LOCUS talks about new development in Somerville and state policy change at two events in Massachusetts

Somerville, MA
The Community Corridor Planning Collaborate (CCP) held multiple station area design sessions and community planning workshops in anticipation of the Green Line Extension in Somerville. Photo by Interactive Somerville via Flickr.

In November, LOCUS kicked off a series of events in Massachusetts that connected real estate developers with local and state officials to discuss new smart development opportunities and policy changes needed to facilitate walkable, sustainable development throughout Massachusetts.

First, on November 19, LOCUS brought together real estate developers and Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville and his staff to discuss the new transit-oriented development opportunities created by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s decision to extend its Green Line. City officials described the need for more economically, socially and environmentally responsible development in Somerville. LOCUS developers proposed development ideas that would meet those needs while also supporting Somerville’s economy. The ideas will join those of Somerville residents in informing the city’s plan for the new station areas. As the conversation continued, a call to action was placed on LOCUS and its members in Massachusetts to develop a series of policy and regulatory changes in conjunction with city and state officials that will support more walkable, sustainable places in Massachusetts and throughout the country.

Then, on November 20, LOCUS joined developers, advocates and elected officials from across the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts Smart Growth Conference. Hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, the conference focused on how smart growth developments can save public and private dollars.

LOCUS coordinated a panel session for the conference, which included LOCUS Steering Committee Member Don Briggs, Senior Vice President of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust; Chryse Gibson, Chief Administrative Officer of Oaktree Development; David Perry, Senior Vice President of the Hines Interest Group; and was moderated by Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS. The panel discussed the barriers to market-driven smart growth in Massachusetts.

The conference panel cast new light on the previous day’s conversation by including state-level policies that affect smart growth development. Each panelist highlighted a major project that their company is working on as well as what the state could have done to speed up the project approval process and reduce construction delays. The presenters identified issues such as the lengthy environmental approval process and access to patient capital as limits to smart growth development, but cited the state’s current investments in transit and the strong market demand for walkable development as factors that will lead to more walkable places in Massachusetts.

Among the wide range of issues addressed at both events, strong local leadership came up again and again. Communities across the country have such visionary leaders, without whom many of these types of projects would not be built. On June 17 and 18, 2014, LOCUS will bring together many of these leaders at the 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit. If you are a real estate developer or investor interesting in supporting walkable development in Massachusetts and across the country, we hope you’ll join us then.