For many people, the notion of building sustainable communities seems like something rather far-fetched … an expensive “city of the future” that is nice to aspire to, but perhaps not something very realistic to actually accomplish. When The Home Depot Foundation was founded eight years ago, we decided to try to disprove that notion by focusing our work on creating healthy, affordable housing as the cornerstone of creating communities that aren’t just surviving, but are thriving. Communities where the housing is healthy and efficient, while also affordable to live in for the long term; where there are safe and green outside places for people to walk, play and learn; and where people have access to good jobs, good schools and the stores and services they need.
As a result of our commitment, we want to shine the light on cities that are making great strides in bringing the economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainability to their residents. And so, this year we created the Awards of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development to identify, recognize and showcase the work being done in cities to construct green affordable housing in a sustainable community.
We were blown away by the quality of the submissions we received from cities across the country – there is truly some fantastic work being done. It’s clear that many cities across the country are finding successful ways of dealing with the financial, social and environmental issues facing them through thoughtful design, land use and building methods.
I’m proud to announce today that the inaugural winners of this award are Minneapolis, MN and its nonprofit partner Aeon and North Charleston, SC and its nonprofit partner The Sustainability Institute. It’s also nice for me to note that the winners don’t just walk away a beautiful award to display. They are also receiving a combined total of $150,000 to further the sustainability goals of their communities.
Minneapolis, MN and Aeon:
- The City of Minneapolis has titled its Comprehensive Plan as “The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth,” making it clear that sustainability will be considered with all decisions, not as an afterthought. The city has established 25 sustainability indicators to track its progress, each with specific targets and incentives for achieving those targets. As part of this commitment, the city partnered with Aeon to develop Ripley Gardens, a best-in-class example of the successful completion of a sustainable community. Using the historic Ripley Memorial Hospital and planning to add three additional buildings, the project team created plans for a residential development focused on historic preservation, energy efficiency and sustainability. The site is accessible to transit, jobs in the downtown area and bike trails and contains one acre of greenspace that includes a playground and a community garden. The project boasts green and efficient building and maintenance practices and meets the MN Green Communities standards. View the case study and watch the video.
North Charleston, SC and The Sustainability Institute:
- In the early 2000′s, North Charleston faced many challenges, including the closing of a major naval base. The city struggled as residents moved to the surrounding suburbs leaving vacant homes, a low home ownership rate and impoverished neighborhoods. In 2008, the city revised its Comprehensive Plan and included sustainability as a goal with specific priorities to guide its actions. As a result, the city partnered with The Sustainability Institute to develop Oak Terrace Preserve, a once vibrant community that had fallen into major disrepair by 2000. The city purchased the land, with a vision to transform it into a sustainable, attractive community. Today, it exemplifies best practices in housing, natural resources and land use and development. It includes bioswales, rain gardens, pervious paving in alleys and “flexi-pave” sidewalks. The community layout encourages community interactions and all 55 homes on the property achieved EarthCraft certification. View the case study and watch the video.
My sincere congratulations to Minneapolis and North Charleston for their impressive work to make their cities a healthier, more productive place for their citizens. My hope and the goal of The Home Depot Foundation is that their success stories will offer insight, inspiration and a roadmap for other cities to follow as they develop and implement sustainability plans for their communities.
We’re excited about the progress being made by so many non profit housing organizations, green builders and developers, and cities. You can count on The Home Depot Foundation to keep the sustainability drumbeat going by highlighting success stories like Minneapolis and North Charleston who are building “cities of the future” today.