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The People Make the Place: Announcing a New Class of Leaders

Celebrating the people making an impact at HR&A


The old adage is true — the people make the place. At HR&A, we come from diverse backgrounds, have a breadth of lived experience, and share a passion for creating places, systems, and tools that help people thrive. While the problems we tackle are often complex, the driving force behind our work is radically simple. We care. You can see this care in the mission-driven culture we have built across six offices and in the places and impact we’ve helped our clients create.



Arjun Gupta Sarma

Arjun leads product development and data science at HR&A — focusing on the intersection of quantitative methods and policy for clients across the country.



Jared Press

Jared helps local government agencies leverage public investment in infrastructure and place-based economic development to catalyze the private sector in support of long-range planning initiatives.



Lydia Gaby

Lydia leads projects that promote equitable economic development and resiliency and manages large-scale participatory planning processes.




Thomas Simpson

Thomas advises clients on devising feasible programs, building public-private partnerships, and infusing equity and innovation into visionary real estate developments.



Amelia Taylor-Hochberg

Amelia’s work focuses on organizational and governance design, sociopolitical analyses of place, and building technological infrastructure that combats disenfranchisement.



Christina De Giulio

Christina draws from a decade of community and economic development experience to guide clients from visioning to implementation of place-based strategies to advance their goals.



Erman Eruz

Erman works with state and local governments on accessing once-in-a-generation federal funds and assists with the development and implementation of broadband and clean energy projects.



Gail Hankin

Gail focuses on crafting strategies that support equitable economic development, creating vibrant and inclusive open spaces, and advising a wide array of clients on pressing urban policy issues.



Garrett Rapsilber

Garrett supports the development of sustainable, context-specific real estate and economic development strategies.



Hannah Glosser

Hannah draws on her experience in climate adaptation, stakeholder and community engagement, and economic development to support equitable and resilient practices.



Jamison Dague

Jamison advises clients through complex planning and development projects with a focus on public-private partnerships that leverage innovative funding and financing tools to create thriving and sustainable places.



Landry Doyle Wiese

Landry uses economic and strategic analysis to bridge the gap between vision and implementation — designing operating models and governance structures to put ideas into action.



Rachel Waldman

Rachel advises public, private, and non-profit clients on leveraging their existing assets, funding, and influence to promote mission-aligned real estate and affordable housing development.

Senior Analysts


Ana Licona

Ana provides guidance to government and community leaders on closing the digital divide and implementing an equitable broadband future.



Aram Kamali

Aram performs economic and policy analysis in support of efforts that advance equitable development and build community wealth.



Ariel Dames-Podell

Ariel supports real estate and economic development strategies for public and private sector clients that enable equitable growth and create transformative destinations in cities across the country.



Benjamin Cole

Ben helps local governments and nonprofits leverage funding and drive policy change. He specializes in criminal justice reform, equitable economic development, and fair housing policy.



Geon Woo Lee

Geon Woo leverages data analysis to advance climate mitigation strategies, promote transit equity, and encourage equitable development across the country.



Laura Semeraro

Laura specializes in real estate advisory, housing affordability, and economic development, supporting financial analysis and strategic advisory for public, private, and institutional clients.



Madison Morine

Madison works at the intersection of developing cultural institutions, urban open space, and comprehensive plans to help clients improve opportunities for communities.




Adina Jahan

Adina works on projects to create more inclusive cities, build digital equity, and advocate for criminal justice reform. She is guided by the principle that where you live should not determine your quality of life.



Alejandra Cabrales

Alejandra provides research and analytical support to advance sustainable and equitable placed-based solutions through economic development policy, transit-oriented development, community engagement, and governance design.



Anna Gallicchio

Anna specializes in housing affordability and economic development policy, working with city governments and non-profits to implement community-centered and data-driven solutions.



Clark Ricciardelli

Clark provides financial and data analysis for real estate development, asset repositioning, and workforce development projects across the U.S.



Lauren Kim

Lauren works on place-based projects that bring people joy. Grounded by community insights, she advocates for food justice, parks and open space, and neighborhood revitalization.



Marco Rodriguez

Marco specializes in knowledge economy, transit-oriented development, and economic development strategy, helping cities across the country become engines of innovation, inclusivity, and prosperity.



Sophia Campbell

Sophia provides research and analytical support for projects ranging from affordable housing and transit-oriented development to parks and open space.



Sophia Clark

Sophia provides analysis for real estate development, economic development strategy, and knowledge economy projects across the country.



Zada Smith

Zada works to advance equitable economic development through placemaking, strategic planning, and policy to drive better outcomes for communities.

Building Momentum in 2023

2023 is kicking off with strong momentum and high expectations in cities.


Working with some of the most innovative clients and collaborators in the world, we’re focused on building comprehensive solutions that address the complex, interconnected challenges facing urban communities. The unifying theme across this work is our passion for building more prosperous, resilient, and equitable cities for the people who live in them. We’re looking forward to great things in 2023 — building on the work we did in 2022 across 500 projects with clients in 180 cities, six countries, and three continents.


Our work includes:

Closing the Digital Divide & Leveraging Technology
Addressing the Housing Crisis
Developing Inclusive & Equitable Cities
Building Resilience in the Face of a Changing Climate
Revitalizing Downtowns & Exploring Adaptive Re-Use Strategies
Rebuilding Economies & Accessing Historic Investments in Infrastructure
Enhancing Community Assets
Living Our Values



Closing the Digital Divide & Leveraging Technology


Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative
State of California

2022 HR&A Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ADEI) Progress Report

In 2022, HR&A updated and refined our commitment to anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI). We focused on accelerating our progress from past years and working to further embed ADEI into the fabric of our culture and processes.


This is an ongoing journey. We are continuously learning, unlearning, and implementing new initiatives, including:


Launching a BIPOC Sponsorship Program that provides dedicated professional development support and resources to BIPOC employees. With the goal of improving wellness, retention, and pipeline towards career advancement, each participating employee has been paired with a senior leader to receive direct sponsorship, which includes monthly meetings and participation in professional networking events.


Developing an internal ADEI resource hub, which serves as a one-stop-shop for HR&A staff. The Hub contains resources for individual learning and tools for embedding ADEI best practices into our work with clients. We also use the Hub to monitor our progress against internal commitments.


Reorganizing our internal structure into “Studios.” As part of the firm’s ongoing commitment to excellent employee experience and positive retention outcomes, we developed “Studio” communities that provide multiple layers of support — especially for junior and BIPOC staff. All employees have an assigned mentor and dedicated manager who help them navigate projects and professional development opportunities. Additional support, including a peer with longer tenure, an experienced project manager, and a Partner, is also available. At the end of 2022, our retention rate significantly increased, and our employee experience surveys reflect higher levels of satisfaction, with 85% indicating they would recommend employment at HR&A to a friend compared to 51% in 2019.


Redesigning recruitment to remove bias and reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Our hiring process is designed to minimize bias. This includes asking all job applicants to remove the name of their educational institution(s) from their resume. Instead, we ask candidates to define their most significant academic and/or professional accomplishments based on their unique lived experiences. Our Recruiting team continues to engage candidates across diverse campuses and professional networks. We are proud that as of December 2022 our employee-owned firm is more diverse than ever, with 47% of employees identifying as BIPOC, up from 36% in December 2020.


Creating new Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to affirm and celebrate the full breadth of employee’ identities. We do this by building community among members, sharing successes, identifying common issues, promoting ideas for impact, and deepening cultural dialogue across the firm. This year, the Accessibility and Foreign-Born ERGs were launched, joining five existing groups — the Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latino/a Comunidad, Women’s, and Queer ERGs.


Continuing to empower employees who serve on the Anti-Racism Core Team to design and implement firmwide initiatives. This group is composed of employees across identities, roles, and office locations, who meet regularly to discuss and advance initiatives in collaboration with senior leaders.


We remain humble, curious, and dedicated in this work. We are committed to the ongoing review, reflection, and refinement of our efforts and impact.


Click here for more information about our ADEI commitment.

Listening to New Yorkers about their government

This opinion piece by Sheena Wright, Shango Blake and José Serrano-McClain was originally published in the Daily News.


Bold investments to strengthen New York City’s civic infrastructure are key to a more equitable future and to meet the scale of the challenges we face as a city.


We know that historically the design and execution of city policies and programs are less equitable and generally less effective when decisions are made in isolation from the community.


We know that New Yorkers aren’t afraid to speak up and tell the government what they think, but government too often doesn’t know how to listen. Even when it does, government doesn’t have the infrastructure to effectively act upon community input.


Luckily, almost every New York City agency engages New Yorkers in one way or another.


But, community engagement is not coordinated among the 50-plus city agencies. On top of that, engagement teams are often understaffed and under-resourced, and efforts to engage New Yorkers have historically been more reactive and designed in ways that exclude working New Yorkers, parents, immigrants and disabled New Yorkers. All of this leads to duplicate, overlapping and contradictory engagement efforts that further distance New Yorkers from their government — sending the message that their input is not valued.


Our civic infrastructure — the practices, processes, supports and data that ensure that New Yorkers can easily and effectively collaborate with government — needs a refresh. We must bring rigor to community engagement — set a standard of excellence to which we hold agencies accountable. And we must provide the resources and tools agencies need and want to support and expand their efforts to engage community residents, partners, clients, participants, and neighbors.


Crucially, the city must have a way to coordinate these efforts, so that they add up to greater than the sum of their parts.


The Adams administration is pioneering new, exciting ways to deepen democracy by expanding meaningful opportunities for direct participation in government.


Starting on Day One, the Adams administration invited the partnership of NYC Speaks, a collaborative effort of City Hall, philanthropic partners, and a vast network of community leaders and civic institutions to learn from tens of thousands of New Yorkers from all walks of life about their priorities, their problems, and their solutions in order to shape the priorities of the incoming administration.


Over the last year, NYC Speaks collected more than 3 million data points from New Yorkers representing every residential zip code through the largest public policy survey in New York City history, convened nearly 5,000 residents as part of more than 220 community events, and collected moonshot policy ideas from nearly 450 city staff.


The community-generated data showed that New Yorkers are aligned around housing-first solutions, mental health investments in our public schools, climate-resilient neighborhoods and community spaces, jobs in the green economy, and participatory policymaking.


The rigor of this data served as a center of gravity for bringing senior government officials to help solve the problems New Yorkers said they cared about most. Through a series of workshops, senior government leaders, non-profit service providers, activists, academics, and philanthropists together developed policies that were both responsive and actionable.


The culmination of the survey data and Community Conversations, and coordination between civic institutions and mayor’s administration, five “North Stars” emerged:

    • North Star #1: Formerly incarcerated New Yorkers will have the support and resources they need to succeed when they return home.
    • North Star #2: NYC public school students will have access to culturally competent mental health resources.
    • North Star #3: Historically disinvested neighborhoods will be prioritized for capital investments in community and recreation spaces that support social, economic, and climate resilience.
    • North Star #4: Young New Yorkers and residents in Environmental Justice communities will have access to green career pathways created by city-led decarbonization and resilience efforts.
    • North Star #5: NYC government will be transformed into a national model of collaborative, inclusive, and accountable governance that strengthens democracy, expands civic engagement, and enhances civic trust.


    Last week, NYC Speaks unveiled its first annual Action Plan that includes a set of tangible policy commitments that will serve as the basis upon which the administration, private philanthropy, and civil society will continue to build over the coming year.


    NYC Speaks demonstrates that despite the fragmented nature of civic discourse, there are methodical ways to find common ground, and that our government can act in ways that are bold and strategic when provided with a quantified mandate.


    NYC Speaks is just scratching the surface of what must be done to strengthen our city’s civic infrastructure if we are to develop solutions commensurate with the scale of the challenges we face.

  • Wright is deputy mayor for strategic initiatives. Blake and Serrano-McClain are the co-executive directors of NYC Speaks.

Partners Launch Nationwide Initiative to Accelerate Energy Upgrades for Affordable Housing

Learn more about the free virtual R2E2 Summit on January 19 – 20, 2023 here.


After receiving funding from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Rockefeller Foundation, HR&A, as part of a team led by ACEEE, is supporting the design and implementation of a national challenge to scale clean energy retrofits in the low- and moderate-income (LMI) housing market in a way that centers racial equity. The proposed national challenge will be undertaken in coordination with Rockefeller and the Department of Energy to dramatically scale up retrofits in the low- and moderate-income housing market, and drive policy and program innovation among all challenge applicants — including eligible cities, counties, and/or states and their critical private sector and nonprofit stakeholders.


In addition to serving as a technical advisor to help design and implement the challenge nationally, HR&A is leading the content development for the affordable housing and energy efficiency in affordable housing trainings and helping to facilitate the R2E2 Summit on January 19 – 20, 2023. The summit will provide programming to educate local/state government staff and community-based organizations on how to leverage federal funding and multi-sector, community-centered approaches to scale up holistic retrofits in LMI housing.

The following press release was originally published on December 1, 2022 on the The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)’s website. 


Washington, DC—Communities often left out of climate investments will receive support to develop energy-saving home retrofit strategies under the new nationwide initiative Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity (R2E2). Funded by a $2.5 million grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, $250,000 each from JPMorgan Chase and the Wells Fargo Foundation, and additional support from The JPB Foundation, R2E2 will provide training to state, local, and tribal governments as well as community-based organizations to jumpstart energy upgrades for affordable housing that will lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve residents’ health, create good-paying local jobs, and help advance racial equity.


Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity (R2E2) will kick off with training sessions in January on scaling up building energy retrofits and leveraging the unprecedented federal funding available from COVID-19 relief programs, the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and other sources.


A partnership of the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Elevate, Emerald Cities Collaborative, and HR&A Advisors, R2E2 will offer guidance on energy upgrade financing models, economic inclusion, navigating the complexities of the affordable housing sector, and engaging with community-based organizations to ensure proposals reflect community needs. People’s Climate Innovation Center is advising R2E2 on centering equity in the project and its outcomes and on facilitating community-driven planning processes.


Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity will center environmental justice and racial equity to address the compounding crises of housing affordability, energy insecurity, and climate change. Energy insecurity is particularly acute in Native American, Black, and Hispanic households, which pay an average of between 20% and 45% more of their incomes on energy bills than white households but are among the least likely to receive energy upgrades. R2E2 will encourage state, local, and community teams to prioritize authentic engagement with underserved communities, bolster community priorities and leaders, advance local workforce development, and target programs to those who have historically been excluded by past policies, such as BIPOC communities, renters, and marginalized groups.


“Too many households—especially families with lower incomes—live in poorly insulated and energy-inefficient homes, leaving them with high utility bills and uncomfortable or dangerous temperatures,” said Annika Brindel, ACEEE’s director of Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity. “We are working with communities to craft a pathway to safer, more comfortable, and less expensive housing, while centering racial equity, community priorities, and local job creation.”


Henry Love, Elevate’s senior director of municipal and community programs, said: “Upgrading and decarbonizing homes makes them healthier, safer, and more resilient against a changing climate. Our approach supports communities as they develop strategies for upgrading their buildings and protecting their residents. R2E2 creates a one-stop shop for communities to get support as they create a strategy for upgrading their buildings. We’re taking a holistic approach to zero-carbon buildings in a way that benefits the communities that need it most.”


Meishka Mitchell, president and CEO of Emerald Cities Collaborative, said: “Our transition to an energy-efficient economy must include underinvested communities that have been most impacted by our history of environmental injustice. Emerald Cities Collaborative is pleased to lend its expertise in economic inclusion, workforce development, labor standards, and community benefit agreements to this valuable initiative.”


Jonathan Meyers, partner at HR&A Advisors, said: “We are excited to work with this diverse team to support a national transition toward equitable decarbonization in low- and moderate-income housing. This challenge will require a holistic response, and we have high hopes that this initiative will help transform the way housing and energy experts partner with each other and communities to improve the lives and communities of all residents.”


Corrine Van Hook-Turner, director of People’s Climate Innovation Center, said: “We are pleased to serve as the strategic advisor of R2E2, providing guidance and community-driven capacity building support to help strengthen and shape the delivery of key investments to frontline communities. In collaboration with project partners, we will continue advocating for and practicing structures and decision-making practices that are rooted in equity and justice to drive this important work.”


R2E2 will begin its training and technical assistance with an online summit on January 19 and 20. The summit will feature interactive, in-depth sessions on leveraging federal funding, community-driven planning, and the multiple benefits that residential retrofits can bring to communities. The summit is free and community-based organizations are eligible to receive stipends for their participation. Those interested in receiving periodic updates and information about the upcoming summit can sign up here.


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit research organization, develops policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change. Its independent analysis advances investments, programs, and behaviors that use energy more effectively and help build an equitable clean energy future.


Elevate is a nonprofit organization that works nationally and is headquartered in Chicago. Elevate designs and implements programs to ensure that everyone has clean and affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities —no matter who they are or where they live.


Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) is a national nonprofit network of organizations working together to advance a sustainable environment while creating sustainable, just and inclusive economies with opportunities for all — an approach we call “the high road.” ECC develops energy, green infrastructure and other sustainable development projects that not only contribute to the resilience of our metropolitan regions but also ensure an equity stake for low-income communities of color in the green economy. This includes developing the economic infrastructure for family-supporting wages and career paths for residents of such communities, as well as contracting opportunities for women, BIPOC and other disadvantaged businesses.


HR&A Advisors, Inc. (HR&A) is an employee-owned company advising public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic clients on how to increase opportunity and advance quality of life in cities. We believe in creating vital places, building more equitable and resilient communities, and improving people’s lives.


People’s Climate Innovation Center brings a whole systems approach to movement building, cultivating a strong culture of designing transformative solutions that restore and regenerate healthy earth systems and built environments for all. Our approach emphasizes the need for solutions that are community-driven, interconnected, and intervene at multiple levels.

Smart Cities New York Urban Tech Summit 2022 Key Takeaways

Giacomo Bagarella shares insights from the 2022 Smart Cities New York Urban Tech Summit. This piece was also featured in The Envoy.


Urban technology comes in many shapes and sizes, and they influence the lives of city-dwellers in myriad ways. Take, for example, your commute home from work: You can call a ride with an app on your phone, step into an electric vehicle when it arrives, and then use another app to turn on the heat in your apartment so it’s comfortable when you arrive. These technologies have various financing mechanisms, lifespans, energy needs, and interdependencies. Together, they make up a slice of everything that’s required to keep a city operating and our lives moving, and to do so with fewer carbon emissions.


The 2022 Smart Cities New York Urban Tech Summit focused on this topic with two packed days revolving around “The Climate Mobilization: Harnessing NYC’s Urban Tech Ecosystem.” Hosted and organized by Cornell Tech, the conference offered a convenient (and transit-accessible) way to reconnect in person with this community after several years of remote-only events.


Here are some themes that stood out:


The green transition will depend on new financial and financing models. Supporting the coming generations of technologies and infrastructure requires making investments affordable and desirable across potential users — from households to businesses to governments. This will involve a combination of up-front and life-cycle incentives, payment plans, new ways to generate revenue streams, insurance that appropriately allocates risk, and structures that protect early adopters of rapidly evolving technologies. While recent federal legislation provides some of this, the green transition will need many more solutions and capital to occur at the required pace. Regional, state, and local entities — like green banks and even other forms of public banks — could become key players in this space.


Energy storage is a land use challenge. Storage will be an increasingly in-demand use outdoors (on open lots), indoors (within existing buildings), and in garages (for vehicle-to-grid solutions). Cities need to resolve big questions around site selection and zoning, the type of leases that’ll be needed for this kind of long-term infrastructure, negotiating community perspectives and impacts, and more. Storage may also offer a solution to underutilized or lower-quality office space and real estate.


Building decarbonization will require integration to scale. The design and construction industries are not vertically integrated, are fragmented among urban markets, and build buildings that are effectively bespoke. To achieve widespread decarbonization, there will need to be much greater integration across all of these dimensions to scale solutions and reduce costs for both new construction and rehab.


A growing number of organizations are entering this space. There was very strong representation by venture capital firms like Perl Street, Third Sphere, and Blackhorn Ventures, some of which focus exclusively on green transition technologies, and a plethora of startups like Enerdrape, Just Air, Hydronomy, and Ninedot Energy. While Cornell Tech itself is now 10 years old, the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning had several staff attend and talk about a new urban tech degree it is launching, demonstrating an appetite for this field by universities and students. Philanthropic intermediaries like CIV:LAB, a co-sponsor of the conference, joined to present about their impact models. Lastly, there was intriguing representation from consulates and trade missions. Representatives from Canada, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and London attended. Canada and Switzerland have New York City-based accelerator programs, and Sweden has a Sweden-U.S. Green Transition Initiative that will heavily intersect with the tech world.


Despite the many panels, workshops, and substantive conversations that took place, the summit could have explored two areas more critically.


There was limited coverage of workforce challenges and opportunities. Despite a dedicated panel, the event seemed to only scratch the surface of this issue and could have done a stronger job providing a more comprehensive view of this area and more humanizing insights on user journeys and personal stories that demonstrate effective approaches. Perhaps this emerged more strongly in breakout rooms, but speakers could have focused on this more to explain where we are today, where we need to be in the future, and pathways from the former to the latter.


Panelists discussed many important challenges without questioning their fundamentals and the need to change human behavior. A common theme throughout the conference was the need to manage the growing volume of deliveries and its impact on congestion, carbon emissions, waste, and more. However, speakers didn’t spend time digging into the root causes of this issue – how much and how inefficiently people order online — and focused instead its symptoms. Just as we have become comfortable questioning the need for car-centric planning and lifestyles, we should stop taking current modes of purchasing, delivery, and energy use — among others — as givens. Driving a car alone or ordering a single item online each have externalities that critically and environmentally-minded people should seek to address. Similarly, panelists discussed the aversion people could have to battery storage being built in city neighborhoods. We have come to accept some level of risk in our places and lives, like gas stations or large SUVs speeding around the city, and should have conversations around accepting some new risks, like batteries, to prevent bigger ones like climate change. Ultimately, human behavioral change will need to accompany technological change in a more sustainable, less carbon-intensive future, and we should be comfortable discussing this directly.


*          *          *


Throughout the event, it was refreshing not hear to hear terms like “crypto” or “blockchain” bandied about as theoretical “someday” solves for very pressing, real challenges. This indicated a focus on tangible solutions as opposed to hyped-up tech. In fact, participants often returned to the idea of trains as the most undervalued but perfectly tested urban technology.


A greener future requires better signals and interconnections. Whether it’s policymakers establishing clearer signals through incentives and disincentives, communities expressing their preferences, investors and consumers pursuing the right solutions, and different technologies integrating with each other, the flow of preferences, information, and resources will need to evolve to shape a new urban paradigm. The Urban Tech Summit is a good start in this direction.




HR&A at ULI 2022 Fall Meeting

HR&A is excited to engage with fellow urbanists and changemakers at the 2022 ULI Fall meeting. Below is a recap of where you can find us at this year’s event:


2022 ULI Americas Awards for Excellence

You’ll find Senior Advisor Marilynn Davis and Chair of the 2022 ULI Americas Awards for Excellence jury at many of the Fall meeting events and also presenting the 2022 ULI Americas Awards for Excellence. Marilynn recently shared insights about this year’s Award winners:

“Amidst the evolving pandemic and the social, economic, and environmental disarray that it has highlighted, I am inspired by the range of projects that were submitted for the jury’s consideration, that elevate our sense of community and extol the human spirit through the built environment. Whether designed for the public realm or for more focused audiences, and whether large or small, these endeavors employ the highest development and design principles to serve a range of objectives, be they urban revitalization, environmental stewardship, equity, or community-building.”


Speaking Events

October 25, 1 2pm CT | Principal Aaron Abelson will be moderating a Panel with representatives from the Trust for Public Land and Parks for Downtown Dallas on Green = Gold; Parks, Trails, and Open Space as a Catalyst for Generating Economic Value.


October 25, 1 2pm CT | Partner Mason Ailstock will be speaking as a panelist for a discussion on Innovation Districts in Midsized Cities with representatives from Ancora Partners and the City of Richmond.


October 25, 2:30 3:30pm CT | Partner Stan Wall will be speaking as a panelist for a discussion on Equitable Transit-Oriented Communities: Shaping Ecosystems of Equity, Health, and Affordability.


October 27, 10:30 – 11:30am CT | CEO Eric Rothman and Partner Amitabh Barthakur, AICP will lead a panel on Industry Insights and Trends Sessions: The Public/Private Partnership Council.


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

Aaron Abelson — Principal, Dallas

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

Amitabh Barthakur, AICP — Partner, Los Angeles, Public/Private Partnership Council (Blue Flight)

Joseph Cahoon — Senior Advisor, Dallas

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

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

Jeff Hebert — President, New York

Thomas Jansen — Principal, New York, Urban Revitalization Council (Blue)

Ignacio Montojo — Principal, New York

Ada Peng — Director, Los Angeles

Eric Rothman — CEO, New York, Public/Private Partnership Council (Gold Flight)

Alex Stokes — Principal, Chicago

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

Martha Welborne — Senior Advisor, Los Angeles, Placemaking Council


Additional Updates About HR&A and ULI in 2022

ULI Prize for Visionaries

HR&A congratulates Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang, for her recent ULI Prize for Visionaries. Partner and Board Chair Candace Damon served on the jury that selected Jeanne Gang. Randy Rowe, ULI Prize Jury Chair and chairman of Green Courte Partners in Chicago shared insights on the jury’s rationale for selecting Gang:

“Jeanne’s work is elevated further by her commitment to helping others envision a new future for design. Through research, publications, and exhibitions, she has educated urban designers and architects about how they can make meaningful change with their own projects. This could not be more in line with ULI’s mission, and it’s clear her efforts continue to have a lasting, positive impact on communities worldwide.”


Staff Spotlight: Taylor Kay talks Inglewood, economic development, and the lessons she shares with her students

Taylor Kay, a native Angeleno, joined HR&A in 2021 after serving in the Planning Division at the City of Inglewood. Prior to HR&A, she worked at Thomas Safran & Associates, a developer and operator of affordable and luxury mixed-use residential communities.


She supports a range of Inclusive Cities, Real Estate and Economic Development projects, participates in the Black Employee Resource Group, supports firm recruitment, and taught a Policy, Planning, and Development course at the University of Southern California (USC), where she also received dual master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Public Administration.


How has community development evolved in LA since the start of your career? 
With scarce resources and an ever-changing world, traditional systemic approaches to community development are being reconsidered in favor of more proactive and innovative approaches. It is no longer acceptable to adopt a plan for a neighborhood, structure a (real estate) deal within a neighborhood, or infuse capital into an area without being thoughtful and strategic about the people impacted by the project. It is a beautiful thing, in my opinion, that there is now a platform to talk about concepts that were once “swept under the rug,” such as barriers to opportunity, inequality, the concentration of poverty, and “social problem recidivism” (credit to Jeffrey Snell at University of Wisconsin-Madison for this last term).


What’s the best part about working across so many different neighborhoods at the same time? 
Every day at HR&A challenges me! Our work connects us with neighborhoods in a way that requires a level of intuition, humility, and creativity that I have not experienced before. Working across several communities, cities, and states simultaneously enables me to bridge the gap between the realities communities are facing and solutions that empower communities to thrive.


What story about your hometown of Inglewood should remain in the post-Superbowl headlines?
For Black and brown people, Inglewood has been a city of economic opportunity, a safe space, and hub of culture for decades. Events such as the Superbowl, the Olympics, etc. have re-instilled pride in community members in ways that the city has not seen since the Lakers and the Kings used to play at the Forum. These events also infuse much-needed capital into an economically disadvantaged area. The caveat to all of this, however, is that these major events put immense pressure on the community as visitors come to the city and see what a hidden gem it is. In the absence of an inclusive economic development strategy, Inglewood is vulnerable to the same level of gentrification and displacement that has been felt in neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, Leimert Park/Baldwin Hills, West Adams, and other parts of Southern California in recent years.


Our team recently spent a day visiting community landmarks in Inglewood, including SoFi Stadium, Image courtesy of Taylor Kay


What is one lesson that you tell your students to remember about planning and public policy? 
We (developers, planners, policymakers, etc.) carry a unique and nuanced responsibility to the communities we inhabit, as both people with lived experience and practitioners in positions of power. Our ethics, values, and politics inform the decisions we make that influence outcomes for people and planet. Therefore, it is important to operate from a place of servant leadership and global citizenship no matter what aspect of the industry we decide to pursue.


What are a few of your favorite locally owned businesses?There are far too many, but here are a few!

Philadelphia is ready for a public bank

This opinion piece by Andrea Batista Schlesinger was originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune.


The financial system in Philadelphia is failing its residents. Almost a quarter of Philadelphia’s population lives below the poverty line, with 1 in 10 living in deep poverty, and more residents are unbanked or underbanked than in any other major U.S. city. Philadelphians have identified a strong potential solution: creating a municipal public bank to address historic inequities in providing access to quality banking and financial services.


After years of careful planning and deliberation — including engaging HR&A Advisors to conduct a landmark study on this solution — the City Council passed legislation in March to establish the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority. There are many tools a city can use to address historic racialized gaps in the private banking system, and Philadelphia is employing some of them, but HR&A’s study revealed that the existing programs are not sufficient to address the scale of the challenge.


HR&A estimates that there is at least a $840 million lending gap for small businesses in Philadelphia — a gap that mirrors racialized patterns of inequity in the city. To address that chasm, we need a bold, innovative solution to bring stronger financial autonomy to every corner of the city, rather than the existing patchwork of pale improvements.


Philadelphia’s lowest-income neighborhoods are home to 50% of the city’s households but just 9% of the city’s small businesses. Low-income neighborhoods also have the lowest percentage of small business loans across the city. It’s no coincidence that a vast majority of small business are located in more affluent areas. Black and Latino residents are 18 times more likely to be unbanked than white residents in the Philadelphia region.


City Council adopted a plan to create a City-controlled authority that would lend direct capital to those small businesses in low-income neighborhoods. Even more importantly, if City Council follows through with funding, it could leverage the City’s municipal deposits — a massive pool of wealth that dwarfs the capacity of mission-driven credit unions or community banks.


The current system is not adequately addressing Philadelphia’s dramatic racial divides. The Philadelphia Public Financial Authority would be empowered to address these divides in multiple ways: by providing loans to small businesses in underserved neighborhoods, by financing community economic development entities to build these neighborhoods up, and by offering lower-cost banking services. The authority would also fund and foster the growth of community-benefiting initiatives like renewable energy, housing accessibility and public education. These services could transform the lives of a generation of Philadelphians who have been consistently left behind by private banking institutions.


HR&A has conducted similar public banking feasibility studies for Seattle and Lancaster, California, and is currently working on one in San Francisco. In each of these studies, HR&A found that rather than take away from existing community connections, public banking entities, if thoughtfully constructed, could help empower existing organizations like small credit unions and business that are currently underfunded. This would offer more opportunities for residents who might not have a credit score or who have been turned away by larger corporate banks.


The benefits of a tool like this at the disposal of the City would be myriad. Not only would City-controlled banking bridge lending gaps to empower more small and BIPOC-owned businesses in underserved communities, but it would also drive the economic growth that leads to more and better jobs and higher incomes. Given its mandate to act as a depository and provide cash management services, the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority would also offer the City financial independence from the private commercial banking sector, which translates into savings and local control of taxpayers’ money to ease access to capital to improve the provision of public goods and services.


Funding the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority is also a sound financial decision for the city. In the long-term, public bank dividends could help diversify the municipal revenue base, potentially decreasing reliance on property tax and sales tax revenues.


A Philadelphia Public Financial Authority public bank is an idea whose time is come, as demonstrated by City Council’s decisive 15-1 vote to approve the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority. The City of Philadelphia needs every tool at its disposal to bring necessary services to Philadelphians who have been underserved and underbanked for far too long, and by launching this bank, the City will establish the country’s first municipal public bank and become a model for the nation.