Since the mid-1990’s, a term known as “smart growth” appeared among planners that could be seen through scattered development, commercial strip development, and large expanses of low-density or single use development. The whole point of smart growth is to create walkable areas to prevent sprawl from occurring. Smart growth also focuses on long-term sustainability and development as well as preserves natural and cultural resources and promotes public health.

John M. Levy in “Contemporary Urban Planning” states that the definition of sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The symbol of sustainability can be seen below.


For a community to be sustainable, they need to follow a balance within society, the environment, and the economy.

New Jersey has been working to become more sustainable through the Sustainable Jersey imitative. Sustainable Jersey is a certificate and incentive program from New Jersey municipalities that want to go green. These municipalities can gain this certificate by implementing and promoting these green initiatives; examples of areas to be addressed include global warming, pollution, biodiversity, buying locally, community outreach, green building, and sustainable agriculture.

I was very unaware that New Jersey was taking such steps to promoting a greener state. I think by providing incentives for municipalities is a great way to promote sustainable development through smart growth as it allows our state to start taking steps to a greener and more sustainable world since it is so necessary due to the effects that humans have had on our planet. Since we cannot reverse the effects we have already made, it is at least worth it to reduce any effects we may have on the future.

Additionally, since 2002, New Jersey Future has honored smart planning and development in New Jersey through the Smart Growth Awards. Below is an image of all the New Jersey Future smart growth projects that received awards.

blog post 3 picture of nj sustainable projects

One project in particular that is most relevant to me occurred in Long Branch New Jersey. As I am from Aberdeen, Long Branch is a neighboring town that I grew up going to, especially in the summertime.

This project name was the Woodrow Wilson Commons, Phases I and II, the rebuilding of public housing as an open, walkable community asset. The smart growth challenge was to determine the best way to transform an outdated public housing project so that it connects with the surrounding community and becomes an asset to the public.

Image result for woodrow wilson homes

The original 1950’s Woodrow Wilson Homes were public housing designed as two-story barrack style buildings. Most of these apartments faced the center of the site instead of the public streets with limited access and connectivity to the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, the site was considered a “topographic bowl” meaning that after a storm, the runoff would collect in the center of the development and resulted in the tenants stranded in their homes.

Woodrow Wilson - Before

Woodrow Wilson Commons prior to renovations

After the redevelopment of the area, the new housing consists of mixed-income rental housing. There are two large superblocks that are broken into smaller blocks with a grid of new streets and sidewalks to increase walkability and reconnect the homes to the surrounding community. As for the storm water management, the ground floors of the homes were build above the flood line and a central rain garden was developed along with two infiltration basins that provide short-term water storage so there is no flooding and serves as a “wet meadow” to support wildlife in the area.

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Renovated Woodrow Wilson Homes

View across basin - wet meadow basin

“Wet Meadow Basin”

Some areas of Long Branch New Jersey do not have the best reputation as there are dramatic changes in affluence around the town. The fact that this smart growth development occurred here was extremely important for the City of Long Branch as well as reflected well on New Jersey to provide better housing opportunities for its residents. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge how this project also worked on sustainability with storm water management in during this development.



Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy