Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Real estate developers connect with local leaders and new opportunities at LOCUS LinkUp in Boston

Warwick, RI’s Intermodal Business Center was one of the new projects discussed at last month’s LOCUS LinkUp. Photo via City Center Warwick.
On November 20, 2014, real estate developers and local leaders came together at a LOCUS LinkUp to discuss new opportunities for building walkable neighborhoods in the greater Boston area.
LOCUS President Christopher Leinberger framed the day’s discussion with a preview of forthcoming research part of The WalkUp Wake Up Call: Boston, which will take an in-depth look at where future development will likely occur in the region. Boston is already home to some of the country’s most walkable places—LinkUp attendees got a sneak peak of how that trend will bear out in coming years.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, an advisory member of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, and Senior Planner Dan Geagan of Warwick, RI kicked-off the presentation portion of the event with a look at City Centre Warwick, a 95-acre site near T.F. Green Airport and a commuter rail station. At the center of the development is the Interlink, an intermodal station connecting air, rail, bus, and cars serving the Providence area and southern Massachusetts. Nowhere else in the country does Amtrak run so close to an airport and the city hopes to leverage this to turn City Centre Warwick into a premier 21st century transit-oriented neighborhood with a mix of retail, residential and office space.
Then, Town Manager Bob Halpin and Economic Development Director Art Robert discussed Framingham, MA’s efforts to create more walkable and vibrant areas. Framingham is midway between Boston and Worcester, MA and boasts having the busiest MBTA commuter station between the two cities. Hapin and Robert discussed downtown Framingham’s strong prospects for infill and redevelopment. The town’s development plan is aimed at encouraging new investment downtown, building on Framingham’s strengths as a regional commercial center and transportation hub, giving current residents more transportation options within Framingham, and developing a central district that will support a diverse set of cultural and recreational amenities to attract more residents in the future.
Throughout the session, attendees explored ways the private and public sectors can work together to realize communities’ vision for the future. Town Manger Halpin cited new policies in Framingham that allow the real estate sector to expect a reasonable timeframe for the decision-making process and throughout the development process. Mayor Avedisian also highlighted Warwick’s effectiveness at coordinating stakeholders at all levels of government as a signal to the development community that the city is ready to reap the economic benefits that come with building walkable places. More importantly, underscoring each presentation was the fact that residents supported each effort to create more mixed-use and transit-friendly developments in their communities. LOCUS members can contact us to receive a copy of the presentations.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Webinar Recap: Investing in Healthy Communities

Walkable real estate is a priority in downtown Indianapolis, IN. Photo via Flickr.
Across the country, public- and private-sector investment in walkability is on the rise. LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors held an online presentation to discuss new and innovative models for building walkable development projects that generate health and economic benefits for the entire community.

During the webinar, expert panelists Colleen Carey, President of the Cornerstone Group; Elizabeth Schilling, Senior Policy Manager at Smart Growth America and Heidi Majerik, Director of Development at Forest City Stapleton discussed every facet of the development process including:

  • Creating new partnerships and leveraging resources to finance healthy development projects,
  • Examples of development projects that incorporate heathy components and design principles,
  • Current barriers to building healthy places, and
  • Re-using vacant land to improve the health of a community and meet fiscal objectives.

LOCUS is a national network of real estate developers and investors who advocate for sustainable, walkable urban development in America’s metropolitan areas. LOCUS members work to change federal and state policy on a number of issues related to smart growth development, in partnership with Smart Growth America.

This was the first in a series of webinars that LOCUS will host throughout the year to help real estate developers and investors expand their real estate portfolios and improve their companies’ bottom line. For the most up-to-date information on this and other tools to benefit your business and advance the construction of more walkable, sustainable developments on the ground, become a LOCUS member today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Obama announces new Build America Investment Initiative

Today, President Obama announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a new government-wide initiative to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure by expanding opportunities for the public and private sectors to partner and better leverage each other’s resources to grow jobs and strengthen the economy.
In addition, the initiative will create the Build America Transportation Investment Center within the US Department of Transportation, tasked with providing cities and states with both the tools and other forms of technical assistance needed to create innovative financing solutions such as TIFIA to fund transportation infrastructure improvements and the support necessary to remove regulatory barriers that prevent the public and private sectors from collaborating on ways to fund infrastructure.
LOCUS President Chris Leinberger and Managing Director Christopher Coes issued the following statement:
“We applaud the administration’s announcement of this government-led effort to encourage greater private-sector investment in America’s infrastructure. Across the country, LOCUS members and local communities are looking for innovative tools and resources to meet market demand for great walkable communities. Initiatives such as the Build America Investment Transportation Investment Center are critical to educating and mobilizing the public and private sectors around effective strategies and new partnerships that will lead to greater investment in America’s infrastructure.
We look forward to working with this administration and with USDOT to ensure that the Build America Investment Initiative and any related efforts are successful.”

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mitch Silver shares secrets to Raleigh, NC’s success in attracting innovative companies and talent

Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. Photo by Ted Buckner via Flickr.
Mitch Silver, Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer for Raleigh, NC, and member of Smart Growth America’sLocal Leaders Council, is using a variety of smart growth tools to help manage the city’s population growth and to support a dynamic and innovative business climate.
Raleigh is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. It is also one of the anchors for North Carolina’s Research Triangle, which is widely known as a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.
“It is a city that is really coming of age in the 21st century,” says Silver. “We are able to attract a number of businesses because we have three major universities North Carolina State, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina within close proximity. So we have become a brain magnet for young professionals and companies.”
Silver works to create a city where those students want to live after graduation, and over time the city has worked to become a more welcoming place for both residents and businesses. That work has paid off: Raleigh is frequently ranked at the top on “best places to live” lists for mid-sized cities. Silver attributes at least some of this to the planning department’s work building mixed-use development and walkable areas like downtown.
Mitch Silver, Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer, Raleigh, NC
Mitch Silver, Chief Planning and Economic Development Officer, Raleigh, NC
In 2009, Raleigh adopted its comprehensive plan, which Silver is quick to mention serves as a daily guide for his planning staff. Improving mobility within the city and throughout the region are key components of the plan.
Officials in Durham and Orange counties—the other jurisdictions that form the Research Triangle—have approved plans to construct a light rail throughout the region. Wake County commissioners are reluctant to support the plan, however. Despite the disagreement Silver stands firm that providing transportation options in the region is essential to enhancing Raleigh’s economic competitiveness.
“The city works collectively as a region. When you arrive at the airport, the sign doesn’t say ‘Welcome to Raleigh’; it says ‘Welcome to the Research Triangle’. We believe that, that is our brand and that is us,” he says.
The city is also creating strong partnerships between the universities, businesses and local government. In 2012, Raleigh hired an innovation and entrepreneurship manager to ensure start-up companies have the resources they need need to remain profitable and grow successfully within the city. Strategies like this and others that are intent on fostering a better relationship with the business community are why Raleigh saw over 19,000 new business filings in 2011.
Silver believes that if cities want to become economic drivers, they need to adapt and attract the talent they want. He offers that cities should “look at demographics and what Gen X and Y want. That means focusing on education, quality of life, transportation issues but that may also mean you have to be a city that has food trucks and parklets and all of the other things that attract and keep people in a city. Because many companies are looking for talent and don’t want to travel to recruit — but want it right there.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Join our annual Coalition Meeting and Advocacy Day – March 26 and 27, 2014

Smart Growth America staff and coalition members at 2013’s meeting and advocacy day.

Smart Growth America’s ally coalition is a collaborative and broad group of non-profit organizations working on state and regional smart growth issues across the country.
On March 26 and 27, 2014, Coalition members will gather in Washington, DC for our annual Coalition Meeting and Advocacy Day. Coalition members and Smart Growth America staff will come together to discuss new issues in smart growth, public policy and how the coalition as a whole can work together to advance these important issues, as well as meet with members of Congress about smart growth issues at the national level.
If your organization works on smart growth issues at the state or local levelbecome a Coalition members today. Membership comes with a number of benefits and is available on a sliding scale.

If your organization is already a member, be sure to register for this year’s meeting. We look forward to seeing you in Washington in March!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Smart Growth America’s state smart growth partners meet to discuss shared goals

Coalition members visited Winthrop, MA, pictured above, to learn about smart growth strategies in the small coastal town. Photo via Facebook.
Smart Growth America works with over 50 organizations from across the country as part of our coalition of allied non-profits. Many of these organizations work exclusively on smart growth issues in their respective states, and last month these partners came together to discuss shared challenges and goals.
Town officials give coalition members a guided tour of Winthrop, MA.
Our coalition partner the Massachusetts Area Planning Commission(MAPC) hosted this year’s meeting, which took place from November 21 to 23, 2013. MAPC staff kicked off the meeting at their offices in Boston with a discussion on ways to increase diversity within the smart growth movement. MAPC staff led the conversation and shared what their organization has done to diversify both their external partners and internal staff. Coalition partners highlighted the need to engage and collaborate with non-traditional partners outside of the smart growth field to make sure future projects are shaped by wide spectrum of residents and stakeholders.
Then, on November 22, coalition partners traveled to Winthrop, MA, an ocean-side community outside Boston. Town officials met with coalition members to give an overview of the town’s history, discuss how the town is working to protect itself from future natural disaster, and their strategies for attracting residents and businesses before leading a tour of the town.
providence-riProvidence, RI’s Riverwalk was part of the coalition’s tour.
On November 23, the group traveled to Providence, RI, for a tour of how Providence is restoring and revitalizing historic areas, and new initiatives being undertaken to continue those efforts. Leading the tour were coalition members Scott Wolf of Grow Smart Rhode Island and Dan Baudoin of The Providence Foundation.
After the tour of Providence, administrators from the New England regional offices of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agencies joined the group for a presentation on historic preservation in Rhode Island by Scott Wolf and a presentation about the newly released report on infill housing by Matt Van der Sluis of California’s Greenbelt Alliance.
The next meeting of our state and regional smart growth coalition partners will be in the spring in Washington, DC. If your organization is dedicated to smart growth issues at the state or regional level, consider becoming a coalition member today.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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

The Community Corridor Planning Collaborate (CCP) held multiple station area design sessions and community planning workshops in anticipation of the Green Line Extension in Somerville. Photo by Interactive Somerville via Flickr.
In November, LOCUS kicked off a series of events in Massachusetts that connected real estate developers with local and state officials to discuss new smart development opportunities and policy changes needed to facilitate walkable, sustainable development throughout Massachusetts.
First, on November 19, LOCUS brought together real estate developers and Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville and his staff to discuss the new transit-oriented development opportunities created by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s decision to extend its Green Line. City officials described the need for more economically, socially and environmentally responsible development in Somerville. LOCUS developers proposed development ideas that would meet those needs while also supporting Somerville’s economy. The ideas will join those of Somerville residents in informing the city’s plan for the new station areas. As the conversation continued, a call to action was placed on LOCUS and its members in Massachusetts to develop a series of policy and regulatory changes in conjunction with city and state officials that will support more walkable, sustainable places in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
Then, on November 20, LOCUS joined developers, advocates and elected officials from across the Commonwealth at theMassachusetts Smart Growth Conference. Hosted by Smart Growth America’s coalition partner the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, the conference focused on how smart growth developments can save public and private dollars.
LOCUS coordinated a panel session for the conference, which included LOCUS Steering Committee Member Don Briggs, Senior Vice President of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust; Chryse Gibson, Chief Administrative Officer of Oaktree Development; David Perry, Senior Vice President of the Hines Interest Group; and was moderated by Chris Leinberger, President of LOCUS. The panel discussed the barriers to market-driven smart growth in Massachusetts.
The conference panel cast new light on the previous day’s conversation by including state-level policies that affect smart growth development. Each panelist highlighted a major project that their company is working on as well as what the state could have done to speed up the project approval process and reduce construction delays. The presenters identified issues such as the lengthy environmental approval process and access to patient capital as limits to smart growth development, but cited the state’s current investments in transit and the strong market demand for walkable development as factors that will lead to more walkable places in Massachusetts.
Among the wide range of issues addressed at both events, strong local leadership came up again and again. Communities across the country have such visionary leaders, without whom many of these types of projects would not be built. On June 17 and 18, 2014, LOCUS will bring together many of these leaders at the 2014 LOCUS Leadership Summit. If you are a real estate developer or investor interesting in supporting walkable development in Massachusetts and across the country, we hope you’ll join us then.