Year in Review: CNU's 2010 Accomplishments

CNU Positions New Urbanism as Default Development Choice in Banner Year

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For nearly twenty years, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) has been at the forefront of the movement to design walkable, sustainable, and healthful communities. Acting as the nexus of the New Urbanist movement, CNU provides its members with the resources to restore urban centers and towns, create coherent metropolitan regions, and reconfigure sprawling suburbs into vibrant neighborhoods. Led by our members – a diverse mix of architects, urban planners, developers, engineers, landscape architects, government officials, finance officers, nonprofit professionals, environmental activists, and academics – CNU encourages efforts to bring about better living through better design.

As recovery from The Great Recession continues, the principles that guide CNU and its Charter have become increasingly in demand. In response, over the course of the past year, CNU has expanded our initiatives, grown our local presence through newly established chapters, positioned New Urbanism as the de facto choice of development among policy makers and the private sector, and continued to provide valuable educational and networking opportunities for new urbanists throughout the world.

2010 Accomplishments

Defining the Principles of Sustainable Street Networks

CNU’s Transportation Networks Initiative showcases how good design helps create sustainable neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions. To further this effort, initiative members defined the characteristics and fundamentals of Sustainable Street Networks. These principles are designed to guide development practices, transportation planning, engineering decisions, and urban design standards to ensure a project is sustainable, connected, and viable. CNU will be compiling the Sustainable Streets Networks findings in an illustrated format in 2011, showing how its application can bring about better quality of life and economic opportunities for cities and regions.

Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares

In March 2010, CNU partnered with the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE), Federal Highway Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency, to release the manual Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach. The manual provides best practices for the design and implementation of context-sensitive solutions (CSS) in transect-based planning. Since the manual’s release, over 1,400 individuals have downloaded copies of the report from the ITE website, and CNU has participated in regular webinars on the manual hosted by ITE.  



Finding Middle Ground between New Urbanists and Emergency Responders

Through our Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative, CNU proposed amendments to the International Fire Code (IFC) that would give fire officials increased flexibility on street design. By increasing street connectivity and walkability, the amendments allow for maximum efficiency and safety for both community members and first responders. Working with fire marshals and dedicated members, CNU presented a series of proposed changes to the IFC at hearings in May and October 2010. Although our proposals were not accepted, CNU continues to spearhead these efforts in seeing the full adoption of updated codes.

Launching LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED for Neighborhood Development, the first system in the US for rating and certifying entire neighborhoods as green, officially launched on April 29, 2010. CNU members played an integral part in developing the metrics and technical provisions that comprise the final version of the green rating system. An eight-year collaboration between CNU, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Natural Resource Defense Council, the system has already influenced many of the other LEED rating systems, including LEED for New Construction, LEED for Schools, and LEED for Retail. Through an intuitive online registration process, more than a dozen projects are now engaged in review for LEED-ND certification.


Through our Rainwater-in-Context work, CNU began efforts to reform federal stormwater regulations that currently act as hindrances to new urbanist developments. CNU members drafted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water with proposed revisions to the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The EPA responded to CNU’s letter by requesting a conference call to further discuss how CNU’s suggestions for more compact, walkable neighborhoods, and context-sensitive solutions also allow for advanced watershed protection.  The initial call was held in November 2010, and discussion continues with the EPA to implement CNU-prescribed solutions for improving federal stormwater regulations.

Pushing for Reforms in Washington

Bringing together a broad coalition of partners such as the National Town Builders Association (NTBA), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and the National Association of Realtors, CNU led the way to Washington (in early 2011) to encourage Fannie and Freddie to raise the minimum threshold amount of commercial space in mixed-use developments eligible for federally guaranteed loans from 25% to 45%. Recognizing the latent demand stunted by the current restrictions in place, the four-party alliance presented their case as an effort to not only support smart growth policies attuned to the goals of the HUD/USDOT/EPA Sustainability Partnership, but also to help jumpstart much-needed economic growth.

Transforming Urban Neighborhoods through Highway-to-Boulevard Conversions

Last year, CNU brought its successful Highways-to-Boulevards Initiative to New Orleans, Louisiana.

With support from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and working together with local partners such as the Claiborne Corridor Improvement Coalition in New Orleans, CNU launched an education and outreach campaign advocating for the replacement of Interstate 10 (I-10)/Claiborne Expressway with a surface-level boulevard. CNU helped to commission a preliminary traffic study on the highway teardown proposal. The report’s key conclusions validated CNU’s view that high-speed freeway travel through urban downtowns is not necessary for urban mobility. As a result of the report, a growing segment of New Orleanians voiced support for tearing down (I-10)/Claiborne Expressway, hoping to bring reinvestment to the city’s Tremé neighborhood. New Orleans’ Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined the outpouring of support, and in November 2010, the City of New Orleans received a $2 million Community Challenge Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation to further study the challenges and opportunities the Claiborne Corridor will face in I-10’s eventual removal.

CNU’s Highways-to-Boulevards Initiative gained national media attention for the success found in New Orleans, with National Public Radio and The New York Times, among others, calling upon CNU President and CEO John Norquist's expertise and experience in removing the Park East Freeway while he was Mayor of Milwaukee. 

Gathering New Urbanists at CNU’s Annual Congress – CNU 18: Rx for Healthy Places

CNU held its 18th annual Congress in Atlanta, Georgia from May 19– 22, 2010.  CNU 18:  Rx for Healthy Places was organized with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and brought increased focus on how the built environment affects public and community health. The CNU 18 program included over 50 general sessions open to all Congress registrants, including a daylong New Urbanism 101 to individuals new to the field; a one-day Congress for the next generation of new urbanists; and topical sessions organized around the themes of Public Space and Policy; Transportation; Codes and Regulation Reform; Implementation, Development, and Financing; Green Design; Quality of Life:  Designing for Aging, Affordability, and Diversity; and Retrofitting Suburbs. The Congress also included ten advanced seminars, 12 tours of Atlanta and its surrounding region, two partner sessions, five initiative meetings, and four plenary sessions.  Plenary and special session speakers included musician and artist David Bryne; Howard Frumkin, former Director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; and U.S. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan.

Over 1,400 individuals attended CNU 18 from 20 countries and 43 states, as well as the District of Columbia.