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Smart Growth

Preserve Open Space and Farmland: East Lake Commons, Decatur, Georgia

East Lake Commons, a cohousing development in Decatur, Georgia, 4 miles from downtown Atlanta, shows how communities can protect existing open space while also providing a desirable place to live.

The development, planned by Greg Ramsey of Village Habitat Design, sits on 21 acres, with 11 acres protected as open space. During project development, future residents participated in the design. They requested that open space be preserved to serve several community and environmental functions. As a result, East Lake Commons includes a village green, a wildlife habitat corridor surrounding a protected spring, a 6-acre organic garden, and a small orchard.

Completed in 2000, the project features 67 homes, ranging from two-bedroom to four-bedroom town homes. Five percent of the houses were designated as affordable. The homes are clustered together around pedestrian paths with parking on the periphery. The design encourages the residents to walk and bike, provides easy access to local public transportation, and protects walkers and bicyclists from automobile traffic.

The community also has an option for "lease-on-demand" vehicles that residents can rent by the hour when they need them. The environmentally friendly design also includes energy-efficient homes and a stormwater management system that treats polluted runoff. Despite being located in a blighted neighborhood, the project presold all its homes and has a waiting list of people to buy any homes up for resale.

East Lake Commons won the 2000 Annual World Habitat Awards of the Building and Social Housing Foundation of Leicestershire, England. The project also won the 2001 American Institute of Architects/Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary's Award for Mixed Use/Mixed Income projects.

This case study was published in 2006.

Find other case studies in Smart Growth Illustrated that discuss the 10 smart growth principles.

East Lake Commons Organic Garden
This organic garden is part of the preserved open space in East Lake Commons.

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