Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Grass Could be Greener

The Mayor attended a conference on Sustainable Development this morning hosted by the Urban Land Institute.  Most of the discussion was old hat for the Mayor as I am well aware of the concepts that create such developments.  What was enlightening was to see actual reports and data that proved the return on investment to developers that choose to “go green”.  A representative from Clayco explained that there was a 1%-5% premium for designing sustainable properties, but what developers are now interested in is the dollar savings over time as the buildings are completed.  From his perspective, green building is booming in St. Louis and starting to catch on across the country.

The keynote address by Ed McMahon (not the one of Johnny Carson and sweepstakes fame) of the Urban Land Institute touted many of the claims taught in my Urban Planning training.  He called fighting development a “national pastime” and I could not help but think of Affton’s own Angry Villagers fighting the Villages at Grant’s View project.  

While clearly ours is a suburban style project, whose design style has come and nearly gone as it is innately unsustainable, I’ll allow it as it is within the context of the current developments.  However we need to be arguing for things like increased access to Grant’s Trail for its health benefits and smarter parking and road design to decrease the runoff from the project.  I think these are things that would benefit The Grantwood Village People, the new residents, the ladies at Cor Jesu, and folks downstream from us on Gravois Creek.  I think a lawsuit-battered developer will be far less likely to sit down and discuss these topics which will ultimately benefit more people in the long run.  McMahon cited a National Assn. Of Realtors’ study from 2002 that noted that 36% of homebuyers preferred their home to be near a walking or nature trail versus 6% that wanted to live on a golf course.  To me, this shows that largely, people will support development that is increasingly more dense.


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