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 members of Congress to support transportation bill changes proposed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and included in Chairman Mica’s transportation reauthorization bill, H.R.7., which will expand Transportation Innovative Financing Infrastructure Act (TIFIA) eligible costs to include transit-oriented development (TOD). 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.

To conclude their visits to the White House and Capitol Hill, LOCUS held a reception to honor Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Warner for their work championing legislation to support great neighborhoods and strong local economies across the country.

LOCUS also recognized Steering Committee Member Forest City Enterprises, a longstanding leader in the field of transit-oriented development, for the company’s work promoting walkable communities.

The final day of the summit featured a panel discussion on the role of the real estate community in upcoming state ballot initiatives and how those initiatives are creating a demand for transportation-oriented development and smart growth. This panel was followed by an overview of innovative tools and approaches to combating NIMBYism, including social networking that can be used to rally support for smart growth in communities.

The summit ended with a sneak peek at upcoming research from the Brookings Institute that measures the economic and social equity of walkable places. LOCUS President Chris Leinberger, who also serves as a visiting fellow at Brookings, presented his strategy of measuring walkable urban places in Washington, DC.

“Thank you for taking the time to gather with fellow real estate developers and investors to bring our cause to light at the national level,” Leinberger said at the summit’s closing. “We look forward to establishing this summit as an annual event where we can work together to promote walkable, transit-oriented developments into the future.”