Kaid Benfield Archive


Visions for transforming America: NRDC launches exciting new web feature!

Kaid Benfield

Posted January 15, 2009 at 2:00PM

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President-elect Obama takes office this month vowing to fight climate change, tackle oil dependency and revive the U.S. economy.  NRDC believes that smart growth and transit are a big part of the solution.  As New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote recently, we can't rebuild America without thinking about how we build our streets, cities and neighborhoods.  

We believe strongly that this can be done in a way that not only is environmentally sustainable but also can bring "America the Beautiful" to the communities where we live, work, and shop.  And now, we have an exciting new web feature that shows how it can be done. 

Picturing Smart GrowthWith generous assistance from our friends at Urban Advantage, NRDC has created a map of the United States featuring 70 locations across the country that are ripe for transformative change.  Open the map, zoom in on a location (one of two Tempe, AZ, sites shown below) and, without leaving our web site, you will be shown a Google Maps satellite view of the existing site, given some context about the metro area, and be treated to a brief slide show demonstrating how each can be converted, step-by-step, from sprawl, vacant property or disinvestment into a lively, beautiful neighborhood:

(courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Existing conditions 

(courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Proposed light rail line and neighborhood park

(courtesy of Urban Advantage)

New walkable street

(courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Residential development

(courtesy of Urban Advantage)

Additional multi-family residential development convenient to light rail

(One tip: some metro areas, like Tempe, have multiple sites.  Sometimes you have to zoom way in to see them all, but the map is fully interactive.)

The locations were chosen to represent a cross-section of American geography as well as a diversity of existing site types and envisioned smart growth characteristics.  You can search by site type and characteristics as well as, of course, geographically through the map.  A small group of scenarios are highlighted with extra detail, and we also have a page showing how it was done, describing the wonderful work of Urban Advantage.  There's more information about how to get the most out of the site in my next post.

NRDC's communications and smart growth staffs worked over a year with UA to bring Picturing Smart Growth to the public, and we're pretty jazzed about it.  Please take a look and spread the word!