Environmental, economic, and social sustainability go together, if the winners of EPA’s 2008 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement are any indication. Four innovative programs in Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Silver Spring, Md., were honored today for promulgating communities that are more walkable, affordable, diverse, and eco-friendly while reducing citizens’ dependence on cars.

Egleston Crossing, a mixed-use brownfield redevelopment project in Boston’s Roxbury and Jamaica Plains neighborhoods, received the “Built Projects Award” for transforming two blighted land parcels into a green, mixed-use community that includes 64 new residences--nearly a quarter of which are designated as low-income housing for disabled and formerly homeless residents. Developed by Urban Edge Housing Corp., the project is located near a subway and bus line, and incorporates recycled materials, high efficiency lighting, Energy Star appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and drought-tolerant plants. 

EPA’s “Overall Excellence in Smart Growth” award went to the Downtown Silver Spring Redevelopment initiative in Silver Spring, Md., just outside the nation’s capital. This multifaceted effort to transform an underused historic commercial district into a thriving urban center has resulted in the addition of 400,000 square feet of new retail space, 248,000 square feet of office space, 200 new hotel rooms, and 1,200 new residential units since 2000, with another 4,000 residential units currently in the pipeline. Spearheaded by the Silver Spring Regional Center, the redevelopment initiative includes innovative programs such as “Live Near Your Work,” which provides cash grants to qualifying municipal employees who purchase homes in the downtown area. City officials have seen a significant rise in office occupancy and mass transit use since the program's inception.

The Mission Creek Senior Community in the San Francisco Bay Area was recognized with the “Equitable Development Award.” A partnership of Mercy Housing California and the San Francisco Housing Authority, this compact infill community provides affordable housing to low-income seniors and keeps their cost of living low with energy-efficient building features such as solar panels and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Located adjacent to a streetcar line and bus route, the community also offers shops and a public library branch on site.

Finally, EPA's “Policies and Regulations Award” was bestowed to Atlanta’s Livable Centers Initiative, which strategically parses out federal transportation dollars to encourage mixed-use, transit oriented development in the Atlanta metro region. 

“The Census Bureau projects that by 2050, our population will reach 420 million. Clearly we need smart strategies for managing that kind of growth,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson during an awards ceremony today at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. “We know that how we develop our cities, towns, and transportation systems today will have an impact on the environment tomorrow.”

Johnson noted that buildings and transportation, combined, account for 61 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 71 percent of energy use in the United States. “We can’t address climate change or energy security without finding smarter ways to develop our communities,” he said.

EPA’s smart growth awards were launched in 2002. Past awards have recognized initiatives in Breckenridge, Colo.; Davidson, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; the state of Pennsylvania; the state of Vermont; and Barnstable, Mass.

Jenny Sullivan is senior editor, design, at BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Washington, DC, San Francisco, CA.