New Partners for Smart Growth

Green Streets Make a Visible Difference in Norfolk

by Andrew Wynne

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets - like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets

EPA’s Building Blocks program is helping to turn streets – like this one in Norfolk’s Chesterfield Heights neighborhood – into green streets.

The occasional pop-up shower or thunderstorm is commonplace here in the mid-Atlantic during the spring season. While these dreary, rainy days can seem to linger and provide ample time for a good book or movie marathon, they also provide important resources for our gardens, lawns, and trees. In more urban environments, green infrastructure helps to mitigate stormwater runoff and flooding, while providing environmental, social, and economic benefits.

In low-lying communities and those with high percentages of impervious surface cover, even mild storm events can wreak havoc, leading to storm sewer overflows and flooding. Sitting at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and bound by numerous tributaries, Norfolk, Virginia is already beginning to feel the effects of a changing climate, as rising sea levels and tidal waters combine to create a wet and potent cocktail for the coastal city.

EPA is collaborating with Norfolk city leaders and local stakeholders to build community and infrastructure capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change, improve water quality, and enhance quality of life in neighborhoods. Recently, EPA’s mid-Atlantic office coordinated with the City of Norfolk on a Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities technical assistance workshop as part of the Making a Visible Difference (MVD) in Communities effort.

The workshop brought together community members and various city departments to identify and implement green and complete streets, seeing green infrastructure practices as opportunities to manage stormwater, reduce flooding and pollution, increase green space, and lower demand on the city’s stormwater drainage system, while also making roadways safer, more inviting, and able to accommodate multiple users and modes of transportation. These practices are integral to the city’s plans to address resilience and prepare for sea level rise.

Interested in learning more about how you can incorporate green infrastructure practices into your own home or community? Check out EPA’s Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWIZ) tool and additional green infrastructure resources, including fact sheets, design and implementation guides, and funding opportunities. You can find out more about our work in Norfolk and other communities around the mid-Atlantic region via our EPA Smart Growth webpage.

 

About the author: Andrew Wynne works in EPA Region 3’s Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division on community-based sustainability and climate adaptation programs. An avid traveler and road-tripper, he enjoys exploring unique environments through SCUBA diving and cross-country skiing.

 

 

 

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.

Dynamic Redevelopment for Everyone

Untitled-1

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.

Untitled-2

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.

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.