On Common Ground: Summer 2006


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New Urbanism is Blooming

Perhaps the most valuable tool in the Smart Growth toolkit is New Urbanism. While Smart Growth principles support higher density, mixed-use, walkable environments, New Urbanism is proving to be the most successful method for making these Smart Growth goals achievable.

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On Common Ground: Summer 2006

  1. 1. ▼ Repopulating cities ▼ Where New Urbanism is headed ▼ TOD time is here SUMMER 2006 New Urbanism is Blooming
  2. 2. Looking to the Future and the legal language of zoning ordinances—did more walking not result in specific places that exhibited interest built into daily activities—point to an even greater with New Urbanism or beauty, or could be loved. New Urbanism has brought a renewed focus to the uniqueness that makes a place memorable. New Urbanism is finding acceptance as more future demand for this type of real estate. Local government officials increasingly are seeing New Urban development as a possible solution to the “growth wars” between developers P erhaps the most valuable tool in the Smart places. For decades, in spite of all the good inten- consumers are deciding that the particulars of a and anti-growth activists, and the most direct path Growth toolkit is New Urbanism. While tions for “quality development” and ”community place do matter and that the convenience and to achieving the built-environment portion of Smart Growth principles support higher den- character,” little attention has been given to what greater vitality of a mixed-use, higher density, Smart Growth. And planners are creating new sity, mixed-use, walkable environments, New the new places we were building looked like and walkable neighborhood more than offsets sacrific- regulatory and consensus-building tools that can Urbanism is proving to be the most successful felt like on the ground. Architectural historian ing the large lot. Several trends—the increased promote the best designs. While New Urbanism method for making these Smart Growth goals Vincent Scully has stressed the need to develop our market acceptance of condominiums, smaller represents a small portion of what is being built achievable. New Urbanism is finding increased “sense of the particular” in designing urban spaces, household sizes, the desire to avoid traffic conges- today, it promises to have a huge influence on acceptance in the marketplace and in the arena of to develop “an infinity of particular images of par- tion and the interest in leading a healthier life with what gets built over the next few decades. public favor—so necessary to achieve the govern- ticular places, loved and specific.” The plans in the ment approvals and permits required to complete a latter half of the last century—with the most-used real estate project. planning tools being the color-coded land-use map New Urbanism is an urban design movement For more information on NAR and Smart Growth, go to www.realtor.org/smartgrowth. that aims to reform urban planning and real estate development toward building more human-scaled On Common Ground is published twice a year by the Government Affairs office of the NATIONAL and walkable communities. It is a reaction against ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR), and is distributed free of charge. The publication presents a wide the predominant development pattern of the mid- range of views on Smart Growth issues, with the goal of encouraging a dialogue among REALTORS®, elected to late-20th century—low-density, generic devel- officials and other interested citizens. The opinions expressed in On Common Ground are those of the authors opment types that are separated by use and tied and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policy of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, its together by roadways and parking lots. New members or affiliate organizations. Urbanism is strongly influenced by the traditional urban patterns that dominated up to the 1920s, Editor: Joseph R. Molinaro, Manager, Smart Growth Programs although it modifies these patterns to address the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® contemporary realities of the demand for larger 500 New Jersey Avenue, NW homes, the greater use of automobiles and large- Washington, DC 20001 scale retail formats. New Urbanism also attempts to create areas Distribution: For more copies of this issue or to be placed on our mailing list for future issues that are more appreciated and valued as special of On Common Ground, please contact Ted Wright, NAR Government Affairs, at (202) 383-1206 or twright@realtors.org. 2 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 3
  3. 3. 48 Mississippi Yearning On Common Ground Summer 2006 6 Shaping the Landscape The state of New Urbanism; where it’s been and where it’s going. by Brad Broberg 12 Now is the Time for TODs by John Van Gieson 18 New Life for the Old Mall The renewal of out-dated suburban malls into living town centers. by Heidi Johnson-Wright 18 24 Following the Path of New Urbanism New Life for the Old Mall Infill development boosts cities’ economy, character and appeal. by Jason Miller 30 Reflecting on Traditions New Urbanism is being used to build traditional neighborhoods. by Steve Wright 36 Getting the Codes Right Form-based codes may be 60 the key to future community plans. by David Goldberg 42 The Affordability Equation by Jason Miller Green is the Smart Choice 48 Mississippi Yearning 30 Building back, better, on the Gulf Coast. by David Goldberg 54 Back to the Future of Cities Building higher density or repopulating Traditional Neighborhoods existing cities is the true New Urbanism. by Brad Broberg 60 Green is the Smart Choice New Urbanism designs lead to self-sustainable and energy-efficient developments. by Christine Jordan Sexton 64 Smart Growth in the States 12 On Common Ground thanks the following contributors and organizations for photographs, illustrations and artist renderings reprinted in this issue: Battery Park City Authority; Dr. Jon Bell, Presbyterian College, Clinton SC; Dan Camp; Central Community Housing Trust, Urban Works Architecture and CharretteCenter; city of Pasadena and TrizecHahn Development; Cluts O’Brien Strother Architects; Congress for New Urbanism; Cooper Carry & Associates; Gale Communities; Shirley Gotelli; Seth Harry; Susan Henderson; Jaime CORREA and Associates; Kelley-Markham Architecture and Planning; Patrick Kelly; Kentlands Citizens Assembly; Steve Lawton; 24 Future Transit Needs Master Properties; Mike McCaw, circlepix.com; McGough Development; Metropolitan Council, St. Paul, Minn.; Metro Transit, Minn.; Jason Miller; Mississippi Department of Tourism; Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Affairs; Scott Morris; Ray Peacock, REALTOR®, CENTURY 21 City Wide; Ron Pollard; Portland Development Commission; Gordon Price; Frank Ooms; Milt Rhodes, AICP; David Rusk; Seattle Housing Authority; Sandy Sorlien; Stan Ries Photography; Gary Sutto; and Whittaker Homes. Infill Development 4 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 5
  4. 4. Shaping the Landscape By Brad Broberg The state of New Urbanism; where it’s been and where it’s going. 6 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 7
  5. 5. L attes and leisure suits tell a tale of two trends. When he looks into the future, he sees two pow- One went from a novelty to a national habit. The erful statistics roaring down the track that bode other—thank heaven—died in a disco inferno. well for New Urbanism. Number one, America is What do lattes and leisure suits have to do with embarking on a building boom that will last New Urbanism? All three faced—or are facing—the through 2030. Number two, the overwhelming challenge of gaining permanent mainstream majority of new households over the next 20 years acceptance. will be childless. The first stat speaks to opportuni- With two decades of progress in the books, New ty. The second speaks to demand. Urbanism is no longer the novelty it once was. The “A non-child household wants something … question is: On a scale of latte to leisure suit, where more than a suburban neighborhood,” said Nelson. does New Urbanism stand today? “I think that’s where the market is headed.” “I think it’s here to stay,” said Chris Nelson, pro- That’s not to say New Urban communities aren’t You can have good fessor and director of Urban Affairs and Planning at family friendly. They are. They’re just different— Virginia Tech. more diverse in form, function and appeal—than urban environments So does Robert Steuteville, editor of the New Urban News. “The trend has been growing and it’s the subdivisions that have dominated the nation’s new housing market for the last 50 years. where there is a good a sizable niche,” he said. “I definitely think it’s moving more into the mainstream and proving Pursued as urban retrofit, suburban infill and greenfield development, New Urbanism represents range of choices. itself.” a return to the way many people used to live—and Nelson has spent 20 years studying land-use a vehicle to apply many of the principles of Smart enough to the sidewalks that residents can greet planning, growth management and urban develop- Growth. Advocates cite its potential to reduce auto- passersby from their front porches. With homes San Diego, California ment policy and served as a HUD consultant under mobile use, create diverse housing and rein in pushed to the front, back yards become more two presidents. urban sprawl as well as its support for historic usable. Garages, served by alleys, are sited to the Kansas City. “The stereotype would be young sin- preservation, safe streets and green building. rear. Civic buildings are sprinkled throughout the gles/couples and empty nesters, but we’ve found Kentlands, a 352-acre community north of neighborhood and businesses can be reached in many, many places that is absolutely not the Washington, D.C., is “a great example of New without leaving local streets. A wide range of case,” he said. Urbanism done right,” said Nelson. Founded in housing types enables residents to find homes that “Families with kids love New Urbanist proj- 1988 in Gaithersburg, Md., Kentlands is home to suit each stage of their lives without leaving the ects—more than anything because of the sense of more than 5,000 people who enjoy a lifestyle far community. And everything—all needs of daily community,” said Klinkenberg. “I honestly don’t different than most suburbanites. life—is within walking distance. think it has any one niche appeal—other than to Kentlands reflects most key features of New Today, such communities account for just a frac- people who are generally a bit more active and Urbanism: Tree-lined streets form blocks interrupt- tion of the nation’s housing supply, but the door is outgoing.” ed here and there by small parks. Some lots are open for New Urbanism to break through in a big For the last five years, Klinkenberg and his firm narrow, others more spacious. Houses are near way. According to a report prepared by Nelson and have focused exclusively on New Urban projects published by the Brookings Institute, approximate- such as New Longview. Located on 260 acres of a ly half of the buildings in which Americans will historic former farm east of Kansas City, New Half of the places live, work and shop in 2030 will have been built Longview’s 1,100 homes consist of a mix of apart- ments, town houses, cottages and large single- people will call home since 2000—with most of the building boom con- sisting of residential construction. family dwellings featuring front porches, garages two decades from Here’s another way to state that stat: Half of the places people will call home two decades from in back and compact yards—all built in conjunc- tion with offices, shops, restaurants, an elemen- now don’t exist yet. now don’t exist yet, creating a very big and very blank canvas for New Urbanism to make a very tary school and a network of parks and trails. In big splash. Nelson believes there’s every reason to Bethesda, Maryland expect that will happen given the special appeal Kentlands, Maryland of New Urbanism to a fast-growing segment of the population—households without children. Between now and 2020, America will welcome 26.9 million new households, said Nelson, with 24.4 million of them being childless and more likely to seek alternatives to the suburban status quo. It would be a mistake, however, to think New Urbanism’s appeal is confined to any one market segment, said Kevin Klinkenberg, architect and principal with 180 Degrees Design Studio in 8 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 9
  6. 6. If developers get the design right opportunity, said Nelson—provided potential opposition can be overcome. “A lot of local govern- ment to traditional Main Street design. In response, they are pioneering a concept that in the beginning, ments don’t want high-density around the sta- wraps big box stores inside a cocoon of neighbor- tions,” he said. “They want to maintain single- hood retailers, said Steuteville. the market will family homes with large lots.” Another challenge is to make New Urban com- reward them in Steuteville said the biggest lesson New Urbanists have learned is that “there is a tremen- munities more affordable. Right now, demand exceeds supply and prices reflect that, said the long run. dous amount of application for this idea. It seems almost endless.” Some people, he said, insist all Steuteville. However, as more New Urban com- munities are developed, competition should tem- development should occur in cities and if it per prices, he said. doesn’t, then it’s urban sprawl. “The New So should the ongoing spread of form-based Urbanists have taken that and said it’s not the codes, said John Norquist, president and CEO of location, it’s the design,” he said. the Congress for the New Urbanism. Rather than Along with greater appreciation for New forcing New Urbanists to spend time and money Urbanism’s range of application has come greater seeking variances to conventional zoning codes, acceptance that there is no single way to build a form-based codes support construction of mixed- New Urban community, said Steuteville. “The use neighborhoods by focusing more on the size, idea has evolved over time to embrace the concept form and placement of buildings and less on sep- of greater choice,” he said. “It’s not just about arating land uses (residential vs. commercial) and density. It’s about the urban form in general.” restricting density (housing units per acre). While that may represent a slight paradigm The advent of form-based codes reflects the shift, it provides necessary flexibility, said start of a fundamental shift away from the sprawl- Steuteville. “The density depends on what type of promoting principles that have guided growth and project you’re trying to build,” he said. “It makes development in this country for more than 50 no sense to have 100 residents per acre in a ham- years, said Norquist. “The fact that builders don’t let. What New Urbanists have found out is that hunger for separate-use zoning as much as they addition, New Longview is preserving several of you can have good urban environments where used to means local governments are much less the original farm buildings and converting them there is a good range of choices.” likely to keep it,” he said. into new uses. Cattle and dairy barns, for example, Steuteville said New Urbanists have “expand- It also means that like the latte, New Urbanism will house offices and a former mansion will host That’s not to say the elements haven’t evolved as ed their toolkit and become better at tackling a is here to stay. weddings and other special events. developers gain more experience with New whole range of problems.” For example, one of “We specialize in New Urbanism because very Urbanism. Take the retail component, for example. their biggest challenges involves creating town Brad Broberg is a Seattle-based freelance writer specializ- simply it’s what we enjoy doing and what we are Developers have learned that town centers won’t centers with enough shopping options to keep ing in business and development issues. His work appears passionate about,” said Klinkenberg. “We’ve had prosper if they are insulated from traffic even if people from driving elsewhere to meet their retail regularly in the Puget Sound Business Journal and the that inclination for years. When the opportunity people can easily walk to them. “The rules of retail- needs—all without compromising their commit- Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. presented itself via the marketplace to do this full ing don’t change just because it’s a New Urbanism time, we jumped on it. I personally couldn’t imag- project,” said Klinkenberg. ine doing anything else.” More and more designers, builders, planners Still, it’s critical that developers of New Urbanism resist straying too far from the formula, New Urbanism has gained considerable acceptance and developers are beginning to share Klinkenberg’s enthusiasm. “In general, New said Klinkenberg. Common mistakes include streets with cul de sacs, oversized lots and the omission of compared to where we were 10 or 20 years ago. Urbanism has gained considerable acceptance walkable destinations such as stores, cafés and compared to where we were 10 or 20 years ago,” he parks. “The advice we give people is don’t do it if said. “Back then, people [suspected] there would you’re half-hearted,” said Klinkenberg. “The half- be a market for it. Now, the development communi- hearted ones are the ones that struggle. And that’s ty recognizes across the board that there is market because buyers recognize it.” acceptance for it and that there is clearly a Nelson agrees. “If developers get the design demand.” right in the beginning, the market will reward them On the other hand, existing land-use regulations in the long run,” he said. Their biggest challenge, often conflict with New Urbanism’s embrace of high- said Nelson, involves creating a viable situation for er densities and mixed uses. “The biggest problem we retail. “A lot of these New Urban communities are have at this point is getting these projects approved … too small to support large-scale retail and so people in a fashion that they’re not watered down,” said have to drive to a shopping center,” he said. “That Klinkenberg. “New Urbanism is a system of doing has not been figured out effectively in my view.” things, and it works well as a system. But when you If retail is New Urbanism’s biggest challenge, start leaving out elements, it doesn’t work well.” then transit-oriented development is its biggest 10 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 11
  7. 7. Now is the time for TODsHomebuyers are waiting Homebuyers are waiting in line for transit-oriented in line for transit-oriented development development By John Van Gieson 12 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 13
  8. 8. Transit-oriented development provides The opposition got so intense that the local con- spanning three hours, twice a day,” said Anne the right mix of gressman, Rep. Tom Davis, threatened to withhold federal funding if the Washington Area Harrington, a Fairfax County REALTOR®. “If the developers do the same as they have done for the housing, shopping Metropolitan Transit Authority sold a 3.67 acre tract adjacent to the Vienna station to Pulte. The other Metro stops it will be good for the residents; they seem to provide a lively community for the and recreation choices. transit authority sold the land to the developer, in spite of Davis’ opposition, and the Fairfax County young and often single population, who want Metro access into the city and all the amenities of TOD advocates cite five principles of real tran- Board of Supervisors approved the project in life within steps of their condos/townhouses.” sit-oriented development: March. Transit-related real estate investments are 1. Location efficiency, a level of density that pro- “From the time this project was submitted until booming in Minneapolis, which opened the motes walking, biking, using mass transit and it was approved the project has become a much Hiawatha Line in 2004, 50 years and one week getting rid of a car or two; better project,” said Jon Lindgren, land acquisi- after the city closed its last streetcar line. The 12- 2. Increased transit ridership and less traffic; tions manager for Pulte in the Vienna area. mile line runs from downtown Minneapolis to the 3. Rich mixes of uses and consumer choices; MetroWest is a 56-acre community that will Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to the 4. Value creation and value capture by both pri- include 2,248 residences, 300,000 square feet of Mall of America, the nation’s largest shopping vate and public sectors; and office space and 100,000 square feet of retail mall. Ridership, 7.8 million passengers in the first 5. Creation of a sense of place. space. To acquire land for the project, Pulte full year, has exceeded projections by 58 percent. The story of mass transit in this country begins bought out the owners of the single-family homes A 1999 market study of new housing units near with the older subway, “L” and commuter train sys- that once occupied the site. Construction is sched- Hiawatha Line stations projected demand for tems in New York, Chicago, Boston and uled to start next spring. 7,150 units by 2020. As of February 2006, more Philadelphia, some dating to the 1800s. A second Changes that Pulte agreed to make included than 5,400 units had been constructed or were wave of transit systems developed roughly 30 years reducing building heights, accelerating develop- under construction. The city of Minneapolis had ago in Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Miami; ment of retail and office space, adding housing for processed permits for 7,000 additional units by 2008. and Atlanta. In the last decade or so mass transit retirees, and improving roads leading to the sta- Mark Garner, senior project coordinator for the systems have triggered revitalization of underused tion, which sits in the median of Interstate 66. Minneapolis Department of Community Planning, or blighted areas in places as diverse as Pulte also agreed to pay up to $2 million in fines if said 11 housing projects have been completed Minneapolis, Denver, Portland, Dallas and San Diego. the company fails to reduce by about 50 percent around neighborhood stations with 10 others TOD is booming—Ohland says about 100 cities the increased traffic the project will generate. under construction. He said the projects offer a and regions are building or planning transit lines— To encourage residents to ride the Metro, Pulte mix of condos and rental units, with some provid- but there are numerous pitfalls. Transit systems are is planning to offer them free transit passes. ing affordable housing. T he theory is, if you build high-density, expensive—the new Hiawatha Line light rail sys- “The biggest worry mixed-use, transit-oriented developments tem in Minneapolis costs more than $700 million— for the surrounding (TODs) that are pedestrian friendly and but the supply of federal funds to help pay for tran- area is the increase in located close to mass transit stations, they will nat- sit has not kept up with the demand. traffic density, and it is urally seek out the development. The “they” are Other complications include outmoded zoning already a nightmare primarily empty nesters and young professionals and parking codes that restrict developers and getting into Washington who either don’t want a single-family suburban increase costs; dealing with several regulatory during the rush hours; home lifestyle or can’t bear the thought of actually jurisdictions; convincing old-fashioned lenders to note the plural, as the living there. invest their money in new ways of developing staggered work day They are seeking a lifestyle that features hous- property; and opposition from neighbors who fear produces rush hours ing, shopping, entertainment and recreation con- that high-density, mixed-use developments will veniently located a short walk from the rail system increase their taxes, raise their housing costs or that takes them to work, or to other destinations if swamp their streets with traffic. they are retirees. “It’s a huge issue,” Ohland said. “A lot of neigh- They won’t need a car or hopefully will forego a borhoods don’t want their neighborhoods to second car, becoming heroes to Smart Growth change. In low-income neighborhoods they’re real- advocates in the fight against suburban sprawl, ly worried about rents being shoved up and hous- traffic congestion and pollution. ing prices being shoved up.” “Transit-oriented development is development Pulte Homes, which is developing the $700 mil- within a half-mile of transit,” said Gloria Ohland, sen- lion MetroWest project south of the Vienna Metro ior editor of Reconnecting America’s Center for Transit-Oriented Development in Los Angeles. “It pro- Orange Line in the Northern Virginia suburbs, started with a good plan and the good will of local TOD is breathing new vides the right mix of housing, shopping and recre- ation choices; it provides value for both the public and politicians but still had to make numerous changes to deal with issues raised by NIMBY (not in my life into areas that private sectors; and it creates a sense of place.” backyard) neighbors. have been served by mass transit systems. 14 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 15
  9. 9. Hiawatha Square in Minnesota There is a huge pent-up and growing demand for Meanwhile, a Center for Transportation-Oriented housing in walking distance of transit stations. Development study completed last year projected demand for new housing at 88,000 units along the Hiawatha Line and a planned Northstar commuter Under construction in Jersey City is the $4.8 tury, losing 6,000 of its 80,000 residents and line. billion Liberty Harbor North, a 28-block project imposing high taxes on those who remained. Nationally, according to a 2004 report by the designed by New Urbanist guru Andres Duany, a In 1989, before there was much clamor about Center on Transit-Oriented Development, there is a Miami architect. The project plan includes 6,338 TOD, the city moved to revitalize itself by creating huge pent-up and growing demand for housing in housing units along streets designed to look like a downtown plan that emphasized higher-density walking distance of transit stations. Called Greenwich Village, 775,000 square feet of retail residential development around four rail stations. “Hidden in Plain Sight,” the study said there are space, 4.6 million square feet of office space, a 1.1 The city eased parking requirements and built a 3,341 transit stations now with 630 new ones likely million square foot hotel and a 175,000 square foot transportation center, a new library and a down- to be built by 2025, with 14 million people living school. town research park. within a half-mile of transit stations. glass-encased condo towers called Reflections, is “This is the finest example of architecture and Today, downtown Evanston is booming. “There will be potential to more than double the scheduled to open during the summer of 2006. planning Jersey City has ever seen,” Planning Economic activity is up, and property taxes are amount of housing in transit zones by 2025,” the McGough originally envisioned a different kind Director Bob Cotter told the Jersey City down. More than 2,500 new residences have been study concluded. of project but changed course after a potential Reporter.com. “This is going to be one hell of a developed, including a dozen downtown high- If so, this would be a very good time to invest in investor told them they didn’t know what they were development project.” rises. A former Marshall Field department store TOD. Doubling the number of housing units near doing. So they changed course, and McGough Two rail lines, the Chicago Transit Authority has been converted into 55 condos and 43,000 transit stations would require building an average planners visited Portland, San Francisco, Purple Line and the Metra commuter line, run 290 square feet of commercial/retail space. of 2,100 units around each of the 3,971 current and Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles to learn what trains a day through Evanston. Most residents live The TOD theory holds true, and the key is to future stations. TOD was all about. within a short walk of transit and studies show keep building because they are here and they are Bloomington Central Station, under develop- “We really immersed ourselves in the world of that 74 percent of riders there walk or ride their seeking the opportune lifestyle that TODs offer. ment by the McGough Co. of St. Paul, Minn., is a transit-oriented development,” said Mark Fabel of bikes to the stations. John Van Gieson is a freelance writer based in 43-acre, $700 million project featuring 1,000 con- McGough. “We had to. We were learning and col- Despite its attractions, Evanston went into an Tallahassee, Florida. He owns and runs Van Gieson dos, a large hotel, 1.25 million square feet of office laborating together with Bloomington. This is a economic tailspin in the latter part of the last cen- Media Relations, Inc. and commercial space. The first phase, twin, public-private partnership from every level.” Bloomington Central Station is being built with Reflections in Minneapolis, Minnesota the assistance of $58.5 million in public financing. Hoboken, New Jersey Fabel suggested that’s a good investment. He said the tax base at the site now is $40 million. In 15 years it’s projected to be $700 million. TOD is breathing new life into areas that have been served by mass transit systems for many years but for various reasons had fallen into decay and decline. Two of the best examples are the Jersey City/Hoboken area, which offers spectacular views of Lower and Midtown Manhattan from its location on the west bank of the Hudson River, and Evanston, Ill., a leafy, older, inner-ring suburb fac- ing Lake Michigan just over Chicago’s northern border. The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Line, construct- ed largely on brownfields behind the glittering office towers lining the river in Jersey City, opened in 2000. Since then more than 4,164 housing units have been built along the line and property values have doubled. There will be potential to more than double the amount of housing in transit zones by 2025. 16 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 17
  10. 10. NewLife The renewal of outdated suburban malls into living town centers By Heidi Johnson-Wright for the old Mall W here once there was an isolated, hulk of a building with many empty tenant spaces, there now sits appropriately-scaled, thriving retail outlets. Where there had been a sea of asphalt sur- face parking, one finds attractive public spaces that draw people in and verdant streetscapes that make them linger. Where visitors had been dependent on cars to take them to a moribund, traditional mall, there is now a flourishing town center serviced by public transit. Enclosed suburban malls—those places where dad bought a wrench at Sears, mom purchased a handbag at JCPenney and junior got a model airplane kit at Montgomery Ward—are frequently becoming a thing of the past. Taking their place are New Urbanism-flavored developments that offer a human-scale sense of place with compatible mixed uses. “All real estate is cyclical,” said Lee Sobel, lead author of “Greyfields into Goldfields: Dead Malls Become Living Neighborhoods,” published by the Congress for New Urbanism. 18 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 19
  11. 11. Englewood, Colorado “There’s the initial honeymoon period, a hey- day, then changes in the market happen. Maybe there’s a point of stabilization, then possibly a falling on hard times,” said Sobel. Malls are unique; they are typically the largest commercial property in a town, county or city, Sobel points out. The approximately 1,700 mall sites nationwide range in size from 30 to 80 acres and sometimes even as much as 160 acres. Not many other properties in a community offer this amount of space for redevelopment. Yet not all malls that fit this description are grey- fields. The term, according to Sobel’s book, “hint(s) at a sea of asphalt separating a regional or super- This project regional shopping mall from its town.” More importantly, the term incorporated New denotes “economically obso- lescent malls … that offer Urbanist principles by large infill redevelopment opportunities.” creating spaces with “These types of greyfield malls are typically located at 18 hours of use. the outer edge of a first tier or at the start of a second tier the mall was in decline but decided to let the mar- suburb,” said Sobel. ketplace determine direction. “[It] had no direct While the mental image of control over the property although [it] did maintain a care-worn mall whose ownership of the property underneath the parking anchor stores have long ago structure.” pulled out is disheartening, As one of the first inner-ring suburbs of Denver, Sobel sees it as an “opportu- Englewood was pushing for lively retail develop- nity to give the community ment because its tax base was drying up. an identity, to retain resi- Several years before the last Cinderella City ten- dents and to bring back jobs ant left in 1997, the city advertised a Request for and revenue.” Proposals for redevelopment of the site. The pro- Successfully redeveloping posals came back for big box retail development a greyfield dovetails with that barely incorporated a light-rail station coming principles listed in the to the site. Charter for the Congress of That plan was scrapped. Eventually the city acquired ownership of the property and reached New Urbanism such as: com- munities designed to foster out to citizen groups, developers and planners and Enclosed suburban malls are pedestrian travel and transit use, spaces shaped by physi- came up with transit-oriented, mixed-use develop- ment for the old mall site. frequently becoming a thing of the cally defined and universally accessible public spaces and “The development community did not believe that this product would be successful [so] the city past; taking their place are New urban places framed by har- monious architecture and stepped up to make it happen,” Simpson said of the skepticism about New Urbanist redevelopment. Urbanism-flavored developments. landscape design. Englewood contributed $18 million to the $38 Although it has some national chain big box retail, City Center City Center in Englewood, Colo., is a mixed-use, million project. also has smaller local businesses. The architecture and scale transit-oriented development that embodies such “We acted as master developer of the project respect the nearby neighborhood streets. Public art, including an New Urbanist ideals. Previously the site of the [and] … created a not-for-profit development cor- interactive fountain, adds a nice touch. failed Cinderella City Mall, it features retail, poration,” said Simpson, explaining that the corpo- “Our goals were simple: long-term sustainability, mixed use offices, residential and civic functions integrated ration demolished the mall, completed environ- including housing, civic, culture, retail, large merchandisers and into the surrounding neighborhood via an internal mental remediation and sold property to retail and transit, and a ‘people place’,” Simpson said. street grid and appropriately-scaled buildings. housing developers. David Owen Tryba’s City Center master plan included a civic “Englewood’s story is a winding road,” said Bob The nonprofit development corporation main- center which incorporated a relocated town hall and library. The Simpson, community development director for the tains the property and acts much like a mall man- project created a public realm with bridges from the rail station city of Englewood. “The city had been aware that agement company. leading down grand stairways to a series of public plazas. 20 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 21
  12. 12. Pasadena, California Old suburban malls can indeed become thriving people centers. serviced by multiple bus lines. It offers many activities of daily living within a walkable area. Architectural styles are linked together and the development respects the 1920s plan. In Chesterfield County, Va., Tom Jacobson, director of Revitalization for the county’s Our goals were simple: Community Development Department, is trying to use New Urbanism to turn the moribund long-term sustainability ... Cloverleaf Mall and surrounding undeveloped lands into a successful redevelopment. and a people place. The mall was built in 1974 in suburban Richmond at a freeway interchange. It was a “The task force developed a set of recommended three-anchor, T-shaped enclosed mall that was public improvement and descriptions for develop- very successful for years, serving much of south- ment opportunities, what the uses might be and the ern Virginia. Then two additional shopping cen- form of the buildings,” said Bill Trimble, a senior ters were built nearby and began competing with planner with the city, who conducted walking tours Cloverleaf. Signs of obvious decline began in the and had stakeholders taking pictures of good and mid-1990s. Today only 27 merchants—some of bad civic design. which are kiosks—out of a previous 70 remain. The preliminary drawings include formal The consensus disliked a large asphalt plaza in The food court, two sit-down restaurants and parks, boulevarded streets and linear pedestrian front of city hall and it craved places to dine and movie theater are all closed. and bike-friendly greenway spaces. Chesterfield attract people to the area. The initial proposal rec- “One can make wonderful observations also is considering tax increment financing and ommended an entertainment, retail and dining through hindsight. The mall owner had several financial incentives to partner with developers. complex without residential. It was revised to opportunities to expand the mall and didn’t,” said “We are looking at a town center concept with “This project incorporated New Urbanist princi- include about 400 housing units. Jacobson. condos and apartments over first-floor retail, high- ples by creating spaces with 18 hours of use. And When built, Paseo Colorado reconnected the “In 1998, the county did a comprehensive plan er density residential and small-lot single family, it’s different than other transit-oriented develop- city’s principle civic institutions: city hall, the civic and market study. The centrally-located site met all with elements of walkability. Other similar ments because of the civic presence. The civic auditorium and the public library. The project planning criteria for a regional, mixed-use node projects have been done elsewhere in the county realm is an anchor,” said Bill Moon, a principal stands out from other greyfield developments in that would include commercial, offices and resi- to great success,” said Jacobson. with David Owen Tryba Architects. “Previously, that it did not totally raze the old mall structure. dential uses. This was a typical commercial corri- There is strong support for the economic devel- Englewood had no place to celebrate. It now has Two levels of parking owned by the city under a dor built in the 1970s. Not the best period in opment side and less support for the residential public plazas and green grass for concerts and block area were maintained but renovated. American architecture or planning,” he said, elements because of concern about the higher events.” For municipalities looking to redevelop a grey- referring to the piecemeal commercial develop- density. The county is working with a strong In Pasadena, Calif., the upscale Paseo Colorado field site, Trimble advises looking at the big picture, ment along the corridor, with residential develop- stakeholders’ group to educate them that addition- shopping and residential development is rooted in a notion important to New Urbanist principles ments scattered to the west. al housing means support for stores and offices. the “City Beautiful” plan created during the 1920s. advocating publicly accessible areas and gathering Chesterfield County adopted a plan for revital- “The secret is to get the private interests to It replaced Plaza Pasadena, a downtown mall spaces. izing the corridor, whose anchor is clearly the reinvest in their businesses and residents to that failed to meet expectations since the time it “Think about the development of a district, not mall. The county met with the mall owner, who improve their homes and properties,” he said. “I opened in 1980. The flagging mall had hurt the just a project to be seen in isolation. And don’t went into bankruptcy, and the mall came into the feel confident. I think it’s going to work.” city’s revenue stream because California’s famed assume what works in one spot works in another. possession of a Canadian bank with no develop- So with these successful examples, it appears Proposition 13 capped property tax rates, forcing We were dealing with a 19-year-old mall one block ment expertise or interest. old suburban malls can indeed become thriving municipalities to be more dependent on tax dollars from city hall that is part of a larger civic center “It was clear the county needed to be proactive people centers using the New Urbanist touch. generated by retail. area. The [City Beautiful] plan is unlike other plans because the private sector just couldn’t make it Anticipating the need for redevelopment of the because it integrated the civic and commercial,” he happen. The county needed to partner with a Heidi Johnson-Wright frequently writes about Smart mall site, the city of Pasadena worked with stake- said. developer,“ said Jacobson, who worked with local Growth and sustainable communities. She and her holders to assemble a civic center plan in 1990 and Paseo is pure New Urbanism in that it lies with- stakeholders and a consultant to update a market husband live in a restored historic home in the heart a master plan in 1998. in a quarter mile of two light-rail stations and is study for the site. of Miami’s Little Havana. Contact her at: hjohnsonwright@yahoo.com. 22 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 23
  13. 13. By Jason Miller T he popularity of infill development and redevelopment—building on vacant lots or razing dilapidated properties and building new—has grown rapidly over the past decade as buildable land becomes more scarce in the nation’s urban centers. Today, after decades of decline and pop- ulation loss following World War II, virtually every city of size in the U.S. is pursuing some form of infill development, whether it’s a small-scale, single- building project or reclaiming a 400-acre brownfield site. Despite the challenges that confront infill developers—economic realities, ecological contamination, and conventional zoning codes, to name a few— infill success stories abound. Communities are changing their codes, devel- oping public and private partnerships, and leveling the regulatory playing field to revive and rejuvenate their built environments. The locals are notic- ing the changes, and are coming back in droves as citizens of communities born of Smart Growth principles and built on New Urbanist design. Delivering an identity In Hercules, Calif., 16 miles north of Oakland, a 400-acre brownfield site nestled into San Pablo Bay has been transformed into a series of three sought-after, mixed-use neighborhoods. The neighborhoods—the Waterfront District, Central Neighborhood and New Town Center Neighborhood, lie on land formerly occupied by the Hercules Powder Company, a dynamite man- ufacturer that opened its doors in 1881 and closed them in the 1960s. In part because of the cleanup costs associated with dynamite powder contamination, and unstable bay mud 30 to 70 feet below the ground, the site—which was one of the largest undeveloped parcels of bayside land in the region—lay untouched until the late 1990s, when the city began to eye it as a possible infill opportunity. Responding to residents’ desire for a town center, the Hercules Planning Commission and City Council commissioned a form-based code to allow a traditional urban fabric. Called the Central Hercules Plan, the new code is delivering what conventional zoning codes never could, says Stephen Lawton, community development director for the city of Hercules. “The town coalesced around the Central Hercules Plan because the citi- zens wanted to have a place called Hercules. They looked to their govern- ment and said ‘We’re going to have a place here, not faceless sprawl.’ That plan and the way in which it was developed was the biggest breakthrough here. It was the first form-based code adopted by a California municipality.” Nearing completion, the new neighborhoods in Hercules are just one example of the de-industrialization taking place in this bedroom community of 23,000. The neighborhoods offer single-family homes with alley-loaded garages (some built in pairs as “attached duets”), mixed-use buildings, Infill development boosts cities’ economy, character and appeal 24 ON COMMON GROUND SUMMER 2006 SUMMER 2006 ON COMMON GROUND 25