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The term 'Smart Growth' refers to a development and planning philosophy designed to create and maintain attractive, convenient, safe and healthy communities.

Smart Growth refers to the way we once built our communities, whether rural or urban. It’s about a return to creating communities in which we can walk our children to school or travel to lively downtowns for shopping and dining. Using the basic principles of Smart Growth in our planning efforts allows us to build safer, more convenient and attractive communities for everyone, while preserving of our rural landscapes or historic structures. 

The 10 Smart Growth Principles

The principles of Smart Growth are the wellspring of great communities. Utilizing these guidelines provides communities with more choice and personal freedom, maximum return on public investment, greater opportunity for development and a thriving natural environment. Simply put, CPEX advocates for Smart Growth principles to ensure communities are attractive, convenient, safe and healthy for everyone.


Create a range of housing opportunities and choices

Providing quality housing for people of all income levels is an integral component in any smart growth strategy. Housing is a critical part of the way communities grow, because it constitutes a significant share of new construction and development. More importantly, however, housing availability is also a key factor in determining households' access to transportation, commuting patterns, access to services and education, and consumption of energy and other natural resources. By using smart growth approaches to create a wider range of housing choices, communities can mitigate the environmental costs of auto-dependent development, use their infrastructure resources more efficiently, ensure a better jobs-housing balance, and generate a strong foundation of support for neighborhood transit stops, commercial centers, and other services.

Create walkable neighborhoods

Walkable communities that are desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play are a key component of smart growth. Their desirability comes from two factors. First, goods (such as housing, offices, and retail) and services (such as transportation, schools, libraries) are located within an easy and safe walk. Second, walkable communities make pedestrian activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and creating a streetscape for a range of users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers. To foster walkability, communities must mix land uses and build compactly, as well as ensure safe and inviting pedestrian corridors.

Take advantage of compact building design

Smart growth provides a means for communities to incorporate more-compact building design as an alternative to conventional, land-consumptive development. Compact building design suggests that communities be laid out in a way that preserves more open space, and that individual buildings make more efficient use of land and resources. For example, by encouraging buildings to grow vertically rather than horizontally, and by incorporating structured rather than surface parking, communities can reduce the footprint of new construction, and preserve more greenspace. This not only uses land efficiently, but it also protects more open land to absorb and filter rain water, reduce flooding and stormwater drainage needs, and lower the amount of pollution washing into our streams, rivers and lakes.

Foster distinctive communities with a sense of place

Smart growth encourages communities to craft a vision and set standards for development that respect community values of architectural beauty and distinctiveness, as well as expand choices in housing and transportation. Smart growth seeks to create interesting, unique communities that reflect the values and cultures of the people who reside there, and foster physical environments that support a more cohesive community fabric. Smart growth promotes development that uses natural and man-made boundaries and landmarks to define neighborhoods, towns, and regions. It encourages the construction and preservation of buildings that are assets to a community over time, not only because of the services provided within, but because of the unique contribution they make to the look and feel of a city.

Preserve open space, farmland and critical environments

"Open space" refers to natural areas that provide important community space, habitat for plants and animals, and recreational opportunities, as well as farm and ranch land (working lands), places of natural beauty, and critical environmental areas (e.g. wetlands). Open space preservation supports smart growth goals by bolstering local economies, preserving critical environmental areas, improving community quality of life, and guiding new growth into existing communities.

Mix land uses

Smart growth supports mixed land uses as a critical component of achieving better places to live. By putting residential, commercial and recreational uses in close proximity to one another, alternatives to driving, such as walking or biking, become viable. Mixed land uses also provide a more diverse and sizable population and commercial base for supporting viable public transit. Mixed use can enhance the vitality and perceived security of an area by increasing the number and activity of people on the street. It attracts pedestrians and helps revitalize community life by making streets, public spaces and pedestrian-oriented retail become places where people meet.

Direct development toward existing communities

Smart growth directs development towards existing communities already served by infrastructure, seeking to utilize the resources that existing neighborhoods offer, and conserve open space and irreplaceable natural resources on the urban fringe. Development in existing neighborhoods also represents an approach to growth that can be more cost-effective, and improves quality of life. By encouraging development in existing communities, communities benefit from a stronger tax base, closer proximity of a range of jobs and services, increased efficiency of already-developed land and infrastructure, reduced development pressure in edge areas (preserving more open space), and, in some cases, strengthening rural communities.

Provide a variety of transportation choices

Providing people with more choices in housing, shopping, communities, and transportation is a key aim of smart growth. Communities are seeking a wider range of transportation options in an effort to improve beleaguered current systems. Traffic congestion is worsening across the country. Communities are beginning to implement new approaches to transportation planning, such as better coordinating land use and transportation; increasing the availability of high-quality transit service; creating redundancy, resiliency and connectivity within their road networks; and ensuring connectivity between pedestrian, bike, transit, and road facilities.

Make development decisions predictable and fair

For a community to be successful in implementing smart growth, the concept must be embraced by the private sector. Only private capital markets can supply the large amounts of money needed to meet the growing demand for smart growth developments. If investors, bankers, developers, builders and others do not earn a profit, few smart growth projects will be built. Fortunately, government can help make smart growth more profitable for private investors and developers. Since the development industry is highly regulated, the value of property and the desirability of a place are affected by government investment in infrastructure and government regulation. Governments that make the right infrastructure and regulatory decisions will support fair, predictable and cost-effective smart growth.

Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration

Growth can create great places to live, work and play—if it responds to a community's own sense of how and where it wants to grow. Communities have different needs and will emphasize some smart growth principles over others: those with robust economic growth may need to improve housing choices; others that have suffered from disinvestment may emphasize infill development; newer communities with separated uses may be looking for the sense of place provided by mixed-use town centers; and still others with poor air quality may seek relief by offering transportation choices. The common thread, however, is that the needs of every community and the programs to address them are best defined by the people who live and work there.

Smart Growth Terms




Complete Neighborhood

A complete neighborhood includes residential, commercial, and civic areas within easy access of each other- preferably all within walking distance.

Complete Streets

Complete streets is a planning and design term for streets that offer safe, comfortable and convenient options to walk, bike, drive or take public transportation. Many jurisdictions are adopting polices that include complete, rather than car-only, streets whenever they build, overhaul or upgrade roads.





Density refers to the number of units of housing, office space, or commercial space per unit of area.  Higher density development, especially when accomplished attractively and near transit, is an important component of smart growth.


Downzone refers to the rezoning of land to a more restrictive or less intensive zone (for example, from multi-family residential to single-family residential).




Infill development

Infill development is the practice of building on vacant lots or undeveloped parcels within the older parts of an urban area.

New Urbanization





New urbanization is the process of reintegrating the components of modern life- housing, workplace, shopping, and recreation – into compact, mixed use neighborhoods linked b y transit and set in a larger regional open space framework.

Overlay Zone

An overlay zone is a set of zoning requirements that is superimposed upon a base zone. Overlay zones are generally used when a particular area requires special protection (as in a historical preservation district) or has a special problem (such as steep slopes, flooding or earthquake faults).


Traditional Neighborhood Development

Traditional neighborhood development is a compact, mixed-use neighborhood where residential, civic, and commercial buildings are all in close proximity of one another.  It is characterized by human scale design, a concern for walkablity, increased density, and may exhibit the following tell-tale characteristics: alleys, grid street pattern, buildings oriented to the street, front porches on houses, and village squares, among others. 


Zoning is a term for local codes regulating the use and development of property.  The zoning ordinances divides the city or the county into land use zones, represented on zoning maps, and specifies the allowable uses within each of those zones.  It establishes development standards for each zone, such as minimum lot size, maximum height of structures, building setbacks, and yard size.

CPEX's Louisiana Smart Growth Summit

Since 2005, CPEX has hosted the Southeast's premier event promoting dialogue around innovative planning and exploration of models for creating healthier and more resilient communities. The Louisiana Smart Growth Summit invites design and planning professionals, policy makers and elected officials, non-profit leaders, researchers, and other civically engaged individuals to learn from national and international subject-matter experts. The Summit affords opportunities for networking, workshops, and presentations on topics ranging from housing equity, to environmental health and sustainability, to economic growth and optimized transportation systems.