Lynn Richards, of the EPA’s Office of the Smart Growth, spoke to over 130 at the Partnership’s first IForum of the season, “Suburban Retrofit, Connecticut Style: How to Remake Our Towns for Affordability, Walk-ability & Sustainability.”
Richards, who visited the state last year in preparation for her presentation, looked particularly at four towns – Newington, Wallingford, Windsor Locks, and Clinton – for potential tweaks that would make the towns more livable, affordable, and walkable.
If you can't view the slideshow, click here.
Using Connecticut as well as out of state examples, Richards offered suggestions for the above listed towns that mostly revolved around taking attention from moving cars and placing that attention on moving people instead. That sometimes means building wider sidewalks, she said, and emphasizing mixed-use zoning, green space, and “place-making.”
In a state where just 10% of towns have a recognizable amount of affordable housing, Richards said the place-making should include affordable housing given the increases in property values that often accompany transit-oriented development. Richards also emphasized that investments in streetscape improvements, changes in zoning and removing barriers to development have helped other places spur development, and bring in revenue.
Richards talked about some challenges for Connecticut housing, including under-utilized land such as Hartford, where 22% of land mass is dedicated to parking.
For people who balk at “affordable housing,” said Richards: “We’re talking about having our children’s teachers live alongside us.”
Richards’ suggestions included:
- Make investing in downtowns easy – and legal.
- Design parking garages for subsequent redevelopment and/or conversion – perhaps as condos.
- Put people first when designing streetscapes.
- Remember there is help out there to wade through regulations (and think of the Partnership as a resource).
Before Richards’s presentation, state Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein said walkable/livable towns make us “strong.” Tom Maziarz, Bureau Chief of Bureau of Policy and Planning in the Department of Transportation, presented the challenges and opportunities facing ConnDOT in working with towns to develop livable, walkable, sustainable communities.
Click here to view a recording of the IForum (Courtesy of Kirk Carr)