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TRAVERSE CITY, MI-Gov. John Engler says Michigan was cited in a nationalreport as a model in implementing New Community Design, an alternative to developmental “sprawl” that has dominated real estate growth. The report, “New Community Design to the Rescue: Fulfilling Another American Dream,” was issued Tuesday by the National Governors’ Association.

It cites the River’s Edge project in Traverse City as a good example of reuse of brownfield sites.

Key features of New Community Design include extensive mixed land use, reduced land consumption, community centers, ample green space, transportation options and building designs that reflect the local culture and harmonize with the natural environment.

“I’m proud that Michigan’s brownfield redevelopment strategy has been cited once again as a national model,” Engler says. “All over Michigan, property that has sat idle for decades is now being cleaned up and developed, resulting in new jobs and new communities. This report shows that New Community Design is a strong contributor to overall economic development and an increase in the quality of life.”

River’s Edge is a mixed-use urban infill project. It sits on about 8 acres at the Downtown site of a former foundry that had been vacant for nearly two decades. Because of Michigan’s brownfield law, the property is becoming a mixed-use community with street-level retail shops, second-floor office space and high-rise residential units. Residents may walk, bike or ride public transportation to work, shopping, dining, entertainment and beaches.

The site will ultimately be built out to more than 300,000 sf with a value of nearly $100 million.

Joel Hirschhorn, director of the NGA’s Natural Resources Studies Division and principal author of the report, notes, “About one-third of Americans want to live in places that embody New Community Design with a focus on real neighborhoods, a strong sense of community, walkable streets and less dependence on cars. But less than 1% of housing offers such mixed-use places. We featured the River’s Edge project in Traverse City because it illustrates the positive role states can have in helping developers use brownfield sites for New Community Design projects.

“Michigan has shown real leadership and is the only state in the country that has taken the causation issue head-on with their policy changes,” says Robert V. Colangelo, executive director of the National Brownfield Association and publisher of Brownfield News. “Because of this ability to deal with causation liability, thousands of sites have been cleaned up in Michigan and have been put back into productive use, making Michigan one of the leading states in brownfield initiatives,” had adds.

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