The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized seven communities with its 2012 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. First awarded in 2002, the Smart Growth awards are given for creative, sustainable initiatives that better protect the health and the environment of communities while also strengthening local economies.

“Smart growth investments produce results—shown clearly by the work of these and previous award winners,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in the report. “Communities are revitalizing brownfield sites, bringing jobs and amenities in and getting toxic contamination out. They are transforming forgotten spaces into clean and bustling neighborhood centers, creating thriving public places.”

The 2012 award winners are being recognized in four categories: Overall Excellence in Smart Growth, Equitable Development, Main Street or Corridor Revitalization, and Programs and Policies. This year’s award recognizes four winners and three honorable mentions:

Overall Excellence
Winner: BLVD Transformation Project, Lancaster, Calif.

The redesign of Lancaster Boulevard helped transform downtown Lancaster into a thriving residential and commercial district through investments in new streetscape design, public facilities, affordable homes, and local businesses. Completed after eight months of construction, the project demonstrates how redesigning a corridor guided by a strategic vision can spark new life in a community. The project has generated almost $300 million in economic output and nearly 2,000 jobs.

Equitable Development
Winner: Mariposa District, Denver, Colo.

The redevelopment of Denver’s historic and ethnically diverse La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood is turning an economically challenged area into a vibrant, transit-accessible, district. The community’s master plan preserves affordable housing while adding energy-efficient middle-income and market-rate homes. Because of extensive community engagement, development will include actions to improve the health of residents, reduce pollution, and control storm water runoff.

Honorable Mention: Northwest Gardens, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Through safer streets, job training and education programs, and high-quality, affordable homes, the once struggling Northwest Gardens neighborhood is rapidly becoming a model for economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The redesigned neighborhood offers a range of energy-efficient, affordable housing choices and is one of the first communities in the nation to receive LEED for Neighborhood Development certification. A local housing authority program also provides disadvantaged youths with construction training as they complete their GEDs.

Main Street or Corridor Revitalization
Winner: The Cooperative Building, Brattleboro, Vt.

The Brattleboro Food Co-op, the town’s only downtown food store, made a commitment to remain at its downtown location by constructing an innovative, four-story green building on Main Street with a grocery store, commercial space, offices, and affordable apartments. The Main Street location provides healthy food, new jobs, and housing within walkable distances of downtown businesses and public transit.

Honorable Mention: Larkin District, Buffalo, N.Y.

Community organizations and a local developer partnered with the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning to help revitalize the Larkin District, an old manufacturing district located one mile from downtown Buffalo. Architectural students worked with the developer and the city to create a master plan for an urban village that now features new office space, restaurants, apartments, parks, and plazas. New sidewalks, lighting, crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and bus shelters reduce pollution from vehicles by making walking, biking, and public transit more appealing.

Programs and Policies
Winner: Destination Portsmouth, Portsmouth, Va.

The city of Portsmouth revised its comprehensive plan and undertook a broad review of its development and land use regulations. As a result, Destination Portsmouth prepared a package of new plans, zoning ordinances, and other development policies in collaboration with community stakeholders. The overhaul of the city’s codes encourages development in targeted growth areas and helps businesses to locate in the city while also protecting the character of Portsmouth’s historic neighborhoods.

Honorable Mention: Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund, San Francisco, Calif.

The Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund is providing loans for developers to build affordable homes near public transportation. At this point, the fund has provided loans for a 153-unit high-rise for low-income families located two blocks from a major transit station and a 64-unit building for seniors close to a light rail station that will provide free transit passes for all residents.

Honorees were selected from 47 applicants from 25 states. The winning entries were chosen based on their effectiveness in creating sustainable communities; fostering equitable development among public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders; and serving as national models for environmentally and economically sustainable development.