Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kaid Benfield on Tenleytown

The Natural Resources Defense Council's Director of Smart Growth Programs has posted on his blog the challenges for Smart Growth going forward as needing to be greener and more community oriented. Using his home base of Tenleytown as an example, Benfield writes:

I live in a city neighborhood called Tenleytown. It is slowly picking up in residential density and commercial building activity along our main commercial street, Wisconsin Avenue. But in planning circles the neighborhood is best known for having defeated a modest and very reasonable proposal to build a condo building (reproposed even more modestly as townhouses, but again defeated) a short block from our Metro stop. I am convinced that a big part of the reason is that Tenleytown residents don't want our neighborhood to become another Friendship Heights, the area around the next Metro stop to the north on the Red Line.

Do you blame them? I don't. One of the most infuriating aspects of Friendship Heights, which has experienced a huge building boom in the last decade, is that the public has gotten zero green space out of the deal. None. Friendship Heights has great high-end shopping, and of course great transit access, but little else to recommend it in the way of public amenities.

So there are challenges going forward in better articulating the benefits of Smart Growth, but at the same time, there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to how we evaluate our community and maximize livability and sustainability across all currents of dialogue: ecological and environmental, social, etc.

How do we ask the right questions and define the terms appropriately to achieve the right balance for the community, city and region when future development proposals are announced?

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