By Jami Miedema

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded four entities with the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. This honor is to recognize remarkable approaches to development that promote smart growth through economic and environmental benefits. Within the realm of smart growth, four categories were examined: Overall Excellence in Smart Growth; Policies and Regulations; Built Projects; and Smart Growth and Green Building.

And the winners are:

Overall Excellence in Smart Growth: Envision Lancaster County, Lancaster County Planning Commission (Lancaster County, Pennsylvania)

Envision Lancaster County is a comprehensive plan to promote growth while maintaining the region’s extensive farmland. Investments will be made in the existing communities to provide more housing and transportation choices which will, in turn, protect the natural resources and direct growth away from the open spaces. The plan also outlines several other steps for enhancing the quality of life and preserving the distinct culture of the area.

Policies and Regulations: The City of Charlotte, Charlotte Department of Transportation (Charlotte, North Carolina)

The city of Charlotte has undertaken extensive plans to improve street design. Roads are being redesigned to improve traffic flow for vehicles, while bicycle lanes and pedestrian islands are being added. In addition, appealing streetscapes are being planted to create a scenic environment.

Built Projects: Parkside of Old Town, Chicago Housing Authority/FitzGerald Associates Architects/Holsten Real Estate Development (Chicago, Illinois)

Parkside of Old Town used several run-down mid- and high-rise towers and redeveloped them to create mixed-income housing, parks, shops, and restaurants. The residences and parks are joined by pathways and playgrounds that are located in visible areas to provide safety. The buildings also have community rooms, meeting spaces, and a fitness center.

Smart Growth and Green Building: Tempe Transportation Center, City of Tempe/Architekton + Otak (Tempe, Arizona)

Tempe’s Transporation Center has become the transportation hub of the city. The new building was constructed with sustainability in mind and includes a vegetated roof, solar shades, and solar hot water heaters, among several other green amenities. The multi-use facility integrates the city’s bus station, a bike station, and a light-rail stop and also has community gathering space and a public plaza. The Center replaced a parking lot that had an area of nearly 3 acres.

How does your community’s amenities and infrastructure stack up to these developments? Perhaps your community’s strategies could win you a Smart Growth award in 2010!

If you’d like to read more about these projects, visit the EPA’s website at this link: