Smart Growth Stories: Point C’s David Grannis on creating vibrant neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles

The right development can strengthen the economy of a neighborhood, a city or even an entire region. Places with housing and transportation choices are increasingly popular, and can benefit municipal budgets as well. Too often, however, this type of development is blocked by restrictive zoning guidelines or other regulatory policies, which stand in the way of fiscally responsible development – and market demand.

This is why real estate developers have joined together with Smart Growth America to create LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. LOCUS advocates for state and federal policies that help cities and communities get what they want from their spaces, while also investing ways that will remain viable for the future.

It is this shared vision for future development that drives people like David Grannis. Grannis is a managing partner of Point C, a strategic consulting group that focuses on land use and transportation and LOCUS member.

Local Leaders Council LOCUS

Transportation Referendum Failure Leaves Atlanta Transit's Future Uncertain

The Atlanta region has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Following Tuesday’s T-SPLOST vote, residents will have to wait even longer for relief. Voters in the 10-county Atlanta region voted Tuesday to overwhelmingly reject the T-SPLOST ballot measure Tuesday. By increasing the regional sales tax one cent for ten years, that measure would have raised an estimated $7.2 billion for transportation projects aimed at relieving Atlanta’s congestion. The measure was defeated by a margin of 63 to 37.


Ballot measure offers Atlanta an alternative to gridlock

Traffic jam in Atlanta. Photo by Flickr user Matt Lemmon.

Though it won’t come as news to residents – or anyone who has visited the region – metro Atlanta has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. The worst, in fact, according to a 2006 ranking by Forbes. Metro Atlanta residents spend an average of 43 hours per year stuck in traffic, costing individuals an estimated $924 per year in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Moreover, years of auto-oriented suburban growth and lack of investment in the regions’ MARTA transit system means that commuters looking for an alternative to the gridlock are largely out of luck. The region’s rail system currently serves only a small percentage of metro Atlanta’s 4.1 million residents.

That could soon change, however. In what is being billed as a watershed moment for metro Atlanta, voters in the 10-county Atlanta region will go to the polls on Tuesday, July 31, to vote on a referendum to raise an estimated $7.2 billion for transportation projects aimed at relieving Atlanta’s congestion and building out its transit network. The Transportation Special Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) would raise the region’s sales tax by 1 cent for ten years. 85% of the funds raised would be spent on a list of regional transportation projects developed by a “regional roundtable” of elected officials. Approximately 52% would go to transit projects, including an expansion of the MARTA heavy rail system and the Beltline Light Rail. The remaining 15% would go to each county for local projects.


Chris Leinberger at the 2011 Smart Growth Summit

Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, speaking at the 2011 Smart Growth Summit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Center for Planning Excellece, the Summit is an annual convening in downtown Baton Rouge of elected officials, engaged citizens and local, national, and international experts in community planning and growth. The 2012 Summit will take place August 27-29. Click here to learn more about this year’s Summit.


Real estate developers gather in Washington for first LOCUS Leadership Summit

Members of LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors, gathered in Washington last week for the 2012 LOCUS Leadership Summit. The three-day event provided a unique opportunity to network, share best practices and rally around the common cause of advocating for Congress to pass a transportation reauthorization that supports the creation of walkable, transit-oriented communities.

The summit commenced with a keynote address from Janice Eberly, Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the US Department of Treasury, who spoke on the state of the U.S. economy and the nation’s real estate and housing markets. Members then explored the shift in market demand for walkable, urban developments through a panel with Patrick Phillips, President of the Urban Land Institute; Aaron Klein, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the US Department of Treasury; and Emerick Corsi of Forest City Enterprises.

In the afternoon, LOCUS members went on a walking tour of metro DC’s booming, mixed-use neighborhoods to see how the shift in market demand for walkable, urban developments is playing out in the nation’s capital. Members visited the Clarendon neighborhood in DC, where they heard from an executive at BF Saul about the firm’s Clarendon Center project, and Capitol Riverfront, where they heard from the director of that neighborhood’s business improvement district about the neighborhood’s incredible transformation in recent years.

On Day Two of the summit, LOCUS members embarked upon what many considered the highlight of the trip to Washington: Hill visits with members of Congress and Obama Administration officials. LOCUS members strongly encouraged these national leaders to pass legislation that would make it easier to build the kinds of transit-oriented, walkable projects in high demand across the country.

Specifically during their meetings with members of Congress and the Administration, LOCUS members encouraged senators to support transportation bill changes proposed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Warner (D-VA), which would create a credit enhancement for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects. This amendment is one of many being considered as both houses of Congress work to find common ground on a final version of the bill.


Senators Warner and Bennet honored for their work promoting walkable communities at LOCUS Leadership Summit

LOCUS, Smart Growth America’s coalition of real estate developers and investors, met in Washington DC this week to push for improvements in the federal transportation bill that will help create more walkable communities across the country.

During the three-day event, LOCUS also recognized two Senators who have championed legislation that would support great neighborhoods and strong local economies across the country.

“It is with great pleasure that we honor Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Mark Warner with the first annual LOCUS Leadership Award,” said LOCUS President Chris Leinberger at a ceremony Wednesday evening. “They have been integral in strengthening our efforts to build transit-oriented and walkable development projects across the country.”


LOCUS Developers gather in Washington DC to push for transportation bill improvements

The Navy Yard Metro station in Washington, DC is a recent example of development near transit stations. Photo by Flickr user M.V. Jantzen.

The hotly debated federal transportation bill could better support development near transit stations – if the House and Senate adopt a key amendment in their negotiations.

Members of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS, a coalition of real estate developers and investors, are gathering in Washington this week to call on Congress to pass a transportation bill that makes it easier to build transit-oriented and walkable development projects across the country. LOCUS developers will deliver that message as part of the 2012 LOCUS Leadership Summit, a three-day event that includes educational forums, walking tours of smart growth in the DC region, the inaugural LOCUS leadership awards and presentations by Obama Administration officials.


Economic growth through transit-oriented development in Kansas City

As Kansas City prepares for a special election on a proposed downtown streetcar line, KCPT and the Mid-America Regional Council‘s Imagine KC series examines the impact of transit-oriented development on Kansas City’s metro. KCPT’s Randy Mason and LOCUS President Chris Leinberger toured some of Kansas City’s streetscape along the proposed line, and discussed the commerce and development streetcar proponents predict will follow.


NPR: Study says Americans prefer walkable neighborhoods

Visitors at the Chattanooga, TN farmers’ market. Chattanooga is one of the smaller cities seeing a rise in walkable urban neighborhoods. Photo by Flickr user Larry Miller.

Chrisopher Leinberger, President of LOCUS and coauthor of the new report “Walk this Way:The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C.” sat down with NPR’s Marketplace‘s David Brancaccio and Stacey Vanek Smith earlier today to talk about the report’s findings and the rising popularity of walkable neighborhoods. Listen to the audio or read a full transcript after the jump.