Amazon dropped a bombshell earlier this week when they announced that they’re going to expand from Seattle by building a brand new second headquarters in another city. Based on their RFP, regardless of where they land, it’s another example of how companies are increasingly seeking out vibrant, walkable, connected urban places as they try to attract and retain talent.
Seattle’s chief road engineer Dongho Chang, next to Broadway’s new protected bike lane. Photo via the Green Lane Project on Facebook.
When activists painted a guerrilla bike lane in Seattle, they didn’t expect a traffic engineer to thank them. But that’s what Seattle traffic engineer Dongho Chang did, commending for bringing attention to the safety issue — and then installing a more permanent treatment soon after. Chang spoke with the National Complete Streets Coalition about a few of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s signature projects, the inspiration for his work, and what he’s learned in 25 years of traffic engineering.
Southeast Seattle is home to the most diverse and immigrant-populated neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington. Now, as a result of the Community Cornerstones project, it could become the City’s next equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) success story.
Part of the strategy is to attract dense mixed-use development to several of Southeast Seattle’s neighborhoods that are in close proximity to the light-rail system opened in 2009, while also preserving the area’s affordability for existing residents through partnerships with community development and financial institutions. The area is already home to one of the most transit-utilized areas of Seattle, and through the project the area is likely to grow with more people, businesses, and jobs.
The Urban Land Institute (ULI)’s annual housing conference brings together housing professionals from across the country to discuss current challenges and opportunities for supporting a full spectrum of housing choices in cities and suburbs increasingly challenged by the new economy.
Joining the discussion at this year’s conference is LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors. LOCUS Managing Director Christopher Coes and Steering Committee member John Hempelmann, of Seattle-based business law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann, will join a panel discussion at the conference about federal involvement in real estate and how it might be reformed.
“Seattle Streetcar,” by Flickr user Sean Marshall.
For those not familiar, they could be forgiven for mistaking the opening speaker at this month’s Transit Financing Workshop in Seattle for an ardent smart growth advocate. And in many ways he is. He just also happens to be the Mayor of Seattle.
Mayor Michael McGinn’s comments about the critical role walkable neighborhoods and transit play in economic development set the stage for a day-long event about transit-oriented development in the Puget Sound region on October 4, 2012. Sponsored by Transportation for America, LOCUS Washington, the Transportation Choices Coalition, ULI Northwest and the Quality Growth Alliance, the event brought together leaders from the business, real estate, advocacy, and government sectors to discuss transit, transit-finance, and how the Seattle region can better position itself for future growth.
Champion of Cities
Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011
Chairing the City Planning Commission since 2002, Burden, age 67, has revolutionized its role in the city, transforming a once-sleepy bureaucratic agency into an activist department championing good design by using zoning as a weapon to enforce her vision. In her second-floor office near New York’s City Hall, she reviews applications for all new buildings that come before the commission, instructing developers and architects on what they can and cannot do—something that comes as a dramatic shift in the order of business to executives accustomed to getting their way.
Committee Poised to Introduce Transportation Bill
Journal of Commerce, June 23, 2011
Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are ready to introduce a new surface transportation bill, but want a commitment from the Senate Finance Committee to find a way to pay for it, a Capitol Hill source said this morning. The committee will propose a two-year transportation bill that will cost $12 billion more than anticipated revenue from the Highway Trust Fund. Committee leaders believe it has a better chance of passing than the traditional six-year bill.
Group working across state to aid vacancies
The Newark Advocate (Ohio), June 26, 2011
Smart-growth advocate Greater Ohio has been pushing for redevelopment of abandoned properties and keeping vacant properties from blight through policy and code enforcement. They’ve put the housing stock of Akron, Youngstown and other large cities under the microscope, but Lavea Brachman, executive director, said the same basic strategy applies for a mid-sized or small city.
Cleaning the Central Corridor in St. Paul, courtesy of the EPA
Twin Cities Daily Planet, June 24, 2011
The construction-burdened Central Corridor can seem like a messy ordeal to drivers, walkers, bikers, and bus riders, but a cleaner future lies ahead. University Avenue property owners in St. Paul could receive aid to get the ball rolling on future developments due to a $1 million grant awarded through the EPA’s Brownfield Program.
Census finds Pittsburgh is growing younger
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 19, 2011
“The unusual drop in the city’s median age was among the findings in the U.S. Census Bureau’s release today of new information from last year’s population count. For both the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, the number of elderly residents as well as their percentage of the overall population are on the decline.”
Gary, Ind., struggles with population loss
USA Today, May 19, 2011
“The 2010 Census crystallized Gary’s decline: The population, which peaked at 178,320 in 1960, is now 80,294. From 2000 through last year’s count, Gary lost 22% of its residents. The city’s unemployment rate in February was 9.8%. Gary — like Detroit, which lost 25% of its people in the past decade — faces tough questions: What is the best way to shrink a city? How can city government provide adequate services as its tax base contracts? How can new employers and residents be wooed to a place known more for blight than for opportunity?”
Sound Transit to invest $2.1M in rail,bus ridership research
Seattle Times, May 19, 2011
“Sound Transit will spend as much as $2.1 million for consultants to conduct market research, in hopes of boosting its rail and bus ridership. ‘Finding out what will get people out of their cars and into our services is going to require some deep research and talking to a lot of people in our region,’ said communications Director Ron Klein.”
Poll: Gas prices causing hardship for 4 in 10 Americans
Chicago Tribune, May 19, 2001
“With gasoline prices hovering at $4 a gallon nationally, many Americans are making tough choices: scaling back summer vacations, driving less or ditching the car altogether. Some seniors are choosing a tank of gas over their prescriptions. An Associated Press-GfK poll shows the share of Americans who say increases in the price of gasoline will cause serious financial hardship for them or their family in the next six months now tops 4 in 10. Overall in the poll, 71 percent said rising prices will cause some hardship for them and their family, including 41 percent who called it a “serious” hardship. Just 29 percent said rising prices are not causing a negative impact on their finances.”
Never Too Old To Bike To Work (video)
Grist, May 19, 2011
“Gilbert admits to being in her “high 70s,” and she has been biking since she was a 7-year-old in France. She and her friends didn’t have phones, so if they wanted to talk, they hopped on their bikes and went and found each other.”
CNBC released its list today of the top 10 most walkable cities in America, and includes in it a discussion of the growing trend among towns and cities to create neighborhoods with pedestrian-friendly streets and bustling downtown shopping districts. These features are a key part of smart growth development strategies and, as CNBC writer Cindy Perman explains, walkable neighborhoods have benefits beyond street-level charm. Walkable neighborhoods feel safer and more social, and help build exercise into daily routines. But even more importantly, walkable neighborhoods bring economic benefits:
You wouldn’t spend much time hanging around in the parking lot of a strip mall in a car-dependent suburb. But, you would linger in a very walkable city, which means you’re more inclined to spend more. Quite a bit more, in fact. The Urban Land Institute studied two Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, one walkable and one not. They found that the Barnes & Noble book store in the walkable suburb made 20 percent more in profits than the one in the driving-dependent suburb.
“We call that a place-making dividend,” McMahon said. “People stay longer and come back more often and spend more money in places that attract their affection.”
There’s an economic benefit for homeowners, too: Homes in walkable cities hold their value better than those that were heavily reliant on driving, according to Smart Growth America, a group that promotes “smart growth” instead of suburban sprawl.
Commuters sitting in gridlock may find it hard to believe, but many smaller and mid-size cities in America have under-used highways. In some of these cities, highways that were built decades ago are now impeding potentially valuable real estate development. And as many highways from the middle of the last century deteriorate past the point of minor repairs to needing to be entirely rebuilt, leaders in these cities are starting to question the cost and efficiency of maintaining certain pieces of their highway systems.
In Seattle, Cleveland, Syracuse and a number of other cities across the country, leaders are debating the merits of removing portions of their underused, crumbling highway systems to allow for economic development instead. As older highway segments meet the end of their useful life, civic leaders are presented with a rare opportunity to reduce expenses on underused infrastructure and create new opportunity for development at the same time. (editors note: according to transportation engineers, a road or bridge’s “useful life” is determined to be over when repairs are so expensive and the conditions are so bad that it would cost several times more to rebuild the road or bridge than to tear it down and build something different.)
A new campaign in Washington is fighting to improve transportation for people across the state. Transportation for Washington, a project launched this week by Smart Growth America’s coalition partners Futurewise and the Transportation Choices Coalition, is calling for better repair and maintenance of roads across the state as well as more transportation choices for Washingtonians. These transportation spending strategies – which are in line with many of Smart Growth America’s recent recommendations for Washington – create jobs, spur economic growth and improve Washington’s transportation system at the same time.
Roger Millar, Director of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, discussed these same issues with Ross Reynolds on KUOW-94.9 Seattle’s The Conversation earlier this week. Together with Mike Ennis, Director of the Center for Transportation at the Washington Policy Center, Millar discussed the state of Washington’s transportation system and how the state can get more out of their transportation dollars:
Funding for public transportation is currently a hot topic in Washington state. A bill recently introduced to the state legislature would allow local transit agencies to seek funding to finance public transit projects. According to the Washington Transportation Commission, Washington currently has over $200 billion in unfunded transportation projects – and that need is growing.