Belema Derefaka

Reviving History, Building Futures: Forest Forward’s Restoration of the Historic Forest Theater

Image: Forest Forward


Forest Forward, a local nonprofit, recently commenced the renovation of the historic Forest Theater and mixed-use arts facility in South Dallas with a groundbreaking event attended by community members and leaders. Despite its historical importance dating back to 1949 and hosting renowned artists like Sidney Poitier and Tina Turner, the theater has faced chronic challenges and remained vacant since 2009.


As part of its Cultural Capital practice, HR&A Advisors helped translate Forest Forward’s vision for the theater into an economic, fiscal, and cultural impact study that was critical to garnering philanthropic and public capital resources and funding.


The renovation aims not only to restore the theater’s former glory but also to catalyze a broader revitalization effort in the South Dallas community. Plans include transforming the theater into a multifaceted arts center, establishing educational pathways with Dallas ISD, and developing mixed-income housing nearby.


Phase I of the project, funded at $75.215 million, encompasses the restoration of the Forest Theater and the addition of new facilities, including an arts education hub, performance hall, studio theater, and more. Completion is expected by December 2025. The initiative has garnered bipartisan support, with U.S. Representative Jasmine Crockett and others commending its potential impact on economic development and education.


With construction slated for completion by December 2025, the Forest Theater project signifies a pivotal step towards economic development, arts education, and affordable housing in Sunny South Dallas, embodying Forest Forward’s vision for community transformation.



Related Articles


Historic Forest Theater in South Dallas To Begin Renovations, Dallas Observer

Forest Forward Breaks Ground on Historic Forest Theater in Sunny South Dallas, Arlington BubbleLife

ULI Spring Meeting 2024 Happy Hour Recap

This year the Urban Land Institute’s Spring Meeting featured industry leaders discussing topics ranging from cultural eco-systems in New York to Equity by Design. HR&A Advisors was also honored to sponsor the Resilience Summit, ULI’s flagship climate adaptation event, where industry leaders convened to address climate challenges and opportunities. 


HR&A Advisors would like to extend a personal thank you for joining us last week for our Happy Hour with BerlinRosen to kick off the ULI Spring Meeting and Resilience Summit. It was fantastic to connect with colleagues and industry leaders.


Please enjoy these photos from the Happy Hour event, and we look forward to connecting again soon!  




Senior Advisor Derek Fleming joined Jason Rudman on More Elephant Podcast

Senior Advisor Derek Fleming joined Jason Rudman of More elephant Podcast to discuss being an urbanist, real estate development, and spearheading revitalization projects in diverse and economically challenged communities across the U.S.  


The conversation delves into Derek’s roots in Los Angeles and Oakland, showcasing how these experiences drive his mission to uplift marginalized communities through real estate. Derek shared reflections on the emergence of his practice Cultural Capital, how the work is shaping a more inclusive American experience, and how his revitalization efforts stand as a testament to the power of cultural representation. 


Moreover, Derek shares the importance of passion and authenticity in effecting change. Tap in to explore Derek’s role in shaping spaces of ‘belonging’ through real estate, including his contributions to Red Rooster, an iconic cultural landmark renowned for its aesthetic excellence and immersive experiences. 


Listen to the full podcast here 

HR&A Advisors congratulates CEO Jeff Hébert on his appointment to the Climate Mayors Board

HR&A CEO Jeff Hébert has been appointed to Climate Mayors’ Board of Directors alongside Kizzy Charles-Guzman and Rachel Isacoff (an HR&A alumna). As Climate Mayors shared in a recent announcement, Jeff, Kizzy, and Rachel “will join Board Chair Matt Petersen and Board Members Katherine Gajewski, Kelly Shultz, and Laura Spanjian.”


HR&A Advisors congratulates Jeff and his fellow new Board Members on their appointments, and we look forward to their contributions to Climate Mayors’ mission to build political will for local, federal, and global climate action and collaboration amongst member mayors.


More about Climate Mayors

“Founded in 2014, Climate Mayors is a bipartisan, peer-to-peer network that has mobilized more than 750 U.S. mayors who demonstrate climate leadership through meaningful actions in their communities. Representing 48 states and nearly 60 million Americans, the Climate Mayors coalition reflects U.S. cities’ commitment to climate progress.


In addition to local climate leadership, Climate Mayors build political will for federal and global climate action. Hundreds of members have signed the Climate Mayors letters committing to the Paris Agreement and calling on Congress to invest in a green and equitable economic recovery.”


Learn more…


HR&A at 2024 Spring Meeting



HR&A is thrilled to connect with fellow urban enthusiasts, thought leaders, and change makers at the 2024 Urban Land Institute Spring in New York City.


Speaking events:


April 11, 1pm – 2pm EST | Partner Kate Collignon will be speaking as a panelist for a discussion on an “Equity by Design” framework that uncovers a community’s needs and aspirations—including underserved voices—and tying design solutions to what is heard.




April 11, 4 – 5pm EST | Partner Kate Wittels will be moderating a Panel with industry professionals, civic leaders, and other major stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities when creating a cultural eco-system that is more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable for all New Yorkers.




Connect with all of our HR&A attendees at the Fall meeting:

Mason Ailstock— Partner, Atlanta, University Development and Innovation Council

Amitabh Barthakur, AICP— Partner, Los Angeles, ULI Public/Private Partnership Council

Shuprotim Bhaumik  — Partner

Kate Collignon— Partner, San Francisco, ULI Public Development and Infrastructure Council

Cary Hirschstein  — Partner, New York

Eric Rothman— CEO, New York, ULI Public/Private Partnership Council

Kate Wittels  — Partner, New York

Stan Wall— Partner, Washington DC, ULI Transit Oriented Development Council

Joseph Cahoon— Senior Advisor, Small-Scale Development Council

Marilynn Davis— Senior Advisor, Atlanta, University Development and Innovation Council

Carl Weisbrod — Senior Advisor, New York, ULI Public/Private Partnership Council

Martha Welborne— Senior Advisor, Los Angeles, ULI Placemaking Council

Ada Peng – Director, Los Angeles, Affordable Housing Council

Ignacio Montojo— Principal, New York

Rachel Webster— Senior Analyst, New York

Thomas Jansen— Principal, New York, ULI Urban Revitalization Council

Alex Meeks —  Principal, Pathways to Inclusion honoree

Ejiro Ojeni — Senior Analyst, Pathways to Inclusion honoree

Francis Goyes Flor  — Senior Analyst, Pathways to Inclusion honoree


Revitalizing Downtown: Unlocking the Potential of Office-to-Residential Conversions in Atlanta



“If work-from-home is here to stay, we need to bring those homes into downtown and fill those buildings with residents,” — Alena Green, director of economic development for downtown civic organization Central Atlanta Progress (CAP). 


HR&A Advisors and architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent analyzed downtown Atlanta’s infrastructure and regulatory environment to find barriers that could stall adaptive reuse. Our study, commissioned by CAP, sheds light on the feasibility of such conversions and identifies potential barriers to adaptive reuse. While the financial viability of office-to-residential conversions may pose challenges, strategic incentives could tip the scales in favor of revitalization efforts. The study underscores the importance of public-private partnerships and innovative incentive models to unlock the full potential of downtown’s dormant office spaces. 


Projects like the acquisition of the high-rise 2 Peachtree St, by the city last year, showcase the successful realization of these projects may require financial support from the public sector. During a Central Atlanta Progress community meeting, Senior Advisor Marilynn Davis unveiled preliminary findings from a study examining over 100 buildings in Downtown. The analysis revealed that office buildings must reach at least 70% vacancy before converting them to residential use becomes economically viable. Approximately 11 commercial properties meet or could meet this threshold within the next five years, constituting about 23% of all vacant office space in Downtown. 



“There’s a range of things that have to come together in a certain way, and there is potential Downtown for that to happen, but it’s not just one size fits all,” Davis said in Axios Atlanta. 


While potential exists for successful conversions in Downtown Atlanta, it requires a convergence of various factors. We look forward to exploring ways to make the conversion process as streamlined and economically viable as possible, with a focus on ensuring that Downtown Atlanta thrives in the years to come.  


As the conversation around the future of downtowns continues to make national headlines, HR&A is happy to build from our past work led by Partners like Jonathan Meyers, Kate Collignon, and Kate Wittels supporting the creation of office to residential conversion policies in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Tulsa. 


 Related articles:  

Downtown Atlanta offices can be used for housing, study says, Axios Atlanta 

Turning offices into homes could help Atlanta, but no ‘silver bullet’, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Atlanta leaders identify 11 Downtown buildings for potential office-to-residential conversions, Atlanta Business Chronicle 

Empoderando a los Municipios de Puerto Rico: Presentando el Navegador de Fondos Federales


Click here to read the post in English

La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico lanzó recientemente su Navegador de Financiamiento Federal , una plataforma en línea destinada a agilizar el acceso de los municipios a las oportunidades de financiamiento provistas por la Ley de Inversión en Infraestructura y Empleos (IIJA, por sus siglas en inglés) y la Ley de Reducción de la Inflación (IRA, por sus siglas en inglés). Esta herramienta simplifica el proceso de acceso a más de $107 mil millones para los que Puerto Rico es elegible, para proyectos de cambio climático e infraestructura Rico. 


Continuando con nuestra larga colaboración con La Liga, que se remonta a 2019, HR&A tuvo el placer de colaborar en este Navigator. Brinda acceso a más de 140 fuentes de financiamiento federal para iniciativas como infraestructura de transporte, energía renovable y justicia climática. 


Cristina Miranda-Palacios, directora fundadora de la Liga de Ciudades de Puerto, destacó los retos que enfrentan los equipos municipales más pequeños con recursos limitados para navegar por las agencias federales. Las características únicas del navegador incluyen un cuestionario de preparación para evaluar la viabilidad de la aplicación (equivalente a recibir comentarios incluso antes de enviar las solicitudes) y la capacidad de guardar las solicitudes en curso. El acceso al navegador es gratuito para los 78 municipios de Puerto Rico y las organizaciones sin fines de lucro que trabajan con ellos. 



La Liga está comprometida con promover la evolución de los gobiernos locales y la transformación de Puerto Rico, empezando por sus municipios. En los próximos años, habrá una oportunidad sin precedentes para construir energía local en Puerto Rico, y con esta herramienta, los municipios y comunidades pueden solicitar directamente 107 mil millones en fondos federales para apoyar proyectos que satisfagan las necesidades de la comunidad.  


Además de la herramienta de Financiamiento Federal, HR&A Advisors ha tenido el honor de apoyar a La Liga en el desarrollo y lanzamiento del Laboratorio Municipal de Innovación. En colaboración con PolicyLink, con el apoyo de Magic Cabinet y  la Fundación Ford, La Liga dio a conocer un recurso dinámico que ofrece un plan de estudios integral de consultoría estratégica, planificación centrada en la comunidad, asistencia técnica y talleres especializados.  


Artículos relacionados: 

Organización sin fines de lucro está a la disposición de ayudar municipios, elVocero 

Empoderando la Excelencia Municipal: La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico (La Liga) lanza el Laboratorio Municipal de Innovación para la Gobernanza Local Transformadora , HR&A Advisors  


Lanzan plataforma para facilitar el acceso a $107 mil millones en fondos federales, News is my Business 


Liga de Ciudades presenta nuevo Navegador de Fondos Federales libre de costo, Metro Puerto Rico 


Crean plataforma que facilita el acceso de municipios y organizaciones a fondos federales para financiar proyectos, El nuevo día 



Empowering Puerto Rico’s Municipalities: Introducing the Federal Funds Navigator


Puerto Rico recently launched its Federal Funding Navigator an online platform aimed at streamlining municipalities’ access to funding opportunities provided by the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This tool simplifies the process of accessing over $107 billion for which Puerto Rico is eligible, for climate change and infrastructure projects Rico. 


Continuing our longstanding collaboration with La Liga, which dates back to 2019, HR&A was pleased to collaborate on this Navigator. It provides access to over 140 federal funding sources for initiatives such as transportation infrastructure, renewable energy, and climate justice. 


Cristina Miranda-Palacios, the founding director of Liga de Ciudades de Puerto, highlighted the challenges faced by smaller municipal teams with limited resources in navigating federal agencies. Unique features of the navigator include a readiness questionnaire to evaluate application viability (equivalent to receiving feedback even before submitting applications) and the ability to save in-progress applications. Access to the navigator is free for Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities and the nonprofits working with them. 



La Liga is committed to promoting the evolution of local governments and the transformation of Puerto Rico, starting from its municipalities. In the next few years, there will be an unprecedented opportunity to build local power in Puerto Rico, and with this tool, municipalities and communities can apply directly for107 billion in federal funding to support projects that deliver on community needs.  


In addition to the Federal Funding tool, HR&A Advisors has been honored to support La Liga in developing and launching The Municipal Innovation Laboratory. In collaboration with PolicyLink, supported by the Magic Cabinet and Ford Foundation, La Liga unveiled a dynamic resource that offers a comprehensive curriculum of strategic consulting, community-focused planning, technical assistance, and specialized workshops.  


Related Articles: 

Organización sin fines de lucro está a la disposición de ayudar municipios, elVocero 

Empowering Municipal Excellence: League of Cities of Puerto Rico (La Liga) Launches the Municipal Innovation Laboratory for Transformative Local Governance , HR&A Advisors  


Platform launched to ease access to $107B in federal funds, News is my Business 


Liga de Ciudades presenta nuevo Navegador de Fondos Federales libre de costo, Metro Puerto Rico 


Crean plataforma que facilita el acceso de municipios y organizaciones a fondos federales para financiar proyectos, El nuevo dia 

HR&A Advisors Selected As First Consultant Team To Begin Work On A New Pennsylvania Avenue Plan



This press release was originally issued by NCPC


The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), on behalf of the Pennsylvania Avenue Partnership, announces the selection of HR&A Advisors as the first of two consultant teams to develop the New Pennsylvania Avenue Plan. The Partnership comprises the U.S. General Services Administration, National Park Service, District Government, Events DC, DowntownDC Business Improvement District, and NCPC.


The New Pennsylvania Avenue Plan will guide the redevelopment of this iconic public street, located between the White House and U.S. Capitol, as a dynamic public space and venue for major events and establish a new management entity for the long-term.


An industry leader in economic development and public policy, HR&A will lead an interdisciplinary team of experts to develop the implementation program of the New Plan. This will include developing a use and infrastructure program, conducting an economic analysis, assisting with the development of a new management entity, and preparing the New Pennsylvania Avenue Plan.


“Today marks an important step towards implementing our partners’ shared vision to reimagine Pennsylvania Avenue as a venue, a dynamic public space destination, and an economic catalyst that brings millions of tourists from the National Mall closer to downtown to support local businesses, restaurants, and entertainment. We are excited to bring HR&A’s expertise to advance this work,” said NCPC Executive Director Marcel Acosta.


A revitalized Pennsylvania Avenue will contribute to the District’s comeback, economic health, and cultural vibrancy through enhanced programming and as a scaled up events venue. Mayor Bowser highlighted the Avenue in her citywide economic development strategy and the Downtown Action Plan.


The second consultant team will be selected later this year to develop design alternatives for the Avenue using public comments from NCPC’s 2022 outreach and HR&A’s findings. The consultant teams will work together, using these alternatives to initiate a rigorous public process through the National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 processes.


Pennsylvania Avenue is currently guided by an outdated 1974 Plan. Over time, changing economic, physical, and land use conditions have significantly impacted the Avenue’s function and character, reducing its utility as a street. While the pandemic exacerbated these issues, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate the Avenue as a place for people first.


Information about the Pennsylvania Avenue Initiative is available on the project website.


Updated Panther Island Strategic Vision Outlines a Generational Opportunity for Fort Worth


This press release was originally issued by Tarrant Regional Water District.


In 2023, the Panther Island Steering Committee* — which includes public partners and civic stakeholders invested in the success of Panther Island— initiated an update of the adopted vision for Panther Island. National real estate and economic development expert HR&A Advisors, which has worked on waterfront redevelopment projects throughout the country, was selected to provide key analysis and consulting services to help guide the future of Panther Island. Architecture firm Lake Flato was a key member of their consulting team, guiding recommendations on the urban design framework. 


On March 5, HR&A Advisors and Lake Flato presented key findings of the Panther Island Strategic Vision Update as well as the Panther Island Real Estate, Economic Development and Implementation Strategies. The update indicates that the Panther Island redevelopment project is a once-in-a-generation placemaking opportunity for Fort Worth and the region. The final reports provide a roadmap for future decision-making, lay the groundwork for a market responsive and well-planned waterfront district, and foster sustainable development in the city’s core. 


The original, nearly 20-year-old plan for Panther Island was approved by the Fort Worth City Council in 2004. Since then, Fort Worth has seen record growth, becoming the 13th largest and fastest growing large city in the U.S. 


“Panther Island is a generational development to create economic and recreational opportunities for Fort Worth communities and support continued growth as the city welcomes new businesses, residents and visitors,” said Aaron Abelson, Managing Partner for Texas, HR&A Advisors. “Panther Island’s size, proximity to downtown, and the abundance of public land create a rare opportunity for government and private investment to work in tandem. HR&A is proud to play a role in this historic public-private partnership.” 


Among other recommendations, HR&A’s updated strategic vision: 

    • Highlights a phased implementation strategy for near- and long-term development.
    • Emphasizes adding to a connected open-space network featuring continuous waterfront access.
    • Encourages a seamless connection to surrounding neighborhoods.
    • Recommends a governance structure for development on Panther Island.


    The Panther Island Strategic Vision Update as well as the Panther Island Real Estate, Economic Development and Implementation Strategies offer recommendations to guide the design and implementation of public and private investments on Panther Island and suggest additional work to keep advancing momentum and collaboration. 


    “We are excited to receive the recommendations of HR&A that are informed by vital input from the community,” TRWD Board President Leah King said. “We look forward to further evaluating the HR&A recommendations and designing the right path forward that ensures Panther Island reaches its full potential for the benefit of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and all of North Texas.” 


    Over the past year, HR&A engaged and sought input from numerous local stakeholders, including landowners, community members from surrounding neighborhoods, real estate and civic organizations, and others. The guiding principles for the updated vision are grounded in the valuable feedback provided by the community: 

      • One-of-a-kind waterfront district nestled in the Trinity River.
      • Haven of diverse parks, green spaces, and experiences around every corner
      • Mixed-use neighborhood designed to build community
      • Destination connecting and complementing vibrant surrounding neighborhoods
      • Celebration of Fort Worth’s diverse communities and heritage
      • Economic driver sustaining the rapid growth of Fort Worth 


      “When we talk about the future of development in Fort Worth, citywide and on Panther Island, it is vital to have stakeholder and community voices at the table guiding that direction,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said. “I appreciate the leadership from our partner agencies and the feedback from residents and business owners throughout this process to work collaboratively to build out plans that reflect the future of Fort Worth.” 


      The new vision aligns with the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan. It is grounded in high-quality development, an engaging public waterfront, a destination connecting and complementing vibrant surrounding neighborhoods, and place-making of the highest order. View the Panther Island Strategic Vision Update on A public meeting will be held in the coming weeks to provide further insight into the updated strategic vision. 


    • Additional Coverage:  New & improved vision for Panther Island waterfront district on Trinity River unveiled, CBS News Texas  

      Fort Worth leaders reveal new roadmap for developing Panther Island. Where does it lead? Fort Worth Report 


      ‘One of a kind waterfront.’ Here’s the new vision for Fort Worth’s Panther Island, Fort Worth Star- Telegram 


      HR&A Advisors and Lake | Flato present Panther Island Vision 2.0, FTWtoday 


      Fort Worth’s Panther Island Vision Revitalized: A Blueprint for Waterfront Development, BNN Breaking