Reconnecting America Legacy Continues with NRDC Urban Solutions Work

This week NRDC and Reconnecting America issued a statement about an exciting transition that allows us to scale up our collaborative work with communities across the nation. I want to share this great news with readers of Switchboard, so without further ado here it is:

After ten years of working to create sustainable and equitable communities around transit, Reconnecting America is closing its doors and transferring some capacity to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). For over 40 years, NRDC has worked to build sustainable, healthy and equitable communities in the United States and around the world. NRDC was the first national environmental organization to devote full-time staff to urban issues, beginning in New York City and Los Angeles; the first to devote staff to environmental equity and environmental justice; and the first to establish a smart growth and transportation program. NRDC has worked to make buildings and neighborhoods more energy efficient and healthy, to promote policies and financing tools that support green infrastructure for clean urban watersheds, and, most recently, to strengthen regional food systems and access to healthy food for under served city populations. Led by Shelley Poticha (former Reconnecting America President/CEO and Director of the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD), NRDC is launching a new program, Urban Solutions.

With the launch of Urban Solutions, NRDC aims to go further by bringing key place-based initiatives into one integrated and strategically coordinated team working to build and accelerate market acceptance of best practices for making cities and metropolitan areas vital, clean, inclusive, resilient and beautiful. This new structure will allow NRDC to make stronger connections between key areas of focus - model revitalization of distressed neighborhoods; safe and affordable transportation choices; clean energy efficiency; healthy city food systems; and green storm-water infrastructure - as well as build the technical capacity to assist local leaders on the ground in implementing model sustainability plans and policies in key US cities and regions. Reconnecting America's local work will continue under the banner of NRDC's Urban Solutions program as related projects and resources transition into Urban Solutions.

Reconnecting America leaves a legacy of lengthy and impactful place-based work in regions such as the Twin Cities, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Denver where equitable TOD has become a priority. We were early partners who made the case for strategic partnerships like the Great Communities Collaborative, the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative and Mile High Connects. Our studies, reports, TOD typologies, equity atlases and strategic plans helped guide policy, programs and funding with numerous cities and regional planning entities. Reconnecting America generated several innovative publications including The New Transit Town,Street Smart: Streetcars and Cities in the 21st Century and Are We There Yet.

Reconnecting America has also served as the managing partner of the Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD) with our valued collaborators the Center for Neighborhood Technology and Strategic Economics. CTOD was the only national effort funded by Congress to promote best practices in transit-oriented development. CTOD created the first national picture of who lives and works near transit with Hidden in Plain Sight as well as highlighting why affordable housing needs to be located near transit in our Realizing the Potential report. In partnership with the Federal Transit Administration CTOD published the TOD 101 and 202 publication series and groundbreaking reports on TOD and transit trends. Some of the earliest work with cities and metropolitan planning organizations around TOD typologies and strategic planning began with CTOD. It is now standard practice for regional planning organizations and cities to look more holistically at land use and transit investments based on the CTOD's work. The discussion on equitable TOD also begun by CTOD is now a standard part of the thinking in most large regions. Reconnecting America and CTOD forged new ground and opened a national discussion around equitable TOD that has become an accepted field of practice allowing other organizations, consultants and non-profits to establish TOD priorities, teams and programs.

We are proud of what Reconnecting America has accomplished together with our many partners over the past ten years. We look forward to the continued relationships with the many of you in our field who continue to work tirelessly to create equitable, sustainable and resilient communities.

Andriana Abariotes, Executive Director, Twin Cities LISC and Reconnecting America Board Chair

Shelley Poticha, Director, Urban Solutions, NRDC

On behalf of our partners:

Dena Belzer, President, Strategic Economics

Scott Bernstein, President, Center for Neighborhood Technology