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Greening America's Capitals


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Background

Greening America's Capitals is an EPA program to help state capitals develop an implementable vision of environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporate innovative green infrastructure strategies. In collaboration with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, EPA provides design assistance to help support sustainable communities that protect the environment, economy, and public health and to inspire state leaders to expand this work elsewhere.

EPA funds a team of designers to visit each city to produce schematic designs and exciting illustrations intended to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood. Additionally, these pilots are often the testing ground for citywide actions, such as changes to local codes and ordinances to better support sustainable growth and green infrastructure. The design team and EPA, HUD, and DOT staff also assist city staff in developing specific implementation strategies.

Greening America's Capitals helps communities consider ways to incorporate sustainable design strategies into their planning and development to create and enhance distinctive neighborhoods with multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits. The 2014 Request for Letters of Interest opened June 23 and closed on July 21, 2014. The recipients will be announced in September. Read the Request for Letters of Interest (PDF) (5 pp, 214K) .

Please contact Abby Hall (415-972-3384, hall.abby@epa.gov) or Clark Wilson (202-566-2880, wilson.clark@epa.gov) if you have any questions.

Lessons from Greening America’s Capitals Projects

The cities that have received assistance through the Greening America’s Capitals program are all trying to be greener. They are certainly not alone—communities across the country, large and small, are trying to do the same. This pamphlet describes five lessons from the first two rounds of projects that can help all communities incorporate green design strategies into their planning and development. As these capital city projects demonstrate, green, sustainable design can create and enhance interesting, distinctive neighborhoods that have multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits. These lessons can help other communities grow and develop in a greener way.

Lessons from Greening America's Capitals Projects (PDF) (6 pp, 2.6MB).

Communities selected in 2013

The following projects were selected in 2013:

Lansing, Michigan

Lansing will receive assistance to develop options for transforming a 14-acre parking lot between the state capitol and Hall of Justice into a public park that showcases green infrastructure and renewable energy technologies. The design assistance aims to help reduce combined sewer overflows, prevent flooding, reduce the heat island effect, beautify the public spaces near major civic buildings, and connect pedestrian walkways and public transit to community and state institutions.

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Madison, Wisconsin

Madison will receive assistance to explore improving streets for pedestrians and bicyclists and adding green infrastructure, such as trees and rain gardens, to streets in the Triangle Neighborhood. The project aims to make it easier for residents to access nearby transit, open spaces, and the Monona Bay, and could also help improve water quality in the bay.

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Montpelier, Vermont

Montpelier will receive assistance to improve the pedestrian and bicycle connections in its historic downtown. The city is also concerned about flooding along the Winooski River as climate change is projected to make rainfall events more intense. The project will lay out a vision for how the city could use green infrastructure in its streets and parking lots to manage and treat stormwater to reduce runoff into the river.

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Olympia, Washington

Olympia will receive assistance to incorporate green infrastructure along Capitol Way to reduce stormwater runoff, improve access to businesses and the waterfront, and adapt to climate change. The project aims to strengthen connections between the capitol campus and downtown, encouraging people to walk and bike to shops and restaurants.

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Read the blog post by Joel Beauvais, Associate Administrator for EPA's Office of Policy, about the Greening America's Capitals projects selected in 2013.

 

Communities selected in 2012

The projects selected in 2012 are:

The Downtown Greenway along East Boulevard in Baton Rouge is located in a median that once contained a streetcar line. Rain gardens are located on the side of the street to collect and treat stormwater runoff before it goes into the city's sewer system.

The Downtown Greenway along East Boulevard in Baton Rouge is located in a median that once contained a streetcar line. Rain gardens are located on the side of the street to collect and treat stormwater runoff before it goes into the city's sewer system.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge received assistance to plan a greenway in the heart of Louisiana's capital that will connect Louisiana State University with the downtown. The proposed greenway will be a 2.75-mile pedestrian and bicycling corridor that links neighborhoods to parks, businesses, and cultural attractions. The Greening America's Capitals project created design options that incorporate green infrastructure elements into the greenway plan, which provides environmental benefits while sparking new investments and redevelopment in the city's core. The city of Baton Rouge hopes this project will provide residents and visitors with options for walking and biking that reduce air pollution from automobile travel and encourage active and healthy lifestyles.

Report:

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A redesign option for 6th Avenue provides landscaped areas to absorb and clean stormwater, local art within public infrastructure, new bus shelters, and improvements to the street and crosswalks to help make walking and biking safe and enjoyable.

A redesign option for 6th Avenue provides landscaped areas to absorb and clean stormwater, local art within public infrastructure, new bus shelters, and improvements to the street and crosswalks to help make walking and biking safe and enjoyable.

Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines received assistance to incorporate green infrastructure elements into a proposed streetscape plan for a one-mile segment of 6th Avenue. The 6th Avenue corridor, which serves as the northern gateway to the city's downtown, is a Main Street Iowa Urban Neighborhood District with direct access to the Des Moines River. The Greening America's Capitals project created design options to revitalize this commercial street, such as wider sidewalks, narrower traffic lanes, better lighting, and improved bus stop shelters, as well as street trees, permeable pavement, and rain gardens to minimize stormwater runoff. The city council adopted the plan in November 2013 and expects to begin construction in two to three years.

Report:

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The design option for Capital Avenue at Second Street includes bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, wayfinding signage, seating, rain gardens, and street trees that would make the area approaching the Capitol Building more appealing and environmentally sustainable.

The design option for Capital Avenue at Second Street includes bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, wayfinding signage, seating, rain gardens, and street trees that would make the area approaching the Capitol Building more appealing and environmentally sustainable.

Frankfort,Kentucky

Frankfort received assistance to enhance the Second Street corridor between the historic downtown and the state capitol. The Greening America's Capital project created design options to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, better manage stormwater runoff, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, better manage stormwater runoff, improve connections to theKentucky River, and attract tourists and visitors to the commercial corridor. Taken together, these improvements would help create a greener, healthier, and safer environment that could revitalize the Second Street corridor.

Report:

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This design option for Last Chance Gulch shows a two-way street with on-street parking, pervious paving, shared lanes for bikes and vehicles, and new trees and stormwater planters.

This design option for Last Chance Gulch shows a two-way street with on-street parking, pervious paving, shared lanes for bikes and vehicles, and new trees and stormwater planters.

Helena, Montana

Helena received assistance to improve Last Chance Gulch, a street that connects the Helena business district with the historic downtown. Redevelopment in the northern part of Last Chance Gulch has added new office buildings, a new bank, and commercial and residential buildings. As redevelopment continues toward downtown, Greening America's Capitals can help the city and community stakeholders create a common vision that makes the street and intersections friendlier to walking and biking while maintaining the neighborhood's functionality for all users. The project can also help the city solve the challenges of a five-point intersection along Last Chance Gulch. Intersection improvements are designed to improve traffic flow, create safer crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve the connection to downtown.

Report:

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The redesign of the City-County Building Plaza in Indianapolis features a central green space for public gathering,Kiosks, and rain gardens to collect and treat stormwater runoff.

The redesign of the City-County Building Plaza in Indianapolis features a central green space for public gathering,Kiosks, and rain gardens to collect and treat stormwater runoff.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis received assistance to enhance the walkability of streets and revitalize public plazas in and around the Market Square Redevelopment Area. The area is a short walk from the Indiana Statehouse and an emerging multi-modal transportation hub connected to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The city plans to create a Green Cultural District in the area; Greening America's Capitals can help the city create a cohesive vision to ensure that redevelopment benefits the area's underserved community, while expanding economic opportunities and improving the environment.

Report:

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Communities selected in 2011

The projects selected in 2011 are:

This redesign of Congress Street illustrates more street trees, rain gardens to collect stormwater runoff, and raised crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety and comfort.

This redesign of Congress Street illustrates more street trees, rain gardens to collect stormwater runoff, and raised crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety and comfort.

Jackson, Mississippi

The Green Government Center is a Jackson initiative that is exploring retrofitting public spaces within a half-mile radius of the state capitol building with green technologies. These green technologies include solar-powered water fountains, indigenous and drought-tolerant landscaping, rain gardens for stormwater treatment, and permeable paving systems. The area includes the Farish Street Historic District, the city's oldest African-American community. Several major streets run through the area, including Congress Street, where the state capitol, the city hall, the governor's mansion, and other sites of historical significance are located.

The city requested assistance from the Greening America's Capitals design team to develop design concepts that use green technologies and green infrastructure for Congress Street and two public parks along the street. The city wants Congress Street to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly to better connect the civic buildings with adjacent neighborhoods and businesses. Another goal is for Congress Street to have a significant increase in street trees to provide more shade for pedestrians. The city hopes the design options for Congress Street can set an example of green development that can be used across the state.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Jackson, Mississippi 2012 (PDF) (28 pp, 3.1MB)

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This redesign option for 11th Street includes two-way bike lanes and a triangle of pervious pavement to filter stormwater.

This redesign option for 11th Street includes two-way bike lanes and a triangle of pervious pavement to filter stormwater.

Lincoln, Nebraska

The city of Lincoln is revitalizing the South Capitol neighborhood—a primarily residential neighborhood directly south of the capitol—through improvements to the neighborhood's streets and alleys. The neighborhood currently has deteriorating housing and businesses, wide streets, no bicycle lanes, aging sanitary sewer and water mains, and lower per-capita income than the rest of the city. The city has incorporated the Greening America's Capitals project into Mayor Chris Beutler's Stronger, Safer Neighborhood Initiative, which creates public-private partnerships to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood through ongoing community-building activities such as installing public art and sponsoring neighborhood-based, community-wide events.

The Greening America's Capitals team involved local residents in developing design options for the neighborhood's streets that improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety and comfort, add more street trees, and incorporate green infrastructure elements such as rain gardens to manage and treat stormwater runoff and make the streets more attractive. The city has installed curb bump-outs and new sidewalks alongKey intersections of 11th Street, as well as a roundabout with improved crossings for pedestrians. Later phases of implementation will include LED street lights, new sidewalks with permeable pavement, green infrastructure, bike lanes, colored pavement along the bike lanes, and bike racks.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Lincoln, NE (PDF) (58 pp, 6.4MB)

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A design option for a segment of the Selma to Montgomery trail that runs along the street and under the freeway overpass. Features include a shared bike and vehicle lanes ('sharrows'), permeable paving and rain gardens to absorb stormwater runoff, and trellises that could hold banners and lighting.

A design option for a segment of the Selma to Montgomery trail that runs along the street and under the freeway overpass. Features include a shared bike and vehicle lanes ("sharrows"), permeable paving and rain gardens to absorb stormwater runoff, and trellises that could hold banners and lighting.

Montgomery, Alabama

The city of Montgomery is working to revitalize and restore the historic Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. The city sees an opportunity to use the trail segment that runs beneath the I-65/I-85 interchange to reconnect downtown with Montgomery's west side—specifically, the Renaissance Neighborhood, the first green redevelopment project in the city.

The city asked for assistance to create design options for improvements to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail as it passes through the freeway interchange area. The design team explored how to increase shade, improve lighting, and reduce freeway noise for trail users. The city also asked for assistance to expand its climate change response planning. Like much of the inland southeast, projected climate changes include higher ambient temperature, decreased annual rainfall, and fewer but more intense storms. The design team looked for opportunities to increase green space to absorb stormwater runoff and help reduce the ambient air temperature.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Montgomery, AL (PDF) (49 pp, 4.4MB)

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This redesign of Grand Avenue illustrates a designated bike lane and rain gardens that collect stormwater runoff from the streets. Plants in the rain gardens are selected to be appropriate for the arid environment.

This redesign of Grand Avenue illustrates a designated bike lane and rain gardens that collect stormwater runoff from the streets. Plants in the rain gardens are selected to be appropriate for the arid environment.

Phoenix, Arizona

Lower Grand Avenue is in Phoenix's core and adjacent to downtown and the state capitol. Recent developments along Lower Grand Avenue reveal an emerging grassroots effort to revitalize the area. In 1998, a federally funded Weed and Seed project, which aimed to reduce violent crime by "weeding" out offenders and "seeding" community services, Kick-started a partnership among city, federal, and state agencies, as well as the local faith community, residents, businesses, and nonprofits. This partnership has led to a 40-percent reduction in violent crime over the last 10 years. Artists have colonized the street, taking advantage of inexpensive vacant and underused warehouse and shop spaces. The area is now a focus of an annual art festival and monthly First Fridays art events.

The city asked for assistance to improve the Lower Grand Avenue streetscape, making it more environmentally, pedestrian–, and bicycle–friendly while also maintaining the neighborhood's artistic character. The design team explored options that use green infrastructure techniques suitable for arid climates to capture and treat stormwater runoff. In October 2013, the city's Streets Department removed two traffic lanes from Lower Grand Avenue and added bright green bike lanes, planters, and painted crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Phoenix, Arizona 2012 (PDF) (44 pp, 5.6MB)

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A redesign option for Firth Sterling Avenue, which borders the Anacostia Metro station, includes a median refuge for pedestrians that would make it easier for people who cannot cross the street quickly to safely rest at the halfway point.

A redesign option for Firth Sterling Avenue, which borders the Anacostia Metro station, includes a median refuge for pedestrians that would make it easier for people who cannot cross the street quickly to safely rest at the halfway point.

Washington, D.C.

The Anacostia Metrorail station is on the east side of the Anacostia River, an area that Mayor Vincent Gray's administration has prioritized for improvements. The city expects this area to see significant increases in population and visitors due to development at the St. Elizabeth's West Campus (future home of the Department of Homeland Security), two mixed-income developments, and a proposed riverfront development at Poplar Point. This transit node will become an important asset in the community and the city. The city wants to improve the plaza at the Metrorail station and three intersections surrounding the station. Currently, the area lacks a distinctive character and, although it is next to the Anacostia River, it lacks pedestrian access to the river. The intersections surrounding the station are some of the city's most dangerous for pedestrians.

The city requested design assistance to improve connections between the Metrorail station and nearby neighborhoods and schools, the Anacostia business district, and the Anacostia River. The design team focused on safety concerns at the intersections, improved signage, increasing the overall permeability of the area to manage stormwater, and creating a strong community identity.

Report:

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Communities selected in 2010

The projects selected in 2010 are:

A redesign option for Boston's City Hall Plaza.

A redesign option for Boston's City Hall Plaza includes the addition of trees and new steps and walking paths that address steep grade changes in this active public space.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston City Hall lies in the heart of downtown, at the foot of Beacon Hill next to historic Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, and close to the Massachusetts State House and the financial district. The plaza surrounding Boston City Hall was conceived as an outdoor civic space, but today the seven-acre brick plaza fails to serve that purpose or realize its great potential as a public green space. With few trees and little vegetation, the plaza is unshaded and wind-swept and is hard to access or navigate, especially for those with disabilities. Mayor Thomas M. Menino has designated the larger Government City area that includes City Hall and City Hall Plaza as a Green Growth District to become a beacon for green and sustainable growth to unlock development potential in downtown Boston.

The city of Boston asked for assistance through EPA's Greening America's Capitals to create realistic greening options for City Hall Plaza that can be realized in the near term. Goals of the redesign included creating well-defined edges and entrances, providing more bike access and parking, connecting the plaza to existing streets, increasing green elements such as trees and vegetation for better stormwater management, and supporting energy efficiency and green building improvements in City Hall and nearby buildings.

Report:

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Redesign of Slack Plaza in downtown Charleston, West Virginia

The design concept for the redesign of Slack Plaza in downtown Charleston, West Virginia.

Charleston, West Virginia

The city of Charleston requested EPA's assistance in redesigning Slack Plaza, which sits in the middle of Charleston's downtown and is the site of the county's major transit hub. Charleston is the government, business, and cultural hub of the state of West Virginia. The city has made a conscious effort to use public spaces as a means of leveraging sustainable economic development for the city. Two major public spaces near Slack Plaza were developed, including improvements to Haddad Riverfront Park and amphitheater to draw people to the GreatKanawha River. With these improvements, the city's next challenge is to tackle a major design shift in the heart of the downtown district.

Three city blocks run through Slack Plaza and serve as a pedestrian connector for two primary commercial areas in the central business district. Despite regular use by employees working downtown and the 2.4 million riders who transfer between the county's bus routes, the city itself acknowledges that the area lacks any green space, has no real sense of place, and is challenged by poor signage and safety issues. EPA's Greening America's Capitals team worked with the city and stakeholders to establish a common vision for Slack Plaza that could transform it into a multi-modal transportation hub and well-used town square. Adding public art, trees, and redesigning the pedestrian corridors to serve a range of users will continue Charleston's efforts to foster a more beautiful and sustainable community.

Report: Greening Slack Plaza: Charleston, West Virginia (PDF) (32 pp, 3.6MB)

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Hartford State Capital Building

A redesign option for the landscape at the Capitol Grounds in front of Connecticut's state capitol building in Hartford.

Hartford, Connecticut

The city of Hartford requested EPA assistance to reimagine a mile-long portion of Capitol Avenue, a focal point of the city that includes the Connecticut State Capitol and Legislative Building, the State Library, the Supreme Court, and the State Armory, as well as residential and retail areas. The Greening America's Capitals workshop helped Hartford staff and stakeholders create a redevelopment plan for the Capitol Avenue corridor and connections to nearby locations, such as the Frog Hollow neighborhood and a proposed Sigourney Street bus rapid transit station. Redesigns focused on public open spaces, such as parks and state building grounds, as well as green street improvements that better manage stormwater, improve the pedestrian environment and aesthetic character of Capitol Avenue, and encourage future redevelopment. EPA's Greening America's Capitals work complemented the National Endowment for the Arts' iQuilt project to link cultural assets and integrate new public spaces along the Capitol Avenue corridor.

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Potential restoration of Wears Creek and transformation of the Millbottom area near Missouri's state capitol in Jefferson City.

Potential restoration of Wears Creek and transformation of the Millbottom area near Missouri's state capitol in Jefferson City.
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Jefferson City, Missouri

Jefferson City requested EPA assistance with an area of the city core that serves as the gateway to the State Capitol and larger Capital Complex. The Wears Creek and Millbottom area has become a flood-prone and forgotten zone of the city that includes vacant properties and parking lots. Through a collaborative on-site workshop, Jefferson City worked with a team of designers to develop aesthetically and functionally valuable landscape architecture designs that can provide both community and water quality benefits. Using detailed visuals and graphics, this assistance aimed to improve public access to the Missouri River and integrate brownfield cleanup and redevelopment and appropriate reuse of currently vacant lands.

The Jefferson City project also emphasized engaging underserved neighborhoods and providing equitable access to urban waters through well-planned community revitalization. The local Chamber of Commerce and community groups now host an Annual Wears Creek Community Clean-up to maintain the waterway as a centerpiece of the city.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Jefferson City, Missouri (PDF) (70 pp, 4.39MB)

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A redesign option for Main Street in Little Rock that incorporates rain gardens and improved crosswalks.

A redesign option for Main Street in Little Rock that incorporates rain gardens and improved crosswalks.

Little Rock, Arkansas

The city of Little Rock has been investing in its local economic, environmental, and civic sustainability by revitalizingKey neighborhoods. One example is the River Market District, which lost much of its downtown business to suburban sprawl. Through a riverfront redevelopment effort, and impetus from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, the area now boasts a mix of local businesses, museums, galleries, restaurants, residences, and a historic farmers market. The next area the city plans to revitalize is the Main Street corridor, which runs north-south and connects to the now-thriving River Market District.

The Greening America's Capitals design team assisted Little Rock with streetscape improvements to help catalyze the redevelopment potential of the Main Street corridor. Focusing onKey activity centers along the corridor, the redesign highlights the impact that new pocket parks and reuse of vacant parking lots could have on encouraging future redevelopment and more pedestrian activity to support ground-floor retail and a future trolley line.

EPA's investment in the Greening America's Capitals project, used to develop designs for downtown Main Street, spurred other investments from state and local government and the National Endowment of the Arts. This support has helped the city implement rain gardens, clean up and redevelop brownfields, install energy-efficient street lights, and develop a Creative Corridor that promotes the arts. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation have provided other grants to support improvements in transportation and housing. These public investments, along with millions of dollars in private investment to rehabilitate vacant and run-down buildings, are transforming the face of downtown Little Rock.

Report:

Read a White House blog post about the Little Rock project from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

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