2020 Bike Town


Bike Town

Portland is well known for its eccentric bike culture, and an explosion in cycling has helped the city achieve its ambitious climate goals. But not everyone has joined the revolution.

2009 Banking on Transit


Banking on Transit

Transit is key to preventing sprawl while creating a more livable urban environment and minimizing the city’s carbon footprint.

In 1993, Portland became the first U.S. city to enact a plan to address climate change. The city cut its carbon emissions by 15 percent from 1990 to 2017—even as its population grew by 38 percent. Today Portland is still pushing the envelope, but along the way it is learning important lessons about how these efforts affect its citizens.

In order for us to achieve our long-term emissions reduction of 80 percent by 2050, we can't . . . leave a third of the city behind.

Vacant land represents not loss but opportunity to an increasing number of forward-looking Clevelanders. By taking advantage of cheap, available land, residents are building a city for the new millennium that features green energy and urban agriculture.

2020 Blue Lake


Blue Lake

An offshore wind energy project on Lake Erie will generate clean power and reinvent Cleveland’s industrial legacy for a new era.

2020 Green City


Green City

A commercial farm overlooking downtown Cleveland? A vineyard in inner-city Hough? Clevelanders are finding creative uses for vacant land that spark economic activity and also help the city prepare for climate change.


WPA 2.0: Beauty, Economics, Politics, and the Creation of New Public Infrastructure

Susannah Drake

During the past 400 years, the United States has been transformed by massive public and private works projects and technological innovations intended to facilitate commerce, improve public health, and foster economic development.

Great Adaptations: How Two Smaller Legacy Cities Are Adopting Green Infrastructure

Cyrus Moulton

As smaller legacy cities continue the grueling work of rebounding from the severe economic and population losses suffered since their manufacturing heydays, the green approach is gaining traction.

The Riches of Resilience: Cities Are Investing in Green Infrastructure—Should Developers Help Foot the Bill?

Anthony Flint

Like many coastal cities, Miami is facing a climate future that is already here.

The Empty House Next Door

Alan Mallach

Renowned city planner and housing advocate Alan Mallach presents effective strategies for community leaders, local officials, and nonprofits contending with vacant properties in the United States.

From New York City to Jining, China, These Projects Exemplify the Principle of Designing with Nature

The projects featured in this article are excerpted from Design with Nature Now. They were selected for the book because each in some way narrows the gap between theory and practice and opens up a wider horizon for the future of landscape architecture.

Santa Monica Goes All-In on Green: Reflections from Mayor Gleam Davis

Anthony Flint

For some people, Santa Monica conjures images of sunshine and surfing. But the southern California city should rightly be known for sustainability, too.

The (Late) Great Climate Change Mobilization

Anthony Flint and Billy Fleming

Climate change can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But many tools and policies to decarbonize the economy and build resilience are readily available, says Billy Fleming, director of The McHarg Center and an editor of Design with Nature Now.

2020 The Water Game


The Water Game

Climate change is upsetting the old paradigms and posing threats to the Phoenix way of life. But the city’s leadership in water planning and conservation has equipped it to face a hotter, drier future.

2003 Just Add Water


Just Add Water

The explosive growth of Phoenix was made possible by the diversion of the Colorado River, which allowed farmers to grow water-intensive crops, industry to flourish, and the city to market itself to developers as a desert oasis.

At the end of the day the challenge of sustainability for Phoenix—maybe for everywhere—is not a challenge of geography or of climate. It’s a challenge of politics.

Colorado River

The Colorado River holds life-sustaining importance for the vast desert regions of the American West. But with dwindling snowpack in the Rocky Mountains from which it springs, and increasingly thirsty soils and cities sapping its tributaries, this fabled river is in extreme danger.

Population Growth and Water Use in Phoenix
line graph
pie chart shows 71 percent


of Water Use is Residential

pie chart shows 20 percent


of Water Use is Commercial

Resilient and drought-tolerant, tepary beans are native to the desert Southwest, grown by Native peoples since pre-Columbian times. But when the Pima and Maricopa tribes of the Phoenix region lost access to their water, cultivation of the beans nearly disappeared. Now with water restored, the beans are making a comeback—and so are their growers. Today, Native peoples are helping Phoenix prepare for climate change by sharing their resources and knowledge.

Seeds and Water

They know this place. And with that comes a resilience and adaptability to this environment.

Building long-term resilience to climate change can also improve quality of life today. With a single project, the Cleveland suburb of Euclid can mitigate shoreline erosion from Lake Erie, open access to recreation along the lakefront, and boost home values to boot. But how does the cash-strapped city pay for the project? That’s where Euclid gets inventive.

Lakefront City

Growing Water Smart: Workshop Helps Western Communities Integrate Water and Land Use Planning

Katharine Wroth

For communities across the West, the dual pressures of rapid development and climate change are making water an increasingly precious commodity—and an increasingly hot topic.

Integrating Water Efficiency into Land Use Planning in the Interior West: A Guidebook for Local Planners

Emma Zehner

"Integrating Water Efficiency into Land Use Planning in the Interior West: A Guidebook for Local Planners" builds on years of research and community discussions and aims to build collaboration between land use planners and water planners.

Scenario Planning: Embracing Uncertainty to Make Better Decisions

Robert Goodspeed

Faced with an unprecedented array of uncertainties, American cities and regions increasingly turn to scenario planning.

Water Meets Land

Anthony Flint

As the global water crisis intensifies, the Colorado River Basin is poised to become a model for how to bring together stakeholders representing agriculture, urban areas, and the natural environment.

Designing the Future City

Anthony Flint and Heather Hannon

Cities around the world are hard at work on traffic congestion, but the task is about to get more complex, with the advent of driverless vehicles, delivery robots, and more. Heather Hannon explains how scenario planning can help design the future city.

Great Lakes Communities Use Scenario Planning to Prepare for Rising Waters

Emma Zehner

The national dialogue about rising waters tends to focus on coastal states like Florida and New York. But residents in Michigan, which has one of the longest coastlines in the continental U.S., are also contending with changes.

2003 Costs of Anthem


Costs of Anthem

Besides the burden to taxpayers, leap-frog developments like Anthem impose a heavy cost on the environment—increasing car emissions and reducing carbon-storing open space.

2006 Avon



Building amid decayed urban infrastructure and brownfields is expensive, while paving over distant cornfields is cheap and lucrative thanks to tax-financed infrastructure.

2003 A Threatened Desert


A Threatened Desert

Once altered by development, what may be the world’s most biodiverse desert will never be the same.

2020 Superstition Vistas


Superstition Vistas

In a first for the Phoenix region, a coordinated effort by diverse stakeholders prioritizes dense, sustainable design and construction of a massive new development, with the goal of preserving open desert and conserving resources.

The desert is the essential magic of Phoenix, and we have the most spectacular and beautiful desert in the world.

2020 Growing Pains


Growing Pains

A decade after ballot-measure battles threatened Portland’s land use system, are Portlanders buying in to their land use laws, or is another challenge on the horizon?

2009 Urban Growth Boundary


Urban Growth Boundary

Portland’s urban growth boundary is seen as the vanguard of the smart-growth movement because it places hard limits on sprawl.

2009 Cornelius



The benefits of the urban growth boundary do not come without trade-offs, and some Portlanders face more of these trade-offs than others. The system’s survival depends on finding ways to compromise and promote fairness.

Two things that Oregonians hate—density and sprawl. Well, when you have 300,000 people moving every 10 years into your region, there are only two ways to accommodate that—either through density or sprawl.

Measured Growth

See Portland’s urban growth boundary in action.

Projected Population of Portland
line graph of portland's growing population
pie chart shows 94 percent


Of New Residential Units Built
Within 1979 Boundary



New Homes Planned


No Little Plans: The Evolution of the Comprehensive Plan

Kathleen McCormick

Comprehensive plans can inspire their creators to tap their highest and best professional skills, training, and vision—or cause them to question their choice of profession.

Gentle Infill: Boomtowns Are Making Room for Skinny Homes, Granny Flats, and Other Affordable Housing

Kathleen McCormick

Recent news stories routinely feature “hot market” U.S. cities with astronomical housing prices that end up displacing residents with moderate or low incomes.

Imagery in the above videos are courtesy of the following:

Bike Town: J. Maus/BikePortland; Joe Biel/MusicVideoDistributors; M. Andersen/BikePortland; Street Films. 

Blue Lake: The Library of Congress; The National Archives; Pond 5; Scientific AmericanSmithsonian Institution Archives, Image # SIA2008-0307; Western Reserve Historical Society.

Growing Pains: Metro; Pond5; Shutterstock. 

Lakefront City: Google Maps; The National Archives; Smithgroup JJR. 

Seeds and Water: Arizona Historical Society; Central Arizona Project; Gila River Indian News; High Country News; Imagn.

Superstition Vistas: Fregonese Associates, Inc.

The Water Game: Arizona Capitol TV; Arizona Governors Office; AZ Central/Imagn; Brigham Young University Museum of Art; Central Arizona Project; Pima County Arizona; Pond5; Pueblo Grande Museum, City of Phoenix, Artist’s rendition of the Hohokam canals by Michael Hampshire; Shutterstock.

Click here to watch the original Making Sense of Place series in its entirety.