On Common Ground: Summer 2005
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On Common Ground: Summer 2005

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Strengthening Older Neighborhoods ...

Strengthening Older Neighborhoods

When the Smart Growth discussion began in the mid-1990s among citizens, public officials and planners, the primary focus was on managing growth at the urban fringe. The conversion of large amounts of farm and forest land to low-density development was a major concern then, as it remains today. But over the past few years, it has become more widely recognized that the revitalization of existing communities is also a vital element of Smart Growth, and maybe a more fruitful arena for focused attention.

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On Common Ground: Summer 2005 On Common Ground: Summer 2005 Presentation Transcript

  • Revitalization meets Smart Growth W hen the Smart Growth discussion began in the mid-1990s among citizens, public officials and planners, the primary focus was on managing growth at the urban fringe. The conversion of large amounts of farm and forest land to low-density development was a major concern then, as it remains today. But over the past few years, it has become more widely recognized that the revitalization of existing communities is also a vital element of Smart Growth, and maybe a more fruitful arena for focused attention. 2 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • There are obvious advantages to developing in existing communities — infrastructure is already in place, and meeting growth demand with infill and redevelopment could help reduce the gob- bling-up of open countryside. But targeting older communities for growth and investment also offers great opportunities for improvement. These com- munities have experienced decades of disinvest- ment and often provide little in the way of retail services that are taken for granted in the newer suburbs. Growth — new housing and commercial development — can be used to complete these neighborhoods by offering a wider range of hous- ing opportunities and by creating mixed-use walk- able neighborhoods that meet an increasing market demand. We have tracked the increasing interest in walkable, mixed-use communities in the Smart Growth surveys undertaken by NAR as well as the surveys of others. Increasingly, consumers are saying they want to walk to destinations such as shops ban expansion, and and restaurants, and they are willing to live Smart Growth pro- in higher-density housing in order to ponents still need to achieve this lifestyle. Last year, 12 percent focus energies and of all existing home sales in the country budgets on preserv- were condos, and condos appreciated more ing open space and in percent of value than detached houses. improving the plan- As articles in this issue of On Common ning models for new Ground illustrate, this demand is being met suburban and exur- with new housing and retail development in ban development. the downtowns of cities large and small, in But investing in and older suburbs that are creating new mixed- strengthening older use downtowns, and in smaller Main Street towns. communities is a winning Smart Growth strategy Make no mistake, the predominant develop- for creating better neighborhoods and a wider ment pattern continues to be low-density subur- range of housing options. For more information on NAR and Smart Growth, go to www.realtor.org/smartgrowth. On Common Ground is published twice a year by the Government Affairs office of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), and is distributed free of charge. The publication presents a wide range of views on Smart Growth issues, with the goal of encouraging a dialogue among REALTORS®, elect- ed officials and other interested citizens. The opinions expressed in On Common Ground are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policy of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, its members or affiliate organizations. Editor: Joseph R. Molinaro, Manager, Smart Growth Programs NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001 Distribution: For more copies of this issue or to be placed on our mailing list for future issues of On Common Ground, please contact Ted Wright, NAR Government Affairs, at (202) 383-1206 or twright@realtors.org. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 3
  • 28 Attractions of the Small Town 58 All Aboard! 52 16 The Code New Life in the Old Burbs Word Is Smart 4 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • On Common Ground Summer 2005 6 New Downtown Housing Not just the biggest cities. by Martin Zimmerman 22 10 If You Rebuild, Will They Come? The revitalization of Main Street. by Brad Broberg 16 The Code Word is Smart Growth What Was Once Building codes are reflecting Old Is Now New the demand for revamping older structures. by John Van Gieson 10 22 What Was Once Old Is Now New Transforming greyfield sites into new communities. by Jason Miller If You Rebuild, 28 Attractions of the Small Town Will They Come? by Brad Broberg 32 No Vacancies Cities struggle to reclaim abandoned properties. by Jason Miller 38 Smart Growth Redo of Mid-Size Cities by Heidi Johnson-Wright 44 Commercial Comebacks by David Goldberg 52 New Life in the Old Burbs Diverse home buyers are reviv- ing older, inner-ring suburbs. by Steve Wright 58 All Aboard! Streetcars lead the way to Neighborhood Reinvestment. by Christine Jordan Sexton 64 Smart Growth in the States On Common Ground thanks the following contributors and organizations for photographs, illustrations and artist ren- derings reprinted in this issue: Baltimore County Office of Communications, Boulevard Centro, Payton Chung, City of North Miami, Congress for the New Urbanism, Continuum Partners LLC, Kay Dannen of Shiels Obletz Johnson, Inc., Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., Alan Feinberg of Central Maryland Development, Inc., Flaherty and Collins Properties, Jill Freeman, Francesca Gambetti, Shiels Obletz Johnsen, Inc., Val Giannettino of Downtown Partners Inc. in Burlington, Iowa, Leslie Grower of Center City Commission, Emily Hall of Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels Architects, Hillsborough Area Transit Authority, Hoyt Street Properties, Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, Littleton Main Street, Inc., Alex MacLean, Rich McLaughlin, Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute, Metro 2005, Darrell Moore, Myhre Group Architects 2004, Novare Group, Steve Rosenthal, Joe Schilling, Patricia Shetley of Patricia Shetley and Associates, Inc., Michael Stevens, DC Marketing Center, Douglas S. Storrs of Cornish Associates, LP Told , Development Company, Unity Council, Beth Van Der Jagt of Looney Ricks Kiss Architects and Wisconsin Department of Tourism. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 5
  • new downtown housing Not just the biggest cities By Martin Zimmerman T he Upsurge To the relief and surprise of those who savor an urban lifestyle, the housing boom which has flourished in and near down- towns over the past decade shows no signs of abating. Equally unexpected is that this boom is common to cities of widely varying sizes and in all regions of the country. In cities with an industrial legacy, converted warehouses within easy walking distance of downtowns are attracting the young, affluent professional market. Hip and artsy districts are taking root with names like SoMa, Lodo, SoDo and DUMBO…all derived from Manhattan’s cast iron Soho district where it all began. Let’s call this Type I. Type II is characterized by the construction of new housing on close-in open sites. Type III is associated with the conversion of vacant but architecturally notable buildings such as department stores or office buildings. Type IV focuses on new infill projects. Type V has just begun to emerge in some of the bigger cities and consists of new luxurious high-rise con- dos planned for the over privileged. And what of the loft? Its popularity is so pervasive that it is being replicated in the three other types of buildings…and with no apologies to Soho. Charlotte, N.C. 6 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • The Determinants However, to truly contribute to an urban lifestyle, downtown housing depends on a support system, i.e. a set of determinants. Based upon a study by the Brookings Institution, these are listed as follows: • Downtown political and business leadership must be pro-housing. • City financial subsidies must be allocated to housing. • Zoning must mandate high-density housing in conformance with compact, coherent districts based on the New Urbanist model. • Downtowns must express a rich blend of old and new architecture. • Downtowns must slow down the auto, minimize parking and give the pedestrian and cyclist priority. • Downtowns need to encourage and tolerate pedestrian-intensive activities such as farmer’s markets, street theatre, political leaflet- ing and sidewalk vendors. This means the kind of spontaneous interaction that is impossible in the suburban malls. • Downtowns must be clean and safe. • Neighborhoods bordering downtowns should be attractive with unhampered access to downtowns by foot, car or bicycle. • A downtown management entity must coordinate the affairs of the various facets of a downtown. Springfield, MO Downtown Springfield sits within a city of 150,000, including two uni- versities located a few minutes away. Throughout the 1980s and early 90s, downtown remained a fraction of its former size, the only evidence of housing being a few makeshift lofts and rooming houses. Things began to change in 1998 when a maverick developer bought a vacant building and converted it to five lofts. Over the next two years another 55 units were added and a local business pumped $3.2 million into a start-up brew pub. Soon other pubs and restaurants sprouted, a nonprofit Downtowns need to encourage and tolerate pedestrian-intensive activities. Community Development Corporation (CDC) was formed, a downtown plan was prepared and 13 banks pooled money for gap financing. All of this set the stage for the real housing surge. In the last three years anoth- er 166 units have been built, 60 are currently under construction and 86 are planned. This raises the total to just under 400. Rents have remained affordable in the $600-$1,200 range. In Springfield, virtually all of the housing is Type III — adaptive reuse of older buildings. “In bigger cities, inserting three- or four-hundred housing units of housing in the downtown does not make much impact. In Springfield it has had a major impact,” says John Simmons, director of the Urban District Alliance. Charlotte, NC Unlike other cities which stood helpless while businesses fled, Charlotte, in keeping with its corporate ethos, fought back with a vengeance during the 1970s and 80s. Such zeal came at a price as numerous historic structures fell to the wrecking ball, and the Brooklyn African-American community was leveled to make way for a sterile gov- ernment center. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 7
  • By the 1990s a consolidation and redirection Hope VI effort mixed race, income and housing took place consistent with the determinants stated types to create a model neighborhood of 750 resi- above, and several blockbuster projects were built. dences, now called the Garden District. Building Foremost among these was the Nations Bank head- setbacks, architectural scale and street presence quarters, a centerpiece for uptown (as referred to in were all conceived in accordance with New Charlotte) which combined an elegant 60-story Urbanist principles. The Gateway mixed-use proj- tower with a home for the Charlotte Symphony. ect combined 699 units of mid-rise housing with a Meanwhile, residential population remained static Bank of America office facility and a New Urban at 3000 units. campus for Johnson and Wales University. In 1998 the housing upsurge began with a num- As a result, residential units increased in uptown ber of different projects moving forward simultane- from 3,000 in 1995 to 9,500 in 2005. In the past 10 ously. The heaviest concentrations occurred in two months developers have unveiled plans for eight projects — Hope VI and Gateway Village. In addi- high-rises, including one that will soar to 56 stories. tion to replacing deteriorated public housing, the It looks like a goal of 12,000 by 2007 is within reach. Other Cities Downtown housing is a Birmingham, Alabama – By 1998 this city had long-awaited and much- added 14 apartment buildings with six more planned. Initially rentals, there has been a shift to heralded success. a 45-percent ownership level. Developers also have been working towards conver- sion of the John Hand building, one of Birmingham’s first skyscrapers, Planned housing development in Charlotte, N.C. into a mixed-use facility with a bank, residences, offices and a health club. Memphis, Tennessee – The cre- ation of downtown housing in Memphis has been a mix of large and small projects. Mud Island, an ongoing effort which straddles the downtown zone, has grown to 2,600 housing units since the late 1980s, of which 75 percent are apartments. As of 2003 plans were afoot for another large undertaking mixing Hope VI subsidized units with mar- ket-rate units. Financing was being arranged through HUD ($35 mil- lion), City of Memphis ($18.1 mil- lion), private equity and loans ($58.5 million) and public and private grants ($14.7million). Other intrigu- ing projects include the conversion of the imposing central rail station to housing and the Rivermark Apartments, converted from a Holiday Inn. Cleveland, Ohio – Despite an ominous population decline in the city overall, the 2000 census indicat- ed a 51-percent growth in downtown housing to a total of 8,105 units. The regeneration of the Warehouse District has contributed to this change, where an investment of $133 million has paid off with 1,000 apartments and associated night life. 8 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Mixed housing and affordable housing must exist. Conclusion Clearly downtown housing is a long-awaited and much-heralded Memphis, Tenn. success. But is that really the case? Upon closer scrutiny, it appears that unless several warning signs mass transit use and undermines aspirations for a are heeded, downtown housing may fall short of 24/7 lifestyle. its full potential. In too many situations, vital serv- How downtowns will relate to suburbs is yet ices such as grocery stores, hair salons, dentists or another issue. Even in larger cities, downtown dry cleaners are missing. Houses of worship, populations will not likely exceed 30,000 resi- branch libraries, YMCAs and public schools are dences while metropolitan regions are in the mil- also absent. lions and still growing. Even more foreboding is a Lower-income and family living is essential to recent contingent of suburban developers who bring balance to the current dominance of affluent have jumped on the bandwagon with plans to con- singles and wealthy empty-nesters. Given the rise struct loft condos “for people who don’t want to that has already occurred in land values, such a live in the city.” move will most likely require public subsidies. Nevertheless, the hope is that with each project Before high-rises are built, their architectural completed, downtown housing will take another qualities require design review. An ugly building step toward overcoming the warning signs while that is three stories high cannot mar the skyline of continuing to enrich the urban experience in the a downtown as much as a slapdash structure ris- process. ing 30 stories. Parking, when allowed to remain at or near Martin Zimmerman is an architect, planner and urban suburban ratios, means less walking, biking or affairs journalist currently residing in Charlotte, N.C. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 9
  • If you rebuild, 10 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • will they come? the revitalization of Main Street By Brad Broberg A s former director of the National Trust Main Street Center, Kennedy Smith knows Smart Growth when she sees it — even when serendipity rather than strategy is driving the bus. A program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Main Street Center helps towns and neighborhoods revive declin- ing business districts through a tried-and-true blend of design, development and restoration activities. Supported by public and private investment, the Main Street approach provides communi- ties with a blueprint for reviving and preserving the unique histo- ry, architecture and vitality of old-fashioned downtowns. In most cases, says Smith, communities adopt the Main Street approach as a way to fight back against outlying shopping malls and superstores that have sucked the life out of their longtime com- mercial cores. However, like a box of Cracker Jacks, Main Street initiatives offer something besides the popcorn and peanuts of eco- nomic development. They also offer a prize — Smart Growth. By transforming downtrodden downtowns into desirable desti- nations, Main Streets not only give communities an economic shot in the arm, they also give them a new tool to manage both commer- cial and residential growth — whether they know it or not. “Every community comes to it from a different direction,” says Smith, now a principal with the Community Land Use and Economics Group. Some recognize the Main Street approach as a Smart Growth strat- egy and treat it that way. In most communities, though, the link between Main Streets and Smart Growth remains “a happy coinci- dence,” she says. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 11
  • In Connecticut, for instance, the power company spreading as Main Street initiatives — both new started a statewide Main Street program because it and old — begin to include more housing, says wanted to spark growth in places where it already Smith. And why not? Downtown residential growth provided service and douse demand for new con- not only offers a potential alternative to sprawl, it nections outside of town, says Smith. “They were generates more customers for downtown mer- Smart Growth advocates without realizing it,” she chants, she notes. says. Consider Burlington, Iowa, population 26,500. Either way, if done right, Main Street initiatives Perched on the banks of the Mississippi River in promote key principles of Smart Growth — including the southeast corner of the state, Burlington was If done right, Main Street initiatives promote key principles of Smart Growth. Burlington, Iowa density, walkability and infill — with both a carrot once a bustling steamboat port and booming rail- and a stick. The carrot is a rejuvenated business road hub. But that was 100 years ago. Over time — district that attracts people and development alike and under pressure from a new shopping mall — and makes the entire community more prosperous the city’s once-thriving downtown slowly declined. and appealing. The stick is a set of zoning regula- Burlington’s nadir came in 1980 when the once tions that force — or at least strongly steer — devel- prestigious Hotel Burlington — or the H tel opment toward Main Street rather than letting it Burlingto as locals dubbed it after letters started ooze to the outskirts of town and beyond. disappearing from its sign — closed, says Smith. Smith can point to many communities that are Fed up with being boarded up, Burlington making all the right moves, using Main Street launched a Main Street initiative in 1986 that strategies to rekindle traditional business districts steadily turned downtown around. In the begin- while at the same time fostering Smart Growth. It’s ning, that meant restoring downtown’s retail pulse a two-birds-with-one-stone game plan that’s by forming public-private partnerships, recruiting 12 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • hundreds of volunteers and encouraging commu- nity-based investment to redevelop hundreds of once-proud properties in need of some TLC — and tenants. Now, however, it’s time to reassess where new opportunities lie, says Val Giannettino, executive director of Downtown Partners Inc., which man- ages the town’s Main Street program. “We have to reinvent ourselves,” she says. Taking its cue from a statewide push to promote downtown living, Burlington is adding more and more housing to its downtown mix, says Giannettino. Yes, she admits, uttering Iowa and downtown living in the same breath sounds akin to associating Manhattan with corn fields, but that doesn’t bother Burlington. “We have a downtown that would welcome all kinds of people,” says Giannettino. “We have tons of room to grow.” The story of Schramm’s Department Store sym- bolizes Burlington’s possible new future. After anchoring downtown Burlington for more than 150 years, Schramm’s closed in 1996 and sat vacant until a developer converted it into a mixed- use building with commercial tenants below and 13 upscale condominiums — featuring expansive views of the river — above. “When people tour the building, they are blown away,” says Giannettino. The Schramm’s project followed in the foot- steps of downtown Burlington’s first big residen- tial project — the use of tax credits to help convert the Hotel Burlington into 75 units of senior hous- Littleton, N.H. ing in 1998. Now, with the help of a $615,000 fed- eral grant, three downtown property owners are converting the upper floors of their commercial buildings into a dozen affordable housing units, says Giannettino. We have a downtown The tax credits and grant, while welcome, point to one of the biggest hurdles facing many Main that would welcome all Street towns as they pursue residential growth. “The greatest challenge is cost,” says Giannettino. kinds of people...and “There is a short list of people here with the money to do those kinds of projects.” tons of room to grow. The other challenge involves geography. Burlington is not within commuting distance of a metropolitan area or its suburbs and offers limited robust residential market, says Ruth Taylor, direc- ways for people to earn a living. Still, the potential tor of the community’s Main Street program. to absorb residential growth downtown is enor- Littleton, a 220-year-old town outside White mous as numerous classic brick warehouses stand Mountain National Forest in the northwest part of empty along the river waiting for a second life. the state, launched its Main Street program in “We’re poised and very ready for growth,” says 1997 after being hit hard by the loss of manufac- Giannettino. turing jobs. At one point, residents saw 17 vacant Littleton, NH, is another Main Street town storefronts every time they went downtown. With where housing is becoming a bigger part of the community-funded facade improvements, special downtown mix. In Littleton’s case, demand is events and market research providing the initial strong as a housing crunch — fueled in part by the momentum, the Main Street approach soon area’s recreational attractions — has created a helped pull Littleton out of its tailspin. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 13
  • We like to see a mix of uses downtown and housing is part of that. Littleton Main Street, N.H. Having regained its commercial health, down- housing is part of that,” says Phil Meyer, director of town Littleton is entering a new stage as the hot community and neighborhood services. Also in the housing market and a glut of office space are driv- mix are a growing number of new restaurants and ing the conversion of upper-floor offices into apart- galleries complementing traditional retail and ments, says Taylor. “More would be great,” she service business — a trend symbolized by the open- notes. ing of a brew pub in a former hardware store. Still, density can be a hard sell in a state where Located just west of Grand Rapids a few miles “zoning almost doesn’t exist” and the official motto from the shores of Lake Michigan, Holland, popu- is “Live free or die,” says Taylor. A proposal to build lation 33,000, kicked off its Main Street initiative in clustered housing within walking distance of 1984 to counter competition from a series of pro- downtown was rejected at the town meeting two posed outlying shopping malls. “Downtown was, I years ago, she says. The decision came despite the wouldn’t saying dying, but it was tired and strug- fact that sprawl is a very real threat, says Taylor. gling quite a bit at the time with the changing pat- “Unless you’ve lived in a city, you don’t understand terns of shopping,” says Meyer. the value of dense housing,” she says. Things heated up — literally — in 1988. That’s Founded in the 1840s by Dutch settlers, when the Main Street Committee spearheaded a Holland, Mich., is a Main Street town with a comprehensive public-private streetscape project diverse and growing mix of downtown housing beautifying downtown’s main drag and installing a options, including housing for students and staff network of pipes below the pavement that provide from Hope College, two large senior-housing com- radiant heat to keep a five-block area of downtown plexes, a pair of upscale condo communities and ice- and snow-free during the winter. numerous apartments above storefronts. One of the challenges facing any Main Street “We like to see a mix of uses downtown and initiative is the need to provide ongoing support. In 14 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Holland, a Downtown Development Authority vehicle for the long haul came recently when a (DDA) appointed by the city council supports the shopping mall that had once threatened down- Main Street initiative by assessing property own- town Holland and inspired the downtown’s revi- ers to provide management and maintenance talization went bankrupt. “They lost out not only services. The DDA also collects an assessment to to downtown, but also to another shopping mall provide free customer and employee parking. In built further away,” says Meyer. addition, assessments to fund marketing and pro- motion are collected via a state-authorized princi- Brad Broberg is a Seattle-based freelance writer special- pal shopping district. izing in business and development issues. His work appears regularly in the Puget Sound Business Journal Proof that Main Street initiatives provide a and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. THE NATIONAL TRUST MAIN STREET CENTER is the nation’s clear- inghouse for information, technical assistance, research and advocacy related to commercial district revitalization and preservation — all based on the center’s trademark Main Street Four-Point Approach. Design: Enhance the physical appearance of the commercial district by rehabilitating historic buildings, encouraging supportive new construc- tion, developing sensitive design management systems and promoting long-term planning. Organization: Build consensus and cooperation among the many groups and individuals that have a role in the revitalization process. Promotion: Market the traditional commercial district’s assets to cus- tomers, potential investors, new businesses, local citizens and visitors. Economic restructuring: Strengthen the district’s existing economic base while founding ways to expand it to meet new opportunities — and challenges — from outlying development. Source: National Trust Main Street Center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (www.mainstreet.org). SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 15
  • The Code Word is Building codes are reflecting the demand for revamping older structures SMART growth By John Van Gieson 16 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • T he historic city of Newark, New Jersey’s largest, had fallen on hard times. Racked by a deadly riot in 1967, Newark spiraled downward into decay, poverty and crime. Its population plummeted from a peak of 473,000 in 1950 to about 273,000 currently. But today, Newark is going through a remarkable renaissance assisted in large part by a New Jersey building code facilitating renova- tion of older buildings. Known as the “Rehabilitation Subcode,” the new code in Jersey was designed to remove the barriers that made revitalization of vacant and underutilized older buildings prohibitively expensive and ridiculously complicated. In the Garden State, a densely populated state where half the housing stock was built before 1959, that’s a very good idea. “The Rehabilitation Subcode has led to a ‘rehabilitation renaissance’ in New Jersey,” said Susan Bass Levin, commissioner of the state’s Department of Community Affairs. “Because the Rehabilitation Subcode eliminates unnecessary regulatory barriers to the reuse of existing older buildings, projects throughout the state that were once overlooked by developers are finding new life and expanding housing and job opportunities for New Jersey residents.” Smart building codes promoting rehabilita- tion of older buildings have become a valuable Smart Growth tool. Maryland adopted a smart building code based largely on the New Jersey experience, followed by Rhode Island, New York and other states. Cities that have adopted smart buildings codes include Wilmington, Delaware; Wichita, Kansas; and Kansas City, Missouri. Existing building codes typically impose requirements that make sense in new buildings but may impede reuse of older buildings. “Local codes and regulations often act as impediments to Smart Growth, urban revitaliza- tion and livable communities,” said Ed SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 17
  • McMahon, a senior resident fellow at the Urban Concerns that rehabilitation codes may compro- Land Institute. “Developers who would protect the mise the safety of older buildings is also a factor, but environment or restore a historic building are often smart building code advocates say it shouldn’t be. stymied by inflexible regulations.” “All of the rehabilitation codes that I know of “While these laws differ in their specifics, they have very high standards as far as safety require- all share a recognition that while older buildings ments go,” Hopkins said. need to meet standards for safety and accessibility Given the slow pace at which rehab codes are (just as new buildings do), they can be evaluated being adopted, it will take years before other states and regulated differently,” McMahon said. catch up to New Jersey. Smart Growth advocates, building code organiza- Toward the end of the last century, Newark tions, historic preservationists and home builders all appeared headed for a place on the scrap heap of extol the virtues of smart building codes promoting wasted cities. To its advantage, however, Newark revitalization of older buildings, but the movement had a large supply of fundamentally sound old has been relatively slow to catch on. buildings that with the right tools could be convert- Smart building codes promoting rehabilitation of older buildings have become a valuable Smart Growth tool. The best available information on the number of jurisdictions using smart building codes comes from the International Code Council (ICC), which adopted its model International Existing Building Code in 2003. Shortly after New Jersey adopted its new code in 1997, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development developed its model code, the Nationally Applicable Recommended Rehabilitation Provisions (NARRP) for use by other jurisdictions. The ICC drew heavily on HUD’s model code in developing its code for rehabilitation of existing buildings. The National Fire Protection Association has also developed a model rehabilitation code. “With the endorsement of the two national groups at the core of code writing, we’ll hopefully see more state and local jurisdictions adopting reha- bilitation codes,” said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, a historic preserva- tion organization. The ICC reported that four states have adopted its existing building code: Michigan, Montana, New Mexico and West Virginia. Local governments have adopted the ICC code in 12 other states. HUD spokesman Brian E. Sullivan said it comes as no surprise that local officials have been slow to adopt new building codes promoting rehabilitation of existing buildings. “Adoption of a new code for- mat takes many years to be fully accepted in the thousands of local jurisdictions that adopt codes,” he said. “Also many communities have not adopted an existing building code but rely on their regular building code.” 18 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • ed into the centerpieces of a dynamic, revitalized city. The New Jersey Rehabilitation Subcode helped to provide those tools, along with the open- ing of the $187 million New Jersey Performing Arts Center in downtown Newark in 1997. For the first time in years, New Jersey residents had a rea- son to reconsider Newark. Many existing homes have been or are being rehabilitated in the city’s residential areas, and sev- eral major redevelopment projects are planned for downtown Newark, including: •Clinton Street Lofts, a 10-story Beaux Arts office building constructed in 1906 that is being converted into apartments renting for $800 to $1,375 a month. •Hahne-Griffith, an old department store and next-door office building that are being converted into 266 apartments. •National Newark Building, the city’s tallest at 465 feet, an Art Deco office building that opened in 1931, that was converted into a high-tech office tower where cheaper rents are luring tenants across the Hudson River from New York. •1180 Raymond Boulevard, a vacant 448-foot Art Deco office building being converted into 195 market-rate apartments and 315 apartments for Seton Hall University Law School students. The National Newark and 1180 Raymond Boulevard renovations are projects of Cogswell Realty Group, which is spending $180 million to renovate the historic skyscrapers in the heart of Newark. Cogswell has taken the lead in investing in the new downtown Newark. The Rehabilitation Subcode was an important factor in redeveloping Newark, Jersey City and other New Jersey cities, said William M. Connolly, director of the New Jersey Division of Codes and Standards. In the first year after the code was The New Jersey code was specifically designed to remove barriers...that were discouraging renovation of old buildings. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 19
  • adopted, rehabilitation spending in the state’s five the extent to which the project had to comply with largest cities increased by 60 percent, compared to building codes. If the value was between 25 and 50 1.6 percent the previous year. percent, all of the rehabilitation work had to con- “The (1180 Raymond Boulevard) project archi- form to the building codes. If it was greater than 50 tect told us that without the new code it would not percent, the entire building had to be brought up to have been feasible,” he said. code. The New Jersey code was specifically designed The old New Jersey code went even farther, to remove barriers, such as requiring renovators to requiring full compliance with light, ventilation, widen hallways, that were discouraging renovation egress and fire safety provisions if the rehabilita- of old buildings. It creates four distinct categories, tion involved more than 5 percent of the building’s repair, alteration, addition and change of occupan- floor space. cy, with separate rules for each. There was a certain amount of flexibility in the New Jersey, along with many other jurisdictions, old code, but flexibility is frequently incompatible used to apply the “25/50 Rule” to rehabilitation with bureaucracy. projects. If the estimated cost of the rehabilitation “Codes are ultimately enforced by human beings work was less than 25 percent of the building’s and some peoples’ interpretations vary and that’s value, building officials had flexibility to determine what it is,” Hopkins said. “That aspect of it has not Local governments that embrace the code are rewarded with financial incentives. 20 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Smart Growth cannot work if you cannot build, if people cannot reuse, and if people cannot redevelop. changed with Smart Codes; it’s still enforced and interpreted by human beings, but what we said we were setting out to do (in Maryland) was codify common sense.” Maryland built on the New Jersey experience in 2000 when it adopted a building rehabilita- tion code known as Smart Codes. Local governments that embrace the code are rewarded with financial incentives. The Maryland incentives include priority for participating in state funding programs, his- toric preservation tax credits, and refunding up to 20 percent of the cost of rehabilitation. “It made huge numbers of projects feasible that were not feasible before the refunds when into effect,” said Harriett governments need to make it possible for builders to Tregoning, chair of the Smart Growth Leadership convert old buildings to new uses. Ultimately, Smart Institute. She is the former director of the Growth cannot work if you cannot build, if people Maryland Office of Smart Growth. cannot reuse, and if people cannot redevelop.” Even political groups are endorsing smart building codes. In an article on its Web site, the John Van Gieson is a freelance writer based in New Democrats Online concluded, “In order to Tallahassee, Florida. He owns and runs Van Gieson save our stock of historic housing, state and local Media Relations, Inc. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 21
  • 22 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • new What once was old is now By Jason Miller Transforming I n the evolution of retail, shopping malls as we know them represent the end of an era. Increasingly, underperforming or obsolete malls — a.k.a. “greyfield” sites — are going the way of the dinosaur and being replaced by mixed-use neighbor- greyfield sites hoods, which allow residents to reach many of their daily needs by simply taking a short walk from their residences. Shops, restaurants, transit links, parks, offices, cultural buildings such as libraries and other needs of modern life are situated near res- into new idential choices that include single-family homes, apartments, condominiums and live/work buildings. Greyfields are becoming an increasingly common sight in the American landscape, the most common iteration of which is the communities conventional strip mall whose anchor tenant has moved out or whose bottom line has succumbed to the pressures of competi- tion from discount stores, Internet commerce and newer malls in newer suburbs. In its 2001 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) reported that 19 per- cent of the nation’s 2,000 regional malls were in greyfield status or vulnerable to becoming so, having sales per square foot of $150 or less (one-third the rate of sales at a successful mall). Other studies have estimated between 4,000 and 5,500 smaller greyfield malls nationally. Resources for revival The CNU maintains certain principles for success when transforming greyfields into desirable places: • Evolve the site from a single structure into a district with subdistricts • Establish a street pattern • Reorient activity to face the street • Connect with the surrounding community • Integrate multiple uses • Design for human scale • Include housing • Customize to fit local needs But following these principles can be a challenge for munici- palities that are uncertain how to proceed or unaware of the resources available to them. One such resource is the third phase Left and above: Belmar in Lakewood, Colo. of the CNU greyfields study, slated for release in summer 2005. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 23
  • Following up on the first two phases, which identi- become a bustling, vibrant downtown district for fied the greyfields problem and presented case Lakewood, which had no such district before the studies on in-progress projects, the third-phase renovation effort began. report aims to serve as a guide for property owners, The recipient of a 2005 CNU Charter Award, developers, city officials and other community Belmar is approximately 40 percent complete at leaders to use in analyzing greyfields in their press time, with build-out scheduled for another neighborhoods. The report encourages an open- seven to 10 years. It represents the cumulative will minded approach to greyfield redevelopment, stat- of the city of Lakewood and its residents, who clam- ing that a mixed-use neighborhood is not always ored for a downtown, an identity for the city, says the best strategy for renewal; often, renovation or Will Fleissig, director for planning and design with reuse are more feasible approaches. For more infor- Continuum Partners LLC, the project’s developer. mation on the study, visit the CNU Web site at “The community had a very clear vision about www.cnu.org. what it wanted,” says Fleissig. “And now the vision Greyfield projects are booming, according to has national implications. We took a 1.4-million- New Urban News, a New Urbanist newsletter square-foot mall and worked with the city to down- based in Ithaca, New York. In late 2003 it counted size the retail and make the site denser without cre- 43 infill, greyfield and brownfield developments in ating a burden on the existing street — the transit its annual list of New Urban projects. The more lines allowed this. If you can increase a site’s den- mature greyfield redevelopment projects are the sity by two or three times while not increasing the beneficiaries of committed local city governments, burden on the adjoining roads, well, that’s what we and are following New Urbanist principles to much need to be doing in America — especially in the success. inner-ring suburbs.” In order to get out of the ground, however, Belmar Belmar needed more than political and community Lakewood, Colorado will. “To create a downtown, you need to create One of the more sweeping greyfield transforma- some kind of structured parking, and that can be tions in the nation, Belmar is a mixed-use renova- difficult to afford,” says Fleissig. “The city worked tion and redevelopment of the failing Villa Italia with us on investment that allowed for the new mall in Lakewood — Colorado’s fourth-largest city. sales tax revenues from the project to be garnered Composed of 23 city blocks (104 acres), Belmar has for the roads, the trees, the parking. It was a perfect financing solution — and it worked.” The market at Belmar Greyfield projects are booming, according to New Urban News. 24 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Belmar in Lakewood, Colo. Local response to Belmar has been encourag- ing, says Fleissig. “We’re seeing quite a bit of rein- It feels like a real vestment around the site — a resurgence in devel- opment in the vicinity. There’s at least a half downtown — and it’s dozen of these types of development nearby, try- ing to leverage our success.” only been created in Belmar has only recently opened up its first res- the last year. idential offerings, but even in these early stages, the home-buying public likes what it sees, says Steve Jones, a REALTOR® with Denver-based “The people who visit on the weekends are Kentwood City Properties. “We’re presently sell- overwhelmed at how many people are out and ing 12 loft-style condos in a mixed-use building, a about, enjoying the space,” says Jones. “In my more modern style and type which is pretty much opinion, five years down the road, Belmar is going the first of its kind in Lakewood. Out of those 12 to be used as a model across the country for how units, we’ve closed four and have four more under to do a huge infill project out of a mall. It feels like contract. a real downtown — and it’s only been created in “The response has been really good, and even the last year.” though some people look in and find the modern loft concept a little too harsh, the people who have Santana Row bought these properties are just blown away by San Jose, California having someone offer something this contempo- Santana Row started with a bang. In August rary in Lakewood. The buyers tend to be young, 2002, barely a year into its construction and a single, professional people who can’t afford to live mere month before its scheduled grand opening, in downtown Denver, but want the feel of an urban an unexplained fire erupted, torching 34 apart- loft.” ment units in the development. It was the largest The Belmar loft condos are selling for $239,000 fire in San Jose history, and it put a damper on to $255,000. All are 1,020 square feet and offer one Santana Row’s momentum, pushing the grand bedroom with a study or a den, plus a bathroom, opening out to the end of 2002. private outdoor spaces, garage parking and addi- Borrowing its name from Santana Park, a near- tional storage. by half-acre park that eventually will be incorpo- SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 25
  • A place where residents can live, eat, shop, stay, and play — without ever getting in their cars. rated into the project, the 42-acre Santana Row is 18-plus restaurants — many from San Francisco, the largest mixed-use project ever built in San Jose. like Blowfish Sushi and the Straits Café — are get- At $1 billion, its price tag bears that out. In its past ting great reviews, and a traditional farmers’ mar- life, Santana Row was the Town & Country Mall, a ket helps to leaven the scene with a bit of down-to- conventional, single-story strip mall that had suf- earth flavor. fered from reduced patronage and sales tax rev- Cutting-edge technology inclusions mix well enue. In March 1997, Maryland-based developer with the elegant European ambience here. The res- Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) purchased idential dwelling units offer broadband Internet the property, razing the mall and beginning con- access, wireless capabilities, 500-channel DirectTV, struction in 2001. This paved the way for a new, and multi-line phone service. A high-tech, 24-hour mixed-use development that FRIT contends will fitness center hosts residents. At the same time, two provide a “unique mix of shopping, dining, enter- parks are just a stroll away, outfitted with outdoor tainment and living, designed to enhance the indi- chess, an outdoor theater, splashing fountains and vidual experience.” eye-candy landscaping. So far, that prediction has held true. Modeled These condo properties were available for sale after a typical European urban space, Santana Row mere days before this article went to press. But with boasts high-density, mixed-use buildings that wall-to-wall amenities only steps away from resi- house every urban amenity imaginable — includ- dents’ doorsteps, few can doubt the sales potential. ing the 213-room Hotel Valencia and a 12-screen Already, Santana is generating sales tax revenue cinema. The raw numbers alone are impressive: for the city of San Jose and the numbers are rising • 558,000 square ft. of retail (680,000 sq. ft. at steadily. completion) Like most redevelopment projects of its scale, • 501 residential units, of which 219 are condos though, Santana Row has not been without contro- (1,201 residential units at completion) versy. While some observers hail it as a model for Retail options at Santana Row are decidedly Smart Growth, others have criticized it for compet- upscale, but many offer their wares to residents for ing too aggressively with San Jose’s newly revital- a discount. Walk down the pedestrian-friendly ized downtown — just 3 . 5 miles away — and main street and you’ll see more than 100 stores, another neighboring retail concern, the Valley Fair with names such as Gucci, Diesel, Ann Taylor, Mall. But Santana Row’s retail tenants dispute this Burberry, Anthropologie, and Crate & Barrel. The concern, saying those claims are unwarranted, that the development is filling a retail Santana Row, San Jose, Calif. niche that will attract a different market segment: one that will respond to Santana Row’s promise of a place where residents can live, eat, shop, stay and play — without ever getting in their cars. Bayshore Glendale, Wisconsin Built in 1955, the Bayshore Mall in Glendale, Wis., is about to get a new lease on life. In need of serious renovations, the mall struggled to compete in the changing marketplace of south- eastern Wisconsin. Since many residents in the area leave the state and travel to the Chicago area, where there is a 26 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Santana Row, San Jose, Calif. wider variety of retail options, developer Steiner + square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet Associates saw an opportunity to bring upscale of entertainment space, including several restau- retail to the region. In addition, Glendale, a com- rants and a possible comedy club and/or art the- munity minutes from downtown Milwaukee, was ater complex. Also included in the mixed-use proj- in need of its own town center to attract visitors ect is a residential component that will consist of from all over the state and bring Glendale a better 81 townhouse condominiums and 120 upscale sense of community. apartments. A one-acre “town square” park will The owner of the mall, Dallas-based Corrigan also grace Bayshore, providing a suitable locale Holdings, partnered with the city of Glendale’s for public gatherings, concerts and possibly ice Community Development Authority, which pro- skating. vided crucial public funding to move the $300- At press time, Bayshore had begun its construc- million project through the planning stages and tion phase. The project is slated for completion in into the construction phase. “This is an exciting fall 2006. time for the city of Glendale and its surrounding Reclaiming the land communities,” says Glendale Mayor Jay Hintze. “Over the next few years, Bayshore Mall will be Belmar, Santana Row and Bayshore are just transformed into a community gathering place — three examples of a nationwide effort to transform a town center that we’ve never seen before. The troubled properties into vibrant places where peo- evolution of the new Bayshore Mall will be excit- ple want to live, work and play. As malls and other ing to watch and will have a tremendous impact large-scale developments buckle under their own on the city of Glendale and the entire North unsustainable weight or unforeseen market forces, Shore area.” more opportunities should arise for knowledge- When complete, Bayshore will combine its able city officials, developers, community leaders open-air, town-square-style components with a and REALTORS® to reclaim the land, fix the mis- revitalized, enclosed mall component, offering 1.2 takes or simply move a property toward its next million square feet of retail space. Retail choices incarnation — hopefully, one that will last longer will range from large anchor tenants like Boston and contribute more to its community. Store, Sears and Kohl’s Department Store to many Jason Miller is a freelance writer, editor and publishing smaller retailers. Bayshore will include 180,000 consultant based in St. Paul, Minnesota. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 27
  • Small towns are drawing population, but they too must practice Smart Growth By Brad Broberg Walworth County, Lake Geneva, Wis. attractions of the small town I n the ebb and flow of American population Growth advocates, Feinberg and Tittas are passion- trends, many older towns and small cities have ate about fostering redevelopment — social, eco- been treading water. However, as many people nomic and physical — in the small cities west of the now search for lifestyle options, those communities Washington/Baltimore metro area. “These are great are in a position to play a leading role in managing old towns that have sort of been preserved in amber growth. for decades,” says Feinberg. “They are places that So says longtime planner and designer Alan were once real places that have fallen on hard Feinberg. Feinberg is convinced that helping “over- times and they need to reinvent themselves.” the-hill” towns and cities become more desirable One such place is Hagerstown, MD. A blue-collar places to live can spell the difference between con- city of 37,000, Hagerstown sits smack dab in front of tinued — and wasteful — consumption of open the sprawl that is spreading westward from the space and a more thoughtful and sustainable coast. Not long ago, Hagerstown took a giant step approach to growth. toward reinventing its future when the University of Together with veteran contractor Nick Tittas, Maryland chose downtown Hagerstown as the site Feinberg founded Central Maryland Development for a new branch campus. “That’s the best economic Inc. (CMD) to practice what he preaches. As Smart engine you could have,” says Feinberg. 28 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • They are places that have fallen on hard times…they need to reinvent themselves. Optimistic about Hagerstown’s potential, CMD purchased a 4,000-square-foot building at a key downtown location and is converting it into a com- bination office/condominium. It is the first of many such projects CMD hopes to tackle and/or encourage others to tackle in downtown Hagerstown. Not long ago, CMD convened the “Hagerstown Initiative,” a gathering of more than 20 planning and development types who sympathize with CMD’s vision — not just for Hagerstown but for the country in general. “There are enough exam- ples all around to see the problem with just doing it the way it’s always been done — it’s not dense enough and it doesn’t pay for itself,” says Feinberg. “Water lines, sewer lines, schools…it just doesn’t cover the costs.” The same dynamic driving Feinberg’s efforts in Maryland — the outgoing tide of metro popula- tions — is at work at many other places around the country. In many cases, it’s occurring in similar counties — those on the edge of major metropoli- tan areas. Walworth County, Wis., is one of those Growth. In the meantime, the county has passed a places. Conservation Subdivision Ordinance that pro- Squeezed between Milwaukee and Chicago — vides incentives to developers who build clustered both less than an hour away — the county’s many housing such as the Sugar Creek Preserve, a 52- lakes and rural charms have long made it a popu- home subdivision that leaves 175 acres as open lar vacation escape for metro residents. Now, more space. and more of them are starting to make Walworth Compared to Walworth County, Chaffee County their permanent home. The county’s pop- County, Colo., would seem to have little to fear ulation of 97,000 is expected to grow by 25 percent from sprawl. The nearest large city, Pueblo, is 100 over the next 15 years, which will put pressure on miles away and Denver is 140 miles away. the agricultural open space surrounding the coun- Nevertheless, growth is a pressing issue. ty’s cities and villages, says Michael Cotter, direc- Nestled between the 14,000-foot peaks of the tor of the county’s land-use and resource manage- Rocky Mountains, Chaffee County sits in the high ment department. -and-dry Arkansas River Valley and has been “As a rule, the county wants to retain its agricul- growing at a rapid pace as more and more people tural character,” says Cotter. “I think that most discover its natural beauty and recreational attrac- people have that interest at heart. The (municipal- tions. While the county’s actual population gain ities) are very interested in attracting growth and may seem small — an increase from 12,684 in doing infill.” 1990 to more than 17,000 today — the percentage To help make that happen, Walworth County’s gain is not — 34 percent. various jurisdictions — cities, villages, unincorpo- Certainly, Chaffee County has plenty of room rated townships and the county itself — have within its 1,015 square miles to accommodate formed a committee to work on their state-man- many more residents, but that’s not the point, says dated comprehensive plans together to ensure Kathy Leinz, co-county administrator. “We don’t they are not at cross-purposes when it comes to want to lose the quality of life that people have discouraging sprawl and encouraging Smart SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 29
  • come and stayed here for,” she says. that describes the rise, fall and rise again of rural Chaffee County is working closely with the populations in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. county’s three towns to pursue a new land-use Between 1990 and 1998, 71 percent of the nation’s strategy intended to ensure most of the county’s rural counties gained population, reported wide open spaces remain wide and open. “We want Johnson. The total gain was 3.6 million people, to focus growth around the towns, says Don Reimer, who Johnson described as a mixed lot of “retirees, planning director. blue-collar workers, lone-eagle professionals and The problem — not just for Chaffee County but disenchanted city dwellers.” Since that time, the for outlying counties everywhere — is that people rate of growth has slowed, but the trend continues, don’t necessarily want to live in or around a town he says. when they move from a metro area. “They want While Johnson’s research targeted county popu- acreage,” says Ken Johnson, a demographer and lation trends, he also gained considerable insight professor of sociology at Loyola University of into the realities governing the ability of small Chicago. towns to capture growth and curb sprawl. “It Johnson is the author of “The Rural Rebound,” a depends on how powerful the planning boards and special report for the Population Reference Bureau community leaders are about addressing what’s happening to their land, says Johnson. Not only that, but small towns must provide people with rea- sons to live there — especially jobs if the towns are located beyond commuting range from a metro area. “Would they like growth? Yes,” says Johnson. “Are they going to get it? Probably not without amenities.” One way some small towns are making them- selves more attractive is to use the Main Street approach to bring back the traditional. In Hercules, Calif., a Bay Area suburb of 20,000 that never had a traditional downtown, public-private partner- ships are creating a Town Center as well as a 167- acre Waterfront Quarter featuring four neighbor- The county wants to retain its agricultural character… most people have that interest at heart. Hagerstown, Md. 30 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Oktoberfest in Lake Geneva, Wis. We don’t want to lose the quality of life that people have come and stayed here for. hoods with narrow tree-lined streets and distinct and the parcel must be connected to municipal architecture. water and sewer services. Now, that decision has “If you’re looking for a placeless California come back to haunt the county in the form of bedroom suburb implementing Smart Growth… sprawl. “The precedent was set a while back and this is it,” said Steve Lawton, Hercules planning it’s hard to get the pendulum to swing back.” says director, in a case study published on the Local L’Estrange. “For some of these ranchers (the Government Commission Web site. opportunity to subdivide) is their retirement And then there’s the Chaffee County town of fund.” Buena Vista, population 2,500. There, the brother- Together with the county, Buena Vista and sister development team of Jed and Kate Selby other cities have been working on intergovern- have purchased 40 acres along the Arkansas River mental agreements that would encourage a more and are building a New Urbanism community in concentrated approach to ranch-land develop- an Old West town, mingling various types of hous- ment and ensure that less of the landscape is ing, businesses and — since the Selbys are avid freckled with homes. kayakers — a whitewater kayak park. “What we’re trying to do is guide develop- Called South Main, the community has room ment,” said L’Estrange.“We want it to stay out of for 800 new residents. “We’re pretty excited this the hillsides and open ranch spaces. Tourism is has come along,” said Jerry L’Estrange, the com- probably the county’s number one industry. If we munity’s town administrator. “It puts a significant begin to look like everybody else in the country, amount of housing in a confined space and helps who will want to come and visit us?” negate some of the sprawl.” About 20 years ago, Chaffee County began Brad Broberg is a Seattle-based freelance writer special- allowing ranchers to subdivide their land as long izing in business and development issues. His work appears regularly in the Puget Sound Business Journal as each parcel is at least two acres — any smaller and the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 31
  • V acant properties belong high on the list of things most likely to damage a neighborhood — some- times irreparably. An empty house or building decreases surrounding property values, reduces tax revenues, raises municipal costs, attracts crime and poses a fire hazard. Add to these quantifiable challenges the very real psychological damage done to residents living in dis- tressed neighborhoods and you have a formula for blight in every sense of the word. The problem is pervasive. While the northeast and Midwest U.S. have higher levels of vacancies, there are isolated and scattered pockets of abandonment in virtually all cities or metro areas — even in fast-growing cities like Las Vegas, San Diego and Tucson. Strategies and solutions The problem of vacant properties is dire, but several key organizations and progressive cities and states have joined forces to find solutions. One of the fore- most players is the National Vacant Properties Campaign (NVPC), which is run by Smart Growth America (SGA), the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). Formally launched in July 2003, the NVPC advocates a synergistic approach to vacant properties, says Joe Schilling, professor in practice at the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech in Alexandria, Va. and one of the original founders of NVPC who now directs the research and policy programs for the campaign. “Once each year, we try to gather together roughly 100 people — practi- tioners, local government or community development organizations, private sec- NoVac tor folks, academics, researchers and public officials. At first we just wanted to share with them the purposes of the campaign and also brainstorm ways they can get involved, and get guidance from them about what they think the cam- paign should be doing and how best they could use its resources to help them revi- talize vacant properties.” Cities struggle to reclaim 32 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • “Based on their input, we’ve solidified a fourfold mission: 1. Build a connected network of practitioners, policy makers and researchers. We want peo- ple to know there are other people working on the same problem. 2. Collect the latest information, research and best practices, and act as a clearinghouse for that information. 3. Develop a communication infrastructure — a Web site (www.vacantproperties.org), listserv, e-newsletter and more. 4. Provide technical assistance; i.e., guidance on what strategies and tools a particular commu- nity should use to revitalize vacant properties. “A lot of the practitioners tend to focus on the technical aspects of vacant property revitalization. Others look at the problem through the lens of broader policies related to Smart Growth, commu- nity development and regional equity. Intellectually, they recognize that these elements are all connected, but they tend to look at vacant properties through one lens or the other. Part of our mission is to give them that big picture, saying, you ancies really have to look at both of those dimensions of vacant properties to be successful.” Various approaches can be taken to deal with vacant properties, such as demolition and rehabilita- tion, brownfields initiatives, historic preservation and Smart Growth tax incentives, infill development and adaptive reuse. Generally speaking, code enforce- ment programs are one of the more successful tactics abandoned properties By Jason Miller SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 33
  • currently being used. “The thinking here is that if Not surprisingly, a lack of public funding some- you bring a building up to code, it will remain occu- times complicates the situation, says Schilling. pied,” says Schilling. “Outside of the EPA’s brownfields money, there’s But Schilling cautions against adopting code very little dedicated federal funding.” enforcement in a vacuum. “That’s kind of the rub Some form of public funding is arguably imper- right now in a lot of cities,” he says. “Don’t just do ative, however, since development in urban set- enforcement alone; it needs to be done in conjunc- tings is typically more expensive than development tion with housing rehabilitation programs and on a greenfield site. Title problems, possible envi- resources” in order to achieve lasting success. ronmental clean-up costs, reluctant lenders — all affect the ability of a private developer to turn a Stubborn challenges profit or even break even. “Public funds are neces- But even with solid resources at one’s fingertips, sary in order to help support the infrastructure for it can be a challenge to begin the process of reclaiming the property,” says Schilling. “Then, reclaiming an abandoned property. Determining when you get to the stage of reuse, you need some property ownership is often the most difficult ele- public funds in order to support the urban pioneers ment, says Jennifer Leonard, director of the NVPC. — the community development corporations, the “Even if you find the person who you think owns small developers — the sorts of people who are the the property, they may have passed away and not first people back into a distressed neighborhood. had a will. If you find people who simply walked Public funds will help these pioneers to redevelop away from the property, they might think they don’t those first few properties and get a foothold so the own it anymore. The picture isn’t always this bleak, market can take over.” but that’s usually one of the big hurdles.” Successful REALTOR® involvement in Baltimore In Baltimore, Md., a coordinated public-private partnership is playing out. Over the past 50 years, the population there dropped from 950,000 to 675,000, leaving nearly 16,000 vacant structures concentrated in a handful of areas. In the wake of this, the city tried a variety of redevelopment efforts, each one attended by frustration on behalf of the private sector in its inability to wrest control from the city’s hands, says Bob Pipik, director of asset management in Baltimore’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “The transition began when Mayor O’Malley was elected in 1999,” says Pipik. A local group, Baltimore Economics and Efficiency Foundation (BEEF), took a hard look at city government func- tioning and identified property disposition as something that was harder than it needed to be. They recommended to the Mayor that we should work with local REALTORS®. At the same time, members of the Greater Baltimore Board of REALTORS® (GBBR) were com- plaining about the abandoned properties, says Jody Public funds are necessary in order to help support the infrastructure for reclaiming property. 34 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Landers, GBBR executive vice presi- dent. “That’s one of the reasons we got involved in the Selling City Owned Properties Efficiently (SCOPE) pro- gram,” he says. “Members were say- ing, ‘I drive through the city and there are all these vacant properties — we need to do something about them.’” Landers jumped on the opportunity, and the SCOPE program, designed to create a simplified and cost-effective process for putting vacant, city-owned properties to use, was born. “The BEEF folks and other local groups put money on the table, and started hammering away at the bureaucracy, trying to introduce pri- vate market efficiencies into this situ- ation,” says Pipik. “We had to pull apart the various steps that go into city government selling a piece of property.” A process for city acquisition and REALTOR® selling of the properties was formulated and The private market is approved. Properties were identified; REALTORS® were selected. The rest, as they say, is history. working now; it needs “The first round was 42 properties, of which we no babysitting. sold 36,” says Pipik. “We learned a lot of lessons during that first round, some of which were given to Mayor Martin O’Malley’s vision to painful. But we also discovered that people want acquire 5,000 derelict properties and turn them to buy these houses. Baltimore is in the middle of around. O’Malley concedes that some of the prop- a tremendous upsurge in property values — we’re erties will need to be demolished or consolidated still catching up with the rest of the eastern with other properties, but he feels strongly that if seaboard. And we’re getting lots of interest from the city steps in and acquires them for resale, the nonprofits, churches, handymen and more.” market will respond. Pipik reports that the second round of sales — 45 Currently, all 5,000 of the flagged properties properties — went more smoothly; at press time are now coming under the control of the city of they’ve sold five and are on track to sell another 21. Baltimore, says Pipik. “At least a couple hundred Of particular note is Reservoir Hill, an older are slated to be sold through the SCOPE program historical district that was struggling with aban- — although that is not our only method for disper- donment and the attendant plummeting property sal. We have a nice ‘pipeline’ of properties; we values. “The average sale prices went from should have enough product to continue doing $71,000 in 2002 to $250,000 in 2004,” says this through 2007.” Landers. “When we started selling the houses, we “So far, of the 50-plus houses that have settled, were getting offers between $10,000 and $50,000. the average sale price was $13,000; the net rev- During the latest round, which are all under con- enue to the city after paying commissions was tract right now, there were a few that went for about $550,000,” says Landers. $100,000. “For these properties, the city is paying “Now we don’t have to do anything more. The REALTORS® a commission of $2,500 or eight per- private market is working now; it needs no cent of the sale price, whichever is greater. And babysitting.” since the average sale price for this next batch of Dovetailing with the SCOPE program — unin- properties that are under contract and pending tentionally, says Pipik — is Project 5000, the name settlement is $33,000, the city will end up netting SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 35
  • The Land Bank helps us manage, maintain and approve tax-fore- closed properties. problem with abandonment is it’s a contagious disease. It infects neighboring properties,” says Kildee. To fix the problem, Michigan made county treasurers responsible for tax foreclosures. “In 1999 we eliminated private tax-lien speculators by rewriting the tax-foreclosure law. The new law prevented private individuals taking up to seven years to foreclose on a property; it allowed the over $1 million. So the county treasurers to foreclose after two years of city is ecstatic. unpaid taxes. This created a much more efficient “The REALTORS® way for the county government to get control of are making the program these properties.” work. Every day now I But without a better way to then dispose of prop- get calls from other erties, the new system could potentially have become REALTORS® outside simply a more efficient replica of the old system. “So the area who want to in 2002 we formed a Land Bank — a sort of quasi- find out how they can participate in the program. It’s public entity that acquires, assembles and then dis- open to small and large REALTORS®, minority own- poses of vacant and abandoned properties. We ers — everyone has an opportunity to participate. All worked toward legislation that formally created a the properties have to go on the Multiple Listing Land Bank Act, which resulted in the most progres- Service (MLS), so everyone has an opportunity to sive Land Bank law in the nation that was signed by submit investors and buyers for these properties. It’s our governor in January 2003. become completely market-driven.” “The Land Bank helps us manage, maintain, and approve tax-foreclosed properties, then dis- Flint on the rebound pose of that property only when the result of a The birthplace of General Motors (GM), Flint, pending sale is a property that makes a contribu- Mich., was a thriving, self-contained economy. In tion to the surrounding properties.” 1978 there were 76,000 GM jobs alone. The next piece of the puzzle was amendments to But as GM lost market share and trimmed its the Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Financing workforce over the years, Flint struggled under the Act, which were put into place simultaneously with blows to its economy. The city went from 193,000 the introduction of the Land Bank Act and were fully residents in 1970 to just under 120,000 today — supported by the Michigan Association of REAL- and 14,000 GM jobs. “So 73,000 people left Flint — TORS®. The brownfield act amendments are signifi- and they didn’t take their houses with them! That’s cant because they rewrote the definition of a brown- significant abandonment,” says Dan Kildee, field to include any property owned by a Michigan Genesee County treasurer and the CEO of Land Bank, regardless of the condition or location. Michigan’s First Land Bank. The act allows an entire inventory of a Land Bank to Genesee County is rounding the corner on the be treated as a single contiguous entity; even though issue — having assimilated itself into the southwest the parcels are scattered around each county, they’re Michigan economy — and is posting improved looked at as a single brownfield district. This “clump- housing-growth numbers. ing” approach allowed Kildee to borrow $4.9 million But the road to recovery was a challenge. The to clean up all the properties owned by the Land old tax-foreclosure system allowed private specula- Bank. tors to acquire properties through foreclosure, then Tax Increment Financing (TIF) then provided a allow them to remain vacant and abandoned. “The method to pay for public improvements — such as 36 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • site preparation, clean-up, etc. — by borrowing now they’ve removed the red tape so it’s easier to money and then paying off the loan with taxes gen- remove eyesores from the community.” erated from the improvements. Under the auspices of the brownfield act, Genesee County created a Consider the possibilities scattered-site brownfield TIF district, and used The steps that Baltimore and Flint are taking the taxes generated to help clean up all of the are progressive and in some ways controversial. properties. Public-private partnerships have been a source of In spring 2003 the clean-up and environmental contention in the political aisles for some time remediation work began. Their first project? A now and show no sign of changing. mixed-use redevelopment of an abandoned “You see this metamorphosis being repeated department store in downtown Flint. Empty for 25 elsewhere in the country,” says Jody Landers of years and tied up in the old tax-foreclosure sys- the Greater Baltimore Board of REALTORS®. tem, the building had 22 different title interests. “There are real benefits to be had from entering “It was a nightmare,” says Kildee. “No developer into partnerships where the private sector makes would undertake that challenge.” the investment of time, resources and expertise, “But with the new act, we took control of it in one and the public sector comes in to address the day. It’s a four-story building right on the main problems of abandoned properties. There are cul- street in Flint, literally in the most visible block tural differences on both sides of the public and downtown. We foreclosed on it in 2003, put a plan private table, but you can work through them if together, and now we’re a quarter of the way you’re willing to compromise. through a $3.8 million redevelopment. That build- “The problem of abandoned buildings is mas- ing is itself a metaphor for what the Land Bank can sive, but you can do something about it, and the do in neighborhoods all around the city.” market can work.” The Genesee County approach is similar to Baltimore’s SCOPE program in that REALTORS® Jason Miller is a freelance writer, editor and publishing take over after a renovation is complete. “We love consultant based in St. Paul, Minnesota. REALTORS®; they’re our sales force,” says Kildee. “It’s especially important to have REALTORS® who understand the product and are willing to work with us on this.” Jill Freeman, a REALTOR® with Re/Max Town and Country in neighbor- ing Swartz Creek, Mich., sells rehabbed houses for the Land Bank, as well as new construction. “The Land Bank is my most important client. The stuff they’re putting on the market is top shelf. The properties chosen for renova- tion are rehabbed from top to bottom. They do beautiful work; I haven’t had any problems selling these homes. They’re beautiful homes and they’re very affordable. “We’ve had so many promises made by state government in the past. But There are real benefits to be had from entering into partnerships. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 37
  • Smart Growth Redo of Mid-Size Ballpark District, Memphis, Tenn. 38 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • REALTORS®, plan- Cities By Heidi Johnson-Wright ners, developers and nonprofits are working together to revitalize urban centers and create attractive Smart Growth neighborhoods SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 39
  • Thea’s Landing, Tacoma, Wash. F rom Tacoma to Memphis to “The overall waterway development concept Providence and beyond, was approved during an extensive one-and-a- people are rediscovering half year citizen review process, where things urban living. Yet that doesn’t like density, scale, open space and parks were mean that mid-sized cities don’t considered,” said Bart Alford, community initia- have to struggle to compete with tives supervisor with the city of Tacoma’s the lure of the suburbs. Economic Development Department. REALTORS®, urban planners “Mixed use was key. The city didn’t want just and developers are coming up a nine-to-five environment; it wanted actual res- with plans and incentives to revi- idents living there,” Alford said. talize urban centers. Frequently, The city was also concerned about ensuring areas experiencing resurgences public access to the waterway. It held back a are centered on enticements that band of land — anywhere from 20 to 100 feet in lure people back, such as dedi- width — for public parkways and esplanades. cated affordable housing, adap- Tax incentives also played a role in the rede- tive reuses of old buildings and velopment’s success. The developers benefited brownfield conversions. These from a state program that waived property taxes types of jewels help transform crime-ridden, for a 10-year period. Developers were also able to beleaguered eyesores into attractive, sustainable apply for up to $10 million in accelerated depre- communities. ciation on buildings they built. Today, visitors to Tacoma, Washington’s Foss “Thea’s Landing was a pioneering develop- Waterway find a prosperous residential and com- ment for downtown Tacoma. It was risky yet mercial sector, highlighted by Thea’s Landing, a exciting,” said REALTOR® Judy Mayfield, a successful mixed-use development. Such was Designated Broker for Carino & Associates Real not always the case. Estate Services, who was the site sales manager Before the city of Tacoma acquired the for the Thea’s Landing condos. Waterway in 1991, the area was owned by the “New restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The rail- new Tacoma Convention Center, hotels and road leased out parcels dotted with oil tanks and banks are popping up throughout downtown shipping warehouses. The 1970s and 80s Tacoma. It is incredible!” Mayfield said. brought an exodus of industrial users, resulting Thea’s Landing made history as the first in a blighted brownfield that qualified as a development to include multi-family, market- Superfund site in 1983. rate housing in the neighborhood as well as in The city saw the Waterway’s potential, acquired Tacoma’s downtown core. This has attracted res- it and invested considerable sums in cleaning it idents to the condos and studio, one- and two- up. Public input via charettes and public hearings bedroom apartments with retail that includes a helped craft a community-wide, stakeholder-sup- deli/coffee shop, a martini bar, a florist, an ported vision, which included the desire for retail, upscale dog supplies store and a frame shop. The commercial and residential uses. convenience of local bus service, as well as the 40 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • nearby commuter train system which connects to ident of Coletta and a light rail system linking the entire region, are Company, a firm that also draws. specializes in civic “There was no housing available before in project development downtown Tacoma; now there’s urban housing, and execution, process high-end and affordable. The tenants include design and facilitation, young professionals, students, military personnel marketing and public and empty nesters, who want to take advantage of relations. Tacoma Opera and other cultural opportunities,” “The dynamic cou- said Angie Lausch, principal and property manag- ple driving the team er for Glacier Management, Inc., which manages (the Jernigans) favored Thea’s Landing. the downtown location. Included among these opportunities is the The city and county Museum of Glass, which is connected to down- mayors and council town Tacoma and its emerging cultural district by were behind the deci- a 500-foot-long pedestrian bridge, created by sion to locate down- renowned glass artist and Tacoma native Dale town, so there were Chihuly. no political figures “People have really welcomed the change,” angling for it to be in said Lausch, who explained that Tacoma has, in the burbs. And the the past, had a bit of an inferiority complex com- business community pared to neighboring Seattle. was supportive,” said Coletta, who lives in a down- “Tacoma had always been second to Seattle in town Memphis loft. terms of an urban environment,” she said. A 25-year property tax freeze and a Federal But with its now vibrant downtown and reborn Historic Rehabilitation Income Tax Credit helped waterfront, Lausch believes that “Tacoma is com- ing into its own.” Memphis is best known for the Blues and the Mixed use was key. King, but a minor-league baseball stadium anchored an urban comeback in the city of Beale The city didn’t want just a Street, Sun Studios and Graceland. Memphis’ vibrant urban core that is now home to the nine-to-five environment; Redbirds AAA franchise was once an area fre- quented only by adult movie patrons and down- it wanted actual residents town workers seeking daytime parking. Although the downtown had been rebounding living there. some since 1981 when the historic Peabody Hotel reopened, “(i)t was the ballpark that poured jet fuel on Memphis, Tenn. this,” said Frank Ricks. Ricks is principal of Looney Ricks Kiss, the architects and designers of record on the ball park project, as well as other projects in the surrounding district, including dense, low-rise apartments, some with ballpark views. Initially, Redbirds’ co-founder Dean Jernigan wanted to build the home for the franchise in the suburbs. Co-founder and wife, Kristi, pushed instead for down- town Memphis. “Three factors brought about the turning point,” said Carol Coletta, host of public radio talk show Smart City™ and pres- SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 41
  • lower initial development costs. The city and county contributed $8.5 million to finance the land purchase. The city also donated in-kind to the project in terms of infrastructure and relo- cation of utilities. But the lion’s share of the project’s funding was procured by the Jernigans. “This was an atypical situation. Because this was a largely privately-financed project, the public was not an active participant in the process,” said Ricks. That’s not to say that garnering public sup- port didn’t play a role. Since groundbreaking preceded procurement of all of the financing, Memphisites generally viewed the big muddy hole in the ground that sat fallow for a year with skepticism. The ballpark is a community gathering spot that the city didn’t have before. Ricks’ agrees that the jumbo ballplayer — dubbed “Nostalgia Man” — has reached iconic status, and contributed to the park becom- A local alternative newspaper sponsored a con- ing something of a “town green for the city.” test to suggest how to fill in the hole. One sugges- “The ballpark is a community gathering spot tion was to “put a group of Elvises in the hole and that the city didn’t have before — that ‘common make it a tourist attraction,” Coletta said. place,’” he said. Not only is AutoZone Park itself a triumph, but it In Providence, Rhode Island’s downtown in the has spurred further infill and renovation in the early 1990s, there was no “common place” where downtown core. This includes the Peabody Place people gathered. The classic, old department stores entertainment and retail center, a riverfront master had closed their doors and the banks moved away. plan and FedExForum, a $250 million basketball No one was living downtown since virtually no res- arena — also designed by Ricks’ firm — that is idential units were available. home to the Memphis Grizzlies NBA team. A partnership of forward-thinking business and Memphis’ legendary Beale Street runs between the civic leaders, however, saw the untapped potential. two sports centers. With the city’s support, they hosted charettes “The ballpark is on the street; right up to the tasked with envisioning a new future for the city’s street, no setback. In the heart of downtown. downtown core known as Downcity. There’s a public plaza on the main corner with a Community stakeholders and elected officials huge oversized ballplayer over the entrance. The came up with a redevelopment plan resulting in ballplayer became a landmark, an icon,” said recommendations for urban design, parking and Coletta. 200 residential units needed to support retail busi- 42 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Now there are people where there were none. You can just feel the change. nesses and achieve a level of activity that leads to The first floor of the Alice Building has com- a self-perpetuating revival. mercial tenants which include a restaurant that’s To provide residential units, redevelopers were a coffee shop in the morning, a sandwich shop at motivated to invest in historically significant prop- noon and a jazz club in the evening. There’s also erties such as the Alice Building. An architectural a book store and a gallery. jewel accented with swags, garlands and cornices, ”Within the same block, five buildings have been it was built in 1898 as a department store. In 1929, redeveloped as mixed-use residential with first-floor it became a mall of small shops. When the build- commercial. A sixth is currently in process, which ing closed in the late 1990s, it had just one tenant. will result in the creation of over 200 apartment When the building’s redeveloper, Cornish units,” said Stephen Durkee, principal partner with Associates, L.P purchased the Alice Building, it ., Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels, the architects could see the building was perfect for loft style of record on the Alice Building. apartments with first-floor commercial uses. Nearby, other businesses, such as upscale “When we first explained what we intended to restaurants and a boutique hotel, have started up. do, people looked at us like we were a little crazy. “Now there are people where there were none. But public support was generally there early on,” The lights are on. You can just feel the change — said Douglas Storrs, senior associate at Cornish. a new level of energy. It all started because of the “We convinced the business leaders and kept first few projects,” said Durkee. them updated on the projects. They invested polit- “Now Providence is a ‘24-hour city.’” ical capital and supported us.” “We negotiated tax stabilization agreements Heidi Johnson-Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and sustainable communities. She and her hus- with the city that set a lower tax rate in the early band live in a restored historic home in the heart of years of the project. The city gets less revenue Miami’s Little Havana. Contact her at: hjohnson- early on, but sparks development,” Storrs said. wright@yahoo.com. The demographics of the Alice Building resi- dents have proven very diverse. They include graduate students, downtown workers and people who work from home, as well as older folks who The Alice Building, Providence, R.I. have primary homes outside of Providence, but come into the city for performing arts and enter- tainment events. “A significant number of people that live in the Alice Building’s loft units are sole-source propri- etors — lawyers, architects — and use them as live/work units,” Storrs said. Storrs is a fan of the federal historic tax program. “It’s a very good program that can be replicat- ed on the state level. You invest money in the building, and then you receive tax credits. You then sell the tax credits to corporations from which you receive funding. The State of Rhode Island has also adopted a state historic-tax program,” he said. Since Downcity is a designated historic district and an arts and entertainment district, it attracts a creative community. If an artist produces a product in the district — a painting, a sculpture — and sells it, he doesn’t have to pay a state sales tax on it. In a 10-year span, downtown Providence has experienced a major renaissance. The Alice Building is but one of a group of older, historical- ly-significant buildings to be converted to mixed use. No longer a blighted area, downtown is a thriving urban core with housing, jobs and cultur- al amenities. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 43
  • e- to onc orhoods l turn ers re an neighb Goldberg ia Retail d urb rc s id ne shun er suburb s By Dav e k C ld and o mac om b ome 44 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • I n the last few years, a veritable stampede of Americans has returned to city and older suburban neighborhoods in search of shorter commutes and fun things to do, only to spend Saturdays in the place they thought they’d left behind: the newer suburbs. It turned out that doing a week’s shopping at lower- than-stratospheric prices meant schlepping out to where the grocery chains can build their preferred massive foot- prints. To make a run for building supplies or home-life sundries you had to queue up for the ol’ exit ramp. For years, the less-than-preferred demographics and physical constraints of inner-city neighborhoods kept retailers at bay. Residents of older suburbs, meanwhile, saw their options shrink as the strip centers of the 50s, 60s and 70s fell out of favor and the chains chased afflu- ence out to the next cornfield. As close-in areas draw new residents, however, a new generation of mixed-use, high- er-quality shopping environments is starting to emerge. It’s not happening by accident. Savvy local govern- ments are going after it, realizing that for urban and inner suburban neighborhoods, attracting retail and achieving the right mix of shopping and residential hold the key to revitalization, stability, walkability and livabil- ity. But for the first time, they’re finding retailers to be receptive. From Atlanta, where one of the largest redevelopment projects in the city’s history will bring IKEA and a host of other retailers to the heart of the city, to Chicago, with the first multi-story Home Depot, to Washington, D.C. and its retail renaissance, major retailers have discovered urban neighborhoods in a major way. “There are a couple reasons why this is a growing mar- ket,” said Cindy Stewart, director of local government relations for the International Council of Shopping Centers. “The suburbs are saturated and developers and St. Louis Park, Minn. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 45
  • retailers are looking for new markets, and those Oakland, CA, where a nonprofit, community-based really are old markets that may be undergoing a organization in a large city has taken the lead in rebirth. And the other is that when you go out to the revitalizing a commercial corridor; St. Louis Park, green space there are a lot of growth management MN, an inner-suburban city that created a vision laws in place that make those projects more diffi- for a new town center and hired a retail developer cult to do.” to pull it off; and Baltimore County, MD, a subur- According to Stewart, the fastest-growing sector banized county that has created an innovative pro- of her retail association’s membership is in the pub- gram to redevelop its aging commercial corridors lic and nonprofit sectors — local governments and into revitalized mixed-use centers, putting commu- community organizations working on commercial nity participation at the fore. restoration. In addition to larger cities, many of them are older suburbs trying to redevelop strip Washington, D.C.: Retail revitalization in corridors not just as a place to shop, but as a place Columbia Heights to be: mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods with a In many ways, Washington, D.C. is a clear suc- Main Street feel. cess story. The capital city has stopped its popula- Below, we visit four places with interesting tion loss, with 41,000 housing units built or twists on the retail revitalization story: Washington, added to the construction pipeline since 2001 and D.C., a large city that partnered with business to many formerly-distressed neighborhoods on the create a marketing center that is drawing retail upswing. Still, city officials found that the popula- back to revitalize neighborhoods that have been tion remained somewhat transient, in large part woefully under served; Fruitvale Transit Village in because basic goods and services continued to lag behind. Attracting retail, then, has become a criti- The suburbs are cal means of stabilizing those neighborhoods and making them lively and livable. saturated and developers That led Mayor Anthony Williams and a partner- ship of D.C. business players to create the and retailers are looking Washington, D.C. Marketing Center, whose job it has been to lure back skeptical retailers, said for new markets. Michael Stevens, the center’s CEO. After meeting with industry representatives, the public-private St. Louis Park, Minn. 46 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Fruitvale Transit Village, Oakland, Calif. The cosmetic improvements [in Fruitvale] created the impression that things were happening. nonprofit built a huge database, he added. “We That information helped the city put together a compiled all the retail opportunities into a single deal to build Tivoli Square at the corner of 14th resource, and posted them on our Web site. We Street and Park Road. The project includes a Giant have profile sheets, one page front and back, with Foods — an urban rarity at 53,000 square feet — contact people, maps and photos for 39 neighbor- and the restoration of the classic and long-dor- hood clusters and 128 neighborhoods. We know mant Tivoli Theater. An additional 25,000 square the demographics and traffic counts.” feet of shops are lining 14th St., and 28,000 square Even that wasn’t enough when it came to mar- feet of office space occupies floors above. keting a neighborhood such as Columbia Heights. Tivoli Square so changed the tenor of the retail The Census and other conventional market analy- environment that the area has attracted the largest ses still showed it to be a bad bet for business. retail project in D.C., which will mix regional and That’s when Stevens brought in Social Compact, a national retailers, such as Target and Bed Bath nonprofit that performs “drill down” analysis to and Beyond. Soon to begin construction, the gauge the true buying power of urban neighbor- 465,000 square-foot project will include restau- hoods. rants and a health club. “The neighborhood, because of the population For more information, please see: http://dcmar- density, had a tremendous amount to offer in buy- ketingcenter.com. ing power because it wasn’t adequately served,” said Karin Ottesen, president of Social Compact. Oakland, Calif.: The Fruitvale Transit Village The analysis found that the neighborhood had At one point in Oakland’s heyday, the Fruitvale thousands more households and neighborhoods district’s International Boulevard was the equiva- than the Census counted, and way more dispos- lent of a second downtown. But that all began to able income than anyone imagined. Less than a change when a rash of highway building drained third of the aggregate buying power of the 78,000 much of the population to the suburbs, said residents was being spent locally, meaning that Arabella Martinez, the recently retired head of the $424 million each year was being spent outside district’s Spanish-speaking Unity Council. the Columbia Heights market. By the early 1990s, when Martinez had SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 47
  • The district went from a vacancy rate of about 40 percent in 1990 to one percent now. returned from a stint in the federal government, improvements that had been recommended by a uni- “Fruitvale had become a very unattractive neigh- versity study team. “The cosmetic improvements cre- borhood and it was just filthy dirty,” she said. ated the impression that things were happening, that Having founded the Unity Council in the 1960s to the area was on the upswing,” Martinez said. In promote Latino opportunity throughout the Bay addition, a business improvement district was creat- Area, she found the organization’s own neighbor- ed to pay for street cleaning, monitor crime, police hood so benighted that she felt compelled to make liquor outlets and remove graffiti. a cause of its resurrection. In order to assure lenders of anchor tenants, the “As a first step, we decided that we absolutely Unity Council arranged to move their own offices had to change the commercial district,” she said. and several other community-service organizations Not only was International Boulevard dilapidated, into the office space. Negotiating the parking in but the district was getting little benefit from a order to replace BART slots and serve the stores nearby BART rail station that was unconnected to and offices proved another lengthy and difficult the commercial district and surrounded by nothing process, Martinez said. but parking. To make matters worse, BART was Picking the right mix of retail also was impor- planning yet more parking in a poorly-conceived tant, and required community input. Restaurants garage. came first, in part because they draw people to the The Unity Council rallied the community to streets at night, when visitors feel less secure. “We demand something better and have a say in what allocated only 20 percent of space for national that might be. After the numerous community ses- chains,” Martinez said. “There were enough fast- sions, the Unity Council decided to try to develop a food restaurants in Fruitvale.” transit village on BART’s parking lot. Martinez’s Today, with the phased construction all but com- group reasoned that a plaza lined with appealing plete, the area has been transformed. “You see shops and restaurants, designed to serve both the tremendous numbers of people shopping, and you neighborhood and transit commuters, would both don’t see all the security bars on the storefronts. link the commercial district to the transit station The district went from a vacancy rate of about 40 and provide a venue for community festivals. The percent in 1990 to one percent now.” addition of housing units would help add life and “All evidence is that the strategy to focus on the customers to the streets, and planned office space retail worked,” Martinez said. “I have to say, I’m would bring jobs to the district. living my dream.” But few officials and lenders would believe the For more information, please see: project had a chance until International Boulevard http://www.fruitvalevillage.net/ or http://www.uni- itself began to get the facade and streetscape tycouncil.org/transitvillage.html. 48 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Baltimore County: The Renaissance to mix retail and residential without navigating Redevelopment Pilot Program dozens of regulatory hurdles. The catch — though Like a lot of suburban areas that mushroomed it’s more likely an advantage — is that the devel- after World War II, Baltimore County, MD is oper’s master plan has to be developed through a pocked with over-the-hill commercial corridors seven- to 14-day charette, a public design work- that can’t compete with newer developments eat- shop whose end product becomes the official tem- ing their way into the county’s much-loved coun- plate for the project. Plans also are to be accompa- tryside. As County Executive Jim Smith sees it, nied by a “pattern book” that establishes the that dynamic has to change in a hurry. design features that the community and develop- “I don’t think our county can thrive without a ers agree they’d like to see. renaissance of the older neighborhoods and local “We have to have a way where the developers business districts in the beltway communities and communities can come together early and col- along I-695,” said Smith. At the same time, con- laborate on a vision for a particular site,” Smith ventional development is not creating the future said. “The developer can then move forward, and residents want, he added. the community can believe that the plan they’ve “Walkable, mixed-use communities are some- worked on will be built.” Under the enabling leg- thing that a lot of people want. But our conven- islation, the plan must be approved by 80 percent tional suburban zoning is not set up to give them of participants in at least two charette sessions. that,” Smith said. “I know that it is more expen- Those can include any interested citizen, as well sive and difficult to develop in older areas than in as the development and design teams. a lush, green cornfield. Therefore I knew we were Though the program is still too new to have going to have to have incentives to attract busi- generated its first project, the county recognizes ness to these places.” developers are likely to need other incentives Enter the Renaissance Redevelopment Pilot beyond liberalized zoning rules. The Renaissance Program. Established earlier this year after more program will be augmented by other strategies, than a year of public discussion, the program sets including tax abatement and redevelopment up “opportunity areas” where developers are free grants, and potentially, the county’s first use of tax People really wanted to have a place in their community where they could go and just hang out, a real town center. Baltimore County, Md. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 49
  • St. Louis Park, Minn. What’s really attracting people to live there is the mix of retail, because that enhances their lives. increment financing. All are likely to be necessary architect and town planner who in 1996 conducted to rejuvenate aging strip corridors, said deputy one of the first public-design workshops for the planning commissioner, Jackie MacMillan. “You area around the intersection of Excelsior Boulevard can only upgrade strip centers so many times. The and Highway 100. From that exercise emerged the county has a number of shopping centers that are concept of a shopping district surrounding a town very under-used or completely abandoned. So we green, with housing options included. St. Louis have all this under-used land, and we have to find Park began piecing together 16 acres for redevel- a better way to use that.” opment and put out a call for interested developers. For more on the program, please visit: http:// To their disappointment, they found very little www.co.ba.md.us/Agencies/planning/renaissance/ expertise in combining retail, civic uses and hous- index.html. ing. Their first developer, a mass-production home- builder, could not figure out how to make the proj- St. Louis Park, MN: A new town center at ect work, even after scaling back the town green Excelsior & Grand and removing the proposed civic building. Though it was born as a streetcar suburb of In 2000 the city hired TOLD Development Minneapolis, for most of its life St. Louis Park has Company, which was experienced in retail and had a drive-through downtown. The town of redevelopment, but not residential. But the devel- 44,000, located seven miles west of downtown oper was convinced that getting the retail atmos- Minneapolis did most of its growing in the decades phere right would be the key to success, said TOLD after World War II, and grew mostly houses and Principal Bob Cunningham. They pushed ahead, strip centers along corridors such as Highway 100. breaking ground just after 9/11 on 100,000 square By the early 1990s, when the main commercial feet of retail and an eventual 660 housing units. strip had declined to a collection of pawnshops, Their faith paid off, Cunningham said. check-cashing storefronts and barely solvent retail- “What’s really attracting people to live there is ers, the city fathers and mothers decided it was the mix of retail, because that enhances their high time for a downtown. lives,” Cunningham said. “We’ve built 338 apart- “People really wanted to have a place in their ments; we’ve never dropped below about 94 per- community where they could go and just hang out, cent occupancy. We finished 124 condos just a real town center,” said Richard McLaughlin, the recently and there are only two units left.” The 50 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • retail is a mix between locally-owned and national chains. It includes a daycare, a Pier One store, a pair of sit-down restaurants, a fast-food Mexican restau- rant, Panera Bread Company, Starbucks and locally- owned boutiques. The key to the project was the town’s willingness to assist in building structured parking and allowing less of it because some could be shared among uses. The city also used tax-increment financing to help pay for the town green and streetscapes, including brick pavers for sidewalks. Financing was perhaps the trickiest part, TOLD said. “Lenders are still either apartment, condo or retail lenders. Most don’t do mixed use. But this is a product type whose time has come. They’ll get it and jump on the bandwag- on, they’re just not there in force yet.” For more, please see: http://www.excelsiorand- grand.com/main.html or http://www.stlouispark.org. David A. Goldberg is the communications director for Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for land-use policy reform. In 2002, Mr. Goldberg was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University where he studied urban policy. RETAIL IN THE CITY: SOME TIPS FOR GETTING IT — As head of the cles on commercial design trends. “Until very recently, that same Washington, D.C. Marketing Center, Michael Stevens has been instru- 200,000 feet would be in one story and cover three to four acres, front- mental in luring retail back to the city’s underserved neighborhoods. Here ed by 20 acres of parking.” are his tips for other communities: With many suburbs saturated with “big box” and other retail, we’re now • First of all, local executives and council have to buy in. It takes seeing two divergent trends, experts said. In the low-density exurbs, the money, other resources and human capital. new stores and their parking lots are larger than ever so as to draw • You need an organization that will be the information clearinghouse motorists from many miles around. At the same time, retailers now see and first point of contact for retailers. Caution: Creating it isn’t easy. the virtue of high-density markets with plenty of customers close at hand. • Develop a retail attraction plan: Do you need grocery-anchored or But capturing it requires resurrecting and updating the designs from the department-store-anchored centers, or neighborhood corridors? earliest days of department stores — multi-story stores in buildings with • Retailers are looking for a deal. Incentives: Land, tenant finish-out locally-compatible architecture. funds (we use TIF funds); tax abatements; and/or job training funds Target stores were among the earliest to adapt. The company’s flagship for local residents. store in Minneapolis is four stories, and the chain has two-story stores • Identify and market your opportunities: Suburban markets have a with structured parking in Atlanta, Gaithersburg, Md. and several other finite number of sites now and there is a backlash against “big box.” places. Home Depot recently opened a three-story in downtown Chicago. • Cities need to know: True household income in neighborhoods, Wal-Mart itself as a two-story store in a mixed-use setting in Long Beach, what’s really being spent in the cash economy, accurate population Calif. and will occupy two floors of a mixed-use high-rise in Rego, N.Y. counts and aggregate buying power. Mixed-use, urban projects are popping up all over these days, said A NEW RETAIL DOCTRINE — Though change has been building for sev- Cindy Stewart, director of local government relations for the ICSC. “You eral years, one of the strongest signals yet of a fundamental shift in retail still see lifestyle and power centers, but retailers going after that urban doctrine came in a session of the International Council of Shopping market are going into projects that also have housing, because there’s Centers last December. It was there that Robert Stoker, senior real estate such a strong need for both.” Being part of a neighborhood raises trig- manager for Wal-Mart, declared that, “We’ve reached a stage where we gers, a range of design considerations from architecture to placement of can be flexible. We no longer have to build a gray-blue battleship box.” loading docks to masking the parking decks. Wal-Mart is not alone, of course, either in its new willingness to adapt But it can be worth it: Foot for foot, urban stores often out perform their to more urban environments or in its long resistance to veering from a for- suburban counterparts, Stewart and others said. Increasingly, retailers mula that has held since the 1960s: A single-story building on a major are recognizing what McMahon calls the place-making dividend: “People arterial road surrounded by asphalt. will stay longer and spend more money in places that actually earn their affection,” he said. “In 1960, if you had 200,000 square feet of retail, it would have a footprint of about one acre in a multi-story building,” said Ed McMahon, “Strip shopping centers are retail for the last century,” McMahon a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute who has written several arti- added, “and mixed use is the retail environment for this century.” SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 51
  • New Life A in the ndrea Floriman was born in the Dominican Republic. Her husband grew up in Honduras. When they searched for a home for themselves and their three children in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolis, they focused on Arlington County, Virginia. Residing in its charming 3-bed, 2-bath home for less than a year, the Hispanic-American family matches a trend that is happening all over large-population centers in the U.S. Immigrant populations are settling in first-ring suburbs that offer the best of both worlds for diverse populations. While empty nesters and hipsters are gobbling up expensive units in high rises and lofts in the core city, and young families are accepting hour and longer commutes to buy a new home in far- flung exurbia, many immigrant families are choosing the inner-ring suburbs. “Buying our house was the most incredible experience we have ever had,” said Floriman, whose family purchased a below-market- cost house through AHC, a non-profit developer of low- and moder- ate-income housing in the Beltway area. “We never dreamed we’d get to be homeowners in Arlington. We had the option of buying a house way out in West Virginia — some people live way out for cheaper housing — but we wanted to be right here in the center of everything.” In Arlington, Virginia, a tiny urban county of fewer than 200,000, the foreign-born population leaped by 44 percent between the 1990 and 2000 census. IDI Group, an Arlington company that typically builds luxury high rises, is working hard to serve the blue collar, Spanish-speak- ing population in an apartment complex it is converting to condo- miniums. 52 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Diverse home buyers are reviving older, inner-ring suburbs By Steve Wright Old Burbs SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 53
  • create a cluster of workforce housing. “Everybody talks about affordable housing, but almost nobody is doing anything about it,” said Heller, the assistant to the president of IDI. “With the price of land in the inner ring, it is very difficult to deliver an affordable product for immigrants and others who provide the workforce to support our business, government, airport, etc.” While some minority and immigrant home buy- ers take advantage of affordable housing programs, many more go the “market-rate” route and find and purchase a home by working with a real estate agent. And for many of these buyers, the place of choice for their home purchase is the older suburbs of major cities. Joel Kotkin, a California-based writer and con- sultant who is an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, observed this ethnic trend to the old-growth suburbs several years ago. The inner-ring suburb provides good housing stock, decent home prices and easy access to the central city. IDI purchased a 58-unit, low-rise, 1950s apartment complex inhabited almost entirely “A lot of these folks still have strong ties to the by Hispanic-Americans who work in greater D.C.’s center city — they have places of worship there, industries. The company has packaged county and they have jobs there, they own a small business state programs with its own incentives to turn pres- downtown. The inner-ring suburb provides good ent renters into condo owners for only $2,000 dol- housing stock, decent home prices and easy access lars out of pocket in one of the most expensive to the central city,” he said. housing markets in the country. Kotkin said diverse buyers are turning some for- The combination of below-market first mort- merly-boring bedroom communities into places gages, low-interest second mortgages, principal- that are more urban and exciting. payback-only third mortgages — plus a pre-con- “These streetcar suburbs were built with quaint version discount of $20,000 off the purchase price downtowns, nice backyards, beautiful houses. They for renters who buy the unit they’re living in — will often have much more character than the outer- 54 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • “Where there once were vacant storefronts and unsold homes, the Hispanic merchants occupied the vacant storefronts and Hispanic residents rented and purchased the apart- ments and homes,” Wong said. Realtor Jessica Maes became the first Hispanic and first female mayor of Huntington Park in the late 1990s. She has seen a lot of economic stability come to the city where more than 95 percent of the 60,000-plus residents are Hispanic. She said affordable hous- ing, a local government rep- resentative of the population and proximity of a half-hour drive or even shorter train ride to the center of Los Angeles has made Huntington Park popular with people of Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, ring suburbs. In LA, you don’t get the best Indian Venezuelan and other Latino heritages. or Thai food downtown, you find it in ethnic “With Hispanic homebuyers, you rarely see enclaves in the older suburbs.” foreclosures. Families are close knit and no one Huntington Park is exactly the kind of suburb would allow a relative to lose a house. Everyone that has seen a huge population shift in the past would chip in to save it during a tough time and few decades. Founded in 1906, the town grew up the person who benefited would do the same for southeast of Los Angeles because the Pacific them when he is back on his feet,” said Maes, who Electric Railway extended its line there at the turn was born in the U.S. to Mexican-American par- of the century. ents and whose husband was born in Mexico. Until the 1960s, Huntington Park was primari- ly populated by whites, said Jack Wong, a Los Angeles-based urban consultant who served as the city’s Community Development Director for 16 years. But the nearby Watts riots caused many original residents to move during the turbulent 60s and virtually all the non-Hispanic whites left the city after the Rodney King riots happened not far from the city in the early 1990s. These streetcar suburbs often have much more character than the outer-ring suburbs. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 55
  • In historic Quincy, Mass., a rapidly-growing Asian-American A rapidly-growing Asian-American population is turning abandoned retail strips into bustling market- population is turning places and taking neglected abandoned retail strips housing stock with good bones and restoring it into residences into bustling marketplaces. worthy of a bygone era. “In the last decade and a half, there has been a 150-percent increase in the Asian population — the city of Quincy even has a fulltime liaison to the Asian com- munity,” said Dean Rizzo, execu- tive director of the nonprofit eco- nomic development corporation. “Quincy is a town where Chinese like to move because of our good transit system — it’s only 15 min- utes by train to Boston’s Chinatown, the city is convenient to everything. The South Shore businesses have difficulty com- peting with suburban malls and big-box retail, so there is oppor- tunity in vacant properties for Asian restaurants, shops and markets. “For many immigrants, the first place to settle is in Boston proper — Chinatown. But the next move is to save up money to buy a house in Quincy, where the housing price is affordable and 56 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • you don’t need a car because there are two excel- ate an arts district of galleries, restaurants, lent transit stops,” said Betty Kit-Fong Yau, a nightlife and more to its former mainstreet. To native of Hong Kong who has lived in Quincy for restore an aging business corridor into a vibrant more than two decades. area and to take advantage of a renowned contem- Yau, a community activist, marketing profes- porary art center in its downtown, the city has cre- sional and host of a program on Boston Chinese ated incentives to lure arts-based businesses to its Radio, said immigrants flock to Quincy because it self-dubbed “NoMi Arts District. is close to places of worship in Chinatown and it is “North Miami is attractive because of smaller, better to commute by transit to Chinatown than to more affordable homes in proximity to Little Haiti. drive there, because there is very little parking in When they buy a home, they don’t want to be too the Chinatown area and what is available is very expensive. “The town is very good about receiving Home ownership is one of the minorities, outsiders. Quincy is a very accepting area to Asian people,” she said biggest accomplishments in a of the city of less than 100,000 that is best known for its history and its behemoth of a family’s life. shipyard that used to employ tens of thou- sands in its heyday. In South Florida, the city of North Miami has become the first city in America where the majority of elected offi- cials — the mayor and two of four council members — is Haitian-American. North Miami developed overnight in the great Miami-area land boom of the 1920s. For decades, the city remained an inner-ring suburb of Miami to the south. Most of the population was Anglo. Because of governmental and econom- ic instability, tens of thousands of Haitian people moved to Miami from the early 1980s through the present. Little Haiti, emotional and spiritual center of Miami’s Haitian Community, is located only five miles south of the suburb of North Miami. Jean Monestime, a Haitian-American, is president of MJM Capital Realty in North Miami, where he also serves as a city councilman. He said as immigrants get an far from Little Haiti’s churches and culture,” said economic foothold, they move from renting in Monestime, who is working to boost the NoMi Little Haiti to buying in North Miami. district. “In the past couple decades, North Miami’s “Many Haitian people are working in Miami affordable business and residential corridors Beach, downtown Miami or South Broward became very popular with Haitian entrepreneurs County and North Miami is within close proximi- seeking inexpensive commercial space and fami- ty to all those employment centers,” he added. lies seeking modest suburban homes of good con- “This community is close to those jobs and the struction. Today, nearly one third of its 60,000 pop- Haitian churches and at the same time it offers ulation is of Haitian descent. better schools for their children. Now they even “Haitian-Americans bought into the idea of the have local representation, with seven Haitian- American dream and they see it in terms of home Americans serving them between city, county and ownership being one of the biggest accomplish- state government.” ments in a family’s life,” said Monestime, who worked his way through college until he earned Steve Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and an MBA and opened his own full-service real sustainable communities. He and his wife live in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little estate firm. Havana. Contact him at: Stevewright64@yahoo.com The city of North Miami is working hard to cre- SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 57
  • ALL ABOARD! STREETCARS LEAD THE WAY TO NEIGHBORHOOD REINVESTMENT By Christine Jordan Sexton 58 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • “A ll aboard’’ may be the new clarion call for American cities eager to revitalize their downtowns. That’s because city planners and officials are discovering that streetcars are the most desirous and efficient way to help move people in and around urban cores. From Portland’s trendy Pearl District to Little Rock in America’s heartland to Tampa’s historic Ybor City, streetcars, with their rhythmic clang, clang, clang, are making a comeback. They are helping to redevelop and revitalize downtowns all across America that just 20 years ago were losing population and economic development opportunities to the sprawling suburbs. Streetcars are rail transit vehicles designed for local transportation powered by electricity received from an overhead wire and trolley pull, hence the term “trolley.” They operate in the downtown and a smidge beyond it, picking up and dropping off passengers at almost every street corner. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 59
  • Tampa, Fla. The trolleys are designed gesting streets. Virtually all to fit the scale and traffic towns and cities had streetcars in patterns of the city. the early 20th cen- tury. As Americans became more afflu- Eighty cities in 37 states have shown an interest ent during the eco- in developing or expanding their streetcar system nomic boom follow- as an alternative to new roads, according to ing World War II, they started buying more automo- Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from biles. They also started moving out to the suburbs, Oregon who is pushing to have a new funding pro- which offered them bigger houses and bigger yards gram called Small Starts for smaller mass transit where their children could safely play. projects in an overhaul of the federal transportation Dovetailing with this trend to leave the city was package. a movement by transit officials across the nation to Charles Hales, national director of transit devel- begin advocating the use of buses, which were less opment with the consulting firm HDR, says street- expensive to bring on line because they didn’t run cars are appealing for many reasons, not the least on tracks, hence the demise of the streetcar. of which is they are an option for all cities because Portland launched its streetcar system in 2001 the costs of building and operating streetcars is and is the only city to use modern streetcars in that lower than any other form of rail transportation. they don’t resemble antique designs. The trolleys “Maybe you have to be Atlanta or Washington are designed to fit the scale and traffic patterns of D.C. to think big and heavy or Denver or the city and are integrated with the city’s other Minneapolis to think light rail, but there are lots of mass-transit options, which includes the city’s smaller cities that would just be fantasizing about MAX Light Rail System. Unlike trolleys, light rail light rail that can realistically think about a street- lines can operate beyond the downtown and run at car system,” said Hales. increased speeds between stations that are set Additionally, while buses often are used by the more than a mile apart. transit dependent, rail service attracts those who The Portland streetcar meanders through a 4.8 could drive, but choose not to. Getting a driver to mile loop from Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in jump on a trolley means there’s one less car con- Northwest Portland through the Pearl District and 60 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Portland, Ore. onto the campus of Portland State University. The streetcars averaged 6,320 daily rides each week- Thanks to Portland’s success day last winter and 6,100 weekend rides each weekend. there are now more than Thanks to Portland’s success there are now more than 80 cities in 37 states that have shown 80 cities in 37 states that an interest in either developing or expanding streetcars, including Miami, Fla., which is exam- have shown an interest in ining the merits of connecting downtown Miami to “Midtown Miami,” a 56-acre development either developing or planned for Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood just expanding streetcars. north of the Performing Arts Center. Portland’s city-owned and city-operated street- car cost about $55 million to construct but has to create 15,000 new housing units and 75,000 helped generate about $1.5 billion in redevelop- new jobs in the urban core. The city used rail to ment in the downtown core, according to Hales, help direct redevelopment dollars on two large who describes the project as “the most successful parcels of land near the central city, one of which municipal investment in the United States. No was a former railroad yard. other investment has paid off that handsomely.” Instead of developing the land into office The Portland streetcar was included in part of space, developers working with city officials the city’s growth management strategy, which was decided to build new medium- to high-density SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 61
  • The development community worked closely with the streetcar initiative, agreeing to voluntarily tax itself. housing and to use the streetcar as the transit tool what we did and they still would have gotten a won- to take people from their homes to work. derful rate of return on their property,” he said. Hales said the development community worked Portland REALTOR® and ReMax Hall of Fame closely with the streetcar initiative, agreeing to vol- Producer John Cooper agrees. He says his clients untarily tax itself. The real estate tax equals about enjoy the Pearl District because of the varied trans- $2 per square foot of land. While paying increased portation options which make the area very livable. taxes isn’t something anybody wants, Hales said, “I don’t know if people use it,” Cooper said of the real estate along the trolley line has gone up in trolley “but they sure like the idea of being able to value 50 percent more than similar properties that walk out and get on the streetcar that’s going by.” are not on the streetcar line. Central Arkansas Transit Authority launched its “These people have gotten the deal of the century. $20 million streetcar project called River Rail in We could have taxed them five times higher than November 2004. It runs 2.5 miles between Little 62 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • Rock and North Little Rock through the river dis- trict, taking riders to Alltell Arena, the River Market, the Argenta neighborhood and Historic Arkansas Museum, among other places. A nine-tenths of a mile expansion which would allow the trolley to go to the Clinton Presidential Library is slated to be completed by February 2006. Ridership there has exceeded projections, according to Central Arkansas Transit Authority officials, and will top the 80,000 mark during the first year of operations. Two additional Heritage trolleys, which resemble vintage streetcars, have had to be ordered to help meet the demand in Little Rock. Meanwhile, Tampa introduced its TECO street- car in October 2002 as a way to shuttle people, mostly tourists, along a route that runs from the historic Latin quarter known as Ybor City to the city’s downtown and the burgeoning Channel District. One of the stops includes the arena that is home to the city’s National Hockey League franchise. The 2.5 miles of track, along Today, we are promoting with the costs of the Heritage ourselves as one destination streetcars, were about $35 million to construct. Unlike Portland because the streetcar streetcars, which travel with traffic in the street, the Tampa streetcars connects us all. have their own right of way. The Channel District area also has a $49 mil- The Tampa route starts in Ybor lion entertainment complex called Channelside. City, which looks much as it did at Paul Yares, marketing and business development the turn of the 20th Century when director for Tampa Downtown Partnership, said it was a cigar-manufacturing hub. when Channelside initially opened in 2001 it had Ybor is just northeast of downtown a lower-than-expected occupancy. After the Tampa and has been a hotbed of appearance of the trolley, which stops directly in economic development, with $200 front of Channelside, the number of tenants in the million plus in public and private commercial building increased significantly. investments being funneled into Hillsborough Transit Authority Public Relations the area. Its population grew by Director Jill Cappadoro said the plan is to eventu- 42.5 percent between 2000 and ally have the TECO Street Trolley — which shut- 2003 and over the next 20 years it tled 425,000 people in 2004 — run upward of 10 is expected to grow by 172 new miles. The trolley attracts development dollars, residents and 105 new housing she said, because the streetcars must run on track, units annually. which means there is a permanent commitment to The Channel District, which is the line. just south of downtown, served as The streetcar has brought more than develop- a cargo warehouse area for the ment to the area, though. Cappadoro said Ybor Tampa Port Authority (TPA). City and the Channel District once competed for However, the TPA’s decision to tourists and the money they brought into the area. shift activities in the area from “Today, we are all sitting together at the table warehousing to cruise lines helped and promoting ourselves as one destination free up land. Recognizing its because the streetcar connects us all.” value, the TPA worked with pri- vate companies to redevelop the Christine Jordan Sexton is a Tallahassee-based free- area. Since the trolley appeared in lance reporter who has done correspondent work for the 2002, there has been more than Associated Press, the New York Times, Florida Medical $230 million in announced resi- Business and a variety of trade magazines, including dential lofts and condominiums. Florida Lawyer and National Underwriter. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 63
  • smartGrowth Compiled by Gerald L. Allen, NAR Government Affairs in the states ALABAMA CALIFORNIA COLORADO In acknowledgment of widespread California Business, Housing and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) concerns that poor and minority Transportation Secretary Sunne McPeak will spend $48 million to help pre- neighborhoods lack sufficient protec- asked San Jose to plan an additional serve large land parcels through- tion from industrial pollution, the 60,000 housing units, about half in still out the state, including the 55,000- Alabama Senate Energy and Natural under-developed areas, making clear acre Laramie Foothills/Mountain Resources Committee voted for an that the state would help the city meet its to Plains Project. The foothills proj- ‘’environmental justice’’ bill, which Smart Growth goals of urban and tran- ect received $11.5 million from would require the Alabama sit-oriented development and conse- GOCO, enough money to com- Department of Environmental quently release the $760 million it prom- plete several key transactions, Management (ADEM) to check the ised in 2000 for a BART line extension including the purchase of the sce- level of all pollutants affecting ‘’sub- from Fremont to Santa Clara and San nic Red Mountain Ranch. In addi- populations’’ within a half-mile, one Jose, some 18 miles south. Addressing tion to the funds provided by mile and three miles of any plant the area’s housing summit in Santa GOCO, Fort Collins, Larimer seeking a pollution permit or its Clara, the secretary voiced strong sup- County and the Nature change or renewal. The bill defines port for legislation to make the state’s Conservancy, among others, have subpopulations as clusters of residents affordable-housing push more effective, already committed $13.7 million who make less than $15,000 a year or and indicated that planning for more toward the giant effort. The land have other than the majority race, housing could change the recent covers 200 square-miles of color or national origin. Should Federal Transit Administration’s opinion untouched plains, prairie grasses ADEM find their local pollution high- that the proposed San Jose line wouldn’t and natural rock formations north er than elsewhere in the same county, have enough riders to warrant about $1 of Fort Collins between U.S. 287 a plant would have to ensure reme- billion in federal aid. After the secre- and Interstate 25, stretching up to dies or its permit request would be tary’s speech, San Jose Mayor Ron the Wyoming border. GOCO was denied. The bill would also require Gonzales expressed confidence that the created in 2001 by voters in the ADEM to create an Environmental city’s ‘’housing plans in terms of Smart state to protect Colorado’s rapidly Justice Division in place of its current Growth are going to meet and exceed dwindling open spaces from popu- program. any others in terms of the community lation pressures. supporting BART.’’ 64 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • DISTRICT OF FLORIDA MASSACHUSETTS COLUMBIA Car sharing is becoming a popular Oakland Park is using grants, After the Westborough Planning alternative in dealing with the traffic- tax revenue and an $18.5 mil- Board rejected a developer’s offer of plagued and parking-short lion loan from the Florida 13.7 acres for open space as insuffi- Washington, D.C. region. Washington, League of Cities to transform cient to allow higher density for a D.C. is the nation’s only area where the area’s 150-acre central planned 300-unit condo village at a two car-share companies (Flexcar and business district from an indus- post-industrial tract across from the Zipcar) compete, and the market for trial wasteland into a thriving, MTBA commuter rail station, he both companies has exploded in the around-the-clock “Main Street”, offered the town a 24-acre site last four years, with more than 14,000 with apartments above shops, much better suited to its needs, this members so far; almost half of them tree-shaded sidewalks and out- time gaining full support from the signed up last year. Both companies door cafes. New regulations advisory Open Space Preservation provide a fleet of cars for a monthly and design guidelines will Committee (OSPC). The new site usage fee that includes the cost of gas, make builders comply with the meets all 11 OSPC criteria, includ- insurance and maintenance. Both “Main Street” plans and share ing ecological and habitat value, companies have cars parked in desig- costs for public amenities. One recreational and development pos- nated neighborhood spots, which can developer plans to transform an sibilities and relation to other natu- be reserved by phone or online for a old Sears warehouse site which ral and wildlife areas. Under the half-hour and up. The sharing plans he purchased four years ago town’s Transit Oriented Village have proved so popular that local gov- into 300 townhouses, condos (TOV) Smart Growth bylaw, which ernments in the region, including and lofts. lets the Planning Board grant densi- Arlington County and the city of ty bonuses up to 10 units per acre, Alexandria in Virginia, are providing the developer could be allowed to 20 pick-up-drop-off spots near Metro build 240 more units on his tract subway stations and are planning to near the train station. add more this year, even though some object to giving prime public parking spaces throughout the region to pri- vate businesses. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 65
  • smartGrowth in the states (continued) MINNESOTA MISSOURI NEVADA Ramsey, Minnesota, some 20 miles A consulting team has been hired The Las Vegas Regional northwest of central Minneapolis, is to advise Kansas City planners on Transportation Commission embarking on construction of a 322- what would be the first major over- Advisory Committee has acre, mixed-use and high-density Town haul of Kansas City zoning and begun meeting to form the ini- Center, which will offer 2,300 varied subdivision ordinances since tial plans for the Las Vegas housing units, 700,000 square feet of 1954. The planners are in the Light Rail System. The initial retail, 460,000 square feet of offices and “reconnaissance phase” of their 33-mile segment of the so- 26 acres of plazas, parks, trails and open work, but by July 2005 they hope called CAT Rail would link space, along with a transit center likely to have a conceptual blueprint that Henderson with downtown to serve the Northstar Commuter Rail in people can respond to at work- Las Vegas, running later the future. The project, slated for com- shops and presentations. The through the city’s north to the pletion in six to eight years, will have a timetable then calls for actual code Motor Speedway and both 30-acre core with City Hall, police sta- recommendations to be ready by Nellis Air Force Base areas, tion, restaurants, a movie theater, a March 2006, followed by public with other spurs possible in Winter Garden and possibly a perform- hearings and final City Council the future. This segment of ing arts hub. In addition to the PACT consideration in two years. The light-rail system, which could charter school, which began classes last consultants intend to give devel- be built between 2009 and fall, the new urban neighborhood will opers in Kansas City clearer guid- 2012, could cost about $900 also provide residents with medical serv- ance to what is permissible and million dollars, but a $300 mil- ice, community and fitness centers and reduce the uncertainty involved lion bus-based, rapid-transit an ice arena. Projected to pour $3.5 mil- when planners have discretion to system is also being consid- lion in annual taxes into Ramsey’s gen- make decisions on a case-by-case ered. The 22-member advisory eral fund and reach a total value of $1.1 basis. They also want to expand committee will consider vari- billion, the development is made possi- the menu of what is allowable ous options, routes and goals ble by the city’s contribution of $32 mil- when it comes to housing. for Las Vegas area transit; offi- lion for infrastructure, public facilities cials expect to finalize a con- and regional improvements, with Anoka cept in late 2005. County promising $4.2 million for roads. 66 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2005
  • NEW JERSEY NORTH WISCONSIN CAROLINA After approving preservation for Union County commissioners The De Pere School District is will- North Jersey’s Highlands recently abolished the county’s ing to spend almost $860,000 on a region in June of 2004, lawmak- density bonus policy, leaving six 22-acre site to build a neighborhood ers in Trenton swiftly passed its proposed subdivisions in limbo. elementary school in Ledgeview, counterpart — legislation Under the density bonus policy, Wisconsin, about two miles south- speeding up development in developers who added features like west of central De Pere. The pro- most other areas of the state. stormwater management, curbs and posed location is amid several The so-called “fast-track law” sidewalks, open space and street- planned subdivisions and a town requires the state to rule on lights in their subdivisions could center under construction which fits building permit applications build up to 15 percent more units comprehensive Smart Growth plans within 45 days or approval is on a tract than they otherwise of both municipalities and will automatically granted. The new could. The affected developments allow school access without cars. law has been described by some contain 1,879 lots, including 201 County planners have proposed environmental groups as the bonus lots, on more than 1,500 redesigning the traffic patterns most damaging legislation the acres. Opponents to the policy, around the school to better control state has passed in 30 years. adopted in 2001, stated that the traffic, to promote pedestrian uses, Supporters of the law, who are density bonus rewarded developers and to build the school in a location considering amendments to while straining the county’s infra- where kids can easily reach it on redress concerns of opponents structure. The county planning foot and by bike. The purchase of of the legislation, cite a legal board also discussed incorporating the new land will be accomplished opinion from the nonpartisan some of the features required under by using the Wisconsin State Trust Office of Legislative Services Smart Growth into the county’s Fund Loan Program and by repay- that says the fast-track law “clustering” provision, which ing the debt through sale of proper- won’t impede local zoning deci- encourages developers to set aside ty that was originally intended for sions. common open space in their subdi- the school, but was deemed prob- visions, allowing them to build the lematic due to an underground same number of homes on smaller petroleum pipeline and area traffic lots on the rest of the land. congestion. SUMMER 2005 ON COMMON GROUND 67