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Smart Growth

Reports From Greening America's Communities Projects

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The Greening America's Communities Program, formerly known as Greening America's Capitals, helps cities and towns develop an implementable vision of environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporate innovative green infrastructure and other sustainable design strategies.

EPA funds a team of designers to produce schematic designs to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood. The design team and EPA, along with partners from other federal agencies, also help city staff develop specific implementation strategies. The reports from completed projects are listed below.

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Lessons From Greening America's Capitals Projects

Lessons from Greening America's Capitals Project - Five Helpful Hints for Communities Wanting To Be GreenerThe cities that requested assistance through the Greening America's Capitals Program are trying to be greener. They are 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 other communities incorporate green design strategies into their planning and development. As these projects demonstrate, environmentally sustainable design can create and enhance distinctive neighborhoods with social, economic, and environmental benefits.

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2016

Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia received design assistance to create a greenway along an urban stream to minimize flooding and establish a walkable connection through the Capital City Mill District. The project developed design options for a quiet, natural area along the proposed Rocky Branch Greenway that incorporates green infrastructure, including new street trees and bioswales that can absorb and filter runoff as it percolates into the ground.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Columbia, SC

Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville explored adding green infrastructure to the International Greenway along the U.S.-Mexico border to manage stormwater, create a more walkable street, and add shade and plants to cool an area experiencing higher temperatures due to climate change.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Brownsville, TX

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City explored using green infrastructure to minimize flooding from a local stream and make improvements to streets in four neighborhoods that will increase safety and improve quality of life for residents.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Oklahoma City, OK

Muscatine, Iowa

Muscatine received assistance to redesign a former state highway that now serves as a city street to help it become a safer gateway into downtown for both cars and bicycles.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Muscatine, IA

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu received assistance to design street improvements and green infrastructure to better support walking and economic development around two planned rail stations.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Honolulu, HI

Multnomah County, Oregon

Multnomah County received assistance to create designs for streets and public spaces in the Jade District to address heat island and air quality issues, manage stormwater, bolster infill development, and support the character and concerns of the surrounding community.

Report: Greening America's Communities: Multnomah County, OR

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2014

Read Greening America's Capitals: Protecting Water, Boosting Resiliency, Strengthening Economies, a September 23, 2014, blog post by Joel Beauvais, then-Associate Administrator for EPA's Office of Policy, about the projects selected in 2014.

Austin, Texas

Design option for Austin showing expanded waterfront parkThis design option for Austin shows an expanded waterfront park that provides better access from the street to the trail along Lady Bird Lake.Austin received assistance to help visualize great public open spaces, green infrastructure improvements, and safer spaces for people to walk and bike in the South Central Waterfront area. The report illustrates design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections to Lady Bird Lake and incorporate green infrastructure elements to reduce runoff and localized flooding, improve water quality, and increase shade.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Austin, TX

Carson City, Nevada

Carson City received assistance to improve William Street, which connects the city's downtown with a freeway. The project helped the city explore ways to make William Street more welcoming to pedestrians and bicyclists and enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. Design options also explored how to incorporate green infrastructure using native plants appropriate for the arid climate.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Carson City, NV

Columbus, Ohio

Design option for Columbus showing safer, revitalized gateway to the Milo-Grogan neighborhoodThis design option for Columbus shows a revitalized East 2nd Avenue gateway to Milo-Grogan, providing welcoming entry plazas, safer streets, and green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff.Columbus received assistance to incorporate green infrastructure elements, parks, and open space into the Milo-Grogan neighborhood. The report illustrates design options that use green infrastructure to improve water quality and reduce flooding risks, increase neighborhood park space, and encourage walking and biking within the neighborhood and to adjacent neighborhoods.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Columbus, OH


Pierre, South Dakota

Design option for midblock street crossing in Pierre, SDIn this design option for Pierre, a midblock pedestrian crossing includes curb bulb-outs with stormwater planters and street trees to collect runoff and draw visitors' attention toward the historic capitol building.Pierre received assistance to create a cohesive vision of green and complete streets and public spaces for the city's Governors' Trail, which connects the state capitol building to the Missouri River. The report illustrates design options to create a more pleasant walking experience by adding more shade along the street and incorporating public art.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Pierre, SD


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Richmond, Virginia

Design option for entry to Jefferson Park in Richmond, VA, showing a new rain garden and walkways.This design option for Richmond transforms stormwater management into civic art. A new rain garden framed by sloping walkways creates an elegant entry to Jefferson Park and the neighborhood while collecting and filtering runoff.Richmond received assistance to improve a segment of Jefferson Avenue, which links the neighborhoods of Church Hill and Union Hill, serving as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest neighborhoods. The project developed design options for a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly street, with more parks and open spaces that incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff.

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2013

Read State Capitals Go Green, a January 9, 2014, blog post by Joel Beauvais, then-Associate Administrator for EPA's Office of Policy, about the projects selected in 2013.

Lansing, Michigan

In this design option for Lansing, adding climbing vines to a wall and a bioswale along its base cleans water, oxygenates and cools the air, and provides habitat.Lansing received assistance to develop options for transforming a 10-acre parking lot between the state capitol and Hall of Justice into a public park that incorporates green infrastructure to reduce flooding and water pollution and spurs investment in nearby vacant and neglected property. Options for adjacent streets would calm traffic and improve walkability and transportation options for residents, visitors, and workers.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Lansing, MI

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Madison, Wisconsin

The design option for the intersection of West Washington Avenue and South Park Street in Madison shows bike lanes, clearly defined crosswalks, and a larger landscaped median that collects and filters runoff from the street before it gets into the storm sewer system.Madison received assistance to create design options that would make it easier for people of all abilities who live and work in the Triangle neighborhood, a diverse, low-income neighborhood southwest of the downtown, to get around within the neighborhood as well as reach other parts of the city.

Currently, the neighborhood is somewhat isolated from the rest of the city because it is surrounded by wide streets that are difficult for pedestrians to cross. Design options also explored improving water quality in Lake Monona by using green infrastructure, such as rain gardens and permeable paving, to capture and cleanse stormwater collected from the neighborhood and surrounding streets.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Madison, WI

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Montpelier, Vermont

Design option for Taylor Street in Montpelier, VT, that would create an attractive street with landscaping that soaks up stormwaterThis design option in Montpelier transforms a parking-lot driveway into an attractive street connecting the city’s new transit center to the downtown, with trees and landscaping to soak up stormwater.Montpelier received assistance to improve pedestrian and bicycle connections to the historic downtown. The city also wanted to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff flowing into the Winooski River, especially since rainfall in the region is expected to increase due to climate change.

Design options presented in the report explore how a missing link of a regional bike trail could be built in the downtown and how two important intersections could be designed to work better for pedestrian, bicyclists, and drivers. Design options also illustrate how more plants and trees could be incorporated into streets and parking lots to make the downtown more attractive and reduce the amount of runoff flowing into the Winooski River.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Montpelier, VT

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Olympia, Washington

This design option developed for Olympia shows a shared street with flexible space that pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles can use. Landscaping defines where vehicles can drive and park, cleans stormwater runoff, and creates pleasant places for people to gather.Olympia received assistance to create a cohesive vision for Capitol Way, the city’s main street downtown that links the state capitol with the popular Olympia Farmers Market. The city hopes that investing in street improvements will spur increased private investment and vitality in the downtown.

The design options would make the street more accommodating for pedestrians and bicyclists. The design options also add street trees with better planting techniques to make the street more attractive and safer, and manage stormwater runoff to improve water quality and minimize localized flooding.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Olympia, WA

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

In this design option for Baton Rouge, rain gardens on the side of the street collect and treat stormwater runoff before it goes into the city's sewer system.Baton Rouge received assistance to plan a greenway that will connect Louisiana State University with the downtown. 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 investment and redevelopment in the city's core. The city hopes this project will give residents and visitors options for walking and biking that reduce air pollution from automobile travel and encourage active and healthy lifestyles.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Baton Rouge, LA

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Des Moines, Iowa

This design option for Des Moines' 6th Avenue provides landscaped areas to absorb and clean stormwater, local art, bus shelters, and other improvements to the street and crosswalks to help make walking and biking safe and enjoyable.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: Greening America's Capitals: Des Moines, IA

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Frankfort, Kentucky

The design option for Capital Avenue at Second Street in Frankfort includes bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, wayfinding signs, seating, rain gardens, and trees. It would make the area approaching the capitol building more appealing and environmentally sustainable.Frankfort received assistance to enhance Second Street between the historic downtown and the state capitol. The intersection at Bridge Street and West Second Street is unsafe for pedestrians; the Greening America's Capital project created design options that could enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety, better manage stormwater runoff, improve connections to the Kentucky 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: Greening America's Capitals: Frankfort, KY

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Helena, Montana

This design option for Helena's 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 received assistance to improve Last Chance Gulch, a street that connects the business district with the historic downtown. Redevelopment in the northern part of Last Chance Gulch has added office, commercial, and residential buildings. As redevelopment continues toward downtown, the Greening America's Capitals project helped the city and stakeholders create a vision that makes the street and intersections friendlier to walking and biking while making sure the neighborhood works for everyone.

The project also gave the city options for solving 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: Greening America's Capitals: Helena, MT

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Indianapolis, Indiana

This design option for 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 received assistance to make streets more walkable 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 multimodal transportation hub connected to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The city plans to create a Green Cultural District in the area.

The Greening America's Capitals project helped the city create a cohesive vision to ensure that redevelopment benefits the district's underserved residents while expanding economic opportunities and improving the environment.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Indianapolis, IN

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2011

Jackson, Mississippi

This design option for Jackson's Congress Street shows street trees, rain gardens to collect stormwater runoff, and raised crosswalks that make pedestrians safer and more comfortable.Jackson is exploring retrofitting public spaces within a half-mile of the state capitol building with green technologies such as solar-powered water fountains, native and drought-tolerant landscaping, rain gardens for stormwater treatment, and permeable paving. The area includes the Farish Street Historic District, the city's oldest African-American community, and Congress Street, where the state capitol, city hall, governor's mansion, and other historic sites are located.

The Greening America's Capitals project developed design concepts that use green technologies and green infrastructure for Congress Street and two public parks. The city wants Congress Street to be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly to better connect civic buildings with neighborhoods and businesses, and to add street trees to provide more shade for pedestrians.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Jackson, MS

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Lincoln, Nebraska

This design option for Lincoln's 11th Street includes two-way bike lanes and a triangle of pervious pavement to filter stormwater.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 Greening America's Capitals project 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.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Lincoln, NE

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Montgomery, Alabama

This design option for the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail shows how green infrastructure could delineate the trail as it passes under freeway overpasses. Trellises over the sidewalk could hold banners and lighting to celebrate the trail.The city of Montgomery asked for assistance to create design options for improvements to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, where it 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 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

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Phoenix, Arizona

Greening America's Capitals - Phoenix, ArizonaThis design option for Phoenix's Grand Avenue includes a bike lane and rain gardens that collect stormwater runoff. Plants in the rain gardens are selected to be appropriate for the arid environment.Lower Grand Avenue is in Phoenix's core and next to downtown and the state capitol. Artists colonized the street, taking advantage of inexpensive vacant and underused warehouse and shop spaces. The area now hosts 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.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Phoenix, AZ

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Washington, D.C.

Greening America's Capitals - Washington, D.C.This design option for Firth Sterling Avenue, which borders the Anacostia Metro station, includes a median for pedestrians that would make it easier for people who cannot cross the street quickly to rest safely at the halfway point.The Anacostia Metrorail station is on the east side of the Anacostia River, an area that expects this area to see significant increases in population and visitors due to several large development projects nearby. The city wants to improve the plaza at the Metrorail station and three intersections surrounding the station. Currently, the area has no 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: Greening America's Capitals: Washington, D.C.

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Reports From Communities Selected in 2010

Boston, Massachusetts

This design option for Boston's City Hall Plaza adds trees and new steps and walking paths that address steep grade changes in this active public space.Boston City Hall lies in the heart of downtown, close to the Massachusetts State House and the financial district. The plaza surrounding Boston City Hall was conceived as an outdoor civic space, but it fails to serve that purpose or realize its potential as a public green space. With few trees and little vegetation, the plaza is unshaded, wind-swept, and hard to access or navigate, especially for those with disabilities.

The city of Boston asked for assistance to create greening options for City Hall Plaza that could be realized in the near term. Goals 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: Greening America's Capitals: Boston, MA

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Charleston, West Virginia

The design concept for Charleston's Slack Plaza makes the plaza more pleasant and inviting.The city of Charleston requested assistance in redesigning Slack Plaza, which sits in the middle of Charleston's downtown and hosts the county's major transit hub. Three city blocks run through Slack Plaza and connect two primary commercial areas. Although the plaza is used regularly by employees working downtown and the 2.4 million riders who transfer between the county's bus routes, the area lacks 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 multimodal transportation hub and well-used town square. Adding public art and 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 America's Capitals: Charleston, WV

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Hartford, Connecticut

A design option for the landscape at the Capitol Grounds in front of Connecticut's state capitol building in Hartford adds greenery to make the street more pleasant and improve stormwater management.The city of Hartford requested 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 bus rapid transit station. Redesigns focused on public spaces, such as parks and state building grounds, and green street improvements that better manage stormwater, improve the pedestrian environment and aesthetics, and encourage future redevelopment.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Hartford, CT

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Jefferson City, Missouri

This design option would restore Wears Creek and transform the Millbottom area near Missouri's state capitol in Jefferson City.Jefferson City requested 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.

Jefferson City worked with the Greening America's Capitals team to develop design options that can provide both community and water quality benefits, including improving public access to the Missouri River and integrating brownfield cleanup and redevelopment and appropriate reuse of vacant lands. The project emphasized engaging underserved neighborhoods and providing equitable access to urban waters through well-planned community revitalization.

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Jefferson City, MO

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Little Rock, Arkansas

This design option for Main Street in Little Rock incorporates rain gardens and improved crosswalks to make the street more attractive and better manage stormwater.Little Rock invests in its economic, environmental, and civic sustainability, in part by revitalizing key neighborhoods. One example is the River Market District, which had lost many businesses but, through riverfront redevelopment and impetus from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, now boasts businesses, museums, restaurants, residences, and a historic farmers market. The next area planned for revitalization is the Main Street corridor, which connects to the River Market District.

The Greening America's Capitals project developed design concepts for streetscape improvements to help catalyze the redevelopment potential of the Main Street corridor. Focusing on key activity centers along the corridor, the design options highlighted how new pocket parks and reuse of vacant parking lots could encourage redevelopment and more pedestrian activity to support ground-floor retail and a future trolley line.

Read more about the Little Rock project and results in EPA's "Community Stories" story map (link will open in a new window or tab).

Report: Greening America's Capitals: Little Rock, AR

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