On a very basic level, Smart Growth is an urban planning and development strategy for community improvement. The focus is on walkability, rehabilitation of old structures, compact design, preservation of open space and farmland, and a variety of transportation options, to name a few. Smart Growth also encourages involvement and collaboration from the community and stakeholders, so that the people who will be living in the community have a say in the future of their town, city, or neighborhood.
As I was struggling to come up with a more concise definition, I stumbled upon this one from the EPA which I think works nicely:
“Smart growth” covers a range of development and conservation strategies that help protect our health and natural environment and make our communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.
The main idea behind Smart Growth is that more compact, urban neighborhoods will avoid urban sprawl. Urban sprawl has been with us since the use of personal automobiles ramped up in the 1960’s, facilitated by the Federal Highway Act of 1956. Smart Growth aims to make neighborhoods more walkable, with better streets that will accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation, with all the amenities people desire (such as grocery stores, schools, libraries, and employment opportunities) contained within the neighborhood itself. Ideally, the use of cars should be minimal.
There is also a social component to Smart Growth, in that young and old people could theoretically live in the same area. The older generations are no longer wanting to live in the suburbs, in the large homes where they raised their kids. Denser neighborhoods provide older folks with more opportunities to socialize, exercise, and remain active in their community. Smart Growth encourages diversity in population and housing availability, and price range. Mixed-use developments (which include not only housing but stores, entertainment, and restaurants all in one building) are especially supported by Smart Growth, because they encourage density and decrease the need for automobiles.
For more information, check out the following websites:
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