Driving growth through sustainability

By Adam Freed, Principal, Bloomberg Associates, former Deputy and Acting Director NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability

“Do you want to be green or do you want to grow?” This is the false choice that decision-makers often think they face. However, cities have demonstrated again and again that sustainability supports and catalyze economic growth. Nowhere was this more evident than in New York City, where under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s leadership, we reduced carbon emissions by 19 percent and achieved the cleanest air quality in 50 years while leading the U.S. in job creation and adding more than 400,000 new residents.

Kansas City, Missouri is the latest example of city leaders recognizing that making smart investments in public infrastructure that provide sustainable transportation, encourage density, redefine and expand public space, and preserve nature not only supports but accelerates economic development.

Under the leadership of Mayor Sly James, Kansas City has made significant investments in natural infrastructure, transit, and alternative modes of transportation. On May 6th, the city inaugurated a new streetcar line, which has already helped spur over $1.7 billion in development projects around the streetcar’s 2.2 mile route.

Another exciting development happened two weeks earlier when the City announced an international design competition to develop visions for a new 7 mile-long, 1,000 acre linear park in the Twin Creeks area of the city. The proposed linear park and associated competition are a result of Bloomberg Associates’ work with Kansas City to help the City realize its vision for Twin Creeks, which promotes unique development patterns and sustainable design and construction.

The Twin Creeks Linear Park would serve as the literal and figurative backbone of future development in a 15,000 acre area north of the city’s Downtown. Twin Creeks is projected house up to 75,000 new residents in the next 20 to 30 years.

Kansas City rightly recognizes that parkland is a critical part of a city’s infrastructure and can help shape and accelerate private investments. A linear park in Twin Creeks would add a new jewel to the city’s nationally recognized parks and boulevards system and could meet critical recreation needs, support natural habitats, link communities, facilitate sustainable modes of transportation, and help manage stormwater and reduce flood risks. The park would also connect to Kansas City’s extensive trails network, proving a direct link to Downtown. Planning for and building this asset early in the overall development phasing would also influence the form, pace, and design of private development.

In launching a design competition to develop conceptual visions for the linear park, Kansas City is broadening the stakeholders engaged in conversations about Twin Creeks and attracting new ideas, designers, and energy to the discussion. The competition, which runs through July 8th and was developed with guidance from Bloomberg Associates, is open to individuals and multi-disciplinary design teams from across the United States and beyond.

In announcing the design competition, Mayor James stated that the Twin Creeks Linear Park is an opportunity to build a park that reflects “the creativity and sustainability we see in Kansas City today.” Enhancing the sustainability of Twin Creeks also reflects the city’s commitment to economic growth.

Originally published at medium.com on May 17, 2016.

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