Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition Program
View our Recognized Projects Here
The Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition Program provides formal recognition and independent support of specific development proposals that exemplify smart and sustainable growth characteristics. The aim of the program is to encourage support and approval of outstanding smart growth projects and project proposals by informing regulators, public officials, citizen groups, and others of the advantages these projects bring to a community and region.
What kinds of project proposals are eligible for consideration? (NEW PROVISIONS!) Private-sector and public/private residential, commercial, or mixed-use projects (both new construction and rehabilitation) are eligible for consideration. In addition to projects that are, or shortly will be, under review for development approval, those that have already completed the entitlement process or been built are also eligible to apply. Applicants should contact the Alliance Director at 301-986-5959 dwestbrooke[at]sgalliance[dot]org before submitting an application. Development projects are screened and those unlikely to achieve recognition may not accepted for review.
What are the benefits of recognition?
Recognition signifies that the project, as designed or built, will help the region accommodate anticipated growth in a
manner that achieves economic, environmental, and quality-of-life objectives. The purpose of the program is to
educate public officials and the public at large about the benefits of recognized projects to the community and
region. This is accomplished through:
- A letter of recognition from the Alliance that can be provided to local authorities or others to demonstrate independent recognition of the smart growth characteristics of the proposal
- Permission to use the Alliance’s “seal of recognition” on websites and other communications signifying the
- Publicity through press releases, ads, web site features and recognition at Alliance events
- Independent testimony by Alliance staff at public meetings or hearings explaining the recognition program and
detailing why the project won smart and sustainable growth recognition
Who makes the decision on recognition? Applications are reviewed by an independent Jury consisting of representatives of Alliance member organizations and other at-large jurors from throughout the region, who are appointed for their professional expertise and experience in development-related disciplines. Meet the jurors.
What are the criteria used by the Jury to evaluate applications? The Jury evaluates each application against a set of demanding recognition criteria relating to these characteristics of a proposed development:
- Density, design, and mix of land uses
- Transportation, mobility, and accessibility
- Community benefits
- Community participation
The criteria vary depending on the kind or level of recognition that may be applicable to the project. Download the complete set of criteria for all categories of recognition here.
What kinds of recognition are available? Various categories of recognition may be granted, at the jury’s discretion, depending on the stage of the development proposal, the
amount of detail available to the jury, the development’s location and the extent to which the proposal addresses the housing needs of
families with extremely low and low-to-moderate incomes.
• Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition (Final) is based on detailed design and specification data and graphics, and indicates that the development
meets the Alliance’s criteria for Preliminary and Final Recognition and would, if built as planned, help the Washington region accommodate growth in a manner that achieves sustainable economic, environmental and quality-of-life objectives.
• Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition (Preliminary) recognizes proposals in their early stages and is intended to be used by the developer only to help obtain preliminary or concept approvals
required by a local government when a project is at a planning and design stage where many specific details are largely
unknown, have yet to be addressed, or are not yet specified. Preliminary Recognition only indicates that the Plan conceptually meets the Alliance’s
smart growth standards and that if, as the project proceeds toward entitlement and approval, the developer elaborates upon the design and specifications in a manner consistent with smart growth principles and the more detailed criteria for Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition, the development would likely be qualify for that recognition.
• Joint Recognition from the Alliance and the ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing is a special category of recognition conferred jointly by the Washington Smart Growth
Alliance and the ULI Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing. This recognition is granted to projects that, in addition to meeting the criteria for Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition, also have 10 percent or more of their residential units targeted for households with incomes of 60% to 120% of AMI (Area Median Income). Special consideration is given to the proximity of the workforce
housing to employment centers and/or transit nodes. This additional distinction may be granted to projects seeking either final or preliminary recognition.
• Affordable Housing Distinction is a special recognition of projects that go beyond local requirements for the provision of low income housing. Low wage working families earning less than 80%, but especially below 60% of area median income (AMI) face the greatest housing cost burdens. The Washington Smart Growth Alliance will recognize those projects that distinguish themselves with providing for low income housing needs in our region, in addition to meeting the criteria for Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition. This additional distinction may be granted to projects seeking either final or preliminary recognition.
• Exemplary Recognition may at the jury's discretion be granted to developments that surpass most or all local requirements in jurisdictions with high smart growth and sustainability requirements. In jurisdictions with the highest requirements, the jury may at its discretion accept only applications for Exemplary Recognition, in order to insure that the recognition program and its benefits (publicity, testimony, etc.) have the desired effect of enhancing the sustainability of development in the region.
What are the application deadlines?
(NEW PROVISIONS!) The Alliance accepts applications for review on a monthly basis. Application deadlines expire at the Close of Business on the last business day of each month.
What are the risks associated with applying? What if my project does not achieve recognition? Applicants whose projects are not granted recognition are notified of this
decision in the strictest confidence - this is a no-risk process for the applicant regardless of the jury’s decision.
What are the costs of applying? There is an application fee of $2,500 for each application. If an applicant for Preliminary Recognition plans to apply
for final Smart and Sustainable Growth Recognition at a later date, a combined fee of $3,500 may be paid at the time of the first application
(versus $5,000 for two separate applications). Checks should be made out to the “Washington Smart Growth
Is there an application form? What information must be submitted?
There is no separate application form. The level of detailed information and materials required to support an
application vary somewhat depending on the level of recognition.
(NEW PROVISIONS!) The applicant should address all applicable questions or information items listed in the criteria in a narrative no longer than 20 letter-sized pages (not including cover pages or images) and submit this in a bound
format. The narrative must include a summary of the key features of the project, outlined here. If desired, the bulk of the narrative can take the form of a table, using the tabular form of the criteria available for download here. Regardless of the format used, care must be taken to ensure full and complete answers to all questions. As stated in the criteria: "Each criterion is...accompanied by several questions. A preponderance of positive answers will be required to win recognition at a given level. However, a simple “yes” answer will not in most cases be a sufficient response. All positive answers should be accompanied by an explanation as to how the criteria will be met, with specific information and examples."
The application must be accompanied by legible copies of concept plans, site plans, or other plans or drawings,
such as elevations; maps and aerial photographs; site photographs of current conditions. Submit full-size copies of any graphics that
may prove illegible when reduced to letter size. The table here provides more detail on what additional information is required beyond the responses to the applicable criteria questions.
Printed materials, such as marketing brochures, as well as any studies or reports by either the applicant or
the jurisdiction, may be submitted as attachments.
Submit one digital version of the application booklet, along with any graphics available in digital format. Submit 10 hard copies
of the application booklet and one copy of each full or oversized plan, map, photograph or drawing.
Where should applications be sent?
Email digital materials to dwestbrooke[at]sgalliance[dot]org. For large items exceeding email capacities, contact the Alliance Director for a link to our server. Mail or hand-deliver applications to:
Washington Sustainable Growth Alliance
4909 Cordell Avenue, 2d Floor
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
For more information contact us at dwestbrooke[at]sgalliance[dot]org.