Manhattan joined Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Vermont and Barnstable, MA, as the nation's smart growth leaders for 2007.

The accolades, the 2007 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, are granted for innovative community development that protects the environment, preserves community identity and expands economic opportunity.

The Environmental Protection Agency sparingly doles out the awards to promote smart growth strategies, because such efforts help communities enjoy cleaner air and water, open space and critical habitat preservation, and redevelopment of vacant land -- qualities that make for a nice place to live.

Smart growth efforts also preserves community identity and expands economic opportunity.

Winners were selected based on how effectively they used smart growth strategies to improve their communities and how well they engaged citizens and fostered partnerships.

The details are available online on the EPA's Smart Growth Achievement page, but here are some highlights revealing why the winning communities are smart growth leaders.

  • The award for "Overall Excellence" went to the Housing Authority of Portland, OR. The agency created a public-private partnership to redevelop an isolated and distressed public housing site into New Columbia, where local residents engaged in design workshops and were employed for portions of the construction. The project increased the number of houses, including affordable units and maintained the neighborhood's ethnic diversity.
  • For "Built Projects" the Seattle Housing Authority, similarly turned a dilapidated neighborhood into High Point, a mixed-use, mixed-income, and environmentally sensitive community. Using green building principles, High Point's more than 1,700 new units are expected to consume less water, electricity, and natural gas than the old community's 716 units. The new community includes new parks, a public library, and a health clinic. Retail space will come in 2009.
  • The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) got the nod for "Policies and Regulations." The independent, state-supported agency, promotes compact settlements surrounded by countryside, pursues affordable housing, land conservation, and historic preservation initiatives. Since 2002, VHCB investments have supported developing more than 3,000 affordable homes, the preservation of 44 historic buildings, and the conservation of more than 37,000 acres of farmland, natural areas, and recreation lands.
  • Barnstable, MA, created a development strategy for one of its seven villages, Hyannis, to encourage growth and development in the town center and reduce growth pressure on environmentally sensitive areas along the coast to win the "Waterfront and Coastal Communities" award. These policies have resulted in almost 100 new residential units (nine of which are for lower-income households), with nearly 150 more planned; 22,000 square feet of commercial space, with another 100,000 square feet planned; and more than 300 jobs.
  • Manhattan shines in the area of "Equitable Development" thanks to its cooperative strategy to expand the housing and commercial options for central Harlem. Work in the Abyssinian Neighborhood Project area, once marked by vacant lots and abandoned buildings, employed comprehensive programs linked education, job training, and cultural enhancement; developed 200 affordable housing units, with an additional 200 planned; and created 15,000 square feet of commercial space for five local businesses. The project also increased access to public transit, created new green space, and minimized storm water runoff by reusing paved surfaces.
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