City of Asheville, Land of Sky, feds mark 4th anniversary of Sustainable Communities partnership
From the Environmental Protection Agency:
ATLANTA – On Thursday, the City of Asheville, Land-of-Sky Regional Council and federal partners observed the fourth anniversary of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities—an initiative to focus resources from multiple federal agencies to help meet economic, environmental and community needs.
Since the program began, more than $12.43 million has been awarded and leveraged to support projects promoting sustainability in Asheville and the surrounding region.
“By working with our federal partners these last four years, the city of Asheville has been able to speed up our progress in meeting community goals like the revitalization of Brownfields, accessibility of job training, and improvements to multimodal transportation connections,” said Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy. “We are pleased to show our partners how we’ve leveraged federal investments with additional public and private funding and look forward to the positive impacts the investments will have on our city’s future.”
Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) participated in a tour and community roundtable to commemorate the anniversary. Regional roundtable events will be held nationwide through September to engage stakeholders and receive feedback on how sustainable communities efforts are progressing.
The tour included stops at the sites of several federally-funded projects, including many in the East of Riverway area which has been the focus of the City’s $850,000 Tiger II Planning Grant from DOT. There are a number of major initiatives under the grant, including the (1) the Riverfront Development Planning Project and the Wilma Dykeman Riverway multi-modal transportation route along Riverside Drive; (2) two neighborhood greenways; (3) a transportation network plan that outlines infrastructure needs and public transit improvements; and (4) a community energy plan.
EPA provided more than $1 million to the City and Land-of-Sky, a local government planning and development organization, to assess and clean up nine Brownfields sites in the East of Riverway area. A number of these sites are being redeveloped, including the location of the New Belgium Brewery now under construction, the Glen Rock Building and others. Economic incentives and permit fee reductions are offered for development projects within city limits that will achieve Energy Star and LEED certification, create affordable and workforce housing, offers mixed-use or maximizes access to public transit. EPA also provided $499,000 to support a Climate Showcase Community Project in Asheville.
“By combing resources, EPA together with all our federal partners are making a real difference in Asheville,” said Acting EPA Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. These investments are helping local communities become more sustainable, strengthening the local economy and protecting the environment.”
Participants stopped at the W.C. Reid Center, where $50,000 of the Tiger II Planning Grant funds were used to leverage the remaining $4.25 million to renovate the facility. HUD committed $3.9 million in Capital Grant funds to support the project, while Asheville’s Housing Authority provided the additional $350,000 needed. The Housing Authority leads the renovation, in partnership with Green Opportunities and other partners, to transform the former school and City recreation center into a green jobs training and education center.
The Land-of-Sky also gave an update on their GroWNC and WNC AgriVentures projects, which each received significant federal investment. GroWNC is a 3-year effort funded with a $1.6 million HUD Regional Planning Grant and $2.6 million in local matching funds. Under the project, five counties in the Asheville area are developing an integrated plan for the future that includes housing, economic, environmental, transportation and health priorities. The project is driven by extensive public involvement and, ultimately, the framework is intended to ensure that, as the region continues to grow, the effects of this growth have a positive impact.
AgriVentures strives to put infrastructure in place to assist agricultural and natural resource-based businesses thrive and grow. The project is funded by $1.63 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“GroWNC, AgriVentures and the associated federal investment in each has given our region an unprecedented opportunity to develop a regional vision and tools to support growth and economic development in Western North Carolina,” said Danna Stansbury, Interim Executive Director of Land-of-Sky.
Lastly, participants visited Fletcher, N.C. to learn more about the area’s agricultural sector, including highlights from a recent GroWNC report on value-added food products. They toured the Noble Cider Company, where a semi-dry hard cider is made from local apples. Noble Cider is the recipient of an Advantage Opportunity Fund loan from AdvantageWest Economic Development Group.
The Partnership for Sustainable Communities was launched on June 16, 2009, when EPA joined HUD and DOT to help communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.
The Partnership for Sustainable Communities works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money, and reduce pollution. The partnership agencies incorporate six principles of livability into federal funding programs, policies, and future legislative proposals.
Since the program’s inception, the partnership has provided nearly $4 billion in assistance to more than 700 communities nationwide, funding nearly 750 projects. Partnership grant and technical assistance recipients are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
More information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities: http://www.sustainablecommunities.gov