Smart Growth America staff, partners, developers, local leaders and allies discuss implementing transit in Middle Tennessee


From right: Smart Growth America’s Geoff Anderson with Ken Rose, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mitchell Silver, American Planning Association; and Arthur Guzzetti, American Public Transportation Association. Photo courtesy of the Nashville Area MPO.  

In 2010 Middle Tennessee’s mayors agreed on a milestone, ten-county vision for transit. Last month, leaders in the region met to talk about how to make those plans a reality.

More than 250 political leaders, transportation and land use planners, transit agency partners, developers, architects, engineers, academics, and non-profit advocates came together on October 25 and 26, 2012 in downtown Nashville to discuss the first steps of implementing the region’s innovative transit plan. The event was organized by the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, and sponsored by Transportation for America, a joint project of Smart Growth America and Reconnecting America.

LOCUS

Smart Growth Stories: Taking transit-oriented development to a new level in Portland, OR

For developers selecting a site for new development, transit accessibility is a major selling point. A good transit connection can increase property values while making a site more attractive to potential investors and residents. But because transit stations are limited resources, only a handful of sites can boast direct transit access. What if a site were to have access to not only one transit line, but three?

That is the situation for LOCUS member ZRZ Realty and its property Zidell Yards. With three types of transit, the Yards might be the most transit-oriented development site in the country.

“There are very few sites that have streetcar and light rail,” says Dennis Allen, Director of Planning and Development for ZRZ Realty and LOCUS Steering Committee member. “I guarantee you that we’re probably the only one that also has an aerial tram that goes next to it. If you throw that in, it’s probably the most pre-eminent transit-oriented development site.”

Zidell Yards is a 33-acre former shipbuilding yard along the Willamette River in Portland, which ZRZ is now working to develop into a mixed-use district. Located directly adjacent to downtown and close to Oregon Health & Science University, a major employer in the area, it is the largest undeveloped site in the city. With such immediate transportation access, the property has created high hopes for economic development and investment in the area and Allen is confident his company can capitalize on the demand for TOD in Portland right now. More amenities, retail stores and restaurants are expected soon, following the development-friendly path of the city’s expanding light-rail line.

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Diverse development helps neighborhoods in greater DC and beyond


Washington, DC’s Yards Park in the Capital Riverfront neighborhood. Photo via Flickr.

Office renters, apartment seekers and shoppers are all vital parts of creating a great, economically resilient neighborhood. What development strategies attract these people? As Christopher B. Leinberger’s new research explains, walkable streets and transit choices are increasingly important in Washington DC and across the country.

Leinberger, President of LOCUS and Research Professor at The George Washington University School of Business, sat down with the Washington Post recently to discuss his most recent research, “The WalkUP Wake-Up Call,” and the future of development in the Washington DC region.

LOCUS

Michigan legislature proposes improvements to Brownfields TIF program


The former Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse is being rennovated to become a home for the Neighborhood Service Organization and 155 housing units for homeless individuals. The project is made possible by federal and state historic tax credits, federal brownfields tax credits and a 10-year tax abatement from the City of Detroit. Photo copyright by Michael G. Smith. Used with permission.

New legislation moving through the Michigan State Senate could make it easier for developers to clean up and rebuild on brownfields in the state.

Michigan’s Senate Bill 1210, an amendment to the state’s Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act (Act 381), is likely to see significant changes this year. If enacted, the bill would promote urban development throughout the state, reduce regulatory requirements, streamline the approval process. Here’s an overview of how.

LOCUS

Striving for transit-friendly communities in the Puget Sound region


“Seattle Streetcar,” by Flickr user Sean Marshall.

For those not familiar, they could be forgiven for mistaking the opening speaker at this month’s Transit Financing Workshop in Seattle for an ardent smart growth advocate. And in many ways he is. He just also happens to be the Mayor of Seattle.

Mayor Michael McGinn’s comments about the critical role walkable neighborhoods and transit play in economic development set the stage for a day-long event about transit-oriented development in the Puget Sound region on October 4, 2012. Sponsored by Transportation for America, LOCUS Washington, the Transportation Choices Coalition, ULI Northwest and the Quality Growth Alliance, the event brought together leaders from the business, real estate, advocacy, and government sectors to discuss transit, transit-finance, and how the Seattle region can better position itself for future growth.

LOCUS

Smart Growth Stories: Building a solid foundation for the future of Detroit

Detroit is changing. The popular story of the last half-decade has largely revolved around the economic fallout of the troubled automobile industry, interspersed with tales of population drain and abandonment. Based on this narrative, it might be easy to dismiss Detroit, to write the city off as a once-great but now-fallen metropolis of yesterday.

Easy, that is, unless you’ve been following the news. A New York Times article from a year ago picked up on the massive influx of young, educated people even in the face of massive out-migration, while a Forbes article from July of this year highlighted the development in downtown Detroit, largely centered around Woodward Avenue, the spine of the downtown area.

These news stories are beginning to touch upon what people familiar with the new movement in Detroit already know: Detroit is rebuilding. But this time, developers and investors are taking a different tack, focusing on downtown, mixed-use, and transit-oriented development strategies, shifting the city away from the large manufacturing development that has characterized Detroit for so long.

Bedrock Real Estate is at the forefront of this new strategy. “We’re going to continue to fill up Detroit, downtown Detroit. There’s no longer this need for manufacturing plants. You don’t need these big, huge buildings anymore,” says Jim Ketai, Managing Partner of Bedrock and member of the Steering Committee for LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. “So we are recreating Detroit. It’ll be a new Detroit, something different than what Detroit once was.”

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Smart Growth Stories: Emerick Corsi on driving growth with transit

Many people recognize Forest City Enterprises as one of the biggest real estate companies in the nation, with a multi-billion dollar portfolio that spans coast to coast and a spot on the New York Stock Exchange.

What’s less well known is that Forest City also happens to be one of the biggest advocates of walkable neighborhoods with transportation choices. Real Estate Services President Emerick Corsi is a firm believer in the power of transit to drive economic growth in surrounding areas, and the company is actively pursuing this kind of development. As a member of LOCUS, Forest City understands the impact of transit-oriented development on local economic growth and job creation.

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Smart Growth Stories: More choice for less cost in Washington state

“We cannot continue as we did in the 50s and 60s and 70s to sprawl out,” says John Hempelmann, one of the founding partners of Seattle-based law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann. “We need real economic opportunity for the development community building in the cities and building close to the transit hubs.”

Founded in 1987, Cairncross & Hempelmann is located in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District, highlighting its investment in maintaining the city’s distinct character. John Hempelmann is also a member of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors committed to creating livable, economically vibrant places.

As a lawyer who represents real estate developers, Hempelmann keenly follows market trends in his hometown of Seattle. By helping developers build walkable neighborhoods, Hempelmann is giving consumers more options, allowing them to choose for themselves what kind of development they’d prefer.

“We are now providing an urban walkable option and we’re finding that a lot of people are opting for that choice,” he says. “It allows you to reduce transportation costs and allows you to spend more on housing so there’s an economic value to both the buyer and the seller.”

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New research highlights rising demand for homes and businesses in walkable neighborhoods

A new report from The George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, in partnership with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors and ULI Washington, reveals how walkable urban places and projects will drive tomorrow’s real estate industry and the U.S. economy, and outlines what actions are needed to take advantage of these market trends.

The report was released at an event yesterday in Washington, DC. Governor Parris Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, gave the kickoff keynote of the day-long event. Glendening discussed the megatrends shaping the real estate market today, including changing demographics, new demand among consumers and emerging economic factors. These trends are all influencing the real estate market, Glendening explained, and are shaping how developers think about the built environment and economic development.

LOCUS

Smart growth stories: Michael Lander on changing markets and transit-oriented development in Minnesota

To give people the kind of in-demand housing they want near jobs, shops and schools, America needs to invest in a diversity of transportation options and make it easier to build transit-oriented development, says Michael Lander of the Lander Group, an urban development firm based in Minneapolis, MN.

Helping meet that pent up demand won’t just be good for Lander’s bottom line, but will also enhance the quality of life for prospective residents in these new transportation-rich neighborhoods.

“High-density development really doesn’t work relying totally on single occupancy vehicles, so creating new transportation options and other ways to move around is critical to creating good urban places,” Lander says, adding that, “Our urban residents are looking for green spaces, certainly, open space, transportation connections, [and] ways to move around in their life to work and to services without using their car.”

With the successful opening of the Hiawatha light rail line last year, which connected downtown Minneapolis with the airport, as well as the nearly completed Central Corridor line between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Lander says there is a real opportunity in Minnesota to reap the benefits of transit-oriented development. And when that development takes root, many more local businesses and property owners will benefit from added sales and a greater “sense of place.”

Local Leaders Council LOCUS