Dearborn receives EPA sustainability grant

DEARBORN – Dearborn is among eight communities in the United States that will receive free neighborhood design consultation in 2012 from Global Green USA with the help of a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

The grant winners were announced Dec. 21.

The grant focuses attention on the new intermodal train station to be built in west Dearborn, and the surrounding neighborhoods that will be part of a transit oriented development plan.

The grant pays for sustainability experts to make recommendations to the city on how to integrate environmentally-friendly and energy efficient concepts into the TOD.

The new train station itself will be built according to national recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standards.

Over the next six months, four sustainability experts will conduct three-day visits to Dearborn and the other seven communities provide comprehensive recommendations for infrastructure and policy changes aimed at helping the communities build a future that is more resource-efficient, healthy and environmentally responsible. A specific timeframe has not been set.

A factor in the selection process was the presence of a significant upcoming project. Global Green USA said the projects must be poised to serve as a model for future sustainable development in their communities.

Construction of the train station will start in the spring of 2012.

The train station, to be built on Michigan Avenue west of Southfield Freeway, will be the center of a TOD district that includes a historic neighborhood, business districts and Fairlane Town Center, University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College, The Henry Ford: America’s Greatest History Attraction, major thoroughfares, and Ford Motor Co. headquarters and facilities.

Other criteria for the grant included the presence of a strong neighborhood organization, the involvement of community leaders, the demonstration that the project contributes to a larger plan, and the ability to leverage federal, state or philanthropic funds.

“The city of Dearborn is excited and ready to work closely with Global Green USA through this program,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said.

“This is a timely opportunity for us to leverage the latest planning tools and concepts of LEED-Neighborhood Development for improving physical design and policies to develop strategies for our ultimate goal of a sustainable future.”

“Cities are responsible for up to 70 percent of global warming pollution said Walker Wells, director of Global Green USA’s Green Urbanism Program, “but they can also be the laboratories for climate-friendly solutions that save money, improve health and quality of life.

“For nearly two decades, Global Green has been helping cities create sustainable plans for the future, and we are excited to be able to bring our expertise to these eight deserving communities.”

The other communities are Lafayette, Ind.; Eden Prairie, Minn.; Greensboro, N.C.; Lakewood, Colo.; Oakland, Calif.; Louisville, Ky.; and Philadelphia, Pa.

Starting in February, the Global Green sustainability team will visit each of them with other planning and sustainability experts from around the country, including Ramie+Associates, Farr Associates, and the Agora Group.

During the site assessment, the team will identify a neighborhood’s positive qualities, consult with community stakeholders in meetings and public workshops, and identify major opportunities to improve the sustainability of each neighborhood.

At the conclusion of the visit, the team will present recommendations for both physical and policy changes that may include street width reductions, ecological restoration, integrated energy and water infrastructure, new standards for in-fill and transit-oriented development, or zoning code revisions to allow for urban agriculture or mixed-use development.

The sustainability experts evaluating the communities will use the LEED-ND standard, a nationally recognized method for creating neighborhoods that are walkable, bikeable, resource-efficient and equitable.

For more information about LEED-ND, go towww.nrdc.org/cities/smartgrowth/files/citizens_guide_LEED-ND.pdf.

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