All posts in “News”

Supporting the Historic Transition of Judge-elect Hidalgo

On November 6th, 2018, voters in Harris County, TX made history when they elected Lina Hidalgo as their first female County Judge. A 27-year old immigrant from Colombia, Lina has spent her life working on issues of human rights and social justice. Her campaign to assume the leadership of the third largest county in the United States and victory over the 11-year Republican incumbent has attracted enormous enthusiasm and a movement of followers.


As Judge-elect Hidalgo prepares to take office in 2019, she has assembled a team to translate her energy and values into her administration: demonstrating that progressive governance can be inclusive, equitable, transparent, and effective. Building off of our experience in innovative and inclusive governance transitions, HR&A is proud to be a part of this team, assisting with Lina’s transition, including setting up her new office and staffing, identifying and articulating policy priorities, and leading the strategy behind community engagement.


Read more about Judge-elect Hidalgo’s transition here.

Carl Weisbrod Receives the Public Space Leadership Award

The Design Trust for Public Space honored Carl Weisbrod with the 2018 Public Space Leadership Award for his outstanding leadership in New York City. The Design Trust for Public Space is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the future of public space in New York City. Their projects bring together city agencies, community groups and private sector experts to make a lasting impact—through design—on how New Yorkers live, work and play.
Carl has had an extraordinary impact on New York City’s public realm throughout his outstanding four-decade career dedicated to public service. As founding president of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, he led public and private partnerships that transformed some of the City’s most dynamic and fastest-growing neighborhoods. Mayor Bloomberg appointed Mr. Weisbrod as the director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation following the devastation of Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks, where he was instrumental in the dramatic recovery of the area and leading efforts to heal the city.
As a member of the de Blasio Administration, he served as both chairman of the New York City Planning Commission and also director of the NYC Department of City Planning. Mr. Weisbrod was charged with creating land-use policies to promote an equitable, resilient, sustainable and economically vibrant city; his tenure has overseen the enactment of Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which led to the Midtown East rezoning project, including vast improvements to public space near Grand Central.
Congratulations Carl!

How Seattle and Other U.S. Cities Can Create Better, More Inclusive Banking Systems

Our latest study for the City of Seattle shows how Seattle and other U.S. cities can divest from Wells Fargo and pursue public banking as part of a larger effort to align their banking activities with progressive values, expand banking services for residents, and increase investment in pressing public needs like affordable housing and infrastructure.


The study comes amid a growing movement for Seattle’s divestment from Wells Fargo and growing interest in the creation of public banks in cities across the country. From New York City to Los Angeles and beyond, more cities are ending banking contracts with Wells Fargo and considering creating what would be the first municipal public banks as an alternative.


Seattle’s municipal government hired HR&A to examine the feasibility of establishing a city-owned public bank.


Read the Study


Seattle’s goals for a city-owned public bank include replacing Wells Fargo and providing better banking services to residents and consumers, including those who have been historically underserved by the banking industry. Additionally, Seattle would like to provide capital for public priorities like affordable housing and infrastructure and extend banking services to the cannabis industry.


The study shows that it is feasible for Seattle to establish a public bank, albeit through a long-term process. The need for approval from state and federal agencies and a commitment of capital present political and financial obstacles to overcome. Existing legal and regulatory frameworks create additional barriers for a city-owned bank in Seattle. For example, the acceptance of retail deposits and issuance of loans to the public or cannabis-related businesses require changes in state or federal law that are possible, but unlikely in the short-term.


Although Seattle can achieve its key goals through a city-owned bank over the long term, alternative approaches for public banking can offer greater certainty, lower public cost, and faster results, according to the HR&A study. It’s the first study to show that a city-owned bank is not the only option for cities divesting from Wells Fargo and interested in public banking.


For Seattle, we recommend several strategies that can allow Seattle to meet its goals of divestment from Wells Fargo and greater investment in public priorities like infrastructure and affordable housing, while laying the groundwork for the eventual creation of its own bank:


Strategies to build more inclusive banking systems

  1. Refresh the City’s treasury services RFP content and process to make it easier for socially responsible banking partners to participate and compete with Wells Fargo.
  2. Develop non-bank investment vehicles and partnerships to support social priorities.
  3. Collaborate with existing public banking efforts, such as the plan for a state-owned bank that has been proposed in Washington’s state legislature. Seattle could pursue participation in such a State bank or request that the State ease public depository and charter requirements to enable its own bank.
  4. Engage with other cities to pursue public banking within or across state lines.


While the study is focused on Seattle, the policy implications are national. Seattle and other cities are offered a road map for how they can achieve independence from Wells Fargo, and implement models of public banking that can be tailored to different needs and goals.


“Our study shows there are multiple paths forward for public banking in Seattle and other cities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. When cities divest from Wells Fargo, they can take a variety of steps to ensure their new banking practices serve all residents, businesses, and consumers. Cities can make their own choices about how they want to empower communities through public banking. They do not have to remain beholden to Wells Fargo or the banking industry,” said Andrea Batista Schlesinger, a Partner at HR&A Advisors, who oversees the firm’s Inclusive Cities practice, and growing portfolio on public banking in cities.


HR&A’s Inclusive Cities practice empowers city governments and advocates, activists, and philanthropic organizations across the United States to implement equitable and inclusive growth strategies.  The study on public banking comes as HR&A is offering its expertise to more cities looking to maintain their financial independence, invest in public priorities like infrastructure, and pursue more equitable and inclusive banking. When properly implemented, public banking can help cities of the future grow, develop, and thrive.

Klyde Warren Park Secures $76 Million for Expansion

The expansion could potentially generate $870 million in future economic impacts.


Credit: Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation
Klyde Warren Park spans the Woodall Rodgers Freeway to connect downtown and uptown Dallas. Since its opening, the park has successfully drawn life into the district, stimulated adjacent real estate development, and increased local tax revenue.
In October, park stewards, the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, announced the 1.2-acre expansion of the park. HR&A worked with the foundation to estimate the potential economic impact of the expansion, which the foundation used to generate support and secure $76 million in funding for construction and operations.

Skills-Based Workforce Development Program Expands to Indiana

Skillful’s growing program to empower career coaches in state workforce development systems is expanding to Indiana. The program will particularly focus on educating employers and job seekers on the digital skills needed for advanced manufacturing and agriculture jobs. Since 2017, HR&A has worked alongside Skillful to create a robust leadership and training program that prepares career coaches to connect middle-skill workers with the jobs of tomorrow.

John Alschuler Lectures at Rice Design Alliance

John Alschuler will speak on Monday October 29, 2018, at 7:00 pm at Rice Architecture’s Farish Gallery in Anderson Hall on the Rice University campus. Admission is free and open to the public. For guaranteed seating please register for each lecture here.
How can the public and private sectors join to create shared collaborative spaces that engage people and strengthen communities? An expert on this issue, John Alschuler, Chairman of HR&A Advisors, will give the third and final lecture of the Rice Design Alliance Fall 2018 Lecture series on the topic of sharing, organized in collaboration with PLAT Journal and Rice Architecture.
As a consultant and real estate advisor focusing on urban developments, Alschuler brings his knowledge base to various clients and civic entities to aid in the realization of projects that will revitalize an area. Alschuler is the Emeritus Chair of Friends of the High Line and sits on the Board of Directors of the Center for an Urban Future.
In Houston, HR&A has been integral in the preservation and development of the Menil neighborhood and Buffalo Bayou Park. Alschuler has been involved in master planning for the legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Parklands, now Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to ensure its future as a civic space. Other HR&A projects have focused on resiliency after natural disasters, strategic planning for revitalization of downtown and waterfront neighborhoods, affordable housing, and a report on the economic impact of Airbnb.

Leveraging Transportation Investments to Create Inclusive Cities

Building transit with neighborhoods in mind

Originally published in the October 2018 issue of MyLiveableCity. Written by Amitabh Barthakur and Ignacio Montojo
Cities in developing countries are experiencing an astonishing pace of urbanization and rapid growth with an unprecedented increase in transportation infrastructure investment. Around the world, almost 1,500 urban rail infrastructure projects are under construction, amounting to a total of 140,000 kms of new rail lines.
The growth of urban transit presents an opportunity to improve the standard of living for countless people, connecting them to economic opportunities and jobs. However, if transportation infrastructure is delivered without thoughtful consideration of the communities it serves, or the critical issue of focusing urban density, cities will be unable to fully leverage these significant investments and miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods through increased transit usage and access.

Transit development
is more than just infrastructure

Transportation agencies are typically incentivized to deliver transit projects at a fast pace. Most capital funding sources for transit usually have strings attached, and fast delivery ensures mitigating against cost escalations. In highly urbanized cities, land acquisition for transit alignments is another key challenge and transportation developers typically want to keep land acquisition requirements to a minimum. As a result, transit projects are often thought of as pure infrastructure, meaning they are planned in isolation from the greater social and physical environment.
This strategy follows the path of least resistance. But, if transit lines and stations are planned with the long-term goal of creating dense, walkable, well-connected nodes, the impacts on the use and value of the land surrounding will be remarkably beneficial. Increased job opportunities, knowledge spillovers, and efficient land use leading to higher transit usage are among the many benefits associated with high density, transit-oriented communities. The largest share of this value manifests in the form of private investment, particularly real estate development around station areas and along transit corridors.
While transit and associated development is an economic developer’s dream, it can also be a large factor in the gentrification of neighborhoods and displacement of residents who could benefit from transit the most. What some academics have dubbed ‘transit-oriented gentrification’ is occurring in cities around the world. There’s enough evidence showing that transit proximity, in conjunction with an insufficient housing stock, will often increase housing costs and decrease the number of low-income households.

Linking Value capture with
transit-oriented development

Under the right conditions, the public sector can capture the value transit creates, and create funding streams that use different ‘value capture’ mechanisms to not only fund infrastructure and public realm improvements, but also support equity initiatives like affordable housing and workforce development. Doing this requires big-picture thinking and proactive collaboration among city planners, economic development advocates, the private sector, community stakeholders, and infrastructure agencies at the earliest stage of planning.
Urban transit is particularly well-suited for value capture because it sparks development and revitalization. In Hong Kong, the rail property model unlocked development potential for over 600,000 public housing units. The success of the Mass Transit Railway system hinged on the proactive strategy of focusing all the city’s urban growth within proximity to its transit infrastructure. The system benefits directly from the private investment on transit-adjacent publicly-owned properties or from the sale and use of air rights above stations. The system also successfully generates ancillary revenues from retail and advertising within stations. With these streams of revenue, the system can invest in transit and other community benefits, completing a virtuous cycle of investments and benefits.
Value capture can be a critical element for cities looking to fully leverage their public investment in transit infrastructure in a manner that is economically sustainable and creates transit-oriented communities. But the ability to create value from transit investments in the first place depends largely on better integrating transit infrastructure with its physical surroundings. By integrating planning and value capture strategies early in the process before alignments are set, transit agencies can identify areas where transit is most urgently needed, urban designers and planners can design an interface that optimizes access and adds most value, economic development professionals can design appropriate value capture tools and, most importantly, transit developers can engage with community stakeholders to determine which services and community benefits are most desired.

Case Study | Metro de Medellin

A holistic approach to transit-oriented urbanism

In Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city with almost 4 million people, the public transportation agency Metro de Medellin, co-owned by the City of Medellin and the State of Antioquia, has played a significant role in driving an urban renaissance through a series of public investments in elevated rail, light rail, gondolas, and bus rapid transit. A foundational principle of Metro de Medellin was building the Cultura Metro, or the cultural identity and shared purpose for public good, to help develop marginalized sectors of the metropolitan area through transit investment.
Today, areas managed by Metro are perhaps some of the best cared for public assets in the region. While part of this is related to the operational efficiency of Metro as an organization, for the most part it is a manifestation of Cultura Metro. Metro’s goal, as an urban infrastructure provider and city-builder, is to ensure that Cultura Metro permeates the entire urban realm, not just within the transit system, but starting with the station areas and surrounding neighborhoods. To do this, Metro has taken steps to proactively think about integrating transit with its surrounding communities using a range of strategies, but three of them stand out in particular:

1. Bring everyone to the table to start thinking about land use from the very beginning.

Develop close collaboration and coordination between transit agencies, city planning and land-use authorities. If a broad range of stakeholders is not communicating prior to implementation of complex infrastructure projects, you cannot leverage your investments. A variety of people must be involved in implementation to ensure that transit infrastructure will be integrated rather than disruptive.
Collaboration between several public institutions was a key factor of Metro’s success in completing complex projects that complement its core transportation initiatives. Over time, Metro has also built internal capacity for interdisciplinary collaboration. Its urban development team of more than 30 planners, architects, real estate and financial analysts work closely with the transportation planning team and the City of Medellin’s department of city planning, to deliver integrated projects.
The agency is expanding its system, and for each line like the new Ayacucho Tram and H-Line Cable Car, they have started to define influence and intervention areas around stations and alignment. Intervention areas are immediately adjacent to transit stations and slated for physical interventions by Metro, particularly in terms of public realm, signage and access improvements. Influence areas, within the larger surrounding neighborhood, are planning areas that will directly benefit from new transit investments, generate ridership and present value capture opportunities.

2. Give transit agencies greater control on land-use along alignments.

The City of Medellín is in the process of granting Metro formal status as an urban development corporation, which will give the agency greater jurisdiction over land use issues, proximate to transit. Beyond defining design guidelines, open space projects and pushing transit supportive zoning, Metro will have the jurisdiction to apply eminent domain, collect revenues from certain value capture mechanisms in special financing districts, and manage the open space and public realm within intervention and influence areas. While empowering transportation agencies to implement station area development may not work everywhere, Metro’s demonstrated commitment towards a better urban environment combined with their intellectual and technical capacity to accomplish their goal of integrated transit use, can be very effective.
This approach ensures that planning for station areas happens early on and mitigates any conflicts between transit infrastructure delivery, operation, and the surrounding environment, in turn supporting greater ridership and enhanced economic benefits.

3. Strategically acquire land for alignments to support better integration of transit stations with the surrounding station area.

Trying to integrate surrounding land uses with transit infrastructure, once the infrastructure is already built, can be a challenging if not an impossible task. Metro’s approach to transit planning includes proactive strategies to acquire land, particularly around stations, that have the scale and capacity to be developed later. As transit stations are the primary interface between the transit system and the rest of the Metropolitan Area, this approach ensures station areas can support transit-oriented development, as well as safe and easy access to stations. The end goal is to have active station areas and higher ridership. Planning around Medellin’s Metro system also involved developing land in areas with little or non-existent public investment, with a focus on improving public infrastructure and amenities such as parks, libraries and streets.

Seeing the benefits

Medellín’s integrative planning process has helped the city harness the value of transit not just in dollars, but also in improved quality of life and transformed the city for many generations to come.
Medellin is a narrow valley and Metro operates a range of interconnected modes to maximize transit access to all communities. This includes heavy rail that forms the backbone, connected by trams to the edge of the valley, which are further connected to cable cars that provide access to dense neighborhoods on the hillsides. People living in mountain areas surrounding Medellin have benefited by having their travel time to the city center reduced from an hour to less than ten minutes – improving their access to employment opportunities and other resources in the formal city.
The MetroCable planning exemplifies how transit can be used to benefit those who have low access to transportation in the first place. Public safety is another aspect of quality of life that has been improved for countless people in Medellín – the murder rate in the city has fallen by more than 80% since 1991, the decade before many of the integrative planning projects were introduced.
The new stations themselves have also transformed neighborhoods into resource-laden cultural and social hubs, with many libraries, schools and sports facilities built around transit stations. Investment in holistic transportation planning that accounts for improved connectivity and quality of life has worked to transform the social fabric of Medellin into one of Colombia’s most livable cities.

How can this work in my city?

Urban planning and design professionals have a responsibility to advocate that their respective cities build capacity around inclusive and integrative planning by engaging public, private and civic actors. Lack of cooperation and communication are major roadblocks to creating plans for transit that will encourage efficient, dense and inclusive growth, which in turn can support the long-term economic sustainability of cities.
We need to recognize that transit infrastructure development, economic development, community development and real estate development are not discrete activities that contribute to city building. They are interrelated processes that have symbiotic relationships with one another. While there may be a set of private and public actors who appear to have discrete roles in these activities, the lines between them need to dissolve if we are to create livable cities.
Amitabh Barthakur is a leading land-use expert and development economist. He’s worked with cities and transit agencies around the world to design value capture opportunities through real estate development and land use for transit systems and cities.
Ignacio Montojo advises cities and transit systems on public-private partnerships and innovative financing strategies for real estate and urban infrastructure projects in the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean.

New Mobility and the Driverless Future in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Region

HR&A’s Raleigh office, established in 2016, hosted a discussion in July with leading transportation and urban development experts in the North Carolina Research Triangle Region on the impacts that new urban mobility options and autonomous vehicles will have on regional development. The conversation was animated by a focus on how autonomous vehicles can complement current and future transit investments underway in the Region to be a positive force for city building. These experts identified that autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for dedicated parking, helping free up developable land for more productive uses and reducing the burden of parking costs on future development. They also identified strategies to proactively leverage new mobility options and autonomous vehicles to enhance city building efforts in the Triangle Region.



Across the nation, technological advancements in transportation are reshaping how streets are used. Shared mobility platforms—carsharing, ride-hailing, bikesharing, scootersharing—offer convenient ways to get around and engage with cities. The Shared Use Mobility Center reports that the creation of robust mobility networks helps reduce car ownership and increases use of public transit. As detailed in HR&A’s 2017 report, Driverless Future, autonomous vehicle technologies are advancing rapidly. The state of North Carolina is already investing in infrastructure improvements and policy measures in anticipation of their widespread deployment that could arrive as early as next year. The Triangle must prepare itself for how these changes will affect city-making. Conversations about the ultimate impact of autonomous vehicles on our built environment are an important next step for policymakers.


The Shared Use Mobility Center contends that autonomous vehicles will build on current trends of shared mobility platforms and use of public transit to further supplant private car ownership, a position that potentially offers several advantages for city building. A vehicle fleet that transitions from traditional to autonomous would experience cost-savings in maintenance and operation. While the loss of jobs due to vehicle automation is a significant concern, one potential benefit is lowered fares for public transportation and private ride-hailing platforms that can both increase mobility and further incentivize car-light lifestyles. Reducing dependency on personally-owned vehicles can offer reduced congestion and a cleaner, safer environment.
Autonomous vehicles that move continually to pick up and drop off passengers would decrease demand for parking spaces. Parking spaces, lots, and decks currently located in central business districts can be located further away as autonomous vehicles add to the list of “first/last mile” solutions. Cities and real estate developers stand to benefit from the reduced need for parking, as existing and future parking space can be repurposed in ways that enhance the local urban context. Moreover, once lenders and regulators have confidence that autonomous vehicles can alleviate the need for the quantity of parking typically provided in the market today, the feasibility of delivering denser urban development in the Triangle will improve as the need for expensive structured parking is reduced.
While the above scenario represents one possibility, an alternate scenario must also be considered – that autonomous vehicles purchased for personal use could inhibit ridership of shared mobility platforms and public transit. According to a 2016 report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, by 2030 travelers could save an estimated $4,000 per year if they eschewed car ownership for shared mobility platforms. Still, many drivers could be inclined to pursue ownership of an autonomous vehicle to preserve privacy, avoid sharing, and ensure flexibility in where and when you travel. Only an estimated 2% of residents in the Triangle Region took public transit to work in 2016. In an area where public transportation options are not as robust as in other growing areas, and where driving is the established norm of transportation, the possibility of autonomous vehicle technology further entrenching car ownership must be acknowledged. If this comes to fruition it could mean more traffic congestion and more scattered development.
Monica Barrow, the Southeast Transit Planning Practice Leader at STV, Inc., stresses the importance of cities being proactive in planning for autonomous disruption and not adopting a “wait and see” approach. Development of robust transit infrastructure has a long timeline due to funding and permitting requirements and waiting to see how autonomy changes transit can be a recipe for frustration and inaction. The Triangle Region can prepare itself for the inevitable driverless future today, and it is already taking steps to do so. Legislators and public authorities are wrestling with the safety, infrastructure, and legal implications of autonomous vehicles to prepare for their widespread introduction. However, less focus has been placed on how autonomous vehicles will affect our built environment and interface with public transit systems. Faced with the uncertain impacts of autonomous vehicles on the ability to create healthy and sustainable built environments, HR&A’s Raleigh Office looks forward to supporting the Triangle Region in developing strategies to leverage autonomous vehicles as a positive force for progressive city-building and inclusive economic development.


#1 Update zoning ordinances to take advantage of autonomous vehicles reducing dependence on parking
In Triangle Region cities, like many throughout the country, there are minimum parking space requirements on a per square foot or per unit basis. These parking requirements are driven not only by local ordinances but also by investors and lenders who underwrite development projects. Parking is seen as necessary to attract tenants and make retail spaces viable. In Charlotte, the city has created flexible TOD zoning districts that reduce or eliminate parking needed for development along the Rail Trail, a 3.5-mile pedestrian trail and light rail line. However, few developers have taken the city up on the reduced parking requirements. This issue takes on new dimensions in the Triangle with the arrival of autonomous vehicles and implementation of regional public transit projects.
The advent of autonomous vehicles has potential to weaken the relationship between parking and retail, opening the door for new types of retail less dependent on dedicated parking. According to HR&A Partner Bob Geolas, autonomous vehicles may help re-focus the emphasis of retail centers on creating a great experience and quality of place for patrons, rather than providing a convenient place to park. Localities can then better support the goals of transit-oriented development by reducing parking requirements and even enacting parking maximums in transit-rich nodes to accompany potential density bonuses. The decreased construction costs that would have gone into providing additional parking could open up new development possibilities.
#2 Make strategic investments in complete streets in urban nodes and corridors
Rather than becoming denser, development in the Triangle Region has spread out. The design of our roads exemplifies this. Raleigh Planning Director Ken Bowers expressed that transit works best where it’s comfortable to be a pedestrian, and the key opportunity in the Region is to re-imagine commercial corridors and centers as more dynamic and walkable places. Recent trends in developing at a more compact and pedestrian-friendly urban scale have brought renewed interest in multimodal infrastructure that can accommodate new mobility options. In Raleigh, ride-hailing platforms as well as dockless bikes and scooters are transforming the way sidewalks and streets are used. The Triangle must prepare for the increased prevalence of new mobility modes in designing and planning for future right of ways, for example by:

  • Designing rights of way to include better lighting and continuous sidewalks to encourage walkability, and support bike and scooter usage
  • Providing convenient curb space for pick-up and drop-off to accommodate the rise of ride-hailing and ridesharing platforms as well as autonomous vehicles
  • Piloting the introduction of designated lanes funded by ridesharing platforms (and future autonomous vehicle fleets) that can be adapted over time based on usage and demand.

Intentional investments in place-making or the provision of incentives to encourage public realm improvements can make transit-oriented developments that appeal to residents seeking a car-light lifestyle more viable.
#3 Rethink existing transit operations and future transit investments
The Triangle Region is investing to improve accessibility and mobility, including a bus rapid transit system in Wake County, a light rail system connecting Durham and Orange Counties, and the completion of the I-540 loop in southern Wake County. In this time of immense opportunity, local transit agencies in the Triangle must also reimagine their operations. GoTriangle’s current pilot program in Research Triangle Park that replaces existing fixed-route shuttles with free on-demand service within the Park accessible via a mobile phone app, while met with positive feedback, has actually led to decreased ridership. Barriers to ridership for the service include 1) the lack of true destinations within RTP with potential to draw significant patronage from within the Park, and 2) the disincentive to using public transit when one has a private vehicle available and there is ample free parking. A similar on-demand service could function well in a more urban geography that does connect desirable destinations and has less readily-available parking. However, the geometrics of high transit ridership – density, walkability, linearity, and proximity – cannot be overcome with technology alone.
Overall, transportation authorities will have to rethink all transit routes and infrastructure to improve service. Transit stations and stops must be capable of accommodating the constant pick-up and drop-off of users in a way that is safe, welcoming, and maintains a steady flow of traffic. Autonomous vehicles can further improve connectivity by allowing transit stops to function as a feeder point for autonomous, shared, and on-demand services. Underperforming routes with low ridership could be replaced with more flexible public or private on-demand services. As autonomous vehicles are introduced into the market, these services can be scaled up and amplified, acting as complementary services that positively impact planned LRT and BRT investments for the Region.
HR&A’s Raleigh office is excited to be working in The Research Triangle during this time when great strides are being made with investments in transportation and urban development. However, these plans need to consider the impacts of the mobility revolution that is rapidly unfolding. We can unlock latent development potential confined in parking spaces to build more densely in urban nodes and do so more affordably. We can prioritize designing flexible and multimodal streets and sidewalks to concentrate development. We can rethink our transit systems and partnerships with private actors to provide better services.
To achieve these goals our governmental authorities, residents, and the business community must work collaboratively. Throughout the years the Triangle Region has developed a national reputation and strong track record of regional collaboration through endeavors involving economic development, education and job creation, and transportation. The Triangle should draw on this tradition of innovation and partnerships to the benefit of the Region’s residents as we prepare for a driverless future.
This paper was co-authored by the following individuals:

  • Richard Adams, Kimley-Horn
  • Summer Alston, City of Durham
  • Monica Barrow, STV, Inc.
  • Ken Bowers, City of Raleigh
  • Bob Geolas, HR&A Advisors
  • Peter Gorman, HR&A Advisors
  • James Kendall, HR&A Advisors
  • Michael Landguth, Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  • Jeff Mann, GoTriangle
  • Beau Memory, NCDOT
  • Ernest Muñoz, Gensler
  • Elizabeth Packer, HR&A Advisors
  • Julie Paul, Formerly of ULI
  • Allen Pratt, Perkins+Will
  • Eric Rothman, HR&A Advisors
  • Perry Safran, Safran Law
  • Kyle Vangel, HR&A Advisors

Forecasting Population, Employment, and Economic Growth in Southeast Minnesota

Southeast Minnesota offers a high quality of life to its residents and has tremendous economic growth potential. HR&A’s newly released study for the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities calls for several major policy shifts to achieve this potential over the next 25 years. Among the recommendations are zoning changes to support greater housing production, expanded transportation networks, a regional tourism strategy, immigrant support resources, and programs to increase access to childcare – all designed to grow the region’s economy.

Securing Lasting Community Impact Through Opportunity Zones

HR&A’s Guiding Principles for Investment


Opportunity Zones are part of a new federal initiative to direct much-needed capital to low-income communities by allowing investors to defer and reduce capital gains taxes by reinvesting gains. To participate, an investor can direct capital gains to businesses and properties located within nearly 8,700 designated census tracts.
For investors, this program allows them to reduce their taxable basis on their original gains and forgo taxes on gains from new investments (with benefits increasing the longer the investment is held). For cities, developers, and businesses, this opens up a potentially significant source of equity capital to stimulate growth in low-income and historically disinvested communities. This program has the potential to be a game-changer in steering a portion of approximately $6 trillion in unrealized capital gains to communities that need quality jobs, safe and affordable housing, and amenities for their residents.


Since the announcement of Opportunity Zone designations earlier this spring, potential investors, project sponsors, and policymakers have awaited clarification from the federal government about how to leverage this new tool and to understand the potential impact on local communities. The federal government will release additional guidance as soon as late October, which is expected to address questions on project eligibility, registration requirements, and the timeline of when capital must be deployed. This guidance is important both because many communities are eager to attract Opportunity Fund capital to jumpstart long-planned projects, and because still other communities are concerned that concentrated investment in certain distressed communities could exacerbate the risks of displacement.


Over the past six months, we’ve spoken with clients and colleagues interested in Opportunity Zones to develop a set of principles for investors, funds, cities, and neighborhoods. These guiding principles are meant to help direct and attract investments in a manner that strengthens local economies and promotes community-serving growth to achieve the promised impact of Opportunity Zones.


Guiding Principles for Opportunity Zone Investment:


  1. Deploy capital to realize competitive returns and tangible community benefits. Opportunity Zones were designed not merely as a tax benefit but as a means of spurring economic growth and opportunity in communities that have struggled to attract capital. Investors should perform rigorous market analyses to understand the local development and community contexts, and partner with cities and local stakeholders to balance investor objectives with comprehensive, community-based strategies.

  3. Link Opportunity Zone investments to human capital and small business growth strategies. Align investments to provide benefits to low-income residents and local businesses, and to help mitigate displacement pressures. Where possible, business and employment opportunities created by investments should be accessible to, and promoted among, local businesses and residents through established channels and partnerships.

  5. Combine Opportunity Zone investments with other incentives to maximize impact and stretch public dollars. Such incentives could include New Markets Tax Credits, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, Brownfield Opportunity Area funds, Community Development Block Grants, HOME funds, and property tax abatements. States and cities should also reassess existing economic development incentives to maximize public benefits in light of capital available through Opportunity Funds. States should also consider whether to align their tax treatment of capital gains with federal tax law.

  7. Favor investments that support sustainable, equitable, and community-serving economic growth. Opportunity Funds should avoid investing in projects that reduce the supply of affordable housing, displace important cultural or civic assets, or worsen environmental quality. Cities should reexamine land use, tax, and other regulations to encourage or fast-track investments that achieve public policy goals, and to discourage investments that would undermine local goals.

  9. Prioritize accountability through transparent reporting. The next round of federal guidelines is unlikely to require detailed impact reporting, but investors still have the option to self-report and hold themselves to meaningful standards. Outcomes should detail benefits such as the number of new living-wage jobs created, affordable housing units constructed, and increases in incomes (per capita and household).



As we await further guidance from Washington, cities and development districts have begun to outline investment opportunities and community goals; investors have begun to catalog opportunities and outline their investment goals; and foundations have defined conditions for matching investments. We encourage interested parties to apply these and other principles to position themselves for impactful investment. Just like pending regulations, these actions will help to define the early successes and long-term impact of this potentially transformative new program.


Have more questions about Opportunity Zones or Funds? For more information, contact Eric Rothman or Bret Collazzi in HR&A’s New York office or Paul Silvern in HR&A’s Los Angeles office.