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HR&A Senior Principal Jamie Torres Springer on Imagine Boston 2030

In honor of the Plan’s first draft, Jamie and the team answer five questions about working with the City to guide the creation of Boston’s first citywide plan in 50 years.

 

  1. You’ve led a number of city-scale plans. How did your experience help inform your strategy in Boston?

We’ve helped many cities plan for future growth and address common challenges like affordability, climate risk, economic and social inclusion, and equity. 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. Marshaling 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.

Boston’s Resilient Future

How HR&A’s Resilience Approach Helped the City of Boston Plan for a Stronger Future

 

Boston is no stranger to climate hazards. In fact, the city has experienced 21 weather-related disasters in the past 15 years alone. As our world becomes warmer and wetter, we’re working with Boston, and cities around the world, to create effective public and private solutions that mitigate climate-related risks for people, property, infrastructure, and the environment.

 

Increasing frequency of destructive climate-related events is not the only challenge cities face. The same characteristics that make cities so appealing – vibrant, densely-populated neighborhoods; historic architecture; and extensive infrastructure – also make urban climate adaptation expensive and complex. To unlock the growth potential of climate adaptation, cities need to develop mitigation strategies that leverage interdisciplinary thinking and reflect economic realities.

 

We’ve developed a resilience approach for climate adaptation to help our clients identify actions that produce  benefits beyond risk reduction, supporting broad social, economic, and environmental policy goals. Central to this approach is ensuring that the solutions proposed can harness the value they create – through avoided damage and disruption as well as new development, jobs, public spaces, etc. – to help finance future adaptation projects and minimize reliance on scarce public funding.

 

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In Boston, we incorporated our resilience approach into the city’s new climate adaptation plan,  Climate Ready Boston. With a team of city and regional stakeholders, we identified initiatives that will help Boston continue to thrive in the face of climate change. Key recommendations from Climate Ready Boston include forming a regional consortium of public and private infrastructure owners and operators to coordinate system-wide adaptation; creating new resilience workforce development pathways; integrating coastal protection infrastructure and other improvements into growth plans for new neighborhoods; and establishing requirements for future development to be adaptable and climate ready.

 

HR&A also collaborated with the City of Boston to integrate resilience considerations in concurrent planning efforts, including Imagine Boston 2030 and 100 Resilient Cities. Through Imagine Boston 2030, the first citywide plan in 50 years, the City has identified areas capable of accommodating Boston’s growing population and economy. However, to grow successfully in waterfront areas, Boston will need to implement multi-layered flood protection, partially by leveraging the value of new development to support them. As our work in Boston demonstrates, by applying our resilience approach, cities can unlock the growth potential of adaptation.

 

Learn more about HR&A’s resilience approach.

High-Speed Rail Meets High-Speed Growth

California’s proposed high-speed rail (HSR) system has the potential to spur dramatic economic growth throughout the state. While public attention is largely focused on the benefits of three-hour commute from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the biggest beneficiaries of HSR might be California’s smaller towns and cities. At this year’s Rail~Volution Conference, HR&A Principal Judy Taylor examined how stronger connections between California’s major economic hubs and its mid-sized cities will drive economic growth and explored strategies to leverage infrastructure investments to revitalize downtown centers. Read our key takeaways from Judy’s discussion below:

 

  1. Access will attract new residents, but mid-sized cities must revitalize their downtowns to remain competitive. Palmdale and Bakersfield are mid-sized cities within a two-hour drive of Los Angeles that will benefit from high-speed rail. These cities will automatically attract new residents by offering shorter commutes and more affordable housing options than the suburbs of Los Angeles. However, each city can drive additional growth by reorienting commercial and residential development around new rail stations to draw regional economic growth from the periphery to the city center.

 

  1. Targeted development strategies and public improvements around station areas will go a long way. Many smaller cities face physical barriers to growth due to decentralized economic activity; these challenges are often compounded by years of under investment in their downtowns. Through targeted, station-area investments, and land-use policy prioritizing density and infill development, these cities can create competitive urban environments that offer desirable housing, employment, and connectivity.

 

  1. The creation of a new type of central coordinating body would help drive additional growth. With the termination of California redevelopment agencies and their broad range of redevelopment powers, there is a need to establish a new type of independent entity, likely a public-private partnership, with the ability to coordinate investments. In addition to managing current growth, such a body could also help to advocate for future investment and provide a precedent for future high-speed rail stations to serve as economic anchors for these cities.

 

HR&A is advancing station area planning high-speed rail in both Bakersfield and Palmdale, California. Currently, we’re identifying market opportunities to develop competitive, transit-supportive amenities with the goal of transforming station areas into attractive downtown destinations with new residents, businesses, and visitors from around the region. Learn more about HR&A’s approaches to transit-oriented development across the nation.

Transit that Doesn’t Displace

Where transit goes, development follows—often with unintended consequences. When property values increase in areas surrounding new transit, higher rents can price out existing residents, who often stand to benefit the most from better access to public transportation. This fall, at the annual conference of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, HR&A partners Amitabh Barthakur and Stan Wall were joined by Jenna Hornstock (Deputy Executive Officer, LA Metro), Andrew Gross (President, Thomas Safran & Associates), and Mindy Wilcox (Planning Manager, City of Inglewood) to discuss how joint development partnerships can help align private sector objectives with community goals to achieve higher quality transit-oriented development (“TOD”) projects.

 

Citing Los Angeles’ Expo Line extension, where average rents have risen more than 15% around planned stations, Amitabh outlined how public officials can help offset rising housing costs around highly desirable TOD sites: “Cities must be willing to introduce flexible land-use policies and ease density and parking mandates around station areas, so developments can generate enough revenue to cover the cost of desired community benefits. Often, there are trade-offs to balance project value and social impact, which require careful prioritization of outcomes that are realistically supportable by TOD.”  

 

Stan underscored the efficacy of transit supportive land-use decisions, such as those currently being utilized by LA Metro, as both attractive incentives to developers and valuable tools for transit agencies seeking to reduce infrastructure cost burdens. Stan also highlighted strategies that maximize the overall value of TOD projects, which include: establishing strong public-private partnerships, ensuring alignment with local jurisdiction stakeholders, mitigating the cost and physical impact of TOD parking, and taking a holistic approach to evaluating the project’s impact on ridership and revenue.

 

HR&A is currently advising LA Metro on additional joint-development opportunities at multiple stations along the Crenshaw/LAX line that maximize project value and community benefits.

 

Read more about HR&A’s Transit-Oriented Development work.

Bob Geolas Joins HR&A Advisors in North Carolina

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Please join us in welcoming our newest Partner, Robert (Bob) Geolas. Bob is a nationally-recognized leader in the development of innovation districts, university campuses, and research parks, and most recently served as CEO of the Research Triangle Park Foundation. Bob brings his vision of placemaking as a public service to HR&A, where he will work with public, private, and university clients to deliver economic growth and real estate strategies that enhance assets and communities.

 

“Bob is a bold, visionary, and thoughtful leader. He has the rare ability to inspire while pursuing practical steps to get something built – uniting real estate savvy, discipline, and political skill.”
– John H. Alschuler, Chairman

Bob has 20 years of experience advancing the missions of top research and technology campuses for greater public impact. He led the first redevelopment of Research Triangle Park in over 50 years, and, as Executive Director of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), helped created one of the country’s most successful public-private research and development campuses.

 

“I am enormously proud to be joining such a well-respected team of talented and thoughtful leaders.  HR&A provides the ideal platform to serve our universities, our great cities and our diverse communities as they imagine and build new centers of innovation to promote dynamic and robust economies.”
– Bob Geolas

 

In addition to his role as Executive Director at CU-ICAR, Bob previously served as the Centennial Campus Coordinator for North Carolina State University. Bob also has significant public-sector experience and has worked for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, The Resource Center for State Laws and Regulations, and the North Carolina General Assembly.

 

Bob will join Director Kyle Vangel in HR&A’s Raleigh office and can be reached at Bgeolas@hraadvisors.com.

 

The Landscape Architecture Foundation Appoints Stan Wall to its Board of Directors

Stan Wall joins a distinguished group of landscape architects, designers, planners, and engineers to guide the direction of America’s leading landscape architecture organization.

 

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Stan Wall to the Board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation, an organization that provides best-in-field research and scholarship in the field of landscape architecture, and awards fellowships to promising students and professionals. As someone who is dedicated to contributing to urban spaces and environments, we can’t think of a better individual to help guide such a dedicated organization in support of the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

 

Stan has worked to preserve and enhance urban green spaces throughout his career as a development consultant, private developer, and public-sector official. He continues to ensure the development of inclusive and sustainable places through his work in HR&A’s parks and open space practice, where he is creating funding and financing strategies for parks and open spaces in Atlanta and Washington, DC.

 

We’re very proud of Stan’s accomplishment and look forward to the future successes of the Landscape Architecture Foundation.

 

To learn more about Stan and his work, read his bio here.

The Hub@GCT Opens at Grand Central Tech

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Image Courtesy NYCEDC

Today marks the official opening The HUB@GCT, a partnership between Grand Central Tech and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). HR&A is proud to have supported the HUB@GCT’s successful proposal to secure a funding commitment from the NYCEDC, which will help provide 50,000 square feet of working space, as well as and programming and support services, for companies that produce technology-based solutions to address today’s urban challenges.

 

Grand Central Tech is a highly selective tech-accelerator that is committed to growing a diverse and accessible tech economy in New York City. The accelerator provides free space to tech-startups without requiring an equity investment, and leverages its premiere East Midtown location to provide companies with top advisors, educational and corporate partners, and a network of investors. HR&A advised on the expansion of this proven business model – building upon our work on OneNYC, the Strategic Plan for the Brooklyn Tech Triangle, and NYC BigApps – to realize the City’s policy objectives of growing the NYC tech sector in Midtown Manhattan; providing diverse and inclusive pathways to economic opportunity; and creating smarter cities.

 

We’re excited to see the ongoing developments at the Hub@GCT, and congratulate the program on its excellent efforts to grow New York’s tech ecosystem.

 

HR&A works with government agencies, civic organizations, real estate developers, and private firms to capitalize on the economic opportunities presented by America’s growing innovation and technology economies. To hear more about our work, please contact us.

Creating a vision for a Freeway Cap Park in Glendale

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Cities across the greater Los Angeles region, have recently taken steps to reweave the urban fabric where sunken freeways slice through urban neighborhoods. HR&A in partnership with Melendrez, Nelson Nygaard and Cummings, is supporting the City of Glendale’s feasibility study to build a “cap” park over the Ventura Freeway, which cuts through Downtown Glendale.

Space 134, the proposed park, envisions as much as 30 acres of new open space in the heart of downtown Glendale. Building on our experience working on similar projects, including Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway and Phoenix’s Hance Park, HR&A is providing strategic guidance on capital, operational and governance as the team develops a conceptual design.

HR&A studied the capital and operational cost implications of a series of conceptual designs, as well as relevant funding options. To finance construction, HR&A explored the capacity of an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (“EIFD”), a new tax increment financing tool in California. HR&A also evaluated potential earned income and ongoing management strategies  based on national best practices.

To communicate the Space 134 Vision and build consensus among residents and businesses in Glendale, HR&A identified a series of economic and social benefits associated with the park’s development. These have supported the project team’s outreach through a series of pop-up workshops around the City.  The project has been well-received by Glendale residents, members of the business community and has gained support from local and State lawmakers. Looking toward next steps for the Space 134 project, HR&A is assisting the team to prepare a concise concept plan– including a phased implementation framework and potential project benefits — to support fundraising and to continue to build support amongst a wider constituency.

Advantages of Locating Office Product in Mixed-Use Neighborhoods

Our latest study focuses on the ascension of urban mixed-use development as the preferred environment for the modern office. This report, produced on behalf of the NoMa Business Improvement District in Washington D.C, examines trends in mixed-use office development, and explores its future implications. To understand these trends, we prepared a case study analysis of seven mixed-use districts to measure successes against comparable Commercial Business Districts.

 

Office rents in new, urban mixed-use districts are highly competitive with nearby established central business districts.

Our data analysis found that mixed-use development has become the standard for office development in many urban centers because employees want access to convenient services near their work. Furthermore, employers desire these mixed-use areas in order to attract a talented workforce. Interviews with 19 developers, financiers, brokers, and tenants helped explore the causes and implications of the trends in the data, and examined the benefit the office sector receives from locating in mixed-use districts.

 

Developing new mixed-use areas is challenging because of the risks associated with bringing new uses to an untested market.

Cities and improvement districts that foster mixed-use areas will have a competitive advantage that will be difficult to erode. Interviews emphasized the importance of the public realm and the bottom floor of buildings in successful mixed-use districts, elements municipalities can control or influence. The streetscape and the ground floor of buildings have an impact on the resulting urban spaces that should be attractive, inviting, and have the distinct sense-of-place employees and residents desire.

 

Read the full white paper below, and find out more about Washington DC’s NoMa neighborhood here.

 

10 Parks that are Changing Cities

 

We’ve worked for 30 years to create some of the most celebrated parks in the U.S. and abroad. These open spaces are critical pieces of urban infrastructure – providing places to play, while also generating economic value, improving public health, and ensuring social cohesion. In our open space practice, we transform underutilized spaces into great urban places, and ensure sustainable stewardship for the generations to come.

 

Tomorrow night at 8:00 PM, we invite you to watch a special television program, called 10 Parks that Changed America, on your local PBS channel. The program, hosted by Geoffrey Baer of Chicago’s WTTW, highlights ten of America’s greatest parks and explores their role in transforming and defining communities throughout the nation. We hope that this program contributes to a growing discussion about the role of urban parks and an appreciation for landscape architecture.

 

In this spirit, we’ve created our own list of ten parks that are changing cities today:

  1. The High Line | New York, NY
    Reimagined what a park can be and how it can define a city
  2. Klyde Warren Park | Dallas, TX
    Reclaimed space over a freeway for leisure and culture in Downtown Dallas
  3. Lakefront Parks | Toronto, ON
    Transformed the lakefront from its industrial past to mixed-use neighborhoods
  4. Brooklyn Bridge Park | Brooklyn, NY
    Laid a cornerstone for Brooklyn’s renaissance, becoming New York City’s first great 21st century park.
  5. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park | London
    Used the Olympic Games and this park to tilt development Eastward
  6. Romare Bearden Park | Charlotte, NC
    Affirms Charlotte’s eminence as a choice destination to live, work, and play
  7. Fountain Square | Cincinnati, OH
    Engaged civic leadership to catalyze downtown reinvestment around the Square
  8. Anacostia Waterfront Parks | Washington, DC
    Anchored a new neighborhood and reintroduced residents to the river
  9. Shelby Farms Park | Memphis, TN
    Reimagined Memphis as a city of equity and opportunity
  10. The Lawn on D | Boston, MA
    Demonstrated the value of engaging interim programming in placemaking

As we look to the future, we are thrilled to help shape and sustain the next great urban open spaces. We hope you enjoy tomorrow’s show and continue the conversation with us.