Memphis communities urged to bid for smart growth grants

It's last call for submissions from the The Memphis Area Association of Governments (MAAG) for the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant program, which wraps up in the next couple of days. The federal money is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which invited communities to apply for technical assistance to implement smart growth development approaches.
Twenty-five communities across the country will be selected this year, including underserved communities, coastal communities, small cities and rural areas.
"Federal officials from the EPA, HUD and the Department of Transportation will make themselves available to have a one- to two-day workshop with city officials and community stakeholders to discuss different issues under the Sustainable Strategies for Small Cities in Rural Areas, such as strengthening the local and regional economies, improving health and active living, revitalizing villages and town centers and providing transportation choices," says Josh Shumaker, MAAG Program Developer and West Tennessee Rural Planning Organization Coordinator.
MAAG has contacted a couple of rural communities in Fayette County and Crittenden County, Ark., but Shumaker is not sure if any communities in Shelby County will move forward in applying for the grant.
"Many times it can be hard to get communities excited about planning, but without planning it will be very hard for communities to accomplish too much in the way of land use, transportation and infrastructure development," Shumaker says.
Communities may apply for assistance for other things, such as bikeshare planning, equitable development, infill development for distressed cities and flood resilience for riverine and coastal communities.

The Building Blocks program launched in 2010, and since then the EPA has provided assistance to 131 communities. Cities chosen for projects last year include Chattanooga, for neighborhood planning for healthy aging; Denver, Colo., for a plan to expand the existing bikeshare program to serve lower-income neighborhoods around the Denver metro region; and Beaverton, Ore., for incorporating green infrastructure techniques into Beaverton's urban renewal plan.
The submission period ends on November 20.
By Michael Waddell

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