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Announcing HR&A Advisors’ New CEO, Jeff Hébert

We are excited to announce Jeff Hébert’s appointment as HR&A’s new CEO.

 

Meet our CEO

Jeff has spent the past twenty years leading and developing strategies that adapt and respond to changing economies and environments. As a senior city and state leader, nonprofit executive, and Partner at HR&A, he has diverse experience spanning the civic, philanthropic, and private sectors on issues of public policy, economic development, and climate resilience.

 

Jeff was named HR&A’s President in 2020, and he has been critical to HR&A’s historic growth since joining the company in 2019. He has supported the development of the firm’s largest business lines, including Broadband and Digital Equity, Inclusive Cities and Equitable Governance, and Housing Affordability. He has also led the company’s ADEI initiatives, which resulted in HR&A being named a 2023 New York Urban League Champion for Recruitment, Retention, and Belonging.

 

 

While Jeff’s management and strategic oversight have been invaluable to the company’s success, HR&A is a firm of action, and Jeff is no different. In addition to his responsibilities as HR&A’s President, he has also been a leader in the firm’s economic development and climate resilience practices with recent projects in New York City, Newark, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, Tulsa, and Washington, DC.

 

In this next chapter for the company, Jeff plans to continue evolving HR&A to meet the needs of cities and the people who live in them: “At a time when cities are navigating unprecedented circumstances, especially in downtowns, I’m excited to lead the company as we help to advance our clients’ aspirations. HR&A is uniquely equipped to meet the challenges facing cities now and into the future. That means rethinking the systems that make our cities function and understanding how they work together. It means looking back at how cities have changed over time and anticipating the forces that will shape them moving forward, like climate change, AI, and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. We remain at the center of conversations about the cities of tomorrow.”

 

 

Eric Rothman, who has served as President and later CEO of the firm since 2007, was elected to serve as Co-Chair of the HR&A Board of Directors alongside Candace Damon. During Eric’s tenure as CEO and President, he oversaw the growth of the company from 20 people to over 180 today. Eric decided to transition out of executive management in order to focus more of his time as an HR&A Partner with a continued focus on public-private real estate projects, transit-oriented development, sustainable mobility, and economic development.

 

 

“For several years, HR&A Advisors has been in a time of exciting and meaningful transition. I am grateful and proud that over the last year, I have worked very closely with Candace Damon and Jeff Hébert, with our Board, and with Partners to plan and implement a transition that will result in Jeff becoming the fourth CEO in HR&A history, following Ed Hamilton, John Alschuler, and myself,” said Rothman. “Serving as HR&A’s President and CEO has been the greatest privilege of my professional life. I am so proud of what our firm has become, the impact we have, and the community we are.

 

 

 

As Eric shifts his primary focus back to his practice, the thoughtful transition he, Candace, Jeff, and company leadership have planned is underway, and Jeff is helping the firm chart its course for the next chapter of its growth.

 

“Jeff Hébert’s appointment is the next step in an intentional effort to evolve from HR&A’s origins as a boutique real estate advisory firm into the company we are becoming: a consultancy that serves a broad spectrum of community needs and aspirations with the capacity to take on big challenges.” said Candace Damon, Board Co-Chair. “From his time as First Deputy Mayor of New Orleans to his proven track record addressing the great existential threat of our time — climate change — Jeff embodies the kind of diverse talent we want at every level of our company. He understands the connectedness of the issues facing our cities, and he knows how to build integrated solutions.”

 

Prior to joining HR&A, Jeff served Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City of New Orleans in multiple capacities, including as the First Deputy Mayor & Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Resilience Officer, and as Executive Director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority in the years following Hurricane Katrina. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the Tulane University School of Architecture, is Chairman of FUSE Corps, and serves on the Policy Advisory Board of The Reinvestment Fund, the Advisory Board of the ULI Randall Lewis Center for Sustainability in Real Estate, and the Boards of Climate Mayors, the Urban Design Forum, New Hope Housing, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. He was selected for the Future Leaders program (PIPA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France in 2018, where he studied the country’s climate change policy in Paris.

 

Learn more about HR&A’s New CEO here.

Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan Named Finalist in Urban Land Institute Houston Development of Distinction Awards

 

We are honored to announce that the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan was chosen as a finalist in the “Moonshot” category of Urban Land Institute (ULI) Houston’s Development of Distinction People’s Choice Award 2024. The Development of Distinction Awards recognize “developments and public open spaces that exemplify best practices in design, construction, economic viability, healthy places, marketing and management.” The “Moonshot” Award celebrates developments and open spaces that ” are ambitious and groundbreaking; often associated with radical innovation and transformational change.”

 

Cast your vote here for the Buffalo Bayou East Master Plan!

 

HR&A congratulates our clients, Buffalo Bayou Partnership and collaborators including the project’s world-class master planning team led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Over the course of three years, HR&A helped Buffalo Bayou Partnership shape an investment strategy for Buffalo Bayou East — more than 700 acres of public and private waterfront bayou land in East Houston — extending the city’s network of bayou-fronting open spaces and trails eastward. The plan embraces the natural beauty, cultural heritage, and industrial legacy within two historic Black and Latinx communities.

 

Last year, the Kinder Foundation committed a historic gift of $100 million to help fund the plan, which helped the Buffalo Bayou Partnership secure over $100M in additional commitments from the City of Houston and Harris County. These significant investments have proven critical for transforming this “moonshot” vision into a reality.

HR&A Advisors Hosts the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership

Recently, HR&A Advisors had the pleasure of hosting the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at our New York office. It was an honor to organize this insightful event and welcome Deborah Cheng, Director of Fellowship Programs and Office of Student Success, along with this cohort of enthusiastic CCNY students. 

 

Research Analyst Andrew Bolton and Analyst Ejiro Ojeni shared invaluable insights about their experiences at HR&A, ongoing projects, and engaged in enlightening discussions with our visitors. Guests had the chance to dive into HR&A’s work, exploring potential opportunities, including our Summer Fellowship Program.

 

Learn more about our Summer Analyst Fellowship Program, and apply before the January 29th deadline! 

 

ULI New York Infrastructure Council Hosts Offshore Wind Panel at HR&A Offices

HR&A Advisors recently hosted an engaging panel discussion for the ULI New York’s Infrastructure Council exploring the history, challenges, and potential of offshore wind in the New York metro area in our New York Office.

Huge thanks to Jeff Lee Romero, Karen Imas, and Max Taffet for sharing their invaluable insights and extensive expertise on this crucial topic and special appreciation to Chi Chi Truong, Principal Ignacio Montojo, and Director Erman Eruz for their remarkable efforts in organizing this insightful event on behalf of the ULI NY Infrastructure Council.

 

More about the ULI New York Infrastructure Council

The mission of the ULI New York Infrastructure Council is to examine the major urban systems needed by the City of New York and the surrounding region, in order to function and prosper: transportation, telecommunications, energy, water supply, waste treatment and storm drainage. The Infrastructure Council assesses the relationships of these systems to each other, identifies future needs, trends and plans, and identifies successful infrastructure financing mechanisms worldwide. The Infrastructure Council promotes sustainable policies and practices which impact real estate development in the New York region and improves the understanding of their relationship to real estate values. Learn more…

 

How HR&A uses Amazon Redshift spatial analytics on Amazon Redshift Serverless to measure digital equity in states across the US

This article by Harman Singh Dhodi, Kiran Tati, Sapna Maheshwari, and Washim Nawaz was originally published on Amazon Web Services’ Big Data Blog

 

In our increasingly digital world, affordable access to high-speed broadband is a necessity to fully participate in our society, yet there are still millions of American households without internet access. HR&A Advisors—a multi-disciplinary consultancy with extensive work in the broadband and digital equity space is helping its state, county, and municipal clients deliver affordable internet access by analyzing locally specific digital inclusion needs and building tailored digital equity plans.

 

The first step in this process is mapping the digital divide. Which households don’t have access to the internet at home? Where do they live? What are their specific needs?

 

Public data sources aren’t sufficient for building a true understanding of digital inclusion needs. To fill in the gaps in existing data, HR&A creates digital equity surveys to build a more complete picture before developing digital equity plans. HR&A has used Amazon Redshift Serverless and CARTO to process survey findings more efficiently and create custom interactive dashboards to facilitate understanding of the results. HR&A’s collaboration with Amazon Redshift and CARTO has resulted in a 75% reduction in overall deployment and dashboard management time and helped the team achieve the following technical goals:

    • Load survey results (CSV files) and geometry data (shape files) in a data warehouse
    • Perform geo-spatial transformations using extract, transform, and load (ELT) jobs to join geometry data with survey results within the data warehouse to allow for visualization of survey results on a map
    • Integrate with a business intelligence (BI) tool for advanced geo-spatial functions, visualizations, and mapping dashboards
    • Scale data warehouse capacity up or down to address workloads of varying complexity in a cost-efficient manner

In this post, we unpack how HR&A uses Amazon Redshift spatial analytics and CARTO for cost-effective geo-spatial measurement of digital inclusion and internet access across multiple US states.

 

Before we get to the architecture details, here is what HR&A and its client, Colorado’s Office of the Future of Work, has to say about the solution.

“Working with the team at HR&A Advisors, Colorado’s Digital Equity Team created a custom dashboard that allowed us to very effectively evaluate our reach while surveying historically marginalized populations across Colorado. This dynamic tool, powered by AWS and CARTO, provided robust visualizations of which regions and populations were interacting with our survey, enabling us to zoom in quickly and address gaps in coverage. Ensuring we were able to seek out data from those who are most impacted by the digital divide in Colorado has been vital to addressing digital inequities in our state.”

— Melanie Colletti, Digital Equity Manager at Colorado’s Office of the Future of Work

 

“AWS allows us to securely house all of our survey data in one place, quickly scrub and analyze it on Amazon Redshift, and mirror the results through integration with data visualization tools such as CARTO without the data ever leaving AWS. This frees up our local computer space, greatly automates the survey cleaning and analysis step, and allows our clients to easily access the data results. Following the proof of concept and development of first prototype, almost all of our state clients showed interest in using the same solution for their states.”

— Harman Singh Dhodi, Analyst at HR&A Advisors, Inc.

 

Storing and analyzing large survey datasets

HR&A used Redshift Serverless to store large amounts of digital inclusion data in one place and quickly transform and analyze it using CARTO’s analytical toolkit to extend the spatial capabilities of Amazon Redshift and integrate with CARTO’s data visualization tools—all without the data ever leaving the AWS environment. This cut down significantly on analytical turnaround times.

 

The CARTO Analytics Toolbox for Redshift is composed of a set of user-defined functions and procedures organized in a set of modules based on the functionality they offer.

 

The following figure shows the solution and workflow steps developed during the proof of concept with a virtual private cloud (VPC) on Amazon Redshift.

Figure 1: Workflow illustrating data ingesting, transformation, and visualization using Redshift and CARTO.

 

In the following sections, we discuss each phase in the workflow in more detail.

 

Data ingestion

HR&A receives survey data as wide CSV files with hundreds of columns in each file and related spatial data in hexadecimal Extended Well-Known Binary (EWKB) in the form of shape files. These files are stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

 

The Redshift COPY command is used to ingest the spatial data from shape files into the native GEOMETRY data type supported in Amazon Redshift. A combination of Amazon Redshift Spectrum and COPY commands are used to ingest the survey data stored as CSV files. For the files with unknown structures, AWS Glue crawlers are used to extract metadata and create table definitions in the Data Catalog. These table definitions are used as the metadata repository for external tables in Amazon Redshift.

 

For files with known structures, a Redshift stored procedure is used, which takes the file location and table name as parameters and runs a COPY command to load the raw data into corresponding Redshift tables.

 

Data transformation

Multiple stored procedures are used to split the raw table data and load it into corresponding target tables while applying the user-defined transformations.

 

These transformation rules include transformation of GEOMETRY data using native Redshift geo-spatial functions, like ST_Area and ST_length, and CARTO’s advanced spatial functions, which are readily available in Amazon Redshift as part of the CARTO Analytics Toolbox for Redshift installation. Furthermore, all the data ingestion and transformation steps are automated using an AWS Lambda function to run the Redshift query when any dataset in Amazon S3 gets updated.

 

Data visualization

The HR&A team used CARTO’s Redshift connector to connect to the Redshift Serverless endpoint and built dashboards using CARTO’s SQL interface and widgets to assist mapping while performing dynamic calculations of the map data as per client needs.

 

The following are sample screenshots of the dashboards that show survey responses by zip code. The counties that are in lighter shades represent limited survey responses and need to be included in the targeted data collection strategy.

 

The first image shows the dashboard without any active filters. The second image shows filtered map and chats by respondents who took the survey in Spanish. The user can select and toggle between features by clicking on the respective category in any of the bar charts.

 

Figure 2: Illustrative Digital Equity Survey Dashboard for the State of Colorado. (© HR&A Advisors)

 

Figure 3: Illustrative Digital Equity Survey Dashboard for the State of Colorado, filtered for respondents who took the survey in Spanish language. (© HR&A Advisors)

 

The result: A new standard for automatically updating digital inclusion dashboards

After developing the first interactive dashboard prototype with this methodology, five of HR&A’s state clients (CA, TX, NV, CO, and MA) showed interest in the solution. HR&A was able to implement it for each of them within 2 months—an incredibly quick turnaround for a custom, interactive digital inclusion dashboard.

 

HR&A also realized about a 75% reduction in overall deployment and dashboard management time, which meant the consulting team could redirect their focus from manually analyzing data to helping clients interpret and strategically plan around the results. Finally, the dashboard’s user-friendly interface made survey data more accessible to a wider range of stakeholders. This helped build a shared understanding when assessing gaps in each state’s digital inclusion landscape and allowed for a targeted data collection strategy from areas with limited survey responses, thereby supporting more productive collaboration overall.

 

Conclusion

In this post, we showed how HR&A was able to analyze geo-spatial data in large volumes using Amazon Redshift Serverless and CARTO.

 

With HR&A’s successful implementation, it’s evident that Redshift Serverless, with its flexibility and scalability, can be used as a catalyst for positive social change. As HR&A continues to pave the way for digital equity, their story stands as a testament to how AWS services and its partners can be used in addressing real-world challenges.

 

We encourage you to explore Redshift Serverless with CARTO for analyzing spatial data and let us know your experience in the comments.

HR&A Advisors at Ten Across Summit in Los Angeles 

HR&A is excited to engage with fellow climate advocates, transportation planners, housing experts, and change-makers at the Ten Across Summit in Los Angeles on December 5 – 7th. 

 

About 10 Across 

“The Ten Across geography—from California to Texas to Florida—features a diverse range of socio-economic, demographic, and climate related challenges. With an election year looming, the divisions in the country continue to widen, especially between red and blue states, urban and rural populations, and the major political parties. While the public is relatively consistent in its view on many critical issues, the distance between varying points of view has been exaggerated by social media, recent state legislation, and various court rulings.” Learn more… 

 

Speaking
HR&A Advisors Partner Kate Collignon will be speaking in a panel discussion titled “Recovery of the City: Imagining Los Angeles and 10X Urban Centers in 2030…and Beyond,” alongside Tracy Hadden Loh, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking Fellow at Brookings Metro and Marty Borko, Executive Director at the Urban Land Institute Los Angeles.  

 

Connect with HR&A Attendees 

Kate Collignon, Partner, San Francisco 

Connie Chung, Managing Principal, Los Angeles 

Martha Welborne, Senior Advisor, Los Angeles 

Garrett Rapsibler, Director, Los Angeles 

Ray Cabrera, Senior Analyst, Los Angeles 

Verenice Sanchez, Administrative Assistant, Los Angeles 

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HR&A 2023 Firmwide Summit

Throughout 2023, our passionate staff have been committed to helping our visionary clients and ourselves to do better, and we decided to come together in person to share what we’ve learned, reconnect with our mission, and deepen relationships.

 

We brought our six offices together for our first ever Firmwide Summit where we hosted sessions about the future of cities — housing affordability, infrastructure, climate change, the future of downtown, technology, plus how we continue integrating equity into our work. We emerged with new ideas, stronger connections, and a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of the challenges facing our cities and communities — oh, and we had a lot of fun along the way.

 

HR&A at ULI 2023 Fall Meeting

HR&A is excited to engage with fellow urbanists and change-makers at the 2023 ULI Fall Meeting in Los Angeles.

 

Hear from HR&A on Transforming Downtowns:

November 02, 2023, 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM | HR&A Partner Kate Collignon will be moderating a panel with representatives from Heitman, South Park BID, and Eden Housing on “Transforming Downtowns into Mixed-Use, Mixed-Income Neighborhoods.”

 

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

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

Joseph Cahoon — Senior Advisor, Dallas

Connie Chung — Managing Principal, Los Angeles

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

Candace Damon — Board Chair & Partner, New York, ULI Placemaking Council — Chair

Jazmin Harper — Senior Analyst, Los Angeles

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

Kate Owens — Principal, San Francisco

Ada Peng — Director, Los Angeles, Affordable/Workforce Housing Council

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

Judith Taylor — Partner, Los Angeles, ULI Public/Private Partnership Council

Paul J. Silvern  — Partner, Los Angeles

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

Rachel Webster — Analyst, New York

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

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

 

 

 

Hear from our 2023 Summer Fellows

 

 

“HR&A immediately stood out to me as an organization whose practice aligns closely with its values. When I was browsing through different positions at peer companies, I felt that the Summer Fellowship Program offered a remarkable amount of autonomy and responsibility within a supportive framework of mentors. It became clear to me that HR&A was a community in which my interests would be supported, and a place where I would be challenged to explore new practice areas, methodologies, and ways of thinking about cities. 

 

The proximity between my projects and tangible change in the cities in which they are based makes my work deeply gratifying. The analyses I have prepared have informed decisions for transformative infrastructure projects. I find the high-impact nature of the work at HR&A equal parts exciting and humbling.” 


“The projects that I’m working on this summer include a community planning project and pulling together the HR&A Parks Practice Library. Both projects are incredibly different but exciting in their own ways. For the first project, I get to facilitate a community visioning process to reimagine the potential of underutilized brownfield sites with local stakeholders. The second project allows me to comb through years of amazing work that the firm has done for parks throughout the country and set up a streamlined process for future Parks projects. 

  

I would highly recommend this program to anyone who is endlessly curious and love figuring out how to get things to work!”

 

 

I am working on projects that expand my graduate studies and introduce me to new planning strategies focusing on inclusive economic development practices, housing studies, and real estate development trends.

 

 

As a generalist, these projects are a perfect way to expand my knowledge and skills and make me a well-rounded future economic developer. 

 

 

 

 

 
Interested in learning more? Meet our full class of Summer 2023 Fellows!

 

 

 

 

Welcoming Nike Irvin to HR&A Advisors’ Board of Directors

HR&A Los Angeles was excited to welcome Nike Irvin to our Board of Directors earlier this month with a rooftop happy hour at our downtown office. Thank you to clients, collaborators, and friends who were able to join us to celebrate Nike’s appointment!

 

Looking to the future

Working with some of the most innovative clients and collaborators in the world, HR&A is focused on building solutions that address the complex, interconnected challenges facing urban communities. The unifying theme across this work is our passion for building more resilient, equitable cities for the people who live in them — a passion Nike shares.

 

This is a critical time for cities. Our clients are coming to us to help them leverage once-in-a-generation federal funding, integrate emerging technologies, and build tools to chart new paths forward. We look forward to Nike’s leadership and contributions to further expand HR&A’s critical work with clients and communities in over 180 cities, six countries, and three continents.