View of Boulder from the Flatiron Mountains - photo by author
I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for Rust Belt communities from the lovely city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have unique attributes.
Here are what I would quantify as the top ten. Many of these are remarkably similar to the ten lessons from European industrial cities published earlier this month.
- Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
- Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
- Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
- Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
- There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
- Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
- Create third places and amenities – downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
- Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
- Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
- People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.
– Rick Brown
Filed under architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Education, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning
Published annually by Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, the Fourth Economy Index identifies those counties that are “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.” The index is broken down into micro (<25,000 population) small (25,000-49,999), mid-sized (50,000-149,999), and large (150,000-499,999) counties based on population. The following five metrics are utilized as foundations for determining future economic success:
Kalamazoo - Source: trialx.com
Below is a list of the Top 10 large counties as determined by the Fourth Economy Index – six of which are Rust Belt counties (shown in bold):
- Durham County (Durham), North Carolina
- Sedgwick County (Wichita), Kansas
- Guilford County (Greensboro), North Carolina
- Linn County (Cedar Rapids), Iowa
- Onondaga County (Syracuse), New York
- Dakota County (Twin Cities), Minnesota
- Lehigh County (Allentown), Pennsylvania
- Polk County (Des Moines), Iowa
- Kalamazoo County (Kalamazoo), Michigan
- Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee
It is interesting to note that none of the Top 10 are from the New England, South Central, Rocky Mountain, or Pacific Coast states. Congratulations to all those counties that made the Top 10, particularly those from the Rust Belt.
– Rick Brown
Monday evening I had the honor to join approximately 100 fellow participants, planners, partners, and stakeholders from throughout Greater Lansing at a kick-off meeting for the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center. Partners in the program include the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing Area Economic Partnership, Michigan State University Land Policy Institute, Michigan Energy Options, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and CAM-TV.
The four-hour event showcased the nine sustainability projects that will be part of the three-year effort funded through a three million dollar grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and $5.2 million in local matching contributions. The nine projects as described in a handout prepared by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission are:
- “A five-year comprehensive regional fair and affordable housing plan for the tri-county region.
- A regional affordable housing study.
- A community reinvestment fund to build capacity in the region for traditionally underserved and marginalized populations.
- Develop an energy audit study of build structures.
- Build capacity for a regional urban services management area.
- Promote a multi-faceted and prioritized green infrastructure system.
- Develop a sustainable corridor design portfolio using the 20 mile long Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor from the State Capitol to Webberville.
- Build capacity for complete streets planning and implementation.
- Create an online portal for sharing information, evaluating, and promoting sustainability.”
These nine projects will build the impetus for propelling Mid-Michigan into a thriving and sustainable metropolitan region that is inclusive and beneficial to all socio-economic and demographic populations within the Greater Lansing community. It is a very exciting prospect to consider and long-range planning project to participate in.
Other Rust Belt communities and organizations to receive sustainability grants from HUD in 2011 include the following:
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Binghamton, New York
- Erie County, Pennsylvania
- Freeport, Illinois
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Pennsylvania
- Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York
- Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (Traverse City), Michigan
- Oak Park, Illinois
- Warren, Ohio
- Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Michigan
Check out the Great Lakes Law blog from The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center in Detroit.
Here, you can read information about how invasive species (Asian Carp), global climate change and more can impact the Great Lakes.