Yesterday, the Obama Administration's Livable Communities partners visited sites in Chicago and Dubuque that exemplify the sustainable qualities we've been advocating since March. Today, we've been touring sites in Denver as well.
Below, I'll elaborate on what we've seen and heard. But we've also been carrying a message from the Administration--
Working together, we’re going to do 3 things:
- Find ways to better coordinate and direct federal investments in transportation, housing, improved air quality, and water infrastructure;
- Help local communities advance local priorities for revitalizing and strengthening communities and transportation services; and
- Ensure that our federal grant and formula programs consider investments made by other federal agencies, state and local governments, and private and nonprofit organizations.
And we will do those things. We are determined to incorporate the principles of this partnership into every budget and every proposal.
What does livability look like?
It looks like West Garfield Park in Chicago; it looks like Dubuque, Iowa's, Historic Millwork District; and it looks like Denver's Lincoln Park.
West Garfield Park was struggling and slated to lose its lone transit rail stop due to low ridership. Through the leadership of Bethel New Life and the Chicago Transit Authority, Green Line transit service was maintained and upgraded. The heart of the redevelopment is the $4.5 million Bethel Center, a 23,000 sq. ft., two-story building built on a former brownfield. The Center houses retail, banking, an employment center and a day care center. The building features green construction techniques and has applied for LEED Gold certification. In addition to the Center, Bethel also built 50 affordable homes within walking distance of the Center and the Green Line station.
We saw the El stop, the covered bridge that connects the transit platform directly to the Bethel Center, the green roof, the employment center, playgrounds, and a walkable, vibrant community. Really quite a story. It creates opportunities for people to really live in their neighborhoods and feel like they're really part of their neighborhoods
In its Historic Millwork District, the city of Dubuque is redeveloping the old factories and mills–-dormant since the early part of the 20th century–-to create new mixed income housing, workplaces and entertainment. Sustainable transportation options are important to this plan. The city’s trolley bus now connects the District to downtown. The District plan includes provisions for redesigning the roadways to support bikes and pedestrians. And, Amtrak funding is pending and may restore Dubuque to its previous role as a transit hub between smaller Midwestern cities and Chicago. Many of the buildings are being redeveloped with green building techniques. This district contains many contaminated properties that will be remediated and is largely low-income.
I loved what I saw. Buildings that were once beautiful are being cleaned up and restored. They've got this great trolley system. And new jobs are coming. Congratulations, Dubuque, for showing us how smaller cities can grow and change and revitalize neighborhoods where families want to live and work and raise their children-–and where businesses want to locate.
At a town hall meeting I let the people of Dubuque know what a promising example I had seen. You know, with its "Smart City" partnership with IBM, Dubuque has become a model for other cities because people work together to solve problems. That's what this whole livable communities initiative is. DOT, HUD, EPA putting aside our egos and agendas--my budget versus their budget--because we know there are better opportunities for America if we work together.
Denver's La Alma / Lincoln Park is a predominantly Latino neighborhood, also one of Denver's oldest, with an estimated 7,000 residents. The 10th and Osage station adjoins an industrial area, a diverse existing housing stock, and an emerging cultural area known as the Sante Fe Arts District. The station is serving as a catalyst for Lincoln Park's redevelopment. The plan calls for mixed-use, mixed-income development within walking distance of the station. This will create a more dense and walkable community and create better connections from the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood and the Sante Fe Arts District to the station.
Again, this morning, we saw a neighborhood where transportation solutions are at the heart of community revitalization. Plus, our tour of Lincoln Park actually began at Denver's Union Station, which was recently acquired by a 9-county regional consortium. The Regional Transportation District plans to bring 8 commuter rail tracks, 3 light rail tracks, a 22-bay regional and commercial bus facility, the Mall Shuttle, and the Downtown Circulator together in one location. $100,000 in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funding was used to conduct the station area planning, and the Brownfields program provided funding to remediate the site.
So, here in Denver we have yet another example of local parties joining together to get things done. Getting together, seeking consensus, establishing priorities, setting things in motion. Solving problems. Over and over during the past two days, that's what we--I and EPA's Lisa Jackson and HUD's Shawn Donovan--have been seeing.
It's a model we will emulate as our livable communities partnership develops.