Denver

Dynamic Redevelopment for Everyone

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Mariposa is home to a diverse group of residents who benefit from neighborhood events, nearby amenities, and proximity to public transit. Photo courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority.

By Brett VanAkkeren

Since the mid-1990s, communities have used smart growth development strategies, such as reinvesting in areas that have been neglected or abandoned, to improve the health and welfare of residents.  These strategies make fiscal sense because communities can reuse existing infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, for new construction; environmental sense because communities can clean up and reuse abandoned sites instead of paving over farms and open space; and  economic sense because new development can attract new jobs and investment.

While reinvestment can create desirable places that attract new residents, it can also displace existing residents who can no longer afford to live there. The question in underserved communities is how to grow in ways that benefit both new and existing residents.  The answer lies in equitable development.

denver light railEquitable development is the integration of environmental justice with smart growth development strategies. (See Carlton Eley’s blog post from December 18.) Ideally, the result leads to affordable housing, easy access to nearby jobs and services, affordable public transportation, the removal of environmental health hazards, access to healthy food, and safe ways to walk and bike to everyday destinations.

In Colorado, the Denver Housing Authority supported equitable development by building an affordable housing complex called the Mariposa District near a light rail station. While planning for the Mariposa project, the Authority conducted a Cultural Audit, a health Impact Assessment, a pedestrian quality audit, and three environmental design charrettes that led to intensive community involvement. These tools allowed community members to have meaningful input into decision-making in their community. Other cities can use these tools to replicate Mariposa’s success.

(Watch a video about the Mariposa District, winner of EPA’s 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Equitable Development.)

The 2014 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, February 13-15 in Denver, will offer opportunities for activists, community developers, local government officials, and many others to learn how communities can integrate environmental justice approaches into smart growth and community development programs. The conference kicks off with a half-day equitable development workshop on February 13.  Tours on February 13 and 16 will take participants to see a variety of equitable development projects in the Denver area, including the Mariposa district. Several conference sessions also will focus on equitable development.

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Click to read the report

You can find other useful resources on equitable development and smart growth strategies in a report  by EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities (OSC) and Office of Environmental JusticeCreating Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities:  Strategies For Advancing Smart Growth, Environmental Justice And Sustainable Communities, as well as OSC’s Smart Growth and Equitable Development web page. Using equitable development approaches, smart growth practitioners all across the country have helped address the challenges of redevelopment in disadvantaged communities. By attending the New Partners for Smart Growth conference to hear from leaders in this work, you can learn new approaches to take back to your community to help it flourish in ways that benefit everyone.

About the author: Brett VanAkkeren, EPA Office of Sustainable Communities, has worked on smart growth issues at EPA for more than 15 years. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Inspired by the Next Generation

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(left to right) Emma Hutchinson, Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eric Bear, Milo Cress, and Christina Bear

After serving as EPA’s regional administrator in Denver for only a few months, I am already impressed with the incredible staff we have here at EPA. I am also equally encouraged by what I have seen from our younger generations and the level of their environmental commitment. I recently had a chance to visit with several young people who are making a huge difference. These young folks attended the recent Climate Change Panel in Boulder, Colorado and had a chance to talk with me and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Local Kid Goes Global

It never ceases to amaze me every time I hear students speak about their community and environmental involvement, how incredible these kids are, and what a difference they have made in their communities. I want to share with you about one student’s amazing commitment to her community and the environment.

I first met Grace, a 14 year old high school student, when she spoke at our regional Earth Day celebration on April 22. Grace has been involved for several years with FrontRange Earth Force, a local community service organization and she recently represented the United States and her community in Brazil at an environmental conference for kids age 12-15!

EarthForceFrontRange Earth Force, in Denver, works with teachers in local schools and advisors in community organizations to bring hands-on, youth-driven learning to their students. They help these committed educators and advisors combine service to the community with classroom learning (“service-learning”) to better illustrate important academic, social and personal lessons to young people. Through FrontRange Earth Force, young people get hands-on, real-world opportunities to practice civic skills, acquire and understand environmental knowledge, and develop the skills and motivation to become life-long leaders in addressing environmental issues.

A couple of weeks ago, Grace traveled to Brasilia, Brazil to participate in the Children and Youth International Conference – Let’s Take Care of the Planet. The conference was sponsored by Brazil’s Ministry of Education so kids from all over the world could focus on global socio-environmental problems and climate change.

If anyone ever wants to see how successful community service programs are, all they have to do is meet a young woman like Grace whose experiences have benefitted her, her local community, her country and the world.

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.