Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework & Choice Neighborhood Implementation

In May 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the award of a $30M Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant to the City of Detroit that will make the Corktown Framework Plan a reality. The grant and Framework Plan were both a direct result of work HR&A has done over the last 2 years in Detroit to identify strategies that deliver equitable economic development.
 
The Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework, shaped by the community and released in November 2020, focuses on reinforcing this vibrant and diverse neighborhood as a place of opportunity for all residents, leveraging transformative investment under way by the Ford Motor Company in a new mobility innovation district anchored by the revitalized Michigan Central Train Station. HR&A’s team, led by Kate Collignon, worked with Perkins & Will and the Detroit Planning Department to set the stage for neighborhood infrastructure and policies that preserve affordability while fueling neighborhood and citywide economic growth. The plan dovetails with the creation of the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway — plans for which HR&A also supported as part of a team led by Smithgroup – which will increase mobility and recreational opportunities, and connect neighborhoods throughout Detroit to employment centers like that emerging in Corktown.
 
This plan became the basis for the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. Under the agency’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, five communities received a combined $150M to invest in neighborhoods to spur comprehensive revitalization. Working alongside the Detroit City Housing Department, an HR&A team led by Phillip Kash developed an approach and helped to prepare the application that led to a $30M award for Corktown. This is HR&A’s second successful Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. The first was for the redevelopment of the Saint Paul’s Quadrant in Norfolk, VA.
 
Now awarded, the Choice Grant will serve as the foundation of making The Corktown Plan a reality. It will preserve the existing public housing in the neighborhood and create more than 700 new affordable and mixed-income homes. In addition, the grant will leverage over $800M in additional public and private investment in public space, community facilities and commercial development.
 
The redevelopment approach sets a new gold standard for public housing redevelopment:

  • It will follow the Build First principal. New affordable housing will be built for current public housing residents before any units are demolished, ensuring that no one is forced out.
  • It will exceed 1:1 replacement for deeply affordable units. When completed there will be 152 units that are deeply affordable units as opposed to the 87 that existed before.
  • The supply of affordable housing in the neighborhood will increase, even as the market strengthens. In addition to the 152 deeply affordable units (30% AMI), there will be another 500+ units of affordable housing.
  • There will be affordable homeownership, and the opportunity to build wealth. The project includes 150 units of affordable homeownership and $5M in down payment assistance to make those homes affordable for households who would otherwise lack the wealth to purchase them.
  • Nonprofit ownership and control will increase. The Community Builders, a well-respected national nonprofit, will own and operate the majority of the housing developed. The current ownership is entirely by for-profit organizations.

 
 
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NYC Internet Master Plan

NYC’s groundbreaking Internet Master Plan lays the foundation for more equitable internet infrastructure, unlocking private sector innovation to connect all New Yorkers to expanded economic opportunity.

Challenge

High-speed internet access is the seminal infrastructure of the 21st Century and will shape the future of New York City. If made affordable and accessible to everyone, broadband can be a lever for increasing opportunity for residents, expanding the City’s position as a global economic leader, and supporting NYC as the fairest big city in America. Failure to connect all New Yorkers all but guarantees that some portion of the population will be left behind.
 
Broadband connectivity is a prerequisite to economic inclusion, yet nearly one third of NYC households (29%) currently do not have broadband in their homes. A striking 18% of city residents—more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—have neither a mobile connection nor a home broadband connection, yet both are required for full connectivity. Choice among residential broadband providers—a key driver of affordability, performance, and privacy—is limited relatively wealthy and dense neighborhoods. Today, commercial fiber is concentrated in Manhattan, starkly disadvantaging the economic viability of the City’s outer boroughs.

Solution

HR&A worked with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) to identify challenges, opportunities, and ambitions to deliver broadband infrastructure in New York City. We led an interdisciplinary team to craft an expansive outlook including:

     

  • A future-proof approach to infrastructure design and delivery
  • Strategies to leverage City assets for broadband use, creating value for public and private partners
  • A preferred business model and recommended public-private financing strategy for implementation
  • A governance strategy that consolidates oversight and reflects broadband’s status as core infrastructure
  • A benefits case for ubiquitous, affordable broadband, quantifying the economic and fiscal impacts associated with greater access for households, businesses, and improved municipal services
  • Potential initial implementation approaches that quickly make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers and serve as meaningful steppingstones to a longer-term implementation roadmap
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    Impact

    The HR&A team’s research, findings, and recommendations have shaped the City’s first ever Internet Master Plan, released in January 2020.
     
    The plan charts a path to expand the City’s role in broadband infrastructure and service delivery by facilitating public partnerships to fill gaps in the market, close the digital divide, and deliver universal, affordable broadband to all New Yorkers. The plan has been lauded by experts in the telecommunications and public policy. In a Brookings article titled “New York City and the FCC have two very different plans for expanding broadband access”, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Blair Levin praised the Internet Master Plan’s novel approach to combating broadband challenges through multi-stakeholder partnerships and prioritized problem-solving.
     
    Reliable high-speed internet is a prerequisite for full participation in our society; when COVID-19 hit, home broadband became undeniably essential. In May 2020, the City established the Universal Solicitation for Broadband (USB), a new procurement strategy outlined in the Internet Master Plan, with a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for ready-to-deploy ideas for free and low-cost internet service to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents.
     
    In July 2020, the City doubled down on universal broadband to advance racial inclusion and equity through COVID-19 response and recovery. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the acceleration of the Internet Master Plan, committing $157 million to expand affordable broadband access to 600,000 New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents. New York City’s commitment and strategy is among the boldest plays of any city in the country to achieving universal broadband.
     
    Check out the full Internet Master Plan here and read coverage from national and local news sources including, Gothamist, City & State, Next City, State Scoop, Ars Technica and CNET.
     
    For questions and inquiries, please contact Danny Fuchs at danny@hraadvisors.com or (212) 977-6171.

Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategy for Grand Rapids

HR&A led development of a strategic roadmap to achieve equitable economic development and mobility in the City of Grand Rapids.

Challenge

Driven by expansions in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, the Grand Rapids economy grew significantly following the recession, with unemployment hitting a low of 3.4% in 2018. However, this prosperity has not reached everyone in the city. The challenges facing Grand Rapids — chief among them racial and neighborhood-level disparities in access to economic opportunity and reliable and safe transportation to good jobs — are deep-seated issues that have frustrated the best efforts of many American cities. A strategy that is successful in addressing these issues must capitalize on the city’s advantages to continue to drive economic growth, while broadening opportunity and targeting initiatives to communities that have so far been left out.

Solution

HR&A led an interdisciplinary team that worked closely with the City of Grand Rapids and a steering committee of civic, business and resident stakeholders to develop strategies to advance the city’s economic development and mobility objectives. As part of this effort, HR&A conducted in-depth interviews and analysis to identify the city’s strengths and challenges, and gathered input from community members about the intersection of equity and economic development in their daily lives. HR&A then worked alongside the City and committee members to develop viable strategies that address the existing gaps in Grand Rapids’ economic development toolkit.
 
Recognizing that mobility also plays an integral role in economic opportunity and access, HR&A also supported Nelson\Nygaard’s work to develop relevant strategies to improve transportation safety and accessibility. HR&A subsequently developed a strategic plan designed to achieve the goal of a more equitable, just city. The final plan, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategy was released in January 2020; it provides detailed guidance on actions the City and its partners will take to promote inclusive economic growth and equitable transportation access.
 
Implementation of the plan is currently underway, beginning with 11 near-term strategies including employing an equitable development scorecard to evaluate and award incentives, expanding resources provided to Corridor Improvement Authorities, and creating a transparent and visible centralized information hub for economic development services.

The High Line Transformation

HR&A demonstrated the economic rationale for transforming the High Line into a vibrant public park. The park, created by Robert Hammond and Joshua David, reinvigorated Manhattan’s far west side with new jobs, mixed-income housing, and arts and cultural development, providing an internationally-renowned model of civic leadership.

The High Line, an elevated freight railway running 1.8 miles along Manhattan’s far west side, was built in the 1930s as part of a public works project to remove trains from the street level. After decades of abandonment and disuse, the mayor of New York City signed an order to demolish the High Line in 1999. Visionary neighborhood residents formed Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization that pledged to preserve the historic structure and create a neighborhood public amenity by converting the abandoned railway into a public park.

HR&A has supported the Friends of the High Line throughout the development and operation of the High Line

  • HR&A prepared an economic and fiscal impact study to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits of such a conversion would far outweigh the necessary capital costs of development.
  • We also worked with Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of City Planning to craft the award-winning West Chelsea rezoning, which allowed the transferal of air rights under and around the High Line to nearby land parcels. The rezoning preserved private property rights, protected the historic railway structure, catalyzed contextual real estate development, and enhanced the position of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District the center for art and culture in Manhattan.
  • HR&A worked closely with Friends of the High Line to create the park’s operating model and transform advocacy organization into a conservancy. Relying on an agreement with the Parks Department, Friends of the High Line is responsible managing the park’s public space, which receives over three million visitors a year.
  • Despite the Bloomberg administration’s embrace of the High Line’s first two sections, the final and most beautiful section was threatened with demolition as part of the Hudson Yards development. Even before a developer was selected, HR&A supported the Friends of the High Line in its successful effort to ensure the preservation of the entire structure.

HR&A Chairman, John Alschuler served as Board Chair of Friends of the High Line from 2009 to 2014.

The park opened to the public in 2009 to tremendous success, and now sees over five million annual visitors. Over 30 new residential commercial, and cultural development projects have been planned or constructed in the area, including Frank Gehry’s IAC Interactive headquarters, Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue residential condominium building, and a new home for the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. HR&A continues to support to Friends of the High line, providing economic and fiscal analysis to determine the High Line’s impact on the City’s municipal property tax revenues and net new economic activity.

 

International Economic Development Council Neighbourhood Development Prize, 2010

Images Courtesy of: Iwan Baan

Climate Adaptation Strategy for Lower Manhattan

Challenge

New York City, like many other coastal cities around the world, must face the realities of climate changes and its impact on the urban environment. Over the next century, regular tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels, coastal surge from stronger and more frequent storm events, heavier precipitation, and higher temperatures will all impact New York City and threaten its quality of life and economic vitality. Lower Manhattan, due to its global importance and heightened exposure, is one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the City.
 
The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency engaged HR&A to co-lead a team that developed a strategic plan for Lower Manhattan as part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Study.

Solution

Drawing on deep experience with the dynamics of Lower Manhattan and the design and implementation of innovative climate adaptation strategies, HR&A and the team undertook a climate vulnerability assessment that looked at long-term climate hazards, including chronic stresses, to inform the development of potential strategies for Lower Manhattan’s resilience. Strategies were evaluated based on the ability to mitigate against climate hazards and their positive economic and community impacts.
 

Impact

As part of the Study’s development, HR&A conducted a financial feasibility assessment and identified a series of next steps towards implementation. The recommendations of the study were released as part of Mayor de Blasio’s March 2019 announcement for a Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience plan, including a bold op-ed penned for New York Magazine. The City is currently moving to develop a master plan focused on climate adaption in the Financial District and Seaport.

Designing a Leadership and Training Program for Career Coaches

Skillful is helping transform local labor markets by building the capacity of frontline coaches in the Colorado workforce system.

CHALLENGE

Colorado enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but this low number masks the struggle of underemployed and chronically unemployed Coloradans. Some of the most vulnerable are the estimated 62% of Coloradans who do not have a bachelor’s degree. To connect workers with quality jobs, the Skillful Initiative works with states to develop labor markets that value skills and training over degrees or other proxies for qualifications. In Colorado, the team engaged HR&A to develop a program that would build the capacity of career coaches in public workforce development centers, community colleges, high schools, and career service non-profits across the state to better connect job seekers with quality career paths.

Solution

To understand Colorado’s most pressing labor market challenges, we interviewed over 40 workforce development professionals. We realized that Colorado had fundamental workforce issues, such as the disconnect between workforce centers and higher education, and struggles to engage rural populations. Based on Skillful’s prior work, we also knew that the insights of front-line career coaches—individuals serving as a first point of contact for job seekers in career offices across the state—could be instrumental in devising solutions that would actually confront on-the-ground, systemwide challenges.

 

With this knowledge, we started designing a program to provide the most dedicated career coaches with the training and support to be effective problem solvers for the state. We collaborated with workforce development experts to design a relevant and practical curriculum that built leadership and analytical skills, while ensuring that coaches could make significant contributions to the workforce development system. A key part of the program is their work in action teams to tackle specific issues, such as how to engage rural job seekers or best leverage online career resources, and develop potential policy solutions to pitch to State leadership. Apart from content development, we also ensured that Skillful could confidently run the program by designing a blueprint that included timelines, budgets, curricula, and evaluation metrics—as well as guidelines for the program launch, application process, and onboarding of new staff.

 

Impact

In 2017, Colorado’s Governor launched the Governor’s Coaching Corps with Skillful and the Markle Foundation. The corps selected 25 career coaches to participate in the inaugural program and create policy ideas that were presented to state leaders for potential implementation. Now, career coaches are working outside of silos and sharing resources to better assist job seekers across organizations and regions in Colorado. The corps launched a larger virtual community of practice that engages upwards of 150 coaches across the state in regular webinars to learn from and contribute to the work of the corps in devising policy solutions. To date, 20 governors across the United States have also pledged to implement a version of the Coaching Corps in their states as part of the Markle Foundation’s Skillful State Network.

Climate Ready Boston Climate Adaptation Strategy

The City of Boston developed a climate adaptation plan to address emerging climate challenges while planning for future growth.

Challenge

A dense, coastal and riverine city partially built on tidal fill, Boston is confronting significant climate challenges. As the City planned for equitable growth through its comprehensive plan Imagine Boston 2030, it sought to understand local vulnerabilities to the changing climate and what actions it could take to prepare.
 
The City of Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission engaged HR&A and a team a climate scientists, engineers, planners, and designers to develop Climate Ready Boston, a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for the city and the regional systems it relies on.

Solution

The team first assessed how Boston’s climate will change throughout the 21st century, developing up-to-date, localized, consensus projections for multiple climate factors. Using those projections, the team evaluated the city’s current and future exposure to climate hazards – extreme heat, stormwater flooding, and coastal and riverine flooding – and quantified the potential impact on the city’s people, buildings, infrastructure, and economy.
 
With a clearer understanding of near- and long-term risk, the team recommended actions to improve Boston’s climate preparedness and increase citywide resilience. The team identified each action through HR&A’s five key principles of resilience-building to generate multiple benefits, leverage multiple funding sources, incorporate local involvement, create layered solutions, and leverage regular building cycles to rehabilitate and improve over time.
 
These actions were incorporated into a phased strategy and implementation plan, which includes roles and responsibilities, timing, and key milestones. HR&A aligned the findings and recommendations from Climate Ready Boston with the Imagine Boston 2030 comprehensive plan. As Boston is a waterfront city, many of the growth areas identified in Imagine Boston 2030, along with many existing stable neighborhoods, are in the current or future floodplain. To grow in these areas, Boston will need to implement multi-layered solutions for flood resilience and leverage some of the value of new development to support these solutions.
 

Impact

The City and the Green Ribbon Commission released Climate Ready Boston in 2016, and have since launched many of the recommended initiatives to increase Boston’s ability to thrive in the face of intensifying climate hazards. These actions will improve quality of life for all residents, especially the most vulnerable, and create stronger neighborhoods and a healthier environment.
 

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King's Drive and Walker's Point Equitable Transit Oriented Development

Commercial and Residential Affordability Study

After planning a new streetcar line, the City of Milwaukee created an affordability strategy to mitigate the potential displacement of residents and businesses in existing neighborhoods due to increased market demand.

CHALLENGE

Too often, infrastructure improvements spark patterns of development and neighborhood change that inadvertently displace the very people who would benefit from those investments the most. The City of Milwaukee, while planning a new streetcar line to connect the Walker’s Point and King Drive neighborhoods to the City’s historic core, wanted to ensure that the people living and working in these neighborhoods would benefit from the transit investment and the market demand it creates.
 
The City of Milwaukee engaged HR&A to analyze how new development driven by the streetcar could strengthen neighborhoods and create better connections within the city. Additionally, the City wanted to understand its options for ensuring that residential, commercial, and retail rents could remain affordable to existing residents.

Solution

To clarify the expected market demand associated with the new streetcar, HR&A evaluated the local real estate market, trends, and demographics, and explored whether gentrification and displacement occurred under existing market conditions.
 
This market analysis informed the city’s understanding of future development needs, and the city further engaged the team to identify appropriate commercial development and tenant types, as well as a phasing strategy for the implementation of a detailed tenanting strategy.
 
HR&A also explored state and local policy to recommend tools that would achieve the city’s goals of (1) retaining residents and neighborhood character, (2) increasing affordable and mixed-use development, and (3) improving housing quality and homeownership prospects for area residents. To maintain the affordability of retail spaces, HR&A recommended the city develop new programs that would allow existing businesses to benefit from the transit investment, empower local entrepreneurs – including minority and women-owned businesses, and create a mix of jobs that are accessible to the existing community.
 

Impact

HR&A identified and described a series of effective housing and retail affordability programs to inform ongoing City planning conversations. HR&A rated the potential impact of each of affordability mechanism against City goals to develop a suite of recommended priority options for further consideration.

READ THE REPORT HERE

Innovation Asset Assessment for Lehigh University

Lehigh University identified its best opportunities for development that reflect the university’s programmatic and innovation strengths, as well as the real estate potential of the Lehigh Valley.

CHALLENGE

Lehigh University, a private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, sought to strengthen its research capabilities by building its first innovation campus and redeveloping two additional non-core campuses. As a growing regional university in a tertiary market, Lehigh’s real estate group wanted to better understand the program alignment for an innovation campus and the market potential for real estate development and industry partnerships. HR&A worked with Lehigh’s real estate team to generate excitement and momentum for the redevelopment of its non-core real estate assets by crafting a feasible development vision and detailed strategies for development, funding, activation, and governance.

Solution

Through HR&A’s analysis of market potential, discussions with industry leaders in the Lehigh Valley, and collaboration with some of Lehigh University’s top academic researchers, HR&A recommended a holistic redevelopment approach.

The university would align its campuses around the development of new concepts and ideas, where each campus offers unique opportunities to entrepreneurs and researchers at every stage of business development – from basic research through start-ups and maturation. This work guided the university’s in moving forward with a clear vision and actionable strategies for each campus to foster innovation in Lehigh Valley and elevate the university’s standing as a premiere research university.

Impact

As of August 2018, the University is moving forward with a solicitation process to identify a private sector partner for a revenue-positive first phase of redevelopment.

Innovation District Roadmap for the University of Georgia

The University of Georgia created a roadmap to focus the development goals, priorities, and feasibility of a future innovation district.

CHALLENGE

The University of Georgia, one of the country’s oldest public universities, is quickly becoming a premiere destination for higher-education. Seeking to further strengthen its position as a one of the top 20 public universities in the country, the university is creating a research campus to host its research and innovation activities. To understand the process and resources needed to create a research campus, the university’s real estate team hired HR&A to evaluate the operational and financial feasibility of such a project.

Solution

HR&A assessed the university’s innovation, technology, and research strengths and weaknesses through stakeholder interviews and a review of innovation districts and research centers at peer universities. Working collaboratively with a real estate task force, HR&A and the university used its extensive understanding of university processes, innovation ecosystems, and implementation strategies to create development guidelines for a financially sustainable innovation district. These guidelines identified strategies to develop through private sector partnerships, grow university research opportunities, and produce a convergent environment unique to the University of Georgia.
 

Impact

HR&A’s recommendations focused the task force’s future development of the district on the development of a convergent innovation center that would include space for productive uses open to for entrepreneurs, community members, and students. The convergent innovation center will be activated and programmed by a variety of university programs and activities that focus on economic development, industry partnerships, and entrepreneurship.