Many commuters are trading a backyard for a train station

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to discuss the rising popularity of living near public transit.

Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

Tom and Pat Kelly spent 22 years living what many people consider the American dream: They owned a four-bedroom home with a pool and a big yard in Turnersville, N.J. They traded that in to live near a train station.

With two of their three children living on their own, the couple no longer wanted to spend time raking leaves, shoveling snow and doing other maintenance their large home required. So they moved to LumberYard, a mixed-use condominium development near their son’s and daughter’s homes and within walking distance of the local train station.

Now, instead of spending two or more hours commuting daily in his red Volkswagen Beetle, Mr. Kelly, 56, hops on the Patco high-speed train line and gets to his Philadelphia law-firm job across the Delaware River in about a half-hour. “It’s just a much more enjoyable life,” he says.

LumberYard is a transit-oriented development, or TOD, one of a growing number of mixed-use developments that combine town houses or condominiums with retail shops, hotels and other businesses—all perched near a train station.

Transit oriented development—a term some credit to urban planner Peter Calthorpe—started to take off in the mid-1990s. But, the financial crisis slowed TOD projects along with other residential developments, says Christopher Leinberger, a Washington, D.C. urban land-use strategist and partner in developer Arcadia Land Co. Now, developers say they are dusting off old plans and starting new ones.

Read more: Suburban Swap: Trading a Backyard for a Train Station [Wall Street Journal – May 1, 2012]

LOCUS

Upcoming summit to celebrate and inspire placemaking in Northern Michigan

Great places where people want to visit, live, work and play are vital to any region’s economic success. The work of creating these great places is called “placemaking,” and in Michigan, many communities are already using placemaking strategies to attract jobs, entrepreneurs and economic development.

The Northern Maine Michigan Placemaking Summit in Traverse City and Petoskey on May 21, 2012 will focus on placemaking as a tool to build community pride and prosperity. Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS, will deliver the keynote address at the event. This year’s Summit is sponsored by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments in partnership with the Michigan Land Use Institute and the Michigan Municipal League.

LOCUS

LOCUS President Chris Leinberger delivers keynote address at New Jersey Redevelopment Forum


A NJ Transit light rail train passes along Essex Street in Bayonne, NJ. Photo by Flickr user Flodigrip’s world.

In March, LOCUS President Chris Leinberger delivered the keynote address at the New Jersey Redevelopment Forum, an event hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner New Jersey Future. The following is crossposted from New Jersey Future’s blog Future Facts.

Many in the luncheon crowd at New Jersey Future’s seventh-annual Redevelopment Forum were still digesting their cold cuts and salads when keynote speaker Leinberger stepped to the microphone and delivered an opening shot to their state’s midsection:

“New Jersey is the poster child for sprawl.”

A renowned urbanist, president of LOCUS; Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, Leinberger did not mince words when he described how New Jersey, like the rest of America, latched onto a drivable suburban lifestyle in the 1950s—and didn’t let go for the next half-century.

“Transportation drives development,” he noted. Modifying a well-known quote from Winston Churchill (“First we shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”), he said, “We first build our transportation system, and then it molds our metro regions.” Investment in highways leads to drivable suburban development, he explained, while investment in rail, bus, bike lanes and sidewalks leads to walkable urban development.

LOCUS

Register today for LOCUS' 2012 Leadership Summit

Real estate developers, investors and professionals are invited to join LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors for the first annual LOCUS Leadership Summit from June 5-7, 2012 in Washington, DC.

This three-day event will provide real estate professionals from across the country the opportunity to meet with Congressional leaders and smart growth industry leaders, to network with fellow professionals, and gain in-depth information about the federal financing of real estate and other innovative solutions to challenges facing the real estate industry.

LOCUS

New Jersey isn't capitalizing on demand for walkable places

The following was crossposted from Smart Growth America’s coalition partner, New Jersey Future.

A 2008 survey found that 77 percent of Millennials – the generation of 20-somethings – want to live where they are “close to each other, to services, to places to meet, and to work, and they would rather walk than drive.”

New Jersey, with its extensive rail transit network and “streetcar suburbs” with pedestrian-friendly downtowns that surround many of their stations, is well poised to take advantage of the rise in demand for this walkable urbanism.

The New Divide: Walkable vs. Drivable
New Jersey is an anomaly among the 50 states in that it is highly urbanized yet lacks a major center city to claim as its own. The state’s home-grown urban centers all live in the shadows of their much larger neighbors, New York and Philadelphia. In fact, New Jersey is widely perceived as consisting mainly of suburbs serving these two cities, even if many of its small towns do not fit the low-density, single-use stereotype of a “suburb.” The distinction, however, between city and suburb as the defining paradigm for describing the built environment is giving way to a new dichotomy: walkable urbanism versus drivable sub-urbanism. New Jersey is well positioned to take advantage of this change.

LOCUS

Anderson: Address the Housing Crisis's Underlying Issues

The following op-ed was crossposted from Roll Call.

President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke seem enamored with renting foreclosed properties to blunt price decreases and to stir economic recovery, but that’s a bandage for symptoms as opposed to a real cure.

Instead, we need to learn from the problems that landed us in this mess in the first place, working to bring government policies in line with good business sense and to incentivize market-driven development.

Or, in the words of investor Warren Buffett, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

LOCUS Uncategorized

Birmingham, AL looks for ways to grow smarter

In 2000, the average resident of Birmingham, AL drove 34.8 miles each day, and only 2% of residents took transit or walked to work. Now, Birmingham is looking to change these trends and asked Smart Growth America for ideas about how to do it.

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham invited Smart Growth America President and CEO Geoff Anderson and LOCUS President Chris Leinberger to come to Birmingham last week to speak about smarter growth. In a joint presentation, Anderson and Leinberger discussed new trends in neighborhood design and what they could mean for Alabama.

LOCUS

Smart growth presents opportunities for homebuilders in a struggling housing market


North 14th St. at Crown Square in Old North St. Louis, part of the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group‘s revitalization work in the city. Photo by Old North St. Louis via Flickr.

Rising demand for smart growth development might be a key strategy for turning around the housing industry.

Speaking to Builder magazine earlier this month, Smart Growth America Vice President Ilana Preuss explained that strong demand for walkable neighborhoods is an opportunity home builders can take advantage of.

LOCUS

LOCUS developer project will turn strip mall into transit-oriented development

It’s an all too common sight throughout the U.S.: a big-box retailer surrounded by a sea of parking lots, with a gas station near the entrance, the whole area spotted with a handful of token trees.

LOCUS Steering Committee member Ed Lipkin and his firm EBL & S Development had other ideas for a generic lot just like this in San Mateo, Calif.

His project, Station Park Green, is a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that will be located on a site once home to a Kmart, Michaels and a gas station. The 12-acre project will include 599 residential units, 10,000 square feet of office facilities, over 60,000 square feet of retail.

LOCUS

Walkable neighborhoods gaining popularity – even in the suburbs

Crossposted from the Huffington Post.

Last week, my colleague Chris Leinberger wrote a provocative op-ed in the New York Times titled “The Death of the Fringe Suburb.” Leinberger, who is president of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, which is a project of Smart Growth America, highlighted the convergence of a number of factors in heralding the decline of far flung, auto-dependant exurbs. Rising gas prices, demographic changes, and shifting consumer preferences have all made these areas less attractive to homebuyers — a fact reflected in the financial troubles and foreclosure crises many of these communities face.

This gloomy portrait, however, is only the prelude to Leinberger’s discussion of an exciting new wave of demand for real estate. Today, the most valuable housing is in center city and inner suburb communities where shops, schools and homes are within walking distance of one another. More and more Americans want to live in these affordable and accessible neighborhoods — and the proof is in the prices of homes in these areas. Perhaps even more importantly, this type of development is where the knowledge economy thrives, helps support regional economies and promotes environmental sustainability.

LOCUS