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.”

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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

“The Death of the Fringe Suburb” and the next wave of real estate development

This past weekend, Christopher Leinberger wrote a provocative op-ed in the New York Times about why exurban America – which has been hard hit by foreclosures in recent years – won’t rebound, even if the economy does.

Leinberger, who is President of Smart Growth America’s project LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, went on to explain why the future is so dim for these places, and what Americans are looking for instead.

High home values and low vacancy rates in the country’s city centers and inner suburbs mean that Americans want to live in mixed-income, pedestrian-friendly areas that “support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.” Outer fringe areas are failing to offer these features – and they will fail in the marketplace as a result.

LOCUS

Building for a new America: RailVolution 2011 in Washington, DC

To understand the new American dream, we have to understand the new America.

This was the theme of today’s opening plenary session at RailVolution, a four-day conference dedicated to discussing strategies for building livable communities served by transit. This year’s conference, which takes place in Washington, DC, will discuss the best strategies to support downtowns, the benefits rail can bring to a regional economy, and policy initiatives that can support these goals.

Opening this morning’s plenary was Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. Joining him was Manuel Pastor, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Both Leinberger and Pastor spoke about shifting trends in the United States, and how these shifts will influence communities’ strategies for building homes, business areas and transportation networks. The U.S. is diversifying both ethnically and racially, Pastor explained, and the suburbs in particular are growing more diverse than ever before. These aren’t the only changes at work, however. Leinberger added that the U.S.’s population is growing older, as millions of Americans reach retirement age. The number of homes in America without children is also on the rise, and young people are increasingly moving to cities and urban areas.

LOCUS

LOCUS steering committee members honored at ULI Terwillinger Center Awards Gala

The Urban Land Institute’s Terwillinger Center for Workforce Housing held its annual awards gala in September to recognize communities, real estate developers and policymakers in promoting workforce housing affordability. The Jonathan Rose Companies, led by LOCUS steering committee member Jonathan Rose, received the Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Model of Excellence award for their Tapestry development in East Harlem, New York. The award is given in honor of former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp in recognition of four developers who have used innovative financing and design strategies to build developments and offers units at both market rate and below-market rate for residents.

LOCUS Steering Committee member Eric Larson also attended the event to present the Robert C. Larson Workforce Housing Public Policy Award, which recognizes the commitment of a state or local government that is dedicated to the production, rehabilitation and preservation of workforce housing. New this year, the award is named in memory of Larson’s father, Bob Larson, a leading real estate developer and investor chair of the Resolution Trust Corporation and former ULI chairman. This year’s award recipient is the city of San Jose.

“My father believed that a keen sense of community would emerge when dedicated, smart people do the right thing. And public policy, with strong leadership, is key to the lasting quality of a community,” Larson said. “We are thrilled that San Jose is the first recipient of this award bearing my father’s name.”

LOCUS

Shifting demand spurs new development in downtown Las Vegas

Real estate developers in Las Vegas are seeing growing demand for homes downtown.

An article in the Las Vegas Sun this week chronicles the change, explaining that offers for homes in the heart of the city are coming in above asking price, and as new amenities are created in the city developers expect demand to rise even higher.

“That’s what you need for a city to grow is rental housing,” said New York developer Barnet Liberman, as quoted by the Sun. “There shouldn’t be any barrier for lower-income people to be able to grow and prosper. The only question for developers, guys like myself, is they’ve got to know that there’s a real solid, almost certainty that if they do A, B and C, then they get D. When you see that the city is behind you in terms of a common goal, it helps eliminate some of the risk.”

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