ASLA Oregon LANDbytes DECEMBER 2011 Feature:
By Rebecca Wahlstrom
Recently the winners of the EPA’s 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement were announced, and not one of the winners was from Oregon. I found that somewhat startling, as Oregon prides itself on being the shining beacon of smart, eco-friendly design. I did a little research and began to breathe easier; Metro brought home a prize in 2010 for their “Making the Greatest Place: Metro’s Strategic Implementation of the 2040 Growth Concept”, and in 2007 the Housing Authority of Portland received the Overall Excellence Award for the New Columbia/Columbia Villa development. The 1997 Belmont Dairy redevelopment also made their list of exemplary smart design. Apart from these accolades, I started to wonder if Oregon had any recently built projects to show as great models of the smart growth concept.
Just how is Smart Growth defined? The EPA states that Smart Growth embraces the following goals;
“Mix land uses, take advantage of compact building design, create a range of housing opportunities and choices, create walkable neighborhoods, foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place, preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas, strengthen and direct development toward existing communities, provide a variety of transportation choices, make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost-effective, encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions”.
As ASLA’s “The Dirt” reported, the 2011 winners were praised for “demonstrating strategies that create jobs, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life”. One can generate a long list of names and descriptions that define concepts like Smart Growth, but spending too much time in that theoretical world is not what we are about. What it comes down to is that we provide designs and policies that “that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, and enhance quality of life” (EPA). These lofty goals can’t be achieved without partnering with other professions and agencies. Transportation, housing, environmental agencies form a strong association that can make meaningful changes in the community. Without that integrated approach projects can turn into disparate islands, rather like the cool new kids at school who don’t want to associate with others.
What are our recent excellent designs that put the Smart Growth ideals into action, projects that function today as a vital part of the community? What projects creatively tie together different funding sources and partner with other disciplines to create development that “create jobs, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life” in Oregon? Let’s celebrate our projects that connect our communities to the world at large. How many projects can you think of that encompass the goals of Smart Growth? I’m sure they are out there, but I’d like you to think of some and post them in the comment section below. I’ll be waiting to hear what you have to say…