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Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities

Appendix A: Case Studies of Federal Support for Sustainable Rural Communities

Across the country, rural communities are creating development that strengthens their economies, takes advantage of assets like traditional Main Streets and agricultural lands, and provides residents with more housing and transportation choices. These case studies are examples of rural communities working with federal agencies to attain their quality of life, environmental, and economic goals. These case studies are in alphabetical order by state.

Grand Canyon National Park: Enhancing Visitor Experiences through Multimodal Transportation Improvements

Visitor center building 2 people at the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon National Park sign. Group of people at an observation area.

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Focus: Multimodal transportation improvements

Partners:

U.S. Department of Transportation

National Park Service

Funding:

Federal Lands Highway Program

Project Description:

To ensure positive experiences for the Grand Canyon National Park’s 5 million visitors each year, the Federal Lands Highway Program supported enhanced shuttle services within and outside the park, bike rental facilities, pedestrian facility upgrades, and other transportation improvements.

Established in 1919, Grand Canyon National Park is an icon in the national parks system. The canyon itself includes over 277 river miles and can be as much as 18 miles wide and a mile deep. The park is home to breathtaking and unique geographic features and important archeological and cultural resources.

In 2007, the National Park Service and the Forest Service conducted the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan Environmental Assessment to address the park’s pressing traffic, parking, and access issues, specifically those in Grand Canyon Village, where many visitors stay. Most of the components of the plan have been or are being implemented.

Project Components:

Livability Principles Addressed:

Provide more transportation choices: Recognizing the park's worsening traffic, parking, and visitor access, the plan's implementation increases the transportation choices for getting to and around the park. With enhanced shuttle service and bike rentals available, visitors have transportation options that allow them to connect more closely with their environment while reducing congestion. Additionally, the shuttle service provides another transportation option to park employees, many of whom live along its route inside the park.

Enhance economic competitiveness: Providing enhanced transportation services to nearby gateway communities can strengthen their economies. For example, the shuttle service increases visitors' access to the hotels and restaurants in Tusayan.

Support existing communities: The South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan works with neighboring communities such as Tusayan to provide transportation to and from the national park, improving residents' access to the park and visitors' access to the community.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: Grand Canyon National Park is coordinating with the Arizona Department of Transportation on a complementary streetscape improvement project in Tusayan.

For more information about this project, contact:

Elijah Henley, DOT, elijah.henley@dot.gov

Federal Support for Sustainable Rural Communities

Case Studies

Lake Village: Reusing a Historic Building to Support Downtown

 

USDA Rural Development logo

Black and white streetscape photoRed brick 2-story building.

Photos: Historic Lake Village, John Tushek Building before renovation. Courtesy of Aaron Ruby.

Location: Lake Village, Arkansas

Focus: Historic preservation and downtown revitalization

Funding:

USDA Community Facilities Program: $840,000
Arkansas Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant Program: $750,000

Partners:

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development Arkansas State Office
City of Lake Village

Project Description:

In 2010, the community of Lake Village, Arkansas, population 2,823, received funding to rehabilitate a historic structure in its town center in an effort to consolidate public service providers into one location and channel future development into the Main Street area of an economically distressed community.

Like many small communities whose main streets have declined, Lake Village had seen public and private investments migrate to the outskirts of town over the years, leaving Main Street a shadow of its once-vibrant self. In an effort to reverse that trend, Lake Village leaders explored ways to revitalize their community and decided that reusing an existing building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, would be one way to provide a boost to the community. With the mayor, police, and court clerk all using inadequate spaces in separate buildings, the town hoped that combining those departments into one centrally located building would help provide services to the community more efficiently while also bringing people and economic activity back to Main Street.    

Once complete, the historic John Tushek Building will be among the first LEED-certified buildings in Arkansas, will be the home of all the town’s public service providers, and will be a gathering place that, in the coming years, can help attract other offices and businesses to locate on Main Street.

Outline of Arkansas showing Lake Village in the southeast corner.

Community Outreach:

In the 1990s, the local chamber of commerce decided to retain a downtown location rather than relocate out of the town center to the nearby state highway. Supporting this decision, economic consultants recommended to the city council in 2006 that city administrative services be consolidated and located in the town center. The decision to redevelop the Tushek Building resulted from this strategic planning process.

Street map showing neighborhood outreach center, City Hall Tushek Building, and armory. Livability Principles Addressed:

Enhance economic competitiveness: By consolidating public services into one building, Lake Village will create a critical mass of employment downtown, which can help attract other businesses to Main Street and renew its vitality.

Support existing communities:  Using an existing building is a more efficient use of scarce resources than building a new facility, and all the utilities needed to serve it, from scratch.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: Combining USDA-Rural Development and state funds is enabling the city to rehabilitate the Tushek Building using LEED development standards, which will reduce energy costs and advance the community’s goal of revitalizing its Main Street.

Value communities and neighborhoods: Rehabilitation and reuse of the Tushek Building as a civic space is a testimony to the community’s appreciation for this historic asset, as well as for their distinctive Main Street and the surrounding neighborhoods.  

For more information about this project, contact:

Steve Horsman, USDA-Rural Development Arkansas State Office, 870-367-8400, steve.horsman@ar.usda.gov

Waverly: Disaster Resiliency Through Smart Planning

A city street with 2-way traffic. Two, 2-story brick buildings. Two tables of people at a meeting.
Photos, left to right: Downtown Waverly Market Study Summary, Downtown Waverly Market Study Summary, EPA

Location: Waverly, Iowa

Focus: Disaster resiliency and mitigation through smart growth

Funding:
EPA: About $60,000
FEMA: About $5,000

Partners:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Rebuild Iowa Office
Iowa Department of Economic Development
Iowa Northland Region Council of Governments
City of Waverly

Project Description:

The city of Waverly, Iowa (population 8,968) was one of several Iowa communities selected by EPA and FEMA to receive technical assistance to help recover from flooding that took place in June 2008. Recognizing an opportunity to prepare for future challenges, the city asked for assistance with conducting an audit of its policies and development regulations to assess whether the policies integrated smart growth concepts and approaches, identifying green infrastructure strategies that could connect vacant lots in the city as part of a larger open space plan, and exploring options for infill and affordable, mixed-income housing.

EPA, USDA, FEMA, and other partners assembled a technical assistance team of national experts in community design and planning. At the Waverly Smart Planning Workshop on May 26-27, 2010, the team worked with the community to help the city develop policies and project designs that could be incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan. The event included a tour of the city, meetings with stakeholders to discuss preliminary policy ideas, a community workshop to present draft policy ideas and project designs, and a community open house to gather feedback on refined policy ideas and project designs.

Based on the input gathered during the Waverly Smart Planning Workshop, the technical assistance team developed a memo outlining policy options and project design ideas that the city is now using to inform its Open Space Master Plan and the comprehensive plan, which is being revised. The city is already beginning to implement many of the concepts discussed at the workshop, including community gardens, complete streets with bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, mixed-use development, and affordable housing.

Dry Run Creek open space network concept plan mapCommunity Outreach:

Community involvement was an important part of the Waverly Smart Planning Workshop. The planning team conducted interviews with stakeholders prior to the workshop to help shape and refine initial options. The city of Waverly also conducted public outreach to ensure that stakeholders were represented throughout the workshop. The city’s comprehensive plan revision process, which is building on the work that was done at the workshop, also involves significant public outreach.

Livability Principles Addressed:

Provide more transportation choices: The Smart Planning Workshop discussed strategies for better connecting Waverly’s street grid, making it easier to walk and bicycle in the city.

Promote equitable, affordable housing: The workshop explored building affordable and workforce housing in areas that are adjacent to existing neighborhoods, allowing future residents to live close to jobs, schools, and other amenities.

Enhance economic competitiveness: The options developed in the workshop can position Waverly to attract and retain residents, to enhance local businesses, and to build on its existing economic assets.

Support existing communities:  The policy options would support and enhance existing neighborhoods in the city.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: USDA Rural Development’s involvement in the workshop provided an opportunity to explore how USDA funds could help implement the smart growth strategies discussed during the workshop.

Value communities and neighborhoods: The workshop highlighted many of Waverly’s great qualities and provided options for the city to consider on how to build on those assets.

Groupl of people looking at a large map.

Photos courtesy of EPA

For more information about this project, contact:
Stephanie Bertaina, EPA
202-566-0157
bertaina.stephanie@epa.gov 

Greensburg:  Rebuilding a Community with Green Design  

A red building with slanted roof.A rectangular glass building. Planters with shrubbery.

Location:  Greensburg, Kansas

Focus: Greensburg has embraced green building, sustainable design, and renewable energy strategies as the community rebuilds after a devastating tornado in 2007, including requiring public buildings to be certified LEED Platinum and developing a ten turbine wind farm.      

Federal Partners:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Commerce (Economic
   Development Administration)
U.S. Department of Energy (National 
   Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Small Business Administration

Project Description:

On May 4, 2007, Greensburg was hit by an EF-5 tornado which killed 11 people and destroyed 95% of the city.   In the wake of the tragedy, those residents who chose to return to Greensburg decided to rebuild the city by embracing green building, sustainable design, and renewable energy. In December 2007, as part of its recovery plan, Greensburg passed a resolution requiring all new public buildings to achieve a LEED Platinum rating. These buildings utilize wind turbines, solar panels, high-efficiency windows, recycled materials, and other techniques which reduce energy consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy bills. Additionally, the city receives its power from a ten turbine wind farm which provides enough energy to serve Greensburg and nearby communities.

Prior to the 2007 tornado, Greensburg had been facing economic challenges common to many other small Midwestern communities. Impacted by changes in the agricultural industry, by the year 2000 Greensburg was a struggling city of 1,500 people with a per capita income of around $18,000.  After the destruction of the city, residents and local officials saw an opportunity to rebuild in a way that was “stronger, better, greener” –Greensburg’s new motto. 

Receiving assistance from many federal agencies as well as support at the state level, Greensburg has begun its path to a sustainable recovery.  Following the new guidelines established for the city under the 2007 green building resolution, Greensburg has built its school, city hall, hospital, county building, courthouse, and an arts center. The city hall was built with bricks that were collected from a power plant that was destroyed by the tornado and also utilizes geothermal heating and cooling and solar panels for energy. 

Wind turbine farmThe new K-12 school uses geothermal heat and a wind generator as well as other green systems that make the building 50 percent more efficient than if built under the traditional code. Additionally, in this time of fiscal challenges and constraints, Greensburg's new buildings provide a substantial amount of savings in energy costs. The new school saves an estimated $150,000 a year, the hospital around $120,000, and the courthouse $14,000. In addition to the city's new structures, Greensburg's Main Street has been redeveloped as a narrower, more walkable space. The street also utilizes a green stormwater design system that nourishes plants during the dry season with water collected and stored in underground cisterns. Main Street has also supported some of Greensburg's new businesses, including an insurance agency, coffee shop, home furnishings store, and others. The city established a “business incubator” to nurture new businesses by providing space at an affordable rent until the business is ready to expand.

Greensburg's wind farm, located three miles outside of the city, consists of ten 300 foot turbines. The wind farm produces 12.5 MW of energy, enough to generate power for the entire city as well as other nearby communities, making Greensburg a green energy provider for the region. Technical assistance for the wind farm, as well as for the city's master plan and energy-efficient buildings, was provided by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. FEMA was also instrumental in supporting the first phase of Greensburg's recovery efforts.

Following the disaster and the town's new commitment to sustainable redevelopment, the Greensburg GreenTown grassroots organization was established to support residents, businesses, and the local government in achieving its vision. GreenTown has launched a variety of programs, including technical assistance, educational trainings, fundraising initiatives for local sustainable development projects, and a GreenTour map and book for visitors and residents. GreenTown also created the “Chain of Eco-Homes” project, featuring model green homes built to educate local residents and attract visitors who pay to stay in the homes as overnight guests. Local residents have also adopted many of the green building techniques in their own new home construction, such as double-pane windows, thicker walls, solar panels, and geo-thermal heating.

Greensburg has embraced its role as a model green town and is turning its strategy into a commercial venture not only through its wind farm and green jobs, but also through a budding eco-tourism industry. While Greensburg has always had visitors to see its 109 foot deep well (the largest hand-dug well of its kind), the city's green buildings are becoming the community's newest attractions.

Visitors pay around $100 dollars per night to stay in the Chain of Eco-Homes. Tours are also given for visitors to learn about Greensburg’s redevelopment plans.

Greensburg and GreenTown have worked hard to encourage other communities, especially those impacted by natural disasters, to adopt similar redevelopment strategies. Recently, a group of leaders from Reading, Kansas visited Greensburg to learn how to rebuild their town after a tornado hit in May 2011. Officials would like the city to serve as an example for other communities such as Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama seeking to rebuild sustainably after disasters.

For more information about this project, contact:

David Doyle, EPA
913-551-7667
doyle.david@epa.gov

Greening the Block in Bowling Green

Group of children in a classroom.Man working on a light fixture by a window.Three men on a porch.

Photos courtesy of HUD and the Housing Authority of Bowling Green

Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky

Focus: Home energy efficiency, access to opportunity

Funding:

HUD: About $1.28 million

Partners:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of Energy
Housing Authority of Bowling Green
Kentucky Housing Corporation
Community Action of Southern Kentucky, Inc.
Barren River  Area Development District Workforce Investment Board

Project Description:

The Housing Authority of Bowling Green (population 56,000) used funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to replace more than 2,000 old, inefficient windows in its public housing units with new energy-efficient windows. The Housing Authority, HUD, and the Kentucky Housing Corporation partnered with Green the Block, the local Workforce Investment Board, and the local Community Action Agency to connect low-income families with green jobs and environmental education opportunities. Green the Block, a partnership between Green for All and the Hip Hop Caucus, aims to ensure that low-income communities, particularly communities of color, participate in and have a voice in the clean energy economy.

Group of people in hard hats. Photo courtesy of HUD and the Housing Authority of Bowling Green.Livability Principles Addressed:

Promote equitable, affordable housing: Energy-efficient retrofits of public housing units help keep energy costs low, making these homes more affordable for low-income residents of Bowling Green.

Enhance economic competitiveness: Thirty percent more Bowling Green residents have enrolled in colleges, technical trade schools, and other post-high school educational programs since 2008. Training for green jobs improves the local workforce's competitiveness.

Support existing communities: The retrofit of public housing and other homes helps local families stay in their communities.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: HUD funding to retrofit public housing units not only preserved affordable housing, but also created a larger local market for weatherization services, taking better advantage of Department of Labor programs that train residents for these jobs. These programs also work in tandem with the Department of Energy's weatherization assistance to low-income families, providing even more jobs for these trained workers.

For more information about this project, contact:

Krista Mills
HUD Louisville
502-618-8140
Krista.Mills@hud.gov

Downeast Transportation and Island Explorer

picture of DTI bus in front of Ellsworth City HallPhoto of a bus.Photo of a van and bike racks.

Photos, left to right: Downeast Transportation, Volpe Center, Downeast Transportation

Location: Hancock County, Maine

Focus: Rural transit

Funding:

FTA rural and job access funds
National Park Service
L.L.Bean and other local businesses
Municipalities

Partners:

Federal Transit Administration
National Park Service
Maine Department of Transportation
Friends of Acadia
L.L.Bean
Jackson Laboratories
Communities in Hancock County

Project Description:

Downeast Transportation, a private non-profit agency, partners with public and private entities to provide seasonal and year-round transportation services. The 12 Downeast routes connect the towns of Bangor, Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, Ellsworth, and Southwest Harbor. Residents and visitors rely on the service to access jobs, shopping, ferry terminals, trails, and recreation. All transit vehicles carry bicycles, further expanding the range of destinations reachable by transit.

Downeast Transportation runs two primary services—commuter access to major employers such as Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor and the Island Explorer shuttle system on Mount Desert Island. Downeast routes bring employees from as far as 60 miles away to Jackson Laboratories and nearby businesses and support multiple shifts. Downeast helps employers create transit-friendly shifts so employees can ride transit to work. Downeast leverages FTA jobs access funds to help provide other transit service in the county at off-peak times. To support riders with special needs, Downeast serves passengers at destinations up to three-quarters of a mile from the fixed-route service at no additional fee.

Through a partnership with the National Park Service, L.L.Bean, and local businesses, Downeast Transportation also operates the seasonal Island Explorer shuttle on Mount Desert Island. The eight routes serving Acadia National Park and the town of Bar Harbor carried more than 400,000 people in 2010. The service provides access to a variety of destinations, reducing pollution and traffic on congested roads. The system enhances the visitor experience by using intelligent transportation systems that provide real-time service information. Transit vehicles include bicycle racks and trailers to support longer trips.

map with labels that link to different services; shop in bangor, Stonington bus, shop in Ellsworth.Community Outreach:

Downeast Transportation began as support for the “Meals for Me” program, bringing seniors to meals, community centers, shopping, and medical appointments. It has evolved to provide access to a range of services to meet community needs.

Downeast is planning a new Welcome Center in Trenton to include offices, vehicle storage and maintenance, an intermodal transit facility, and an Acadia Gateway Visitor Center. This will provide better access to the region for inter-city and day visitors.

Livability Principles Addressed:

Provide more transportation choices: Downeast’s services provide visitors, residents, and commuters with additional travel options. Bicycle racks and trailers on vehicles further expand the range of destinations accessible by transit.

Enhance economic competitiveness: Commuter services accommodate multiple shifts, providing flexibility to support both employers and employees.  Access to businesses and tourist destinations supports the local economy.

Support existing communities: Hancock County residents rely on Downeast Transportation services to commute to work, access nearby shopping, and travel to neighboring towns. The seasonal Island Explorer helps to maintain community character by reducing traffic congestion and pollution and supporting the local community.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: Downeast has partnered with public and private entities, securing long-term funding support from the NPS and L.L. Bean for the Island Explorer service. The agency also creatively combines federal funding sources to better support year-round access to jobs and services throughout Hancock County.

Paul Murphy
Downeast Transportation, General Manager
Paul@ExploreAcadia.com

Peter Butler
Director, Planning and Program Dev.
Federal Transit Administration
Peter.Butler@dot.gov

Prepared for FTA by the U.S. DOT Volpe
National Transportation Systems Center
This case study, and others related to Livable
and Sustainable Communities, is available at:
http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/maine.pdf

Opportunity Link: Making Connections with Transit

North Central Montaana transit monthly ridershipo September 2009 to June 2010. Ridership increased until April and May with a sharp increase in June. A man with two children getting off a bus.Opportunity Link. Uniting people. Linking resources. Fighting poverty.

Photos courtesy of Opportunity Link

Location: North central Montana

Focus: Rural and tribal transportation

Partners:

U.S. Department of Transportation

Funding:

Government, business, social service organizations, and educational institutions

Project Description:

With the nearest metropolitan area over 100 miles away, residents of north central Montana lacked access to jobs, educational opportunities, medical case, shopping, and other needed destinations and services. In response to this challenge, Opportunity Link, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce poverty, engaged a broad range of community stakeholders in a regional planning process in 2007. This planning effort convened an unprecedented partnership of government, businesses, and educational institutions from remote tribal and rural communities to explore public transit options. The outcome was the creation of four new rural transit systems: North Central Montana Transit in Hill and Blaine Counties, Fort Belknap Transit Service at Fort Belknap Indian Community, Rocky Boy Transit at the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Rocky Boy Reservation, and Northern Transit Interlocal serving Toole, Pondera, and Teton Counties. Each is designed to respond to the most pressing transportation needs of low-income residents as identified through a needs assessment.

Livability Principles Addressed:

Provide more transportation choices: Opportunity Link enhances transportation options for rural residents, which is particularly important for those who do not have access to private vehicles.

Enhance economic competitiveness: By linking residents of formerly isolated rural towns and tribal reservations, Opportunity Link provides low-income residents with dependable transportation to employment and schooling, enhancing their ability to obtain and keep good jobs and earn a living.

Support existing communities: Opportunity Link serves existing rural towns and neighborhoods, helping to keep them viable places to live.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: Opportunity Link coordinated funding contributions from government, businesses, social service organizations, and educational institutions, demonstrating an ability to leverage private, local, and federal funds to develop and operate public transportation services.

Map showing Glacier, Pondera, Teton, Liberty, Chouteau, Hill, Blaine, and Phillips.

For more information about this project, see:

http://www.opportunitylinkmt.org/downloads.php

Maupin Market: Modernizing a Small Town Grocery Store

Maupin MarketMaupin Deschutes Street

Photos courtesy of Dennis Ross, Mayor of Maupin

Location: Maupin, Oregon

Focus: Modernizing a rural downtown grocery store

Partners:

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development
City of Maupin

Funding:

Local bank: $400,000
Small Business Administration: $279,000
Business owner equity: $100,000
Mid-Columbia Economic Development District loan (via USDA-RD Intermediary Relending Program): $100,000

Project Description:

The town of Maupin, Oregon, population 411, is located along the Deschutes River, one of the nation’s prime fishing and whitewater rafting streams, and is the most popular destination point along the river. Just 90 minutes from the Portland metropolitan area, Maupin is both a recreation hub and a business service center for the surrounding rural area. Once a typical Oregon mill town, the economy began the transition away from timber in the 1990s and is now dominated by the outdoor recreation market.

When the town’s only grocery store was considering closing after 90 years, which would have meant residents would have to travel 40 miles to the next closest grocery store, a vacation homeowner decided to step up and buy the business. After initially considering constructing a new building on the edge of town, the business owner, with encouragement from city leaders, instead opted to purchase and renovate the existing store, which is in the midst of the town’s small business district.

A combination of private-sector and federal agency loans helped bring this business proposal to fruition. The result is a completely remodeled building on Maupin’s main street, bringing new vitality to its downtown while maintaining a critical community service.

Outline of Oregon showing Maupin near the center, north.Community Outreach:

In 2005, Maupin’s leaders held community meetings to develop a strategic plan. The plan called for reinvestment in the town’s historic center where infrastructure already existed and for better walking conditions for the town’s many senior residents.

Livability Principles Addressed:

Enhance economic competitiveness: Maintaining a full-service market on the main street keeps residents and visitors coming into downtown Maupin, enhancing the viability of other local businesses and the attractiveness of the town as a place to live and vacation.

Support existing communities:  Choosing a centrally located site for the reopened grocery store over a more remote site takes advantage of existing infrastructure and saves public resources that might be required to develop a new site.

Maupin detailed mapCoordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: After typical private loans for business and construction were secured, an additional USDA-RD loan was essential for covering up-front inventory costs.

Value communities and neighborhoods: Keeping the newly opened Maupin Market on Deschutes Avenue, the town’s main street, provides an easily accessible service that strengthens the historic town center.

For more information about this project, contact:

Chris Beck, USDA, Chris.Beck@osec.usda.gov

Howard: Bringing Green Opportunities and Strengthening Downtown

Howard Rural Learning Center rendering_Rural Learning CenterHoward Rural Learning Center rendering2_Rural Learning Center, aerial view.

Images courtesy of Rural Learning Center

Location: Howard, South Dakota

Focus: Economic development, main street revitalization, green energy

Funding:

USDA American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $3,200,000 guaranteed loan
USDA Rural Economic Development Loan Program: $740,000 loan and $300,000 grant
Northeast South Dakota Economic Corporation: $150,000
Grow South Dakota revolving loan fund: $100,000

Partners:

U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development
City of Howard, Miner County
Heartland Consumer Power District
Howard Industries
Citi Foundation

Project Description:

In an effort to spur economic development, Miner County leaders developed a plan for a rural learning center that, in addition to being a community gathering place, will train rural residents on new economic opportunities in rural South Dakota.  

In the past 70 years, Miner County has seen a 40 percent decline in farms and businesses and has recently begun diversifying its economy with non-agricultural industries. As a strategy to reduce energy costs and create more business opportunities, the community is developing renewable energy industries. Wind turbines are dotting the landscape, and other green projects are underway.

In 2001, Miner County’s efforts were given a boost when the Northwest Area Foundation committed to invest $5.8 million in the Miner County Community Revitalization program over a ten-year period. This support, and the increased revitalization activity it generated, eventually led to a proposal for a Rural Learning Center. Although 40 acres on the outskirts of town were offered free of cost for the center, the project’s leaders believed that a more central location on Main Street, while more expensive, would bring more benefits to the community and the local economy. With its location in the heart of Howard, a town of 1,071 people, and its goal of LEED platinum building certification, the Maroney Rural Learning Center demonstrates the community’s commitment to downtown revitalization and the new green economy.  

Outline of South Dakota showing Howard center, east.Community Outreach:

In the 1990s, public concern over the future of Miner County eventually led to the establishment of Miner County Community Revitalization, a predecessor organization to the Maroney Rural Learning Center. Rural Learning Center leaders engaged the community in a public process that ultimately resulted in the adoption and implementation of a strategic vision and plan for Miner County

Livability Principles Addressed:

Enhance economic competitiveness: Establishment of the Maroney Rural Learning Center and related convention facilities will enhance business opportunities in Howard. In addition to new employees, an influx of visitors will create new markets for Main Street businesses. Increased sales tax revenues will support future infrastructure investments in town.

Howard detailed mapSupport existing communities:  Using a centrally located site takes advantage of existing community infrastructure and saves public resources that might be required for developing a new site outside of town.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: The Maroney Rural Learning Center combines funding from various federal, state, and private sources to support the community’s goals of promoting economic development, revitalizing its Main Street, and saving money on energy costs.

Value communities and neighborhoods: The Maroney Rural Learning Center’s location in the heart of Howard strengthens and builds off of Howard’s distinctive business district and adjacent neighborhoods.

For more information about this project, contact:
Joe Bartmann, Rural Learning Center, 605-772-5153, joe@rurallearningcenter.org

Renewing the Community in Thunder Valley

A fenced in area.Oyate Omniciye Oglala Lakota Plan logoLarge group of kids in a classroom with Native American designs.

Location: Pine Ridge Reservation (Oglala Lakota tribe), South Dakota

Focus: Community building and preservation, economic development

Funding:

HUD: $996,100

Partners:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation
BNIM, Inc.
inNative
Tribal President’s Office

Project Description:

With support from HUD’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corportation and the Oglala Lakota Tribe are leading an effort to develop a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development in their remote area of southwestern South Dakota covering the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The reservation has no active planning department, and this will be its first comprehensive and integrated plan.

Oglala Lakota community members hope the plan will help address the long standing challenges they have faced. Economic opportunity is scarce on the reservation, and the unemployment rate is near 47 percent. Additionally, many low-income families cannot find affordable housing and end up leaving the reservation, moving into crowded households with family members, or joining the reservation’s homeless population. The Tribal Council estimates that at least 4,000 new homes are needed. Residents also have limited access to services. There is one medium-sized grocery store on the reservation and no bank. 80 percent of the money spent on retail is spent outside the reservation.

HUD funding is enabling the reservation’s Housing Authority, Environmental Protection Program, Chamber of Commerce, Health Administration, and other agencies to collaborate on the development of the regional plan. These local partners are supported by BNIM, Inc., a private firm with experience working with rural and tribal communities. BNIM has placed a full-time staff member on the reservation in order to better understand the priorities and visions of the community.

Large group of kids sitting in a circle in a classroom.Livability Principles Addressed:

Promote equitable, affordable housing: To address the reservation’s housing shortage, the consortium will conduct a housing and market analysis that takes into account employment patterns, regional industries, tourism trends, and local skills.

Enhance economic competitiveness: The consortium will identify sectors that could be competitive in the regional economy, clarify business regulations to enhance access to capital, and increase worker opportunities through skills training, especially for the youth population.

Support existing communities: Planning that strengthens tribal culture, rebuilds the spiritual fibers of society, and preserves the unique knowledge of the Lakota is at the heart of the consortium’s work. The Oglala Lakota language and cultural traditions are the foundations of any planning process, whether it is for economic development, housing, or transportation.  Planning will draw on Lakota values and focus on self-sufficiency.

Woman with a large pad of paper and a group of people sitting at a table.Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: The consortium has recognized the importance of leveraging this HUD grant to obtain resources from other agencies. They have already reached out to various agencies’ field offices to help identify applicable funding sources for projects on the reservation.

Value communities and neighborhoods: The plan seeks to continue the healing and strengthening of the Oglala Lakota people by bolstering identity and opportunity through the unique perspective of Lakota knowledge, culture, and language.

Community Involvement:

Residents will be involved in all stages of the planning process. Members of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation attend community meetings, and a steering committee will be appointed to make decisions about the plan. The consortium has changed its name to Oyate Omniciyé, a Lakota phrase meaning “Circle Meetings of the People,” to better reflect the cultural community-based process they will use in developing the plan.

Youth involvement is particularly important to ensure broad community support for the plan. Project staff are using Facebook, where the project has over 300 fans, and also appearing on radio shows to discuss what sustainable community planning means for the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The planning process being led by Oyate Omniciyé is a model for tribes around the country. The work being done by the Oglala Lakota is now nationally known in tribal circles, and they are sharing their experience and encouraging other tribes to develop collaborative planning efforts and applications for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program.

For more information about this project, contact:

Dwayne Marsh, HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities
Dwayne.S.Marsh@hud.gov

Tennessee Intercity Bus Program: Providing Rural Opportunity

New bus provided by FTA and TDOT

Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Transportation

Location: Rural Tennessee

Focus: Rural transit, access to opportunity

Partners:

U.S. Department of Transportation

Funding:

DOT: $3.1 million

Project Description:

In response to growing public demand, the State of Tennessee implemented the Tennessee Intercity Bus Demonstration Program in 2008. The intercity bus program provides Tennesseans in rural areas with reliable daily access to health care, jobs, schools, and other destinations in the state’s metropolitan areas. It offers the Amish community and other rural residents more transportation choice and greater access to opportunities and services.

Livability Principles Addressed:

Provide more transportation choices: This program increases transportation choices, particularly for citizens in rural areas who do not drive.

Enhance economic competitiveness: The intercity bus program boosts the economic competitiveness of rural residents by connecting them to employment and education in metropolitan areas, allowing them to make a living and build their skills.

Support existing communities: The bus routes serve many rural towns and village centers, making them more attractive to new and existing residents.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment: The project was implemented through coordination among many stakeholders, including the Nashville metropolitan planning organization and local city and county officials from 15 counties.

Map of intercity bus network

Image courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Transportation

For more information about this project, see:

http://www.fta.dot.gov/13747_10999.html

Ranson-Charles Town Corridor Revitalization

Red brick four story building, City of Ranson sign, and a red brick 2 story building with stained glass.

Photos courtesy of City of Ranson

Location: Ranson and Charles Town, West Virginia

Focus: Corridor revitalization, complete streets, green infrastructure

Funding:

HUD: $271,500
DOT: $708,500
EPA: $620,000
West Virginia Department of Transportation: $174,000

Partners:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Transportation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
West Virginia Department of Transportation

Project Description:
Ranson and its partner community, Charles Town, launched the Commerce Corridor Initiative in 1999 to revitalize a corridor that runs through their nearby downtowns.  More recently, the two cities launched a complete street/green corridor revitalization project for a boulevard that intersects the commerce corridor.  The two cities have received almost $2 million in federal and state grants to help support the two projects.

The cities of Ranson and Charles Town, with populations of 4,000 and 4,274 respectively, are combating the effects of recent manufacturing and other facility closures, as well as increasing growth pressures from the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. In the past several years, Ranson alone has lost more than 1,500 jobs, leaving the community with contaminated, idled, and vacant sites and a downtown area that was increasingly falling into disrepair. At the same time, the Jefferson County population has steadily grown, transforming the rural area into an exurb, with few strategies to guide the growth. More than 25 percent of nearby residents live below the poverty line. Furthermore, over the years, the main corridor between the two towns has turned into an auto-dominated roadway that is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists due to the lack of sidewalks and safe cross-walks. To combat the disrepair, preserve the character and history of the towns, and promote economic development, the cities of Ranson and Charles Town have developed two corridor revitalization initiatives.

Charles Washington Commuter Center map showing Powhatan Place, Green Corridor, and Lakeland Place along Fairfax Boulevard.In 1999, Ranson and Charles Town launched the Commerce Corridor Initiative with the goal of creating a high-tech commerce corridor, complete with high-tech and commercial offices, retail, entertainment amenities, infill housing, parks and recreational areas, and government facilities. It will be located on a corridor of formerly vacant properties, many of which are brownfield sites, that runs through the cities’ downtowns. The cities put together a Commerce Corridor Council to advise the effort, and several city resolutions and agreements advanced the initiative.

Ranson and Charles Town received federal financial support from EPA to help fund brownfields assessment, the creation of clean up and reuse plans for certain sites, and community outreach efforts. EPA awarded Ranson and Charles Town Brownfields Assessment Grants in 2001, 2004, and 2006. More recently, they received an EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program grant in 2010 to help them develop an area-wide plan. The area-wide plan will help Ranson and Charles Town prioritize brownfields site assessment and clean up and develop site-specific reuse plans based on community input.

Ranson also received EPA Sustainable Communities Building Blocks assistance to help the city identify and address common barriers to smart growth implementation and help them develop in a way that is environmentally and economically sustainable.

Ranson and Charles Town have already made some progress in their goal of economic revitalization in the commerce corridor. For example, Powhatan Place is a new, mixed-use, infill development that is designed to meet LEED for Neighborhood Development standards and is located on the site of a former foundry. The development includes a mix of housing types, stores, public spaces, recreation areas, trails, and green infrastructure elements to manage stormwater runoff.

In a related effort, Ranson and Charles Town recently received DOT TIGER II and state funding to redesign the Fairfax Boulevard-George Street corridor, which runs through both downtowns and intersects the commerce corridor. This boulevard will become a “complete street,” a street designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders. It will also incorporate green infrastructure elements. Additionally, these funds will support the redesign of an adjacent historic building as a new regional commuter center in downtown Charles Town, which will provide residents and workers with access to regional rail and bus transit. 

A HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant will help Ranson create a new zoning code to foster environmentally and economically sustainable community development. The code will link a green downtown overlay district with a new zoning approach for the city’s undeveloped, outlying areas. This effort will help Ranson and Charles Town create a vibrant, mixed-use corridor that is transit-oriented, walkable, and bikeable and that provides access to regional job centers and community facilities.

Stakeholder involvement has been important in many of the assessment, planning, and revitalization efforts and will continue to be vital. For example, city of Ranson staff and consultants will work with community members to determine the vision for the complete street design and the preliminary sketches for the commuter center. In addition, they will host a two-day public workshop on zoning codes and a seven-day workshop to produce illustrative plans for mixed-use corridor redevelopment and the downtown green overlay district.

Updated: 06/07/2012
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