Message From Our Director

Thank you for taking time to visit the new website of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education. As I write this in November 2017, the Center is in its 17th year of operation, its 15th since I joined the Center in 2002.

While our mission of conducting research and offering educational programs on topics that pertain to smart growth has not changed, staff and focus areas of course do change. At present we have six faculty with joint appointments in the Urban Studies and Planning program, approximately six full time professional staff and 2 administrative staff. With some variation, and depending what is counted, we currently generate approximately $1.5 million per year in grants and contracts and publish about ten articles per year in peer refereed journals and, of course, produce numerous reports, working papers, and conference presentations.

The NCSG continues its work to create a more sustainable, vibrant and enhanced quality of life for communities across the globe. From the beginning, the NCSG has worked to advance the notion that research, collaboration, engagement and thoughtful policy development hold the key to a smarter and more sustainable approach to urban and regional development.  While we continue to address smart growth issues around the world, we are also engaged extensively at the local level. As Center director, I am by statute a member of Maryland’s Smart Growth Subcabinet and Sustainable Growth Commission. Over the years, this has kept us engaged in state policy discussions even as administrations and priorities have changed. We also work closely with Montgomery County’s Park and Planning Commission on a variety of topics and joined the leadership team of the Baltimore Regional Sustainability Planning effort.

In the past few years we have launched three new initiatives.

  • The Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), modeled after the Oregon Sustainable City Year program, engages students and faculty from across the university in helping local governments in Maryland become more sustainable. In a very short period, PALS has become the largest program of its kind in the nation, engaging over 400 students in 30 classes from eight schools and colleges on the College Park campus.
  • In 2013, the NCSG launched the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC). The PLCC is a regional partnership of public, private, and not-for-profit organizations working to assure that the Purple Line light rail project will provide the maximum economic, social and environmental opportunities to all residents and businesses along the corridor.
  • In 2014 we launched a project titled, Plan for Regional Sustainability Tomorrow, or PRESTO. PRESTO developed out of our long-standing work on regional planning in the Baltimore-Washington region that began with a large public engagement effort called Reality Check. Since then we have built and integrated transportation, land use, econometric, air and water emissions models that enable us to rigorously explore alternative futures. With support from the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and the Town Creek Foundation we believe that this work is both advancing the science of sustainability modeling and stimulating a dialog on how to make the Baltimore-Washington region a more sustainable place to live, work, and invest.

Over the course of the Center’s history, sustainable development or sustainable communities has begun to replace smart growth as the popular term to describe better and more thoughtfully considered approaches to urban and regional development. Part of this change is semantics and part is substantive. At this writing the website contains some 80 papers on a wide variety of topics. While some of these papers are now somewhat dated, we continue to believe that they can provide useful background information and historical context. Of course, you will have to decide for yourself.

Again, thank you for taking time to visit our website; I hope you found something helpful or informative. All of us at the Center welcome your feedback and hope you will contact us if you need more information. Without such dialog between the Center and its external constituencies we cannot succeed at facilitating a smarter and more sustainable approach to urban and regional growth.
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Gerrit Knaap
NCSG Executive Director