governors’ Institute, which provides technical guidance to governors on, among other needs, housing, transportation and the environment. “If you’re going to get things done and focus on the future and continue to invest in the future, you have to make tough decisions, and you can’t stick your finger in the wind and decide which way the public is going,” said Perdue.


Livability Funding for Governors’ Institute on Community Design will improve transportation options across America

Fast Lane (Official U.S. DOT blog) — August 1, 2012
At DOT, we are constantly looking for innovative partnerships to help solve our transportation challenges. Through our work in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, we’ve helped communities boost economic development at the local level by thinking comprehensively about transportation, housing, and environmental needs. Good community planning requires a unified and collaborative approach. That’s why DOT is proud to join HUD and EPA in supporting the Governors’ Institute on Community Design in a new effort to help states grow their economies and make better use of taxpayer dollars.

Political will, leadership crucial to building great communities

From left: former Maryland Governor and President of the Governors' Institute, Parris Glendening; former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge at the Governors' Institute launch event.

Great neighborhoods, strong local economies and balanced budgets don’t happen by chance. It takes political leadership and resilience to achieve those goals – political leadership that is sometimes hard to come by.

“Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge during a conversation between past and current state leaders at the National Press Club today. The Governors’ Institute on Community Design hosted the event, which kicked off newly announced support for the Institute from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

That reluctance to stick one’s neck out can have a negative impact on states and local communities, explained former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who co-chairs the Institute with former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. Instead of planning for long-term, sustainable economic growth that meets a wide range of goals, it’s easy for elected officials to lapse into short-term, often politically motivated decisions.

“People have come up with this mindset that it’s an either or [between jobs and smart, long-term thinking], and we have to break that,” said Whitman, noting the pressure on state and local leaders to show immediate results.

She emphasized the need for state and local leaders to think tactically and show more resolve, a point Ridge hammered home when he likened current federal and state budget deficit reduction battles to a “kabuki dance” between political parties.

Many of the decisions needed today are bound to be unpopular, because the country needs both cuts to costly services as well as new revenue creation sources to fund important infrastructure upgrades and investments, Ridge said. Drawing attention to the need for increased leadership at all levels of government is therefore vital, as are more transparent and proactive efforts to inform the public about the realities of municipal costs.

“We almost need a public education campaign,” Ridge said about the cost of updating America’s infrastructure systems and investing in the things that will lead to long-term growth. “You flip on a light, you don’t think about [the cost]. You turn the water on, you don’t think about it.”

What that means for the country’s towns and cities is significant, as leaders shy away from making investments or bold policy changes to attract voters. Politicians on both sides of the aisle might recognize the need for smarter decision-making in light of changing market trends toward walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and evolving population demographics, but it can be difficult to roll out reforms.

Current governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Beverly Perdue of North Carolina addressed that point, noting that leaders must persevere through criticism while simultaneously showing how new strategies will benefit communities over the long-haul.

“To continue to have a state that is growing as quickly as our state is growing, and to continue to have the kind of economic development we want,” Perdue said, “you need revenue … not just in North Carolina, but in any state.”

“All the great things you say during the campaign … all the, ‘I can fix it all with a magic wand,’” she said, “If you want to focus on the future, you have to make tough decisions and you can’t just stick your finger in the wind and decide which way the public is going.”

The Institute, established in 2005 and currently administered by Smart Growth America, aims to shore up political leadership and lend assistance to governors looking to promote economic development and make a better use of taxpayer dollars. Glendening said the three federal agencies’ funding support will enhance the Institute’s ability to provide technical assistance and counsel across the country.

“It’s very clear that the innovation is at the local and state level, and it’s important for us to recognize this at the federal level,” said U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari.

For leaders who want to address state concerns in a more comprehensive, strategic and financially sustainable way, the Institute is at governors’ disposal, Glendening said.

“We see our job in the Obama Administration as doing some of the downfield blocking,” Porcari added.

EPA, HUD, DOT partner to fund Governors’ Institute on Community Design, help states drive economic development, make better use of taxpayer dollars


EPA, HUD, DOT partner to fund Governors’ Institute 
on Community Design, help states drive economic
development, make better use of taxpayer dollars

Former and current governors to address economic, housing and
transportation issues at National Press Club next week

CONTACT: Thomas Madrecki, 202-215-2258,

Former and current governors from across the country will look to address states’ most pressing economic, housing and transportation issues at a roundtable kickoff to the Governors’ Institute on Community Design next week in Washington DC.

The Institute, established in 2005 and administered by Smart Growth America, will now receive support from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in a new, collaborative effort as part of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

Funding for the Institute enhances the Partnership’s ability to provide thought leadership and policy-development assistance in states looking to promote economic development and make a better use of taxpayer dollars.

Among those participating in the Institute’s panel discussion will be former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening; former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman; former Iowa Governor Chet Culver; former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge; current Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; current North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue; James Lee Witt, former Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Greg Bialecki, current Secretary of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The session will be held at the National Press Club’s Zenger Room from 9 to 11 a.m.

“The Institute is a vital tool for our states’ leaders as they look for ways to trigger economic development and create strong, resilient communities,” says Glendening, who co-chairs the Institute alongside Whitman. “Governors and their administrations who reach out to us and receive assistance have access to the leading practitioners and academics in government, design and regional economics. Together we are able to map out the unique, state-specific strategies that will lead to long-term success.”

EPA, HUD and DOT’s role in funding the Governors’ Institute is a landmark step for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which works to provide communities with faster, more streamlined access to federal programs. The Institute is one of the first programs to receive joint support from all three participating agencies in the three years since the Partnership was established.

“We are deeply appreciative that the Partnership is investing in this program,” Glendening says. “We urge interested states to use this resource as a way to drive economic development and to create the kinds of great neighborhoods people want to live, work and play in nationwide.”

# # #

For more information about the Governors’ Institute on Community Design,

For more information about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities,

GICD workshop provides best practices to Vermont

Earlier this week, the Governors’ Institute on Community Design and our team of experts traveled to Vermont to host a workshop on disaster recovery for Governor Shumlin, his cabinet, and the community. This past August, the state suffered severe flood damage following Tropical Storm Irene. The workshop this week gave the state and the community the opportunity to hear from experts about best practices from other states as well as have a facilitated discussion for how planning should move forward in Vermont.

Local coverage can be viewed here.

Gov. Glendening in PA: Businesses and governments benefit from smart-growth principles

Governor Glendening in Reading, PA

Last Tuesday, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, Governor Parris Glendening spoke at the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Pennsylvania about the benefits of smart growth planning and development that is responsive to current economic, cultural and demographic challenges. Read more here.

Maryland’s Arts and Entertainment Districts: how the state program works

Map of Arts and Entertainment Districts in Maryland

The semi-annual deadline for communities in Maryland to submit an application for the statewide designation as an Arts and Entertainment (A&E) District is fast approaching, on October 1. Communities can apply as a sole entity or combination of entities for the state designation which makes them eligible for various tax incentives.

The benefits offered to designated districts include:

1) property tax credits for new construction or renovation of certain buildings that create live-work space for artists and/or space for arts and entertainment enterprises;

2) an income tax subtraction modification for income derived from artistic work sold by “qualifying residing artists”;

3) an exemption from the Admissions and Amusement tax levied by an “arts and entertainment enterprise” or “qualifying residing artist” in a district.

These incentives promote smart growth, creative placemaking and community design by focusing economic development in a specific area as well as around creative industry.

This program is but one of many in the state of Maryland that supports neighborhood revitalization–other examples include Main Street Maryland, Community Legacy and Neighborhood BusinessWorks. However, when the program was created by the General Assembly in 2001, it was the only (and remains today), the only arts-based revitalization program sponsored at a state level.

Watch this space to learn more about how the program revitalized one community, and for details about this year’s selections from the Maryland State Arts Council.