7 reasons why the federal government needs to get smarter about its urban sprawl

The U.S. federal government needs to take a holistic approach to security for its own buildings, argues Maureen McAvey.

The U.S. federal government needs to take a holistic approach to security for its own buildings, argues Maureen McAvey.

McAvey, the executive vice president of the Urban Land Institute, says that officials need to rethink their approach to their own buildings in America's growing urban areas. Writing in Planetizen last month, she argues that officials need to think beyond the individual building and make smarter decisions about where and how they build their facilities.

She writes:

The location of federal employees, in any community, forms a strong employment base of federal workers and federal government contractors. It can change the course of economic development for an entire region. Locating near transit, and in existing buildings in more centrally positioned locations, is conducive to urban sustainability. Locating in far-flung, car-dependent locations that place additional pressure on infrastructure is conducive to urban sprawl. This is more than a building design or a planning coordination challenge. Leveraging federal facility investments requires a sophisticated real estate strategy.

She also lists seven reasons why the federal government should take an "anti-sprawl" stance to its own construction.

In summary, they are:

  1. Operate in highly accessible locations with direct connections to affordable housing for employees. Consider co-location as a way to ease the burden on local infrastructure.
  2. Be a "development catalyst." Enable private development nearby, especially for brownfield locations, that could benefit the broader community.
  3. Look for underutilized areas. Think abandoned shopping malls, office buildings or industrial areas.
  4. Consider public transportation and cut down on the need for parking space.
  5. Include community development like storefronts, temporary markets and farmers markets.
  6. Tie federal support functions to the neighborhood. Food and beverage, conference facilities and childcare services can serve more than just employees.
  7. Invest in shared parking facilities. That way locals can use the lots during non-business hours.

I encourage you to read her whole op/ed piece, which is rather pragmatic. The big takeway: security is no excuse for the federal government to build and operate inefficiently.

As more federal facilities are located in America's cities, it's not a bad thing to ponder.

Illustration: G4S' clever print advertisement for its security services. (Ads of the World)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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