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Coastal & Waterfront Smart Growth

Tennessee River, Chattanooga. (Photo: Bill Weeks for TPL)

Cities undertaking waterfront planning and development will be interested in an EPA publication released this past September on coastal and waterfront smart growth. Waterfronts are natural locations for parks and public spaces, for environmental, economic and social reasons. This book is a great guide as to how this and other issues such as walkability, historic preservation and the like all fit together.  The guide includes ten elements to success: 1. Mix land uses; 2. Take advantage of compact design; 3. Provide a range of housing choices; 4. Create compact communities; 5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities; 6. Preserve open space & critical environmental areas; 7. Direct development towards existing communities; 8. Provide a variety of transportation options; 9. Make development decisions predictable and fair;  and 10. Encourage community collaboration.

One success story mentioned is that of Chattanooga, Tenn., which:

…Recognized the opportunity that existed in its neglected waterfront along the Tennessee River and made it a centerpiece of its revitalization efforts. Faced with extensive air pollution and a weakening economy, Chattanooga initiated a public visioning process in 1984 and created a plan to turn the city around. The plan helped Chattanooga transform its riverfront into a focal point for residents and tourists through the addition of an aquarium, art museum, public art, picnic areas, natural greenways to protect creek corridors leading to the river, and pedestrian bridges to facilitate access. The result is evident not only in Chattanooga’s reclaimed relationship with the river, but also in the revitalization of the broader community that these waterfront efforts inspired.

There are many other case studies in the report, but we mention Chattanooga because it shows how cities big and small can invest in sound planning and implementation of those plans and see real results. For so many cities with waterfronts, the EPA has done a great service through this report.

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