2023 Washington Governor’s Smart Communities Award recipients announced

Annual awards recognize excellence, creativity, collaboration in land use planning and development

OLYMPIA, WA — The Washington State Department of Commerce is pleased to announce the 11 winners of the 2023 Governor’s Smart Communities Awards. Presented annually since 2006, the Smart Communities Awards program recognizes local governments and their partners for exceptional land use planning and development. The awards showcase effective implementation of the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA).

The honored local programs and projects serve as leading examples for other communities as they seek to address similar land use planning issues or look for inspiration and creative ideas.

“The Smart Awards continues a long-standing tradition in our state of excellence and leadership. This year’s winners are tackling everything from housing affordability to environmental restoration, proving that our state can do anything it sets its mind to,” said Gov. Jay Inslee

“Making Equity a recognizable achievement in our communities and celebrating the kinds of projects that take years if not decades to reach fruition are both admirable additions to the governor’s annual program,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “I am excited to share the community engagement and innovative problem solving each winner used to address today’s challenges.”

Award winners by category:


Recognizes a local comprehensive plan, subarea plan or specific planning policies.

City of Vancouver – The Heights District Master Plan creates an affordable housing vision for the Vancouver Heights neighborhood. Relying on important feedback and community engagement, the goal of the plan is to avoid displacement of existing residents while revitalizing the area.


photo of Clover Island restoration project in Kennewick at night

Clover Island, Kennewick, WA

Recognizes a joint public project that implements a comprehensive plan.

Port of Kennewick & Partners – Using two separate Master Plans in 2005 and 2021, the Clover Island Restoration and Revitalization plan restores a critical part of the community waterfront after years of industrial use. Federal, state and tribal partners all worked together to restore this important community asset with public art, recreational amenities and upland development.


Recognizes a local project that implements a comprehensive plan.

City of Olympia – The Olympia Armory Creative Campus – Community Visioning and Concept Plan Development repurposes a historic site in the City of Olympia for continued community benefit by transforming a former National Guard armory into a public arts center. After engaging over 6,500 community stakeholders, the new art center will meet a long-standing goal of Olympia’s comprehensive plan.

City of Waitsburg – The Waitsburg Sewer System Improvement project restores a community sewer system built in the 1930s with outdated brick manholes and clay sewer lines. The biggest sewer system improvement in the city’s history took careful planning, shared funding and a specialized skill set to update this aging system.


Recognizes creative plans, policies, programs and/or actions.

City of Spokane – The “Building Opportunity and Choices for All” program represents a forward thinking step in response to a statewide housing crisis. The program implemented a middle housing zoning model ahead of the curve, and the recently enacted middle housing legislation (HB 1110 (2023)). Meeting many of the goals of the GMA, the new ordinance encourages urban development, reduces sprawl, focuses on multimodal transportation and most importantly, lays the groundwork for housing affordability.

“The City of Spokane is honored to be recognized for its Building Opportunity and Choices for All interim ordinance. We’re thrilled that our program is already creating new choices for housing in all areas of the city,” Spokane Planning Services Director Spencer Gardner said. “The ordinance has drawn interest from other jurisdictions, the media and decision makers from across the country. Spokane is proud to set an example for a meaningful increase in housing options for people at all stages of life. We are returning to our roots of small-scale development and flexibility for meeting the demands of an evolving market for housing — the same ethic that led to the creation of many of our most cherished neighborhoods.”


Recognizes local plans, policies, programs and/or actions addressing community climate impacts.

City of Tacoma – Tacoma’s Green Economic Development Strategy is a blueprint for business-focused communities to pursue a sustainable future. With six strategic initiatives, Tacoma is tailoring employment, education, and revitalization efforts and its overall commercial identity.


Recognizes community plans, policies and programs and/or actions addressing equity.

McKinley Hill Smart Equity Strategies award winner project in Tacoma, WA

Business District, Event, H2O to go, McKinley, Public Event, drinking water, water fountain

City of Tacoma – The McKinley Hill Neighborhood Plan began as a Smart Project submittal and ended as a very real lesson in planning with equity in mind. Creating an implementation strategy that empowered and enabled the McKinley Hill neighborhood from the start to finish, Tacoma’s professional planners co-created the final neighborhood plan with residents and used “quick-win” actions to bring that plan to reality. From an equity lens, Tacoma piloted a language ambassador program and relied on community members to help develop, translate and share information in Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian. This project establishes a model for equity in planning and community engagement.


Recognizes long-term community visioning, planning, policies and programs and/or actions that took 25 years or more to accomplish.

City of Marysville – The Cascade Industrial Center (CIC) represents a long-term vision for Marysville. The CIC started as a part of the Marysville comprehensive plan in 1996. It took an area outside of the existing Urban Growth Area and through a series of planned steps, brought a new light industrial and commercial operation to the community.

City of Renton – The South Lake Washington Revitalization project required Renton to adopt several ordinances and amendments to its comprehensive plan. Collaborating with Boeing, a former airplane-manufacturing site was transformed into a mixed-use retail center. Designed to complement adjacent uses, the project took more than 20 years and redefined a waterfront area for the Renton community, with public investment create the bridge for private development.


Recognize success in more than one judged category.

City of Leavenworth – The Bavarian Village (Project LIFE) is what we think of when we think of Leavenworth today. This Washington state landmark and top tourist destination took careful planning over a 60-year period. Project LIFE began in the 1960s and developed slowly through a community partnership focused on town values. This is a legacy award, but it is also so much more. It took vision, planning and project implementation to produce Project LIFE and save one of our state’s landmark destinations.

Photo of Family First Community Center in Renton

Family First Community Center, Renton, WA

City of Renton – The Family First Community Center (FFCC) represents a strong partnership that led to an amazing community center seamlessly designed to fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. A part of several plans including the Renton comprehensive plan (2015), the FFCC provides recreation, education, community gathering spaces and medical support for an underserved community. Originally a partnership award, this project combined the efforts of the Renton School District, the Family First Community Center Foundation, HealthPoint and the City of Renton.


City of Issaquah – Eastside Climate Partnership—Energy Smart Eastside Heat Pump Program—The city of Issaquah earns an Honorable Mention and is recognized for its Energy Smart Eastside Heat Pump Program. The program supported several climate related goals of reducing energy use and supporting low-income and affordable housing units in the installation of heat pumps.

Learn more about all of the 2023 Smart Communities Award Winners.


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