Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Commercial District Revitalization will Reduce our Energy Dependence

Everyone is talking sustainability these days - but what does that mean for our commercial districts? For me, being 'green' is more than simply using fewer resources in my everyday life, it is about supporting the redevelopment of places that epitomize what sustainability really means. The compact land use patterns of our mixed-use commercial districts not only help reduce driving, particularly when housing is part of the mix, they also create the kind of density that supports alternative transportation. Simply put, people who live close to their work, or near shopping options, don't need to drive there. Finding ways to support investment in these communities is part and parcel of the larger sustainability discussion, not to mention the upcoming urban infrastructure discussion.

Public policy can either help or hinder the revitalization of our commercial districts, through incentives for mixed-use development projects that create density and bring residents (who are then captive customers), or infrastructure investments, such as streetscape improvements and public transit, that make the district a more attractive place to live, work and shop. As the debate continues - and it will as the discussion of public sector infrastructure investment continues - let's not forget to include commercial district revitalization as a key component of that discussion.

Image: Fruitvale Village, an often cited mixed-use developement project in Oakland, CA incorporates mixed-use development at the site of a transit station.

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