Sam Moeller

A Conversation with Eric Rothman, HR&A Partner and Board Co-Chair


We sat down with one of HR&A’s most senior leaders to reflect on the progress he oversaw as HR&A’s CEO and what made him decide to shift his focus from HR&A’s corporate management back to the project work that inspired him to join the company almost 30 years ago.


While you’ve had a long history working in the transit and economic development sectors, much of your focus in recent years has been on managing HR&A as its third CEO. Can you share how the company evolved under your leadership and what led to your decision to transition into your current role as a Partner and Co-Chair of the Board?


For several years, HR&A Advisors has been in a time of exciting and meaningful transition. 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 resulted in Jeff becoming HR&A’s fourth CEO.


Back in the early 2000’s, when we were a scrappy firm of 20 brilliant professionals in New York and L.A., I served as President and a near full-time Partner leading projects that included PlaNYC 2030, real estate advisory work for the Port Authority and NJ Transit, a re-use plan for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in DC, and many more. As the firm grew, I focused an increasing amount of my time on the internal business. This included transitioning into an employee-owned company and me becoming HR&A’s third CEO in 2019. We also expanded our capabilities to help our clients tackle the pressing issues facing cities, resulting in the growth of our climate, urban tech, inclusive cities/equitable governance, infrastructure, housing, and broadband and digital equity practices.


HR&A today is truly a world-class firm that serves clients and communities around the globe with an outstanding impact across 550+ projects last year.  We have also walked the walk that I shared with Partners in early 2020 shortly after becoming CEO — which was that we need to change our culture to attract and retain diverse and talented employees who are more representative of the communities we serve. And while there is still work to be done, we’ve made steady progress over the last four years due to the tremendous work of our company leadership and staff. As we shared in our recent 2023 ADEI Progress Report, our company is 47% BIPOC, and we were named a 2023 New York Urban League Champion for Recruitment, Retention, and Belonging.


While serving first as HR&A’s President and then CEO has been the greatest privilege of my professional life, in recent years, I’ve had less time available to work on the opportunities that originally attracted me to HR&A as a Senior Analyst in 1997. I’m ready to shift my focus back to the work and spend most of my time as an HR&A Partner, which I truly believe is the most attractive career choice for American urbanists.



In this “full circle” moment where you’re reconnecting with the project work that initially drew you to HR&A, what key themes continue to motivate you about transportation and economic development?


I think way back to when I was studying public policy in college, and I remember learning about the ways in which transportation infrastructure can positively and negatively impact people’s lives. I wanted to explore alternative models to traditional approaches to development, which have caused great harm to communities across the country, and that really launched a core theme of the work I’ve done throughout my career — with New York’s MTA, as Head of Business Planning for Transport for London (TfL), and of course with clients at HR&A.


While we’re in a time where there’s great appetite to do this work in new ways that can start to right past wrongs, I also know from experience that transportation infrastructure development takes time. In the eighties and nineties, I was looking at the anticipated economic impact of new rail transit systems like Washington’s WMATA, Atlanta’s MARTA, and Portland’s TriMET. Now 30 years later, those cities’ investments are coming to fruition, and you can see how the location of stations and the urban design around them has had a direct effect on where housing, offices, and amenities are located.


One of the projects that I worked on when I was at the New York MTA in the early Aughts was a multiagency planning effort called Access to the Regions Core, and a project that came out of that effort is what’s now called Grand Central Madison, which connects the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central. Grand Central Madison opened in early 2023—almost 20 years after I worked on the first stages! So, I want to be engaged in the next generation of transit infrastructure development now, so I can see these projects come life over the next few decades.


What do you think are the most exciting things happening in transit-oriented development, sustainable mobility, and economic development?


The pandemic and hybrid work have fundamentally changed commuting patterns, and I think public transit agencies and the cities and regions that support them are really grappling with that. Transit agencies have always been a subsidized model, but they were able to rely on fare revenue from commuters. In the post-COVID environment, we’re still far from a place where everybody is working five days a week in central cities, and most transit agencies are seeing ridership levels hovering somewhere around 70 – 90% of where they were before COVID.


That means the funding structures for transit have been disrupted. With that disruption, a lot of the work that we do at HR&A around transit-oriented development is becoming a more important piece of the puzzle than ever before. We’re helping transit agencies identify their surplus properties and understand what community assets could be built there — whether it’s housing, offices, retail, or even flex industrial spaces. These developments might help generate revenue and attract more riders to fill in funding gaps.


I’ve worked with some clients to evaluate the business case for making public transit services a free essential service, like fire stations or public schools. The climate implications are important to consider with this analysis, since mass transit is more environmentally friendly than single passenger gasoline powered cars.



We’ve talked a lot about the public sector, but how are developers navigating transit-oriented development in the post-pandemic world?


Developers are always looking to reduce risk, and one of the biggest risks they face in transit-oriented development is the time it takes to get something built. It’s important to minimize the red tape that slow things down. Having worked with both sides of public-private partnerships, we understand how to streamline the process, which is in the best interest of all involved. For example, when we work with transit agencies, we help establish ground rules for what kinds of uses they’ll accept for their development plans so developers know what’s possible. It’s also important for transit agencies to partner with their local cities to resolve issues about allowable density and design requirements.


When it comes to transit-oriented development in the post-pandemic world, one theme that’s really dominating the conversation with my developer clients is the housing crisis. HR&A has helped to identify a whole series of affordable housing strategies and solutions that can work for cities and regions overall, and we incorporate that thinking into transit-oriented development.


When thinking about diving back into this work, what gets you up in the morning, and what keeps you up at night?


I think what gets me up in the morning is the same thing that keeps me up at night: Climate change.


As the effects of climate change continue to collide with the inequities in our cities that were exacerbated by the pandemic, sustainable transit infrastructure is a critical piece of the puzzle. I’ve lived in metropolitan areas my entire life, so this work is not just my professional passion — it’s personal. I want to do my part to build vibrant, economically thriving, and healthy cities that will shape and support the lives of my children, my community, and the planet. I draw inspiration from one of the teachings of my faith, “If not now, when?” – and more than ever “now” feels like a critical time to apply the knowledge I’ve gained over the course of my career to help make it happen.


Learn more about Eric Rothman here.

2023 HR&A Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ADEI) Progress Report


In 2023, HR&A focused on accelerating our progress from past years and working to further embed ADEI into the fabric of our culture and processes. This work is never done, and it’s important to us to reflect on the past year and set strong intentions for the year ahead. In 2023, we made progress in the following areas:


We continue to attract diverse talent and are better positioned to serve the communities in which we operate. Of the 47 employees who joined HR&A in 2023, 61% identify as BIPOC and 74% as women. Overall, 47% of our entire staff identify as BIPOC, which is consistent with 2022 levels and up from 36% in 2020. Our recruiting team continues to incorporate ADEI principles in our recruitment process, helping support our company’s diversity.


We were honored to be named a 2023 New York Urban League Champion for Recruitment, Retention, and Belonging. We are grateful to Senior Analyst Ejiro Ojeni for nominating our organization for this prestigious award, and to our staff for championing internal efforts across the firm to ensure HR&A continues to be a place that is stronger because of our diversity.


We began providing dedicated ADEI training for staff in management roles. We understand that one of the most effective ways to move the needle on ADEI across our organization is by building capacity within our project manager cohort. Supporting them to apply an equity lens to every aspect of our work — including how we support, train, and mentor diverse staff; how we work with our clients and community partners; how we publicize our work externally; how we conduct performance evaluations, and much more — is critical to transforming our operations and culture as a firm. In May, project managers across roles and offices met for a two-day, in-person training tailored to HR&A.


We completed our first year of HR&A Advisors’ BIPOC Sponsorship Program, through which we paired 13 BIPOC staff with Partners and Senior Advisors for continued, intentional sponsorship. Participating sponsored employees met with their sponsors monthly, attended conferences and networking opportunities with their sponsors, and worked with their sponsors to promote their professional development and visibility within and outside of the firm.


Staff across the firm engaged in conversations about ADEI during our inaugural HR&A Summit in October. HR&A’s Anti-Racism Core Team hosted two sessions at HR&A’s inaugural Summit, attended by staff from across our six offices:


  1. Solidarity and Allyship at HR&A: This panel elevated how staff currently show up for their coworkers and communities in often unseen but impactful ways, including through mentorship, volunteering, recruiting, and procurement, then the team engaged participants in small-group, facilitated discussions about how everyone can use their positionality at the firm to practice acts of solidarity and allyship.
  2. Supercharging our Projects through Equity and Inclusion: This panel highlighted how staff center equity in both our client-facing work and internal operations. Panelists highlighted lessons learned across diverse topics and methodologies including homelessness, innovation districts, public health, and inclusive community engagement.


Our staff-led Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) continue to foster a culture of belonging. We have seven affinity groups including: Accessibility, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Foreign-Born, Latino/a Comunidad, Queer, and Women’s ERGs. Over 80% of our staff participate in ERGs, and they play an instrumental role in creating a community of belonging through virtual convenings, in-person events, and mentorship opportunities.


We look forward to continuing our journey in 2024. Click here to learn more about our commitment to ADEI, and here for past progress updates.


“Office-to-Residential Conversion in San Francisco’s Changing Real Estate Market” Research for SPUR and ULI San Francisco

HR&A Advisors has been honored to contribute to a landmark study with SPUR, ULI San Francisco, and Gensler to investigate how stakeholders might shape the post-pandemic future of downtown San Francisco. We investigated the economics underlying office to residential conversion to help fuel downtown San Francisco’s post-pandemic recovery. With downtown office space sitting vacant, can residential conversion activate downtown and deliver on needed housing? What would it take to make that happen?


SPUR Shares “Office-to-Residential Conversion in San Francisco’s Changing Real Estate Market” Research 

“Flexible work has transformed San Francisco, changing how companies and employees use office space. Firms are reducing their physical footprint, and the decrease in people and activity downtown has negatively impacted small businesses, cultural institutions, and the hospitality industry. Downtown’s recovery is hindered by a lack of economic diversity and a shortage of workforce housing. Could converting vacant office space to residential use be a financially viable solution to both problems?


In a first-of-its-kind study, SPUR and ULI San Francisco, in partnership with Gensler and HR&A Advisors, explored not just the physical suitability of office buildings for redevelopment as housing, but also tested the financial feasibility of conversion projects under different economic conditions and policy scenarios. We published a summary of our findings in March 2023. A report presenting our full analysis and expanding on our findings will be released later this year.”


You can learn more about the study on SPUR’s website and access the Executive Summary of the report here.


Press Coverage

S.F.’s empty office space could hold 11,000 new homes — but only with City Hall’s help, report saysSan Francisco Chronicle (March 2023)


More than 10K residences could replace SF’s empty office towersThe Real Deal (March 2023)


Non Profit Equity Action Tea

Strengthening L.A.s’ Nonprofits for the Committee for Greater LA

HR&A was proud to support the Committee for Greater LA and partner with the Nonprofit Finance Fund to create “Resetting LA City to Meet Urgent Community Needs,” a report that outlines immediate actions the City can take to reduce unnecessary financial strain on the nonprofits it partners with to deliver critical services.


23% of all City of Los Angeles jobs are nonprofit jobs, and nonprofits are vital to the economic well-being of Los Angeles.


Nonprofits are critical to helping meet the needs of some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits face barriers limiting their ability to deliver critical services to those most in need. BIPOC-led nonprofits face additional barriers, even though their cultural expertise is essential to reaching people most in need.


Resetting LA City to Meet Urgent Community Needs outlines immediate actions to overhaul how the City of Los Angeles works with nonprofits with the goal of eliminating unnecessary financial strains to the city’s nonprofit partners. The report reveals that nonprofits are unfairly burdened by cumbersome bureaucracy, delayed payments, and underpayments, impacting their ability to meet increased demands for social and supportive services.


Mayor Bass endorsed the recommendations in the report, saying ““The Committee for Greater L.A. is spot-on – Los Angeles nonprofits confront so many obstacles every day, but City bureaucracy should not be one of them.” 


Read more about the report findings on the Committee for Greater LA’s website here, and you can read the full report here.


Photo: Committee for Greater LA

Downtown DC Parks Master Plan Release

Congratulations to our client, the DowntownDC BID, on the release of the DowntownDC Parks Master Plan!


Working with a multi-disciplinary planning and design team, HR&A conducted a real estate market analysis for the new plan, with the goal of understanding current and future drivers of demand for parks within downtown Washington DC.


As part of the market scan, our team conducted a real estate market analysis scan, highlighting trends in office, residential, and retail uses Downtown, and the impacts of COVID-19 on office occupancy and visitation trends within the BID. We developed case studies of aspirational office typologies that could drive further downtown foot traffic and increase available funding for parks.  We also identified opportunities where investment in parks and open space could further Downtown’s economic development goals.


“The DowntownDC Parks Master Plan was created to spark interest in developing an intentional, vibrant, and meaningful downtown park system. Based on community engagement and coordination with concurrent planning efforts, the plan offers six system-wide recommendations.” Find out what they are and explore the new plan on the DowntownDC website.


We look forward to seeing how this new plan will help shape strategic investment to create a more vibrant, prosperous downtown DC!

Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand Announce New York State Will Receive $100 Million in Federal Funding to Expand Broadband Infrastructure

Congratulations to our client, Empire State Development (ESD) on this important milestone! This funding will help provide access to New York families who need it most. We have been proud to support ESD in this critical work.


Governor Hochul said it best: “This critical funding to unlock high-speed internet for thousands of New York renters will build on the success of our ConnectALL broadband initiative while supporting the goals of our five-year plan to build and preserve more affordable housing. Thanks to the Biden administration and New York’s Senate and Congressional delegations, New York will continue to lead the nation in bridging the digital divide and making broadband available to all.”


You can learn more about this historic investment in Broadband in the Governor’s press release.

HR&A Principal Greta Byrum Speaks at FCC Roundtable on Broadband Access, Affordability and Deployment



HR&A Principal, Greta Byrum was invited to speak at this roundtable discussion hosted by the Federal Communications Commission’s Communications (FCC)’s Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC). Alongside stakeholders spanning community organizations, internet service providers (ISPs), federal agencies with emergency broadband funding, and state agencies, Greta shared lessons learned from the pandemic.


When building solutions to close the digital divide, Greta stressed the importance of working with organizations on the ground that might not be considered technology providers at first glance — for example, churches, food banks, schools, libraries, and community organizations. These connections can be the key to getting digital access to people who need it most.


You can learn more about the Roundtable discussion on the FCC’s website.

Video: FCC

A Simple Housing Fix for Wake County: Buy the Building, Cap the Rent

This opinion piece by Phillip Kash was originally published in INDY Week.


Change is a natural phenomenon in any neighborhood – families move in and out, businesses come and go, new immigrant groups bring different languages, cultures, and cuisines. When rents begin to grow faster than the incomes of residents, however, the resulting economic pressure can force people from their homes before they are ready to leave. The result is displacement that harms individuals, families, schools, and communities.


Displacement, sometimes called gentrification, is primarily driven by affordability, the difference between the cost of housing and a household’s income. As rents rise far faster than incomes, long-time residents are forced to leave and are replaced by higher-income newcomers.


In North Carolina, unprecedented population growth and limited housing development over the past decade has eroded housing affordability.


The most powerful tools to prevent displacement require systemic changes to the housing market – building more housing in desirable areas, dedicating more public funding, and adopting legislation that balances tenant and property owner interests. Even in an optimistic scenario, these reforms will take years to adopt and decades to create a healthy, equitable housing system.


Wake County is one of a small handful of local governments around the country that are taking on a more direct solution to affordability: buying existing apartment buildings and imposing limits on future rent increases.


The benefits are myriad – the purchases can be targeted to neighborhoods facing displacement pressure, limited public or grant capital can be leveraged to create far more affordability, and, most importantly, the impact of these policies is immediate. Current residents can stay in their homes with the confidence that their rent will only rise in relation to income.


This year, Wake County has established its own loan fund to purchase existing apartment buildings, preserve their affordability and prevent the displacement of current tenants. With an investment of $10.5 million, the county is leveraging over $40 million from banks and the City of Raleigh, and is expected to preserve over 1,000 affordable homes in the next two years.


Buying apartment buildings is the most effective tool available to Wake County – and potentially hundreds of other counties and municipalities nationwide – to protect residents from rapidly rising rents and forced displacement.


Amazon has already taken up this strategy as a corporate stakeholder. The company’s Housing Equity Fund was created to preserve affordable homes in communities where Amazon has a significant employee base. Part of its $2 billion commitment to preserve or create 20,000 affordable homes, in less than 21 months since launch, the fund has committed financing for the purchase of more than 20 existing apartment buildings, representing nearly 5,000 rental homes.


In cities like Arlington, VA and Bellevue, WA this represents a 20%+ increase in the number of long-term affordable homes. Rents in these apartments will now remain permanently affordable, rising only as an area’s median income rises. More than half of those investments have gone to minority-led developers and thousands of those units have easy access to public transit.


Amazon’s story in Seattle and Arlington is one that can be replicated across the country – and local governments like Wake County can take action without the support of a major private backer like Amazon.


Housing affordability and displacement require solutions that provide immediate relief to give time for longer-term solutions that rely on grinding zoning fights and policy reform. Stakeholders with financial means, both public and private, can have a near-immediate impact by buying and preserving affordable housing options.


Photo: Unsplash

HR&A named New York Urban League Recruitment, Retention, and Belonging Champion

We are proud to announce that HR&A Advisors has been named a 2023 New York Urban League Champion!


“Champions are considered to be one of the highest accolades for individuals and organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. As one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country, the New York Urban League seeks to celebrate companies and individuals who embody the pillars of our mission for equity.”


We are honored to be included amongst an impactful group of fellow Champions working to foster anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in their industries, and we are even more honored to have been nominated by HR&A Analyst Ejiro Ojeni.