WASHINGTON – The programs that won Environmental Protection Agency awards for sustainable growth Wednesday show economic growth and environmental protection work together, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in announcing the winners.


McCarthy and the project winners highlighted the need for partnerships among government agencies, sustainable development projects and businesses in order to combat climate change and promote public health while providing economic benefits.

Climate change is “the most devastating public health challenge of our time,” McCarthy said, and people need to “just get off their butts and move it… Today is about recognizing those butts that have moved.”

“There is no difference between economic growth and environmental protection as long as we’re serving the same public,” she said.

Winning projects in five categories came from Atlanta, Dubuque, Iowa, Chicago, Sacramento Calif., and Charles City, Iowa. Atlanta won overall excellence in smart growth achievement. The winners were community groups or city planning committees that brought new life to old buildings or previously contaminated lands. The 12-year-old competition attracted 77 entries for 2013.

For example, the Millwork District revitalization project from Dubuque, Iowa won the Corridor or Neighborhood Revitalization award for its rehabilitation of old mill buildings with as little alteration to the original buildings as possible. In an accompanying video, the project leaders highlighted the energy they saved by using the original structure and by converting old buildings into a residential neighborhood rather than building new ones on green space.

Atlanta’s project, the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park, took a blighted 300-acre old rail corridor and transformed it into a parkway that connects 45 neighborhoods in Atlanta.

“It would have simply been a retention pond,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed , “if some folks didn’t have a vision.”

The development spurred $775 million in private development in the form of mixed-income condominiums, offices and the rehabilitation of the historic Ponce City market, according to the EPA. The project also created more than a thousand new jobs for Atlanta’s citizens.

The winner of the overall excellence award in 2012 was the BLVD project in Lancaster, Calif., which was a similar transformation of a blighted neighborhood into a flourishing, sustainable economic sector. Chenin Dow, a management analyst for the City of Lancaster, said that winning the award brought worldwide attention.

“We received calls from places as far away as Australia,” Dow said, “and from local and state governments looking to replicate our project.”