Reconnecting America recently joined forces with several other organizations with deep experience in transportation and sustainable development to form Livability Solutions. The purpose of this partnership is to work with communities on transportation, land use, placemaking, environmental issues, and public involvement, with the goal of achieving livability, smart growth, and sustainability. The other partners in Livability Solutions are the Project for Public Spaces, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, National Center for Bicycling and Walking, National Charrette Institute, Local Government Commission, Center for Transportation Excellence, Congress for New Urbanism, Surface Transportation Policy Project and Newport City Renaissance Corporation.
As a first step in solidifying this partnership, Livability Solutions applied for and was awarded a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide free technical assistance to communities around the country through the Building Blocks program. This program funds quick, targeted assistance to communities that face common development problems. Three other nonprofit organizations — Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy), Global Green USA, and Smart Growth America — also received competitively awarded grants under this program this year to help communities achieve their sustainable development goals.
After putting out a call for applications in October of 2011, the Livability Solutions team received 64 applications and selected 10 communities to receive free technical assistance within the next year. Each community will receive a one- or two-day training session with a livability expert from the Livability Solutions team on the issue of their choice. Reconnecting America sat on the selection committee and identified the Gulf Regional Planning Commission in Gulfport, Mississippi as a place that could benefit from our innovative tools and expertise. We will be working with them to develop a typology for transit-oriented development (TOD) and to explore mixed-income TOD strategies to lower housing and transportation costs for residents of the region.
The other nine communities selected for technical assistance are University City District, Philadelphia, PA.; West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Eau Claire, WI.; Lower Eastside Action Plan, Detroit, MI.; Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission, Maumee, OH.; Colfax on the Hill, Inc., Denver, CO.; City of Blue Springs, MO.; Charlotte County, FL.; Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention, Little Rock, AK.; and Antithesis Research, Wellpoint, WA.
The Building Blocks Technical Assistance program is only the beginning of a great partnership for the Livability Solutions team. We are continuing to pursue other opportunities to work with communities around the country on their planning-related challenges and opportunities. There will also be future rounds of Building Blocks Technical Assistance, with another call for applications expected in the fall of 2012.
For more information on Livability Solutions, visit livabilitysolutions.org. View the official press release announcing the award recipients here. For more information on the EPA Building Blocks Technical Assistance program, including details on the other teams, visit the EPA’s website.