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The Flight to Cool Leads the Future of Work



This opinion piece by Jonathan Meyers was originally published in NAIOP.


In New York City, top-quality office space is coming online despite challenging economic conditions. The ongoing “flight to quality” for commercial office space across the country is no secret, with companies of all sizes flocking to recently redeveloped or newly built buildings with unique, enticing amenities. As larger companies embrace hybrid work models and seek a more boutique office experience, smaller creative tenants in the 10,000- to 30,000-square-foot range now make up the most active segment of the market. According to CoStar, about 65% of leases signed in early 2023 were for space commitments of less than 15,000 square feet.


While tech and FIRE (financial, insurance, real estate and legal) tenants have rethought larger office spaces, smaller office users are driving a new wave of commercial leasing. CoStar expects that this trend will only continue in 2023. Just 9.1% of leases signed in early 2023 were for 100,000 square feet or more, down from 11.6% in 2022 and nearly 19% on average in 2017-19.


Along with the trend toward smaller space commitments, the style of in-person workspaces has also shifted. According to CBRE, these tenants are driving demand for flexible, well-located offices that support new hybrid work models and in-person collaboration. When looking for space, today’s employees don’t want monotonous cubicles and corporate environments that have long been commonplace, but rather buildings with character, history, charm and creativity. Thus, a subsequent trend has emerged, both nationally and across core Manhattan: a “flight to cool.”


Affordable and Cool


According to owners and brokers, this flight to cool stems from a few different factors: companies not having the budgets for $150-per-square-foot office rents, yet still wanting top-quality, desirable space that entices employees to show up in real life; greater attention to ESG and sustainable building practices, which puts adaptive-reuse office spaces front and center; and a need for spaces that possess character and cultivate a sense of culture, whether it’s through historic architecture, communal indoor-outdoor workspaces, or fitness, restaurant, and retail offerings.


With the ongoing effects of climate change and impending legislation that requires sustainable building practices, such as Local Law 97 in New York and the Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) in Boston, commercial and residential developers are looking to adaptive reuse to address embodied carbon and breathe new life into buildings, while meeting the demand for unique, character-filled spaces.


Estimates show that within the next 10 years, 90% of real estate development could involve adaptive reuse of existing buildings instead of new construction, according to a Deloitte study cited in Work Design Magazine. On top of decreasing the carbon footprint, adaptive reuse projects preserve architectural and historical elements, re-engage urban spaces previously viewed as liabilities, and reinvigorate communities by turning existing structures into places that add to the neighborhood’s energy and desirability.


Hudson Square is Happening


Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District have long been known as a global hub for office buildings and workplaces, with an endless skyline of skyscrapers and the constant bustle of workers.


While the pandemic brought a series of unprecedented challenges, it also introduced opportunities for the city to embrace new styles of hybrid work and tap into the advantages of adaptive reuse projects that were already underway in neighborhoods that weren’t historically known for office environments.


One such neighborhood is Manhattan’s Hudson Square. Once known as the city’s printing district, the area has rapidly solidified into an important live-work-play district thanks to rezoning, an influx of new businesses, ultra-sustainable development, and new cultural and retail opportunities. Located between the West Village, Soho and Tribeca and bounded directly to the west by the Hudson River Greenway, Hudson Square has emerged as a hotspot for creative firms and media companies.


Innovative businesses frequently demand space to achieve their goals, and neighborhoods that appeal to their creative workforces. Hudson Square offers both. Fashion brand ESPRIT recently announced a 10-year, 38,000-square-foot lease at Hudson Square’s 160 Varick Street, which will serve as the retailer’s U.S. global creative headquarters.


A few blocks away, the newly built 555 Greenwich will soon seamlessly combine with the historic 345 Hudson in a rarely utilized development method — a horizontal overbuild. This involves the addition of new construction on top of an existing building, expanding the usable floor space horizontally. Thus, the building will expand “out” rather than “up.” These projects reside in an increasingly diverse neighborhood of boutique retail, appealing dining options, and an array of public art and landscaping.


The Sweet Spot


In Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, Industry City is an example of reimagining former manufacturing buildings into epicenters of creativity and innovation, with tenants across industries such as technology, fashion, design, film production, life sciences and more. Today, the campus serves as a blueprint, not only for this kind of adaptive reuse, but also for a robust design and placemaking strategy that successfully attracts and retains the creative class.


For example, in 2019, fast-growing e-commerce company MPB, which specializes in used photo and video equipment, opened its North American headquarters at Industry City. Currently, MPB occupies a 15,000-square-foot office that connects via staircase to a 45,000-square-foot warehouse and fulfillment center on the lower level.


Similar investments across Brooklyn appear to be paying off — attracting desirable tech and creative tenants looking for a feeling of authenticity and connection to place. A recent study on NYC’s Tech Ecosystem, which HR&A Advisors produced for the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), Tech:NYC and Google, showed a 42% increase in tech job growth in Brooklyn between 2012 and 2021, likely a result of a decade of investments in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Tech Triangle.


Given the success and interest adaptive reuse buildings have experienced, additional projects continue to come online across New York, such as 122 Fifth Avenue, an 11-story building originally designed in 1899 by prolific architect Robert Maynicke that is wrapping up a thoughtful vertical and horizontal expansion and restoration that maintains its century-old character.


While the office sector is undoubtedly changing, companies are still in need of in-person spaces. Creative companies that thrive on collaboration are looking for smaller space commitments in cool, retrofitted buildings that shine a spotlight on character, functionality and creativity. As productive as these dynamic, mixed-use buildings and districts are for their owners and tenants, they are just as valuable for the cities that surround them. Every vacant building that is repurposed creates property tax revenues, business opportunities and opportunities for policy goals such as affordable housing.


Boosting street-level vibrancy in neighborhoods attracts office workers, residents and visitors, who in turn generate jobs, sales taxes, and other important economic and social benefits. There is an opportunity — and perhaps a collective imperative — for building owners, tenants and policymakers to work together to find ways to create workplaces, neighborhoods and cities that are exciting, inviting and inclusive.


Photo 1: Vladimir Kudinov

Photo 2: Nastuh Abootalebi

Photo 3: Kryrlo Kholopkin

Partner and Board Chair Candace Damon discusses the transformation of Seattle’s waterfront into a major park on KOUW


HR&A Advisors Partner & Board Chair Candace Damon sat down with Joshua McNichols of KUOW for a conversation on the transformation of Seattle’s waterfront into a major park and HR&A Advisors’ work supporting the City of Seattle and the Friends of Waterfront Seattle to create a vital public resource that connects to downtown. Candace discusses how looking to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which shares many similarities with Seattle’s waterfront, can provide insights into successful strategies and the lasting economic impact these public realm investments can create.




With many office buildings vacant, the Seattle waterfront transformation holds the promise of revitalizing downtown Seattle. However, one key issue was bridging the gap, both physical and mental, between downtown and the waterfront.


Learn how Candace and the team tackled the challenge here.

Amazon Housing Equity Fund partners with the National Housing Trust to help create new paths to Homeownership in Underserved Communities


HR&A Advisors is pleased to have advised Amazon on the structuring of a new initiative in partnership with National Housing Trust (NHT) to help individuals and families from underserved communities become homeowners. In 2021, Amazon established the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, a program that, to date, has helped create or preserve over 14,000 units with guaranteed affordable rents across Washington state’s Puget Sound region; the Arlington, Virginia region; and Nashville, Tennessee. With the new pilot announced today, Amazon will invest $40 million to help moderate-income residents in these communities to purchase homes as a path to help build generational wealth.  


NHT, a nonprofit focused on making affordable homes available to help advance racial equity and reduce economic disparity, will use the funds to acquire and build affordable homes for sale, in partnership with a network of local organizations. Through this initiative, Amazon expects to provide access to home ownership for up to 800 individuals and families, the majority of them making below 80% of the area median income. 


“Historically, those who are able to own homes are more likely to experience long-term economic stability, while those who can’t are more likely to struggle financially,” said Senthil Sankaran, Managing Principal, the Amazon Housing Equity Fund.  “This new initiative will allow us to explore ways to help more moderate-income residents realize their dreams of homeownership and, in turn, help build wealth that can pass on to the next generation.”  


Amazon’s new initiative will support a range of innovative models that promote and prioritize long-term affordability. For example, Amazon and NHT will invest in community land trusts, a model where the land itself will be owned and stewarded by nonprofits and community-based organizations, and where residents will own their physical homes. Removing the cost of the land from the total cost of the home allows the price of homes to stay affordable, stabilizing families in their communities, while combating gentrification.  


Amazon’s new initiative will provide loans and grants to support nonprofits building, preserving, and stewarding affordable homeownership projects. Amazon is launching this pilot to support the following partners, and will add more organizations across its three hometown communities in the future. These partners include: 

    • Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties (Puget Sound Region, WA) – will provide flexible financing to support the construction of over 140 homes as well as a funding enabling 50 families to become homeowners in 2023. 
    • African Community Housing & Development (ACHD) (King County, WA) – will fund operating support as well as technical assistance to strengthen their housing development capacity. 
    • Homestead Community Land Trust (King County, WA) – will fund a program to develop land and housing with local community partners.  
    • Douglass Community Land Trust  (Washington D.C.) – will use funds to grow their development capacity for their home equity programs.  
    • The Housing Fund (Nashville, TN) – will use grant funding to support the preservation of affordable housing through property-tax relief, a model that provides financial assistance to homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to an increase in property taxes.  


    Read more about this exciting initiative at the links below! 

Amazon: Amazon and the National Housing Trust are helping moderate-income residents become homeowners

Washington Post: Amazon launches plan to help ‘underserved’ D.C. area families buy homes

Seattle Times: Amazon pledges $40M for affordable homeownership in Seattle and beyond

Bloomberg:  Amazon Unveils $40 Million Fund for Homeownership in New Push


Photo: Yender Gonzalez

HR&A at IEDC Annual Conference 2023


HR&A Advisors is excited to engage with changemakers at the IEDC Annual Conference 2023 to discuss future prosperity by concentrating on economic diversity and resilience today, building upon past achievements, and igniting the spirit of the next ‘Roaring 20s!’ This forward-thinking Annual Conference will delve into, modernize, and expand upon successful industry strategies and practices, with a dedicated focus on the five strategic initiatives outlined by IEDC.


Speaking events 


September 20, 2023 ,  10:15-11:15 AM CST | HR&A Advisors Partner Cary Hirschstein will be a speaker on the panel: Southern Dallas: “Driving Investment to Historically Disadvantaged Communities.” Join Cary and fellow panelist for a moderated and lively discussion on what it takes to invest in underserved areas. Panelists  will share a behind-the-scenes look at the market forces, politics, policies, and determination that successfully bring development, jobs, and infrastructure to Southern Dallas.




Cary Hirschstein (Speaker) HR&A Advisors, Inc., Partner

Jennifer Gates (Speaker) City of Dallas, Dallas, TX, Hon. Jennifer S Gates, Former Council Member

Lindsey Wilson (Speaker) City of Dallas, Director Office of Equity and Inclusion

Robin Bentley (Speaker) City of Dallas Office Of Economic Development, Director

Terrence Maiden (Speaker) Russell Glen Company, Dallas, TX, CEO


Register now to join!

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Unanimously Accept Plan to Implement the First Municipal Bank in the Nation


This press release was originally issued by Supervisor Dean Preston.


San Francisco, CA — As the city and the country grapple with severe shortages of financing for affordable housing, green infrastructure, and small businesses, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors formally accepted a plan to create the first municipal bank in the nation.  


The approved proposal comes at a critical time as the city continues to navigate ongoing concerns with the post-pandemic economic recovery. The plans include a business and governance plan for creating a publicly owned municipal financial corporation (MFC) and then converting the MFC into San Francisco’s first public bank 


“As we continue to chart a path to economic recovery and a sustainable economy, the plans approved today provide a road map for our city to create the first municipal public bank in the country, a crucial strategy to ensure that our city funds are used to reverse inequities, not perpetuate them,” said Supervisor Dean Preston. “The approved plans are a huge step forward toward establishing a San Francisco Public Bank.” 


Public banks are not novel, with over 900 institutions worldwide controlling tens of trillions in assets, but a municipal bank would be a first for America.  


“The plan for the new public bank in San Francisco prioritizes social impact over shareholder returns while being financially self-sustaining, robustly managed, and accountable to San Franciscans’ policy goals and values,” said HR&A Advisors Partner Andrea Batista Schlesinger, “It will collaborate with community lenders and organizations to achieve this vision. 


The business and governance plans were over a year in the making. The Working Group consisted of community leaders, public banking and Community development financial institution experts, and small business leaders. The Working Group worked closely with HR&A Advisors, leaders in inclusive economic development, investment, governance, and stakeholder and community strategies; the Findley Companies, experts in establishing de novo banks and providing guidance on management, operations, and compliance in California; and Contigo Communications, San Francisco-based practitioners who co-construct solutions that reflect the needs of community members. 


“Given the continuing failures of our banking industry, we are stepping up in innovative ways to provide a green and equitable alternative to big banks. Our investment in the public bank protects the future of our local economy and the financial interests of San Franciscans,” said Budget Committee and Local Agency Formation Commission Chair, Supervisor Connie Chan. “We will continue to build on this momentum until we get this done.” 


Traditional private banking has failed to offer sufficient access to financial services for residents and small businesses, especially in communities of color. The consequences of that lack of access include inequitable economic, employment, health, affordable housing, and environmental outcomes that continue to this day. 


“It’s crucial we move immediately on these plans and establish a green bank.” said Jackie Fielder, co-founder of the San Francisco Public Bank Coalition “President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act presents a rare opportunity to get substantial funding for community-centered and equity-focused green banks.” 


Now that the plans have been approved by the Board of Supervisors, the city can now take action to implement an MFC or public bank in San Francisco. 


For more information on the final plans, visit  


Photo: Jared Erondu

Great Headway for the Texas Digital Opportunity Plan


With over 7 million Texans currently lacking internet connectivity according to the FCC, there is a strong need for improved broadband access across the state. The lack of access so many experienced in the height of the pandemic lockdowns made clear the need to ensure that everyone can connect to the internet and have access to  the financial resources, equipment, and digital skills needed to get online.  


Last month, Texas received $3.3 billion in federal funding to expand its broadband infrastructure. The federal funds, combined with $1.5 billion from the state, offer rural and underserved communities an opportunity to bridge the technology gap. 


As part of the Connect Texas Team, created by the Texas Broadband Development Office, HR&A is collaborating with Connected Nation and Accenture to identify the digital opportunity barriers affecting Texas households, such as the lack of infrastructure, digital literacy, affordable service, or access to devices. We are developing the Texas Digital Opportunity Plan (TDOP), which will serve as a roadmap for expanding the adoption of reliable and affordable broadband, computing devices, digital skills training, and cybersecurity awareness for all Texans. 


The Connect Texas Team has established an external engagement process that fosters collaboration with local, regional, and tribal entities. The Broadband Development Office is engaging with communities by hosting in-person and virtual meetings across the state to hear about Texans’ experiences with internet access and use. Find a public meeting. 


Widespread input will ensure the state develops a plan that addresses the digital opportunity needs of all Texans. If you are a Texas resident over 18, please complete this survey by August 31st.  The survey is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.  


Press Related to the TDOP engagement process: 


State broadband leaders connect with Burnet County residents –

East Texans provide input to help increase broadband internet access

Officials discuss the importance of internet access in rural East Texas 

HR&A Summer Fellowship Program



HR&A is proud to be an employee-owned company that is committed to building a diverse workforce and centering equity and inclusion in the work that we do to deliver on our mission create vital places, build more equitable and resilient communities, and improve people’s lives. The Summers Fellowship Program allows students and early professionals with a passion for urban development and policy to excel in a team-oriented, collaborative environment, gaining real-world experience on HR&A projects.


As a company who believes that great ideas emerge from bringing different voices and perspectives to the table, our Summer Fellows are invaluable members of our teams, offering fresh ideas and asking questions that help us re-examine the status quo. Fellows are given the opportunity to work on real projects as embedded members of our teams with a wide range of responsibilities including preparing written reports, presentations, Excel models for clients, and firm marketing materials and proposals for new projects. Many current members of HR&A’s team started as Analyst Fellows.


Stay connected to receive alerts about the next application cycle! 

Meet our full class of Summer 2023 Fellows!


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. 


More about our Summer Fellowship Program

HR&A accepts applications starting in the Fall of 2023 for candidates who are completing their senior year of a bachelor’s degree or have earned their bachelor’s degree and may be working towards completion of an advanced degree. We encourage candidates with a concentration in urban planning, real estate finance, economic development, public policy, housing finance, or a related field to apply.  Candidates who are currently in their junior (third or fourth) year with a major in urban planning, real estate finance or public policy are also welcome to apply. 




Dominion Square Project Announcement


It is becoming increasingly difficult for families living on a low-to-moderate income to find housing that is affordable. As housing costs reach unprecedented heights, the production of new housing is failing to keep up with the growing demand, resulting in a severe deficiency of available homes across the nation. Addressing this critical shortage of  affordable housing demands a collaborative effort involving various sectors and stakeholders. 


HR&A Advisors is pleased to announce the closing of $55 million in financing through the Amazon Housing Equity Fund (HEF) for the development of 516 new permanently affordable homes at Dominion Square. Located in Tysons, Fairfax County, Virginia, Dominion Square is being developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), a renowned non-profit developer in Northern Virginia. HR&A collaborated with Amazon and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to underwrite an Amazon HEF loan. 


Dominon Square is in a transit-rich neighborhood, just a five-minute walk (0.3 miles) to the Spring Hill metro station and several bus stations, providing residents with reliable and affordable transit options to high-quality schools, economic opportunities, and amenities across the region. The project will also include a 30,000 square foot community center for the Tysons community, to be operated by the Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services department. Dominion Square will be the first 100% affordable housing multifamily development at scale in Tysons, and the largest project ever developed by APAH. 


Amazon’s $55 million commitment, initially announced in May 2022, helped catalyze and accelerate the Dominion Square redevelopment. As a result of Amazon’s initial interest, APAH increased the scale and accelerated the delivery timeline for much-needed affordable housing. $9 million of Amazon’s funding will be available to APAH to fund pre-development activities, helping the non-profit finance the significant upfront costs associated with this large-scale project. 


The Amazon Housing Equity Fund is providing more than $2 billion to preserve and create over 20,000 affordable homes in Amazon’s home communities of Washington’s Puget Sound region, Arlington, VA and Nashville, TN. HR&A works with Amazon as a credit underwriter for transaction in the Washington DC Metro Area and Nashville. 


Additional Coverage  

Dominion Square Affordable Housing Community Secures Development Site and Funding 

Amazon-Backed Affordable Housing Towers Moving Forward In Tysons 


Rendering: KGD Architecture 


Clearwater opens new Coachman Park and waterfront

In contrast to other downtown waterfronts in the Tampa Bay region, Clearwater Beach’s downtown and adjacent waterfront have seen less development, cultural programming, and recreational activity. There is no question that Clearwater’s downtown waterfront is one of its most beloved civic assets, and it is an important gathering place for the community that hosts cultural events that draw visitors from across the region.   


HR&A Advisors is proud to have supported the City of Clearwater to develop a vision to transform Clearwater’s downtown park into an expanded signature space as a way to rebrand downtown, increase visitation, improve connectivity and accessibility, and catalyze adjacent residential development. This plan included a phased redevelopment strategy for potential catalyst sites, a vision and framework for public and private investment, and an action-oriented implementation plan. 


Throughout the master planning process, HR&A worked with the City to conduct a comprehensive public engagement strategy that included seven community workshops, with over 700 community members participating. Imagine Clearwater, the actionable master plan was presented to City Council, stakeholders, and the public in January 2017, and with the opening of Coachman Park and the waterfront.  


Check out this  article from Tampa Bay Times that highlights the incredible journey behind the transformation of Coachman Park into a stunning waterfront oasis. 

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.