All posts in “News”

Unlocking Value from Public Assets

10 Best Practices for public-private collaboration to unlock value from outdated, underutilized public assets.

Infrastructure policy in the United States is at a critical juncture. Our historic underinvestment in infrastructure is well-documented, but the solutions to define a way forward remain unclear. A promising way to think about renewed investment in American infrastructure is to harness new ideas and technologies from the private sector to transform existing assets for broad public benefits.


Our recent report sponsored by RBC Capital Markets, Unlocking Value from Public Assets , details a framework the public sector can employ to generate new revenue streams and create broad public benefits from underused, extraneous, and outdated public assets and services. To successfully transform these assets – the public sector can use a proven set of best practices to identify opportunities for uncovering value, refine concepts to meet expectations, and implement successful partnerships.

10 Best Practices Unlocking Value from Private Assets

Read Unlocking Value from Public Assets for an in-depth review of each of these best practices, and details of five case studies of public-private collaboration that have successfully harnessed private-sector expertise to uncover value from public assets – including LinkNYC, the MBTA On-Demand Paratransit Program, Oregon’s Solar Highways, and the University Center of Chicago.

Six Trends in Retail and How to Respond

We read about it every day: shopping malls are dying, department stores are closing, specialty retailers are declaring bankruptcy, small businesses are being “forced” out of traditional main street locations.  For HR&A and our clients, changing conditions in the retail environment provide an opportunity to take failing, traditional retail models and redefine the asset class to once again become economically sustainable.

six retail trends

  1. Then: Brick and Mortar stores
    Now: Growth of E-Commerce

    What to Do: While under 10% of retail sales are generated online, e-commerce is growing. Despite this fact, the popularity of experiential retail is increasing rapidly and includes such categories as dining, spas, fitness, services, and products that require a trip to the store such as furniture and home furnishing stores. Focusing on these types of uses is essential to creating an attractive tenant mix.
  2. Then: Single-Purpose Shopping Centers
    Now:  Mixed-Use Development

    What to Do:  Reconfigure properties and enter into development partnerships to reduce overall vacancies, revitalize the retail offerings, and ensure that the property is attracting a wide range of customers.

  4. Then: Department Stores Anchors
    Now: Key Anchor Closures

    What to Do:  Reposition and re-tenant the property by breaking up the large spaces into smaller units, which will allow the asset to offer a diverse mix of retail-types and price points to cater to a broader audience.

  6. Then: Suburbs as Shopping Destinations
      Urban Main Street Experiences

    What to Do:  Create multiple experiences for customers including cultural anchors, residential, hotel and office uses, as well as restaurant clusters with outdoor dining.

  8. Then: Homogeneous Communities
    Now: Diverse Demographics

    What to Do:  Ensure that retail and restaurant uses reflect the lifestyle and shopping habits of the community.  A demographic analysis that identifies ethnicity as well as age is key to creating the appropriate retail mix.

  10. Then: Traditional Media Advertising
    Now: Social Media

    What to Do:  BIDs and city agencies responsible for promoting retail districts must develop a media strategy that includes social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well as videos on websites and other means of communication that resonate with Millennials and GenX shoppers.


About Our Retail Practice

HR&A develops and implements retail tenanting strategies for districts, corridors, neighborhoods, and proposed developments. We understand the power of leveraging retail within the context of its surroundings as a catalyst for economic vitality and new growth. To learn more, please reach out to Kate Coburn.

Why Pricing is Key to a Driverless Future

By: Martin Leung


“Transportation will change more in the next five years than it has in the last 50 years,” claims Mary Barra CEO of GM. But what if we are already there? Since launching its ride hailing app in 2011, Uber has expanded to 570 cities and grown into a $70 billion company, surpassing the valuation of GM. In Helsinki, riders are using their smartphones to book and pay for rail, bus, bikeshare, rideshare, and rental rides. Cities around the world are racing to create spaces for the prototyping and testing of autonomous vehicles.

 autonomous vehicles modal share projections

Whether autonomous vehicles will become a problem or a solution for cities depends on who you ask, and more importantly, what we do. At the National Summit on Design & Urban Mobility in Pittsburgh, we heard strong consensus that with the right policies and partnerships in place, cities can avoid problems like congestion and pollution and ensure that autonomous technology will support long-stated goals for social inclusion, mobility and sustainability. So how do we get there?


To help cities prepare for a driverless future, HR&A recently identified six policy solutions along with our partners Arcadis and Sam Schwartz. In our policy roadmap, Driverless Future, we concluded that that one of the most critical tools cities can use to shape autonomous vehicles is pricing.


  • Pricing Roads. Cities control an extremely valuable asset: our roads. For the most part, roads are available for little to no cost, leading to overuse and congestion. Autonomous vehicles will pose an even bigger challenge than regular cars (see “zombie cars”), but they also provide an opportunity for smarter, more dynamic road pricing based on origin, destination, number of riders, congestion, emissions, and other variables. Road pricing can even be used to cross-subsidize fares for low-income riders. As proven by examples in London, Stockholm, and Singapore, road pricing can be an effective way to reduce traffic.


  • Pricing Real Estate. Every new building generates new demand on our transportation system, and many cities already require developers to pay for the infrastructure they use. For every new project, cities can identify the traffic impacts it will generate and require a fee that will offset the costs of building and maintaining transportation infrastructure. For example, an office building in a car-dependent area may generate significant traffic and thus require a higher fee than a mixed-use, residential and office building in a transit-rich area. Revenues can be used to subsidize low-income riders, autonomous shuttles, transit passes, bikesharing, or other amenities that reduce driving, and also to preserve affordable housing.


Ultimately, the biggest barrier to pricing may not be technological but political. Each city is different, but recent precedents provide encouraging lessons. Stockholm’s congestion charge was first introduced as a seven-month pilot, which allowed residents to experience its benefits before approving it permanently in a referendum. In November 2016, voters in Los Angeles, Seattle, Indianapolis, Raleigh, and other American cities approved new taxes to fund over $200 billion in public transit improvements. These examples show that voters are willing to support change if city leaders can clearly articulate a vision, specific actions, and demonstrate their benefits for daily commutes.


Cities and technologists should be equal partners in the roll-out of autonomous vehicles. With the right pricing on our roads and real estate, we have an opportunity to create a more connected, sustainable, inclusive, and driverless future.


If you’re a city leader, urban planner, or policy expert who is working with autonomous vehicles, we’d love to hear from you.


Martin Leung is the co-author of “Driverless Future: A Policy Roadmap for City Leaders” and a Director at HR&A Advisors.

Emphasizing Equity in Economic Impact Analysis

By: Elissa Hoagland Izmailyan


As established American cities emerged from mid-20th-Century disinvestment, cities turned to parks as a tool to attract new residents, businesses, and investment to the urban core. HR&A was at the forefront of this movement, before the return of the creative class was assured. Our faith in cities, demonstrated through early economic impact analyses, supported parks and other catalytic investments that have transformed the urban landscape. The economic value of parks is now widely accepted, not only in economic literature but among the leadership of so many cities seeking a “High Line” of their own.

equity in Economic Impact Analysis

The great economic success of urban parks has ushered in the need and opportunity to shape the next generation of park investment around a set of shared principles for equitable urban development. We must ensure these new public spaces are embraced by communities of all means and backgrounds. To do so, park organizations are looking beyond their project boundaries to influence park-oriented development, creating inclusive communities and protecting current residents. To support these efforts, HR&A is also looking beyond the economic value that parks create to evaluate their social and community value and how that value can be equitably shared.


We measure what we care about. As a result, yesterday’s economic impact analyses were often conducted in order to secure funding tied to specific project benefits (e.g., Tax Increment Financing districts tied to real estate value). As our values change, so too must our measurements; our new measurements must consider the success of parks as engines of inclusion in addition to economic vitality. This includes: the distribution of economic benefits amongst constituencies and communities in addition to the total dollar amount; neighborhood-scale impacts including resident composition, local business impacts, and quality of life; and community resilience in addition to well-established ecological benefits.


This revised economic and social “report card” underpins an equitable planning approach that extends beyond the immediate recreational or aesthetic mission of parks:


  • Project design and programming that reflect the interests, needs, and access of diverse constituencies as a means to creating an inclusive gathering space.
  • Neighborhood planning and policy that looks past the boundaries of the park itself to ensure that each project connects physically, programmatically, and aesthetically with its community. With a careful eye to existing neighborhood conditions and aspirations, we can use park design and the tools of planning, zoning, housing policy, neighborhood investment, and participatory development to ensure that the community benefits from park investment, has access to adequate and diverse housing, and is resilient to socioeconomic change.
  • Organizational implementation to ensure that the leadership and staff composition of parks organizations reflect their constituents, and that community relations are inclusive, transparent, and effective.
  • A new funding model that reflects these needs and opportunities. Equitable park investment is likely to require a more nuanced funding strategy than that of downtown gems over the past two decades. Opportunities for earned income and real estate value capture may be more modest by design for next generation park investments, even as an increased focus on neighborhood investment increases costs. Direct participation in neighborhood development can open up new revenue sources, as can collaboration with community development organizations and funders.

Elissa Hoagland Izmailyan is the Managing Principal of HR&A’s Dallas office and can be reached via email.


About Our Parks & Open Space Practice

Over the past two decades, HR&A has served as the leading economic expert in a movement to bring funding to urban parks based on their economic and social value. We have provided strategic advisory services for over 115 parks and public spaces, including many of the most celebrated park investments of this century (the High Line Transformation, Waterfront Toronto, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Anacostia Waterfront, Programming the Lawn on D). By collaborating with community, civic, and public leaders, as well as with many of the top landscape architects in the country, HR&A has helped clients to not only define a truly holistic vision for investment, but also to integrate that vision into both park design and neighborhood development policy. Our approach helps communities create value by making strategic connections among parks, other civic assets, and privately owned real estate. Our work products quantify the value of those connections using robust, data-driven analysis, and demonstrate how that new value can be used to fund open space revitalization, programming, and maintenance.

Bakersfield Approves HR&A’s High-Speed Rail Implementation Strategy

This spring, the Bakersfield City Council approved the implementation strategies developed by HR&A in partnership with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) for successfully leveraging the transformative potential of high-speed rail investments.

One of the most documented effects of high-speed rail is the increased station area concentration and density of development that coincide with high-speed rail service. Given these effects, high-speed rail presents a unique opportunity for Bakersfield to concentrate a portion of its future growth inward, building on the progress already made in its downtown area, and lessening the negative impacts of suburban sprawl such as congestion and air pollution. However, in order to take advantage of this growth potential, Bakersfield needed a vision to guide the physical development of its downtown, stimulate economic activity, and enhance sustainability by encouraging infill development and enhancing multi-modal connectivity.


For over a year and a half, HR&A and SOM have worked with the City of Bakersfield, residents, and local stakeholders to develop a vision for downtown Bakersfield, both as the remerging core of the City, and as the future location of a high-speed rail station. This public outreach process provided an incredible opportunity for the community to come together and form an authentic vision plan for the overall downtown area. This effort, along with our market analysis highlighting key opportunities to capture demand, has culminated in the creation of a strategy to make downtown Bakersfield “high-speed rail ready” in the next 10 years.


To achieve this vision, a specific 10-, 20- and 30-year phased development strategy was developed, accompanied by an expansive list of physical and policy Implementation Actions that align with the project goals. The following is a list of prioritized initiatives that link project goals with real-world actions intended to make downtown Bakersfield thrive:


  1. Launch a property-based business improvement district
  2. Recognize that a proactive economic development promotion arm is needed in the city’s community development department to facilitate increased investment and revitalization throughout the community
  3. Activate an innovative tax increment financing tool created by the City and explore additional financing tools
  4. Utilize resources and partnerships to increase the population in the downtown area to 10,000 residents by 2030
  5. Implement an iconic and catalytic housing and mixed-use development project in the downtown
  6. Adopt an overlay zone to support development along the Wall Street alley area from D Street, to the Mill Creek Linear Park
  7. Adopt a series of zoning updates that incentivize downtown redevelopment
  8. Use vision plan as a platform for a future downtown land use plan
  9. Adopt a downtown walkability plan
  10. Leverage publicly-owned parcels for economic development


For additional information, please contact HR&A Principal Judith Taylor.

Detroit East Riverfront Plan Released

Detroit East Riverfront

Image Courtesy: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, City of Detroit and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) recently unveiled a plan to expand riverfront access and drive investment within the 400-acre East Riverfront neighborhood. The East Riverfront framework expands recreational opportunities for Detroiters and creates jobs within new mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods in a formerly blighted industrial area adjacent to the city’s Downtown employment hub, fueling Detroit’s continued revitalization. HR&A supported a multi-disciplinary team – led by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) – by assessing real estate and economic opportunities and identifying strategies to shape the investment potential associated with both public improvements and private development.


The plan builds from the existing 3.5-mile promenade managed by the Conservancy to create eight additional acres of park space on the East Riverfront; advance substantial streetscape improvements that make East Jefferson Avenue and other critical street connections to neighborhoods immediately north more bike and pedestrian friendly; and establish two new greenways that connect upland residents to the riverfront. These public investments will drive the market for private development by enhancing perceptions of the neighborhood and bringing more Detroiters to and through the East Riverfront on a regular basis. Implementation is already underway, with immediate groundbreaking on a promenade to complete RiverWalk connections to the Belle Isle Bridge and Gabriel Richard Park; improvements this year to portions of East Jefferson Avenue; and the issuance by DEGC of new development and adaptive reuse RFPs.


The plan encompassed a year of conversations with community stakeholders, and substantial contributions from landscape architects Michel Desvigne and Inessa Hansch, McIntosh Poris, Giffels Webster, Kraemer Design Group, AKT Peerless, Rich & Associates, and E. Austell Associates.


For additional information, please contact HR&A Partner Kate Collignon or Director Connie Chung.

A New Life for Rikers Island

By: Bret Collazzi

rikers island

HR&A is proud to have contributed to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, which released a report this Spring that advocated for justice reform, the closure of Rikers Island, and new uses for the 400+ acre site would enable the island to go from a place of injustice to a place of great public benefit. The vision we helped create for a reimagined island includes critical next-generation infrastructure such as: expanded airport runway capacity; modern wastewater treatment and waste management facilities; and renewable energy production and storage. Recommended uses would create over 50,000 jobs, produce enough renewable energy to power up to 30,000 homes, and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40%, positively contributing to the city’s economic growth and environmental quality. Coinciding with the release of the report, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s committed to close Rikers Island within the next decade. Innovative thinking and interdisciplinary design will be key to enabling important social reforms as we look toward the decades ahead.


Rikers Island is a roughly 400-acre, largely manmade island only 5 miles from Midtown Manhattan. It has been used almost exclusively to imprison New Yorkers – as many as 20,000 at the height of the drug epidemic and approximately 7,500 today – for the past 100 years. In March 2016, prompted by reports of endemic abuse on the island, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito convened an independent commission to study the city’s criminal justice system. As discussions of closing the jail began in earnest, an important question emerged: if Rikers Island were not a jail, what could it be?


The sudden availability of 400 developable acres in a global real estate capital conjured images of high-rise housing and exclusive destinations to some. But the island faces serious physical limitations that limit its value: isolation from transit, poor soil conditions, an FAA-imposed 15-story height limit, and the buzz of planes departing LaGuardia Airport, whose runway sits only a few hundred feet away. More essentially, the Commission was clear that any uses proposed for the island should help address the damage that the city’s incarceration system has exacted on families and communities, particularly low-income and minority communities.


Uses that would directly benefit impacted communities, such as affordable housing, public open space, or employment hubs, would be costlier to build on Rikers than elsewhere and would be isolated from the city. Our team sought to creatively convert these challenges into advantages and to simultaneously address larger challenges facing the region. The resulting vision is an island transformed: from the vestige of a shameful past to a vital and unprecedented collection of sustainable city infrastructure that can address climate change, improve the environment, and position New York to compete as a 21st-century global city.


Published in April 2017, the Rikers redevelopment concept plan demonstrates the feasibility of eight critical uses. The most ambitious is a third runway of LaGuardia Airport, which could accommodate 12 million more passengers annually and reduce worst-in-the-nation delays. Just as critical, the island could house one of the largest water treatment facilities in North America, large enough to replace four nearby aging and flood-vulnerable plants and allow the city to repurpose the older plant sites for housing, open space, and other public uses. Solar and biogas installations on the island could power more than 60,000 homes, while waste facilities – including one of the largest composting facilities in the world – could divert 40% of the city’s landfill waste. The island would enable next-generation technologies, such as battery storage and waste gasification that legacy cities like New York can have difficulty accommodating.


By finding a way to reuse the island that will benefit the city as a whole, its disadvantaged communities, and the global environment, our design makes it that much more likely that the important social justice recommendations of the report can be realized.


For additional information, please contact HR&A Partner Jamie Torres Springer or Principal Bret Collazzi.

Andrea Batista Schlesinger Creates New Practice Focused on Equitable Growth and Inclusive Cities

andrea batista schlesinger


“The American city confronts increasingly urgent challenges of inclusion and equitable development. Building on our 40 year history of service to urban regeneration, Andrea Batista Schelsinger brings new skills, perspectives, and energies to our work. Her work will support the development of an urban future responsive to  the needs of all city residents, including those most vulnerable.”

–  John Alschuler, Chairman


HR&A is pleased to welcome Andrea Batista Schlesinger as a Partner in our New York office. Andrea is a nationally recognized leader in progressive public policy with a deep passion for cities. She will bring her vision of inclusive and equitable urban growth to HR&A, where she will advise clients on policies, programs, and advocacy strategies that address the challenges of economic inequality and the barriers to inclusion in cities.


“The primary goal of my work will be to establish HR&A as a leading resource in the promotion of equity in the growth of cities. It is increasingly important that we develop meaningful responses to the ways that cities have too often become exclusive of the communities that make them vibrant.”

–  Andrea Batista Schlesinger


Andrea has dedicated her career to advancing economic equality and social justice. Andrea comes to HR&A from the Open Society Foundations, George Soros’ global philanthropy, where she was Deputy Director of U.S. Programs. In that role, Andrea helped develop strategies to tackle state preemption of local laws, raise the minimum wage, improve the wages and working conditions of child care workers, and support progressive local elected officials throughout the country. While at Open Society, Andrea launched the innovative civic engagement initiative, “Talking Transition.” Working with local partners and HR&A Advisors as program manager, the New York City and Washington D.C. initiatives transformed the usual closed-door process between the mayoral election and inauguration into an opportunity for broad public engagement through public conversations about policy issues and their effect on communities.


Previously, Andrea served as a Special Advisor to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and as Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, originally founded by an advisor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Andrea is the author of The Death of Why: The Decline of Questioning and the Future of Democracy (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009) and has advanced degrees in history from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, where she focused her studies on how global cities have constructed their responses to inequality during the latter half of the 20th century.

To reach Andrea and learn more about our vision for equity in economic development please email

How Should Cities Prepare for a Driverless Future?

driverless future

HR&A, in partnership with transportation and engineering leaders Arcadis and Sam Schwartz, released Driverless Future:  A Policy Roadmap for City Leaders, a white paper examining the disruptive nature of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology and potential policy solutions for city leaders.


To help cities navigate the complex challenges and opportunities presented by the rise of AVs, Driverless Future provides six policy priorities for cities:



Cities and their public and private transportation providers should embrace smartcards, open data, and universal apps to allow riders to compare, book, and pay for multi-modal trips.



Transit agencies should prioritize investments in high-ridership, high-frequency light rail and bus rapid transit corridors while leveraging driverless shuttles to provide first- and last-mile connections for riders.



Cities can reduce congestion and create a level playng field between public and private transportation through dynamic road pricing plans that vary by origin and destination, number of passengers, congestion, household income, etc.



Cities can shape demand, by planning for and incentivizing mixed-use development, overhauling parking requirements, and providing alternatives to driving.



Parking garages should be built with redevelopment in mind. Adaptable garages are already being contemplated in Boston, Seattle, Nashville, and other cities.



To ensure that disadvantaged populations will benefit from AVs, public and private operators must partner to provide alternative payment methods, equitable service coverage, and new employment and training opportunities for drivers and others in legacy occupations.


Similar to other technological revolutions like the railroad, streetcar, and automobile, public policy will play a decisive role in shaping autonomous technology and its impact on cities. We hope this paper will start a discussion and help cities prepare for this generational opportunity. Driverless Future and additional materials exploring the effect of autonomous vehicles on cities are available at

Imagining Boston in 2030

 Jamie and the team answer five questions about working with the City of Boston to guide the creation of its citywide plan in 50 years.


  1. How did your experience with large-scale planning help inform your strategy in Boston?

Planning for the long term asks cities to define citywide goals, develop an overarching vision to guide investment, and then use that vision to identify policy priorities and align public resources. Collecting the best expertise from across many disciplines is critical for success.


A useful citywide plan goes beyond land use or capital projects. It begins with a deep understanding of demographic and economic changes, and leverages the city’s public and private physical assets, human and social capital, and regulatory and financial tools to achieve the city’s goals. We work closely with our city clients to integrate the best of land use planning and urban design, policy and economic analysis, civil and transportation engineering, civic engagement, and innovative thinking about sustainability and resilience to give policymakers the best information and insights to act upon.


  1. What was the biggest challenge to address when imagining Boston’s future?

Boston is a historic, land-constrained city with a highly productive workforce and a population that has grown twice as quickly as the nation since 2010. Like many younger knowledge economy cities, including Seattle and San Francisco, Boston is planning for the challenges and opportunities that come with growing rapidly and specializing in innovative, knowledge-based industries. I would say Boston’s number one challenge is one many that cities are facing—how will Boston keep housing affordable, invest in infrastructure, and expand access to opportunity as it grows?


Through Imagine Boston 2030, the City is answering this question by guiding new housing and investment to areas that can support growth, while also ensuring that the benefits of that growth become accessible to more Bostonians.


  1. What was your approach to addressing these challenges?

The City wanted to understand where Boston could grow given its constrained size of 49 square miles, while also responding to the needs and ideas of existing residents. The City and the planning team began by developing job and population projections for 2030 and 2050, which enabled us to assess demand for new housing and jobs across the city. We paired these projections with significant urban planning and land use analyses that identified three types of places for enhancement and growth: existing neighborhoods that are predominantly residential and where quality of life can be improved; the commercial core, which can accommodate continued growth and diversification; and edge areas between the core and neighborhoods, where industry can be strengthened and significant mixed-use growth can occur.


Contextually-sensitive growth and investment in these three areas will enable Boston to accommodate projected 2030 and 2050 growth, while also addressing the city’s goals of improving quality of life, strengthening Boston’s economy, and preparing for climate change. The plan also identifies two additional priorities to guide investment in these areas: creating a waterfront for future generations, and generating networks of opportunity through physical, economic, and social connections between historically-underserved communities and the city’s existing and emerging economic centers.


  1. How has engaging the public led to a more effective outcome for Boston?

Mayor Walsh’s administration has done an excellent job prioritizing public engagement and community outreach. Imagine Boston 2030 is an extension of that approach. To date, we’ve heard from over 12,000 Bostonians through open houses, street surveys, and online platforms. Their feedback has shaped the way we approached all parts of the plan—from identifying new places to live and work, to providing feedback on open space and economic development priorities. We’ve also focused on making sure the ways in which we engage residents and visitors give insight into the planning process, for example, using Legos to consider how different densities of development can produce varied community benefits.


  1. What’s next for Imagine Boston?

We’ll release a final plan in 2017 that identifies how the initiatives and priority actions identified in the November plan will be funded, led, and measured to ensure success. Concurrent plans like Climate Ready Boston, Go Boston, and 100 Resilient Cities are other important avenues of progress for Imagine Boston’s goals. HR&A’s involvement in Climate Ready Boston and 100 Resilient Cities bolstered the City’s internal coordination, and is enabling the development of a series of focused, aligned actions.