The Environmental Protection Agency sees signs that "smart growth" is catching on nationwide in the tea leaves of building trends in the nation's 50 largest metropolitan areas.
The agency tallied a surge in residential building permits in the urban cores of more than half the big metro areas from 1990 to 2007. Indeed, 15 metro regions (including Baltimore) more than doubled the share of permits issued for their central cities. The growth was especially marked in the most recent five years, the EPA report says, and the trend even survived the beginning of the real estate market bust in 2007.
On closer inspection, though, it's clear suburban and rural sprawl still rules most of the land. Only in New York did urban redevelopment account for the majority of housing construction. In just seven others did the urban cores get a quarter or more of all new home building.
In the Baltimore area, the EPA report found that the central city's share of residential construction more than tripled -- from 2 percent in the early 1990s to 7 percent in the years after 2002. It fell back to 5 percent in 2007. You can read more about the report here.
(Photo at right, taken in 2007, is of condos under construction at 414 Water Street, as reflected off a nearby building. Picture Jerry Jackson of The Baltimore Sun.)