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Corridor-wide TOD Planning in Los Angeles

The West Santa Ana Branch (WSAB) transit line is a planned 20-mile transit line extending from Downtown Los Angeles to the cities of Cerritos and Artesia.  The proposed line extends through heavily industrial areas as well as areas characterized by auto-oriented, suburban development.  It passes through 14 southeast Los Angeles cities and county jurisdictions, many of which are low to moderate -income, predominantly Hispanic communities, with a number of diverse, optimistic visions for the future of their communities. As part of a Corridor Wide TOD Implementation Plan, HR&A is developing a holistic land use and economic revitalization strategy for the 15 stations and 14 communities along the line.


Principal Judith Taylor, HR&A’s project manager for this assignment, shares her insights on the future of the WSAB line and how HR&A is setting these communities up for success.


1. How does this project differ from a typical TOD project?

This is an innovative project from LA Metro – the first of its kind. A traditional TOD project only looks at the immediate station. Our team’s goal is to perform an integrated analysis that encompasses the 14 communities along the WSAB line. We are planning at the corridor level to ensure the whole area functions congruently. Rather than being in competition with one another, each station area and their surrounding communities can be positioned to complement one another.


2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing corridor-wide vs individual station area TOD studies?

The biggest advantage of a corridor-wide strategy is the opportunity for collaboration among the cities and jurisdictions. By working together, communities are able to understand how they fit within the broader region and how they can better capitalize on their strengths. However, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Many of the cities are in different stages with varying capacities for development, so we need to take this diversity into account as we create the tools and strategies each city can use to implement their plans. The success of this project will be defined by each of the cities translating the toolkits we develop into policy instruments that advance their implementation goals.


3. The Metro West Santa Ana branch project is built through a heavy industrial area, how has this affected analysis?

There are locations along the line that wish to remain industrial and it is our goal to understand how they integrate into the ecosystem of the other stations. We are examining what transit means for the employers in these heavily industrial areas so we can encourage connectivity and mobility between workers and industry. The integration of active transportation for pedestrians and bikes are a priority along the corridor, particularly in places such as the industrial areas where very little of such infrastructure exists. For example, some residents may prefer to commute via bike, so we are exploring how to best incorporate bike paths with roads that accommodate trucks and heavy machinery.


4. How will this study help Metro and the municipalities along the corridor adjust for the risks that new investment can present for existing communities that transit is ostensibly built to help? How does equity shape HR&A’s approach in this case?

We are working to ensure the tools and strategies we develop for these cities support equity, affordable housing, workforce training, and diverse economic opportunities for residents. We are also taking measures to educate the cities about the potentially transformative effects of new transit, so they have an opportunity to anticipate changes. Even though this strategy may not be fully implemented for another 25 years, it is important that the cities think and plan ahead to maximize the positive impacts of future transit access in their communities


5. This is a massive regional project, what are the plans and timeline for implementation?

Over the past several months, WSAB has become a regional priority. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has added this project to his “28 by 28” agenda that outlines 28 key transportation projects that are to be prioritized before the 2028 Olympics. Also, the WSAB’s arrival to Downtown aligns with many of the improvements that are needed to integrate light and heavy rail systems seamlessly into a 21st century mobility hub.

New York Tech Is Thriving

In New York, tech is serious business. Over the past 10 years, NYC’s tech scene has grown from a cluster of successful startups into a verifiable tech hub, and a vital part of New York’s economy. New York employers are rapidly adding tech jobs while landlords are leasing out bigger and bigger spaces to giants like Google, Facebook, WeWork, and Amazon. To profile New York’s phenomenal growth, we revisited our 2014 study and identified where the tech industry is growing and who it’s employing. The 2017 update found:


  • The tech ecosystem employs 326,000 people and has grown 30% since 2006
  • Since 2010, tech companies have bought or leased more than 9 million square feet of space
  • Since 2006, New York has raised $43.6 billion in VC funds, second only to Silicon Valley
  • New York’s tech companies specialize in B2B, Consumer Web, Healthtech, and Fintech
  • NYC is home to 9,670 startups and 120 incubators


It’s more than Just Tech Companies

Tech jobs are defined as (1) any occupation within industries that produce tech or are enabled by it and (2) any occupation that produces tech or facilitates its use (e.g. a systems analyst for a global media company). Developers and programmers are in high demand across tech and non-tech sectors alike. In fact, almost half of New York’s tech talent is employed by non-tech industries.


The study also considered the talent potential from the city’s rich cluster of universities and colleges. Every year, New York City graduates nearly twice as many students with computer science degrees than its peer cities. This number is expected to grow even higher with addition of satellite tech campuses like Cornell Tech.


The Smart City

Along with a deep talent pool and top employers, New York City is also the perfect laboratory for urban tech experiments – it’s huge, it’s dense, and has endless variables to test from.  With city leadership that has successfully partnered with companies like LinkNYC and Plus Pool to modernize public spaces and services, and generate revenue, New York is poised to become a leader in urban tech.


Our Urban Tech Practice advises city and tech-industry leaders on strategies and partnerships for creating connected, thriving cities. To learn more about HR&A’s growing Urban Tech practice, email Kate Wittels.

HR&A Partners Speak at the World Bank’s City Resilience Conference in Bangkok

HR&A Partners Stan Wall and Amitabh Barthakur are participating in the World Bank Group’s City Resilience Conference (November 6-10, 2017) to share insights, expert guidance, and best practices in the use of land value capture (LVC) financing tools to fund the development of resilient urban projects. Their sessions offer lessons learned from three of HR&A’s urban resilience projects, including:


  • Leveraging publicly-owned land to develop resilient, financially sustainable public infrastructure at Brooklyn Bridge Park, in New York City, New York.
  • Small area planning which supported creation of an assessment district to fund transit infrastructure development in the NoMa neighborhood of Washington, DC.
  • A public-private partnership that leverages publicly owned real estate to develop a Civic Center campus for the City of Long Beach, California.


The sessions also draw on developing world examples of LVC tools used to fund catalytic resilience projects, including leveraging publicly-owned land to fund development of the Sabarmati Riverfront, in Ahmedabad, India, the use of property assessments to fund development of infrastructure in Bogota, Colombia, as well as, leveraging valuable land adjacent to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in Delhi, India.


As a firm, HR&A is committed to advancing resilience through a unique, multidisciplinary approach in projects around the world. From empowering local decision makers through capacity-building programs, to designing resilience and climate adaptation plans, to implementing resilience efforts in response to natural disasters, HR&A is an industry leader in strategic resilience thinking. We work with local communities and national governments to design and implement strategies and projects that address a multiplicity of risks while leveraging diverse funding and partnership opportunities.


About the Comprehensive Financial Solutions for City Resilience Conference

The annual Comprehensive Financial Solutions for City Resilience Conference organized by the World Bank Group’s City Resilience Program (CRP) brings together city officials, private sector experts, donors, and investors to prepare for ambitious investments in urban resilience. The aim is to refine existing investment ideas and expand the financing options available for cities. By combining technical workshops with hands-on planning sessions over a five-day period, city leaders will be equipped to further develop their investment plans and identify opportunities for private sector financing.

Atlanta Plans for a More Equitable Future

Atlanta unveiled “Resilient Atlanta: Actions to Build a More Equitable Future,” their 100 Resilient Cities strategy, to much acclaim on November 2, 2017. The plan is bolstered by four visions, 16 measurable targets, and nearly 60 actions for implementation.


Atlanta is part of an expansive Metro region that has experienced significant growth in recent decades. While residents and new businesses continue to be attracted to the region, the City’s ability to achieve its maximum potential is threatened by racial inequity, suburban sprawl, and lack of investment in infrastructure and affordable housing.


As a strategy partner for 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, HR&A Advisors supported Atlanta and its Chief Resilience Officer in developing Resilient Atlanta, a comprehensive and actionable plan to address these regional challenges while building capacity among residents and city systems to better anticipate and respond to future shocks. The strategy builds on strengths of regional growth, diversity, integration, and inclusion. The strategy includes four Visions for the City supported by Targets and Actions for successful implementation.


Vision 1: Preserve and Celebrate Who We Are. Preserve and enhance Metro Atlanta’s culture, shared identity, and history to build social cohesion and cultivate the creative economy. The Targets and Actions under this Vision aim to increase community cohesion, address racial inequity, and strengthen Atlanta’s culture and creative economy. Action highlights:

  • Create a formal City document and corresponding policies by 2020 to recognize and reconcile past systemic wrongdoings
  • Develop a comprehensive cultural plan for the City of Atlanta


Vision 2: Enable All Metro Atlantans to Prosper. Reduce the barriers preventing Atlantans from achieving economic stability and security to increase access to opportunity and move Atlanta out of the nation’s top 10 cities ranked for income inequality. The Targets and Actions under this Vision support improving economic mobility and inter-generational wealth building by focusing on early childhood education and workforce development opportunities for all. Action highlights:

  • Support Georgia’s Universal Pre-K Program for all four-year-olds by reducing the number of children on Pre-K waiting lists in high-need areas
  • Establish a $5 million dollar Creative Industries Revolving Loan Fund to support and retain local film and music talent


Vision 3: Build Our Future City Today. Facilitate the development of an equitable and inclusive city while preserving and expanding Atlanta’s natural environment. The Targets and Actions under this Vision foster vibrant, healthy, and equitable neighborhoods that will improve the quality of life for all Atlantans through expansion of affordable housing, support diversification of transportation modes, increase access to fresh food, improve proximity to greenspace for recreational use, as well as invest in sustainable and resilient infrastructure improvements. Action highlights:

  • Decrease the number of housing cost-burdened residents and increase the production and preservation of affordable housing
  • Develop a resilient local food system by 2025
  • Complete construction of the first segment of the Proctor Creek Greenway by January 2018


Vision 4: Design Our Systems to Reflect Our Values. Adapt Atlanta’s civic systems to enable the City to become a leader in equity, sustainability, and resilience. The Targets and Actions under this Vision seek to improve the efficiency and usability of city systems to encourage greater civic engagement and institutionalize use of the resilience lens among decision makers across Atlanta. Action Highlights:

  • Create and implement a strategy for the City to use 100 percent clean energy
  • Launch an Airport Resilience and Sustainability Innovation Center by 2023


The full plan can be read here.

Denver Broadway Station Receives Public Infrastructure Financing Approval

In October 2017, the Denver City Council unanimously approved the second largest tax increment financing (TIF) request in the city’s history. The $90 million package (exclusive of a $50 million Metro District package) will support a 41-acre mixed-use development adjacent to Broadway Station, one of the most trafficked light rail stops in Denver, at the intersection of Broadway and I-25. For the past two and a half years, HR&A has advised Broadway Station Partners, owners of the former industrial site that housed the Gates Rubber Factory, on this project which has been over a decade in the making (after initial plans for the site under a different owner fell through in 2003).


HR&A conducted the real estate market analysis that informed the development program, built the pro forma that informed the size of the owner’s request for a TIF and Metro District public finance package, and collaborated with a team that included Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell, Strae Advisory Services, Collins Cockrel & Cole, and CRL Associates to support negotiation of the deal by our client.  In addition, we partnered with an extraordinary team of physical design professionals, including Beyer Blinder Belle, Matrix Design Group, Dig Studio, and WSP/Parson Brinckerhoff to develop the program that excited the imagination of policy makers and neighborhood stakeholders, thereby securing the public finance package.


The new 4 million SF development will include apartments, offices, co-working space, retail, and civic spaces. The public money dedicated to the project will fund new streets, pedestrian bridges, parks, utilities, and public art, and includes a $3 million commitment to address the capacity needs of Denver Public Schools. This public investment will unlock over $1 billion in transit-oriented development.

Houston Rebuilds

The 2017 Hurricane Season has been one of extraordinary magnitude and devastation. The back-to-back Hurricanes of Harvey, Irma, and Maria have been economically and physically destructive across the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, particularly so in Puerto Rico and many Caribbean nations. While immediate recovery efforts demand a focus on emergency operations and restoration of basic services, we must shortly turn to the opportunity to rebuild better, including in Houston, the fourth-largest and second-fastest-growing city in the United States.


Houston thrives on its promise of economic opportunity, socioeconomic diversity, and a high quality of life. Continued growth will require a new commitment to the social and physical infrastructure on which the city depends, delivered equitably and resiliently. These advances could be expedited by the influx of federal disaster recovery funding coming Houston’s way – $14 billion has already been appropriated, and if past events are any precedent, billions more could be forthcoming. Rebuilding is a generational opportunity for the region to define its future: the significant investments in rebuilding after Harvey can ensure the region is better able to withstand a wide range of future climate risks, while also providing a platform for continued growth, creating opportunities and ensuring more equitable results for current and future residents.


HR&A recently met with public, private, and non-profit leaders in the Houston area to support the long-term recovery from Hurricane Harvey and its more than 50 inches of rainfall. Building on those conversations and drawing on our work in Houston on Buffalo Bayou Park, Plan Downtown, and the Menil Collection, and our work building resilience in New York, Norfolk, New Orleans, Boston, and internationally through the 100 Resilient Cities program and the National Disaster Resilience Competition, we offer these recommendations:


Coordinate flood protection at the watershed level

Just as floods cross political borders, the response to Hurricane Harvey calls for joint planning and response across the affected region, including the City, State, Harris and other counties, and regional planning organizations such as Houston-Galveston Area Council. With nine counties and approximately 2,500 miles of waterways, including 22 bayous, within the Houston metropolitan area, water management and drainage is a regional issue, and interventions at the property or neighborhood scale can adversely impact other locations within a watershed. For reasons similar to those stated in the Climate Ready Boston plan, Houston’s regional agencies, utilities, and institutions must collaborate to conserve wetlands and mandate that open spaces are equipped with green infrastructure elements such as floodable waterfront park edges, porous pavement, rain gardens, and bioswales to help reduce the severity of flooding. Public sector leaders should work across jurisdictions to prioritize major infrastructure and policy investments that protect the region, including coastal surge protection of the Ship Channel, investment in major reservoirs, and preservation of the Bayou network and prairie ecosystem. Coordinated appropriately, local infrastructure investments and land use decisions become tools of a regional watershed approach.


Tailor neighborhood rebuilding to reflect the range of climate risks, neighborhood types, and community planning capacities

Some communities, such as Meyerland, have strong established institutions and a clear vision for future investment while other Houston communities have less robust local capacity and therefore require public leadership of planning and rebuilding. While planning leadership often looks to zoning as the central tool in response to climate preparedness and community development, Houston has shown that non-zoning responses, including innovative building and fire codes, stormwater requirements, public investments, and community-determined deed restrictions, can also be effective in delivering resilient land use.

Both for Houston neighborhoods and particularly for the communities along the coastline of southeast Texas, a model of allocating federal and State funding based on creation of neighborhood-based long-term plans could also be effective. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New York Governor’s Office for Storm Recovery initiated the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. This local planning process helped communities across the state impacted by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to design community projects that could be funded with federal disaster recovery funds. This process was unique in its ambition to give communities ownership over locally-appropriate projects based on their own understanding of risk and vulnerability. Houston should leverage existing planning efforts, such as the Complete Communities initiative, to capitalize on the opportunity to tie rebuilding efforts into long-term community planning. Organized within a regional water management framework, neighborhood-level resilience plans should inform reinvestment and rebuilding in each community.


Houston is not the first city to be laid bare by a climate event and unfortunately it will not be the last. But from experiences helping other cities rebuild, we know that while natural disasters devastate, they also create opportunities for reinvention. From a record-setting storm comes a chance for the city of Houston and its surrounding region to emerge even stronger than before, revealing the silver lining of Harvey’s destructive path.

If you’d like to know how we can create a climate adaptation plan for your city, please contact Partner Jamie Torres Springer.

The Bay Area Gets More Resilient

HR&A is excited to participate on three of the ten shortlisted teams in the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge, a design competition supported in part by the Rockefeller Foundation and hosted by urban leaders in community, government, and industry around California’s Bay Area. The challenge brings together interdisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, ecologists, economic development specialists, and other urban experts to develop community-driven, innovative solutions to climate change-related issues facing the Bay Area. The challenge invites teams to develop and submit community-based solutions to strengthen the region’s resilience to a variety of climate risks, including sea level rise, severe storms, flood, and earthquakes.
As one of the country’s economic powerhouses and focal point of the booming tech industry, the Bay Area receives a steady flow of new residents every year, and is projected to reach 9.6 million people by 2040. While this growth has brought prosperity and economic opportunity, it’s also strained housing markets, aging transportation infrastructure, and major infrastructure like the San Francisco seawall, which requires significant improvement and proactive approaches to address climate-related vulnerabilities.
We are thrilled to partner with some of the country’s leading thinkers to develop resilient strategies for the Bay Area. HR&A will lend our expertise in community-based resilience planning and project finance to support a more resilient Bay Area with three outstanding teams:
Common Ground: led by TLS Landscape Architecture, Common Ground layers expertise in urban infrastructure strategies for climate change and coastal adaptation on top of socially responsive architecture to develop an approach to both incremental sea level rise and seismic risks of the Bay Area shoreline.
The Home Team: led by Mithun, a San Francisco- and Seattle-based interdisciplinary design firm partnered with numerous Bay Area-based community development corporations, The Home Team will explore affordability as a driver of deep transformation, exploring the possibilities that emerge from leveraging multiple benefits that emerge when a design approach is co-created through the lens of home.
Team Uplift: led by a core team of Gensler, Arup, and Margie Ruddick Landscape, Team Uplift brings concentrated local expertise to create creative, implementable design proposals that are grounded in rigorous research, inspired by local and regional coordination, and able to address ecological, economic, and social vulnerabilities together.

Interested in how we can address climate-related risk in your city? Contact Jamie Torres Springer, Partner for more information.

Long Island Rail Road Third Track Receives Key Senate Approval

HR&A’s economic impact analysis played a key role in advancing this landmark outcome. Our study demonstrated the transformative potential of the third track on Long Island’s economy.


After decades of consideration, a $2 billion project to resolve a regional bottleneck in Long Island has finally received approval from the New York State Legislature. The 9.8-mile stretch between Floral Park and Hicksville will receive a much-needed third track—significantly reducing service disruptions and expanding capacity for reverse-commuting from New York City. Through a publicly-released report, HR&A demonstrated that the expansion would produce sizable economic benefits for Long Island.


Our analysis, with support from transportation planning and engineering firm WSP, provided a clearer picture of the economic benefits the project will produce. An expansion of this magnitude ‑ on a critical piece of our regional infrastructure – will have enormous impact on the region, far beyond time savings.



To understand the impact of the Long Island Rail Road Third Track Expansion project on the regional economy, we identified unique indicators and metrics to consider the multifaceted impact of the project.


By 2035, the Third Track will create

  • An expanded labor force available to Long Island businesses.
  • Productivity benefits from concentrated transit-oriented development in station areas
  • Time savings for riders due to more frequent and reliable commutes
  • Additional visitor spending on Long Island owing to more riders
  • Construction spending on investments in station and track infrastructure


The Long Island Index and Right Track for Long Island Coalition centered their successful campaign around our analysis, which helped unite a diverse coalition of Long Island businesses, labor organizations, and academic institutions behind the project.


If you’re interested in demonstrating the complete economic impact of your project, please contact Partner Shuprotim Bhaumik, Principal Kyle Vangel, or Director Jordan Hare for more information.

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.

Measuring Park Equity

By: Elissa Hoagland Izmailyan


As established American cities emerged from the disinvestment of the mid-twentieth century, they used parks as a tool to attract people and investment back to the urban core. HR&A’s work in cities supported the economic case for parks and other investments that have transformed the urban landscape. Now, with the economic value of parks being widely accepted, many cities are seeking a transformative “High Line” of their own, but how can we make sure these investments are enjoyed by everyone?


There’s opportunity to shape the next generation of park investment around a set of shared principles for equitable urban development by ensuring public spaces are embraced by communities of all means and backgrounds. To do so, park organizations are looking to influence park-oriented development, create inclusive communities and protect current residents. To support these efforts, HR&A is looking beyond the economic value that parks create to evaluate their social and community value and how that value can be equitably shared.

Measuring Equity

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:


  • Distribution of economic benefits amongst constituencies and communities
  • Neighborhood-scale impacts including resident composition, local business impacts, and quality of life
  • Community resilience in addition to well-established ecological benefits


The Social and Economic Report Card

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. If you’d like to know more about HR&A’s Parks and Open Space practice, please reach out via email.