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Applying the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator

This article is the second in a series of articles on the Massachusetts Tideland Calculator. See Part One HERE. This series is a companion to an article published by The Conservation Law Foundation, available HERE.

 

The Conservation Law Foundation and HR&A Advisors developed the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator. Grounded in a solid understanding of real estate finance and market realities, the tool suggests a helpful framework for evaluating public and private use of public lands in many contexts.

 

“Chapter 91” of Massachusetts General Laws preserves public access to the waterfront by establishing requirements on land uses, building heights, and the siting of public open space in waterfront areas called tidelands. However, a project can obtain exceptions and build bigger or higher than what Chapter 91 rules allow on tidelands. In these cases, the project owner often has to compensate the public for the loss of waterfront open space by making a “mitigation payment.” Unfortunately, there has been no consistent framework for sizing these payments. To help fill this gap, the Conservation Law Foundation worked with HR&A Advisors to design the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator. The Calculator models the land value premium that a real estate development project gains by relaxing Chapter 91 rules.

 

The calculator in action—a theoretical case

For example, a real estate developer files plans to build a residential high-rise located on private tidelands in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. In addition to imposing strict height limits on the building onsite, Chapter 91 also requires that 50 percent of the site consist of open space. However, the proposal exceeds these height limits and only preserves 34% of the site area as open space.

 

The Calculator estimates that the proposed project includes about 210,000 square feet of gross floor area, 60,000 square feet more than what would be legally possible under Chapter 91. This increased gross floor area results in a residual land value premium of at least $4.6 million.

 

Project details: The site is 35,000 square feet in area, and it is located on private tidelands in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. The proposed tower includes 80 rental apartments, 60 condominiums, and 20,000 square feet of retail on top of 190 units of underground parking. In addition to imposing strict height limits on the building onsite, Chapter 91 also requires that 50 percent of the site consist of open space. However, the proposal exceeds the height limits and only delivers 12,000 square feet of open space.

Because the project delivers less than the minimum required open space onsite, the project owner has to compensate the public for the loss. A portion of the residual land value premium could serve as a source of this payment. And reaching out to the surrounding community would be a key step to envision the types of benefits that payment could create for everyone along the waterfront.

 

For more information on the methodology for calculating project value—referred to as residual land valuation—take a look at the calculator methodology.

 

Public and private benefits can align under Chapter 91

Although the narrative above suggests inherent conflict between public and private interests, this is not always the case. The developer’s returns and the public’s rights can often align. For example, delivering high-quality open space and public-facing amenities such as retail and community space can also significantly boost the private value of a project.

Photo by Tim Pierce

 

Boston Properties’ Atlantic Wharf project in Downtown Boston exhibits the potential for alignment. The project’s waterfront amenities include a public plaza facing the water, interior public spaces and exhibition rooms, ground-floor dining, and docks for water taxis and public boating use—all of which arguably boost the value of residential and office space onsite.

 

A new approach to evaluating private use of public lands

When it comes to waterfront development regulations, Massachusetts’s Chapter 91 is uniquely bold and specific. However, federal agencies, states, and local governments across the country engage in similar negotiations and deals to secure public benefits from private interests that develop on or use public land and water.

 

In California, the California Coastal Commission—and local agencies in specific cities like San Francisco—regulate development activities along the state’s coastline to ensure that the public enjoys uninterrupted access to the beach and ocean. On rare occasions when shoreline real estate developments cannot meet coastal development guidelines, the projects contribute a payment in lieu of compliance to a trust fund administered by the California Coastal Conservancy. The Trust Fund, in turn, distributes funding to projects that improve public access, natural resources, working lands, and climate resiliency projects along California’s coast.

 

Around national parks across the country, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) acquires lands and waters to expand or protect federally owned areas, or extend public access to those areas. To make purchases, the LWCF relies on earnings from offshore oil drilling and natural gas leasing on said federal lands. In doing so, the LWCF effectively monetizes private energy-related imposition on public lands in order to further expand public resources.

 

Monetizing private interests in public lands in order to exact payments for public goods is nothing new. But in this broader context, the Calculator represents a new approach—one grounded in a solid understanding of real estate finance and market realities—to unlocking tangible public benefits from private actors that access land and water that belongs to the public. The Calculator makes it easier to have a conversation about the scale of public benefit that is appropriate, leaving public stakeholders and community groups to weigh in on how the money is used.

Welcoming New Members of our Team

HR&A is pleased to announce new additions to the Growth, People and Operations (GPO) team in our New York and LA offices, and our Consulting team in our New York, Washington DC, and Raleigh offices.

 

Adina Jahan, Research Analyst | Adina’s research and quantitative analysis guides strategies for equitable urban development, bringing expertise in the health policy and politics of underprivileged populations. Learn more about Adina.

 

Tajae Hinds, Recruitment Coordinator | Tajae supports HR&A’s People team by informing, developing and implementing recruitment strategies for consulting and non-consulting roles. Learn more about Tajae.

 

Eve Lettau, Analyst | Eve’s analysis guides policy recommendations for equitable and holistic economic development related to innovation districts, workforce development, and wealth. Learn more about Eve.

 

Danno Lemu, Analyst | Danno pulls from diverse experiences in community organizing, research, and data analysis to support economic development and affordable housing initiatives in the DC-region. Learn more about Danno.

 

Sam Moeller, Communications Manager | Sam helps HR&A tell its story by overseeing the firm’s digital communications strategy in support of intentional growth and meaningful impact. Learn more about Sam.

Launching the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator: An Innovative Approach to Evaluating Public and Private Waterfront Benefits

This article is a companion to an article published by The Conservation Law Foundation, available HERE. This article is the first in a series of articles on the Massachusetts Tideland Calculator. See Part Two of the series HERE.

 

The Conservation Law Foundation and HR&A Advisors developed the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator, a unique education and advocacy tool that represents a new and innovative approach to evaluating the economic tradeoffs between public and private access to public land.

 

The Massachusetts Public Waterfront Act—also known as “Chapter 91” of Massachusetts General Laws—gives every state resident a legal right to access waterfront areas called tidelands. The Act sets specific requirements on land uses, building heights, and the siting of public open space in tidelands. The goal of these rules is to preserve public access to the waterfront.

 

Diagram of a shoreline that complies with Chapter 91 regulations.

 

 

When public and private interests conflict, a need for new tools

In high-value real estate markets—such as Downtown Boston and Boston’s Seaport neighborhood—Chapter 91 requirements and real estate development goals can come into conflict. Waterfront tideland parcels are tremendously valuable to the public, especially in contexts where development is already limiting views and available open space. At the same time, maximizing real estate development on these parcels can generate significant financial returns to private developers while achieving important economic development and housing goals in dense urban areas. Therefore, a developer or city may desire to build larger or taller, or to reduce public open space on a site in order to unlock greater financial returns for both the private and public sectors.

 

Public Value of the Waterfront

  1. High-quality open space facing the water
  2. Opportunities for waterfront urban connectivity (e.g., Boston’s Harborwalk)
  3. Access to water-dependent uses and amenities: water taxis, boating, fishing
  4. Space for green infrastructure that combines public use and flood resilience

 

Private Value of the Waterfront

  1. Significant opportunity for private profit and greater local property tax revenue
  2. Significant value premium conferred by waterfront views and waterfront proximity
  3. Development of commercial office space to advance economic development goals
  4. Development of housing in urban areas with high demand for residential space

 

In the context of Chapter 91, if a project owner receives an exception to build bigger, higher, or otherwise reduce public access onsite, then the owner usually has to compensate the public for the public access it is taking away. This compensation is called a “mitigation payment.” But there is no consistent or clear methodology or framework for negotiating such a payment. This lack of clarity can make waterfront development approvals and decision-making challenging and controversial.

 

To fill in this gap, the Conservation Law Foundation—an environmental advocacy organization based in New England—worked with HR&A Advisors to design the Massachusetts Tideland Development Calculator.

 

Benefits communities can unlock from waterfront development

The Tideland Development Calculator estimates the additional land value unlocked by a project that reduces public access to tidelands. The calculator suggests that this “land value premium” could—at least in part—be a source of financial compensation back to the public. This funding could support waterfront-related public benefits. Benefits could include: public access to the waterfront close to the site, enhanced public amenities (e.g. water taxi stations, community spaces, public programming), or investments that deliver waterfront open space integrated with coastal resilience infrastructure.

 

To assess the land value premium, the calculator creates two versions of the same project.

 

  1. Proposed project. The calculator allows the user to define a tideland site and a potential project on that site. Given regional market assumptions, the calculator estimates the ballpark land value of this proposed project.
  2. Compliant comparison project. The calculator compares the proposed project to a Ch91-compliant comparison project. The comparison project represents the legally achievable building scale onsite given Chapter 91 requirements. This project shares the same proportional mix of uses as the proposed.

 

 

When the proposed project is larger and more valuable than the Ch91-complaint comparison project, this means that it exceeds Chapter 91 rules and unlocks greater land value as a result. This incremental value is the “land value premium”: the total extra value generated by reducing public waterfront access.

 

By estimating the land value premium associated with relaxing Chapter 91 rules and limiting public access, the Calculator sets transparent bounds for negotiations about what amount of compensation is owed back to the public—to fund investments like enhanced open space nearby and other public amenities.

 

The Calculator can reveal vital information about the private value at stake in Chapter 91 decisions. This information, which is usually very difficult to estimate, can serve as input to a more holistic process of municipal harbor planning. In practice, this broader process of harbor planning must also continue to meaningfully engage the public to understand the quantifiable and non-quantifiable importance of waterfront access for all community members, balanced against the importance of real estate development.

 

This article is a companion to an article published by The Conservation Law Foundation, available HERE.

How to turn dreams into dollars

Written by Amitabh Barthakur, Kate Collignon, and Stan Wall

 

The $973 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law last year, represents the largest investment in national infrastructure in decades. Before cities, counties, and states can access these funds and leverage any additional public or private funding, they must differentiate their visions, competing with exemplary projects from every corner of the country.  

 

HR&A has been helping cities across the country with competitive funding applications. We’ve convened stakeholders and partners to confirm visions, develop application narratives, refine strategies, and provide project management support through application deadlines and beyond. 

 

To illustrate what it takes to propose new projects that secure competitive funding, we spoke with three clients, all of whom have successfully competed for state or federal funding within the last year. Angie Rodgers is the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic Development in the Office of the Executive of Prince George’s County. Ron Golem is the Director of Real Estate & Transit-Oriented Development for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). Julie Schneider is the Director of Housing and Revitalization for the City of Detroit. Although their circumstances differ, certain themes are common among their successful efforts. 

 

A compelling narrative promises large-scale transformation. Prince George’s County, located outside of Washington, DC, recently secured over $400 million from the State of Maryland for Blue Line Corridor projects. The Blue Line Corridor is a vision for mixed-use transit-oriented development along the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Blue Line. The County is the largest and the wealthiest majority-Black county in the United States and has long sought to increase its competitive position in the Washington region. The County envisioned the Blue Line Corridor as a template for an equitable economic and community development strategy that could then be rolled out in other transit corridors in the County.  

 

The proposal to the State went far beyond just describing how to expand transit and attract business — it included fostering housing production, including affordable housing; celebrating the existing community through arts and cultural investments; and creating active mixed-use communities to attract new businesses. It set forth a goal of creating a sense of place across a diverse, 500-square-mile County comprising rural, urban, and suburban areas.

 

HR&A helped develop this vision and served as an extension of the County’s Economic Development team, specifically helping to translate the vision into a portfolio of infrastructure investments. Describing and visualizing the components of the vision attracted a wide range of stakeholders who successfully advocated to state lawmakers and continue to help leverage additional investment as the project unfolds.

 

Establishing the connection between competitive public funding and private investment makes for a compelling narrative as we learned from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and its successful application to expand its transportation network through the new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Expedited Project Delivery (EPD) pilot program. VTA understood that EPDs are required to utilize public-private partnerships and have a federal share not exceeding 25% of the project cost. Therefore, a partnership with Google was critical for securing federal support for the long-dreamed-of extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). HR&A worked with VTA’s Director of Real Estate & Transit-Oriented Development to estimate the impact of the BART extension on VTA’s real estate assets as well as well as the potential growth of transit-oriented communities proximate to the new stations, referencing the City of San Jose and Google’s commitment as evidence of the validity of the estimate. 

 

After solidifying Google as the project’s key private partner, all efforts pivoted to engaging regional agencies to establish the plan’s value, including economic opportunity, in order to secure the state and local funding commitments to establish the match for federal funding. One key hurdle was the lack of precedent — a new funding stream meant there was no playbook to reference. VTA and FTA collaborated to prove the plan’s readiness, feasibility, and impact for communities from San Jose to Santa Clara. VTA leadership stayed in close touch with their federal colleagues, especially to define the public-private partnership, proactively address equity, meet conditions required to enter into a federal funding agreement, and refine future frameworks. VTA relied on a core set of subject matter experts to assist in compiling the business case for the funding application. 

 

In the end, VTA was selected as the first recipient of this new FTA program. With a second federal allocation announced in late March 2022, HR&A is excited to work with VTA on implementation. 

 

Demonstrating community support is essential. HR&A worked with the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department to secure $30 million in HUD Choice Neighborhoods (CNI) funding for the city’s historic Corktown neighborhood. In spite of the challenges of virtually assembling an application during the height of the pandemic, the City engaged residents from the Clement Kern Gardens Apartments, service providers, the Ford Motor Company, and City agencies to develop a collective vision for equitable redevelopment anchored by housing and workforce opportunities along with other infrastructure improvements. The City worked hard and early in the planning process to build trust with the community undertaking an extensive effort to listen, discuss, and identify opportunities for planned improvements and new resources to benefit different groups. The City successfully adapted its approach to community engagement during the course of the project, shifting from offsite and Zoom meetings to outdoor conversations onsite during more convenient times for residents. HR&A helped the City gauge the competitiveness of its application throughout the process, enabling it to remain accountable to the community and to the grant process. 

 

These efforts boosted the grant application’s chances of success in two ways. First, the City was able to demonstrate that the community’s priorities overlapped with the grant’s parameters. Second, the early focus on community engagement generated broad support around a set of common interests and priorities that elected officials and other stakeholders could use to advocate for the effort. 

 

HUD’s award of $30 million to the city will preserve the existing public housing in the neighborhood and create more than 700 new affordable and mixed-income homes. In addition, the grant is leveraging over $800M in additional public and private investment in public space, community facilities and commercial development. The extensive outreach effort established a strong base of support to move the project forward and not lose sight of the relationships developed during the application process. 

 

* * * 

 

There are billions of federal and state resources available for communities to address critical infrastructure investments, and the need to plan early and intentionally to win those funds has never been more evident. This is a historic opportunity to improve lives and entire regions. 

Marilynn Davis Joins HR&A

HR&A is proud to announce that Marilynn Davis has joined the firm as our newest Senior Advisor.



Marilynn, who most recently served as the Chief Real Estate Officer at Clark Atlanta University, will help expand the firm’s impact across Atlanta and beyond.

Marilynn’s career has placed her in leadership roles across sectors, including Assistant Secretary of Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nominated by President Clinton, Managing Director of the New York office of real estate development firm IMC Octave, CEO at landscape architecture firm, Martha Schwartz Partners and other roles at FleetBoston Financial Corporation (now a part of Bank of America), American Express Corporation and General Motors Corporation.

In April, Marilyn will represent HR&A on a panel at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Spring Meeting in San Diego — Redefining Excellence in Real Estate with Equity at the Core.

Learn more about Marilynn’s story below.

What inspired you to join HR&A following such a defining chapter of your career at Clark Atlanta University (CAU)?

For over 150 years, CAU has provided young African Americans with the intellectual and leadership tools to shape “the future of the global community.” As the institution’s first-ever Chief Real Estate Officer, we aligned our 50+ acre portfolio with our mission by actively seeking to generate revenue while also reinvesting in the Atlanta community in which the University is situated.

CAU is successfully leveraging the booming real estate market in Atlanta to create economic opportunity and prevent displacement of our neighbors. As we see in Atlanta, universities, cities, and real estate professionals are uniquely positioned to develop projects that meet financial metrics, but also provide avenues for economic and social uplift. Joining HR&A enables me to advance these opportunities across the country as part of a firm operating with equity as an intrinsic part of the solutions it proposes to clients.

How do you approach turning vision into action, especially for projects that feature public, private and community stakeholders?

The most successful development projects enable public, private, and community priorities to converge. While the community remains engaged, and their concerns actively addressed, public leaders advance solutions to improve quality of life for all residents. The private sector acknowledges the connectivity between developing visionary projects and sustaining good quality of life to attract the talent that they will need to sustain their investments. In addition, it’s critical that we incorporate the perspective of education systems, cultural, non-profit, and philanthropic institutions in building ecosystems that lead to successful planning and development.

How can the Atlanta Metro region continue to address equity through real estate and economic development?

This region is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom from an array of industries, so a critical precedent for promoting equity exists. Historically, large-scale real estate development has been conceptualized as projects in isolation, rather than parts of communities that embrace housing, education, culture, and public space for everyone. Large-scale real estate development should be considered the ultimate platform for building an ecosystem that will interact with and respond to the needs and aspirations of the people who the project will inevitably impact.

What are three of your favorite things to eat, see and do around Atlanta?
 

  • Ponce City Market: This former Sears warehouse on the Atlanta BeltLine features curated food and retail concepts alongside public event space, as well as commercial and residential property. This is where I eat, meet friends, and explore. The historic renovation has been a catalyst for the resurgence of the Old Fourth Ward community, and I hope the broader corridor along the BeltLine continues to more fully prioritize inclusive development.
  • High Museum of Art: The exhibitions and programs are remarkable while also being accessible to a range of visitors with various experience in the arts.
  • WCLK 91.9 FM: Check out CAU’s 24/7 jazz station, which features live programming and the best from the Marsalises, Coltrane, Davis, and others. You can support the non-profit station from anywhere in the world via their app.


What advice would you give to a young person exploring a career in real estate and urbanism?

A liberal arts education empowers a young person to embrace their intellectual curiosity and find creative solutions. Since building cities and developing real estate present a multitude of challenges with monumental impacts, I strongly encourage young people not to limit their exploration. Rather, dive into a wide range of relevant topics, from history, architecture, and design to economics, sociology, and science. This diverse knowledge can expand can a young person’s perspective, enrich their life, and prepare them to lead.

HR&A study leads to Philadelphia establishing the country’s first municipal public bank

On March 3, the Philadelphia City Council voted to establish the country’s first municipal public bank, which will lend capital to small businesses and address the historic racial disparities in commercial banking. This decision accelerates a different path for a city with one of the highest poverty rates, as well as the highest rate of un- and underbanked residents among major U.S. cities.
 
HR&A built on the vision established by the City of Philadelphia and authored an independent feasibility study that sets the direction for an optimal public bank structure that could achieve the City’s dual goals of uplifting the power of small businesses, many in the Black and Latinx communities, and upholding autonomy over the City’s financial resources. A public bank will help the City channel its banking powers in the public interest and offers a launching point for both immediate action and systemic change.
 
We commend the City of Philadelphia for launching an autonomous and equitable financial system for the people who live and work across the city.
 
Learn more about HR&A’s work with public banking here.

HR&A structures and closes $15.6 million loan by Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund in Washington, DC

HR&A structured and closed a $15.6 million loan by Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund to support the redevelopment of Parcel 42, a District of Columbia owned parcel in the heart of the Shaw neighborhood. Parcel 42 is being redeveloped through a public private partnership between the District of Columbia, Dantes Partners and H Street Community Development Corporation. The development plan is to construct a 10-story building with 108 affordable units, 2 market-rate units, and 1,800 SF ground floor retail space that will serve community needs. The project has already broken ground and is expected to deliver in 2024. 

 

The closing of Amazon’s loan signifies an exciting next step in a high-profile development that has been stalled for decades. Three previous RFP processes failed to result in a workable development plan. One of the continued sticking points was the community’s insistence that the resulting development be deeply affordable. Shaw is a historically black neighborhood where displacement and gentrification have defined the last twenty years. Thus, it was critical to the community that the District owned parcel be accessible to existing residents. Parcel 42 benefited from significant public sector support including discounted land acquisition costs paid to the District of Columbia, tax-exempt bonds, allocations of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the newly created DC local Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Yet, there was a financing gap. 

 

HR&A worked with Amazon to subordinate loan with a twenty-year term that filled the financing gap and ensures long term affordability. The project will be deeply affordable with nearly half the units available to households at or below fifty percent of area median income. HR&A’s work helped to ensure long term affordability that matched the terms Amazon was looking for and conformed with the various public funding sources.  

 

Dantes Partners is a leading Black-owned affordable housing developer in the Washington DC region. 

 

Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund (HEF) 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.  

 

Read the full press release from Mayor Murial Bowser’s Office of Community Affairs.

 

Racial Equity in Real Estate: Two Conversations about Recruiting and Elevating Diverse Professionals and Leaders

By Candace P. Damon
 
Candace Damon, a longtime senior leader of HR&A, was elected to be its Board Chair in December 2021. She also sits on the jury of the Urban Land Institute’s recently renamed ULI Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.
 
Eighteen months ago, my colleague, HR&A’s CEO Eric Rothman, published a statement in this forum that called on our firm and its collaborators to act on a shared responsibility to interrogate our roles in perpetuating racist systems in urban development. He went on to suggest that the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world, should be a leader and collaborator in this effort. The specific steps he urged ULI to take were the recommendations of a coalition of BIPOC and white ULI leaders, many of whom had been concerned about these issues for years and who had seized the moment.
 
Since that piece was published, ULI, we at HR&A, and virtually all of our collaborators have engaged in a process of self-examination and change, to address both who is represented in our industry and how we do our work.
 
We are pleased that since our initial call to action for change within our industry, ULI has renamed its most prestigious award, which had been named for a developer and philanthropist who perfected the use of restrictive covenants; appointed a senior executive who is charged with supporting DEI within the organization; launched a variety of other DEI initiatives, including the recent publication of a report on diversity efforts within commercial real estate; and significantly diversified its leadership.
 
Indeed, among the first steps virtually all of us have considered is how we can diversify the racial and gender composition of the industry. At HR&A, we sought guidance from outside experts and consulted with members of our staff and alumni to interrogate our recruiting, hiring, and evaluation practices. Our firm is now the most diverse it has ever been, with more than 40% of staff identifying as Black, Hispanic, Latino, Latina, Asian, or two or more races.
 
While we’ve made meaningful progress in how we recruit and hire, we have ahead of us the much harder task of ensuring that our diversity of staff feels welcomed and has access to training, sponsorship, and other support necessary to succeed. HR&A is committed to ongoing work on diversity, equity, and inclusion; to incorporating new approaches to equity in our work; and to continued partnership with our industry, all of which will strengthen us as a firm.
 
Many of our readers have been grappling with these issues for years. This issue, we seek to elevate some of that experience, viewed through the lens of two conversations about diversification of the industry that I’ve recently had with two longtime friends. Of particular interest to me in these conversations were these colleagues’ perceptions of the different requirements for building diversity in the industry at different career points: while one conversation reflects on what it takes to engage an adolescent in imagining a career in real estate, the other considers what it takes to support a young professional seeking leadership opportunities.
 
My longtime client and collaborator, Tyrone Rachal, is a founding Principal of Red Rock Global and President of Urban Key Capital Partners, both Atlanta-based, and was recently appointed a ULI Global Governing Trustee. Over the course of a career that has also included stints in financial services at some of this country’s largest private firms and in public development and development finance, Ty has been deeply engaged by how, having excited individuals from under-represented groups about a career in real estate, do you position them for success and leadership. His conviction is that, by doing so, there will be people in positions of power who are willing to commit the time, political capital, and resources to resolve the issues that often stymie investment in under-served communities.
 
My colleague Joseph Cahoon, a Senior Advisor at HR&A, is the Director of the Folsom Institute for Real Estate at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Over the past 18 months, he has renewed a personal commitment to ensure that the classes entering schools like SMU are more representative of this country’s communities than today’s classes are. Over this past summer, he led SMU’s effort to support a group of mostly Texan high schoolers, mostly BIPOC, who were participating in the Real Estate Executive Council’s (REEC) Real Estate Exchange Summer Program (REEX). The REEX program engages diverse high school students in a three-week long, first exploration of a career in commercial real estate, culminating in a competition among university-sponsored high school cadres. In its first engagement with REEX, the SMU-sponsored team won the 2021 summer competition.
 
I hope you will enjoy these excerpts of my conversations with Joseph and Ty as much as I did the longer conversations.
 
After you listen to Ty and Joseph, I hope you will reach out. I would like to hear from those of you who are also working on these issues; I speak for all my colleagues in saying we welcome your continued partnership and leadership.
 
 

Introducing a new class of leaders

HR&A is thrilled to announce a new class of leaders at our firm, including a new Chair of our Board and additions to our executive leadership team.

 
As a group, they exemplify our mission to ensure implementation of our clients’ aspirations. They are motivated by complex challenges, dedicated to clients, and fulfilled by making lasting impact. They come from a diversity of backgrounds, have a breadth of lived experience, and share a passion for cities.
 
This class, together with the rest of our Partners and employees, will continue working to create vital places, build more equitable and resilient communities, and improve people’s lives.
 
Happy New Year and stay tuned for more from HR&A in 2022.
 
 

Chair of the Board

Candace Damon has been a senior leader at the firm for over three decades, advancing from Director to Principal to Partner to Vice Chair and now, Chair of the Board of Directors.
 
Her career at HR&A has been dynamic: she has focused on effective public capital program management, downtown and waterfront redevelopment strategy, incentivization of investment in energy efficiency in commercial real estate, non-profit institutional growth, and the crafting of sustainable funding structures for parks and park systems. She has worked in virtually every major city in the U.S. and has consulted internationally.
 
Candace has shaped the firm’s trajectory and instilled a culture of excellence and mentorship across HR&A’s six offices. She serves and has served on multiple local and national non-profit boards and is an Honorary Member of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
 
As Chair, Candace will champion the firm’s growth in both traditional areas of strength and emerging practice areas, ensuring that we continue to create lasting impact in communities across the world.

 
 

Partner

Bret Collazzi / New York
Over eight years at HR&A, most recently as a principal, Bret has shaped ambitious urban investment strategies across New York and nationally, including more than $100 million of downtown investment in New York State, plans to transform Rikers Island into a green economy hub, and the development of NYC’s long-term plan, OneNYC. He recently led successful applications for the $1B Build Back Better Regional Challenge, a marquee Biden Administration program to transform regional economies and support equitable recovery across the country. Bret is a proud Bronx native with prior experience as a journalist and legislative aide. As a Partner at HR&A, he is excited to continue shaping the future of New York and beyond.
 
Jonathan Meyers / New York
Jon started his career at HR&A in 2001 in the New York Office and returned in 2016 after serving as the COO of the Trust of Governors Island. He’s provided unwavering value for a range of public and private sector clients, including the preliminary analysis of saving the High Line as a public open space. As a Partner, he will continue advising on the financing and implementation of complex real estate projects in the New York City metro, while also advancing a range of emerging policy issues, including equitable economic development, real estate and housing policy and open space governance and operations.
 
Jose Serrano-McClain / New York
Jose has been a leader in the HR&A Inclusive Cities and Urban Tech and Innovation practices since 2018. He is currently serving as the Co-Executive Director of NYC Speaks, a large-scale public engagement and government transformation initiative in NYC. As a Partner, Jose will advance a range of projects focusing on people-driven transformation of local government and economic planning for cities requiring strategies at the intersection of equity, innovation, and environmental justice. Jose is currently working on a comprehensive economic plan for Miami-Dade as it grapples with expanding opportunity in the green economy. Jose has worked in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Tech and Innovation, as a Community Organizer in Queens, and at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

 
 

Executive Management

Alex Lebow / Head of Growth
Alex most recently led a range of external sustainability initiatives at Nike and served as a senior aide to former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. He will launch the firm’s Growth team and evolve HR&A’s approach to business strategy and development, marketing and communications, and product development.
 
Joy A. Lo / Chief of Staff
Joy returns to the firm after most recently serving as the Director of Communications at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and previously working for Microsoft and the Urban Green Council. She will lead HR&A’s focus on strengthening culture and systems, improving internal communications, and developing the firm’s executive leadership.
 
Niki Stanley / Head of People
Niki previously served as both the Director of Human Capital and first ever Chief Diversity Officer at the NYC Department of City Planning, following a nine-year career at the NYC Department of Education. She will launch the firm’s People team and evolve all talent, recruitment, human resources and professional development initiatives.

 
 

Managing Principal

Aaron Abelson / Dallas
Aaron will continue leading the HR&A Dallas office while also advising clients on public-private real estate development, open space planning, and equitable economic development. He provides analysis and strategic guidance to move large-scale visions from plan to implementation, including Rice University’s development of The Ion District in Houston and the City of Dallas Economic Development Policy.

 
 

Principal

Our Principals lead teams and clients through strategic analysis, strategy development, and implementation planning.
 
Nina Bennett / Dallas
Jane Carlson / Los Angeles
Jonathan Haragold / New York
Sarah Kirk / Raleigh
Ignacio Montojo Segura / New York
Kristina Pecorelli / New York

 
 

Director

Our Directors lead analysis, research and project management across practices and the executive team.
 
Ada Peng / Los Angeles
Christiana Whitcomb / New York
Eri Furusawa / New York
Giacomo Bagarella / New York
John Morgan / New York
Kimberly Taylor / New York
Mary Jiang / Washington D.C.

 
 

Senior Analyst

Our Senior Analysts support a wide range of critical services across practices.
 
Syed Ali / New York
Mara Basich-Pease / Los Angeles
Keiley Gaston / Washington D.C.
Hannah Glosser / New York
Jenna Gray / Los Angeles
Landry Doyle-Wiese / Los Angeles
Mark Kubaczyk / Dallas
Ashley So / New York
Claire Summers / New York
Amelia Taylor-Hochberg / Los Angeles

 
 

Analyst

Our Analysts supports research and analysis.
 
Ariel Dames-Podell / New York
Benjamin Cole / Los Angeles
Carl Hooks / New York
Ethan Paik / New York
Solomon Abrams / Washington D.C.

The National Broadband Resource Hub launches

The Broadband Equity Partnership, powered by HR&A Advisors and CTC Technology & Energy, have announced the launch of the National Broadband Resource Hub: a first-of-its-kind, integrated online platform for state, county, local, and tribal government officials working to deploy broadband funding.
 
The Hub provides access to a resource library, online community forum and message board to connect with other leaders, and a help desk featuring the option to book an appointment to speak with broadband experts.
 

 
 
The National Broadband Resource Hub is an initiative of HR&A Advisors and CTC Technology & Energy, and is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation and Schmidt Futures. Click here to learn about our other efforts to close the digital divide.