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
  •  

    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.

Inclusive Incentive Strategy for Indianapolis

HR&A created actionable strategies and policy recommendations for incorporating inclusivity into Indianapolis’ economic incentive programs.

Challenge

Indianapolis is a flourishing city and an emerging tech hub. Despite its successes in attracting new residents and new investment, certain segments of the population have been unable to participate in the city’s growing momentum. Recognizing this challenge of uneven access to opportunity, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (“Indy Chamber”) made a commitment to rethink its economic development programs to support more equitable growth across the city. The Indy Chamber engaged HR&A to evaluate its existing economic incentive programs and develop recommendations to re-orient programs in service of supporting inclusive growth and broadening access to opportunity.

Solution

HR&A has advised a range of clients on strategies to leverage economic development tools to advance core policy objectives around inclusivity. In Indy, we worked with the Chamber to evaluate their tax abatement and training grant programs and recommend how they could be re-oriented to better align with inclusive development priorities. After reviewing past incentive usage and performance, HR&A traveled to Indianapolis to host a series of stakeholder roundtables and assembled a steering committee of key organizations dedicated to advancing inclusive growth across Indy. Conversations were structured to share perceptions of existing incentive programs, identify community priorities in terms of desired inclusive outcomes, and understand perceived barriers impeding access to opportunity.
 
Following this initial round of engagement, HR&A benchmarked national best practices from cities that have explicitly incorporated equitable outcomes into their incentive programs, to draw out implementation considerations and lessons to help inform the development of recommendations for Indy. We refined these recommendations with key stakeholders, including major employers, city officials, and community-based organizations. HR&A assembled its recommendations in a final briefing book, providing an implementation roadmap to help the Chamber operationalize policy changes and meet inclusive growth goals.

Impact

Our recommendations included changes to the tax abatement and training grant programs to align evaluation criteria with inclusive values, as well as the establishment of a community impact network. The Community Impact Network is a pioneering new shared-values approach whereby businesses receiving economic incentives are required to commit to supporting an initiative from a menu of actions, developed in partnership with community organizations, designed to achieve tangible progress on inclusive growth priorities like workforce training, quality public education, and investment in distressed neighborhoods. HR&A crafted a narrative around the policy rationale and benefits associated with each recommendation and developed an implementation roadmap to guide the process. The Mayor’s office announced HR&A’s recommendations to advance inclusive economic opportunity – which prioritized a higher minimum wage, health and childcare benefits, workforce training, and positive community impacts – in summer 2019.
 

READ THE STUDY

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.

Equitable Development Plan & Real Estate Impact Study for Harold Simmons Park

The Trinity Park Conservancy is proactively linking park investment with community development to address systemic inequities in the neighborhoods around the new Harold Simmons Park.

Challenge

In 2016, the Trinity Park Conservancy received a generous gift to facilitate the creation of a 200-acre park, the first of a chain of parks within the 11,000-acre Trinity River floodway. Harold Simmons Park will connect three distinct neighborhoods – Downtown Dallas, West Dallas, and Oak Cliff – a microcosm of Dallas’ extreme racial and income segregation. Development of the park is expected to catalyze real estate and neighborhood investment along the Trinity River. The Conservancy is committed to creating a park that faces the challenges head on of creating a stronger, more just city. To facilitate equitable development of the park and local neighborhoods, the Conservancy engaged HR&A to recommend implementable strategies to leverage the $150M park investment to benefit the diversity of neighboring communities and create a model for equitable park and infrastructure development.
 

Solution

HR&A created an Equitable Development Plan (EDP) that provides the Conservancy with a detailed toolkit of policies, advocacy efforts, initiatives, and partnerships to achieve the organization’s equitable development vision. First, HR&A conducted real estate market, demographic, and socioeconomic analysis to understand the neighborhood context and consulted with local stakeholders, community members, and national experts to identify core risk factors (e.g. displacement of existing residents, loss of cultural heritage, perpetuated racial and socioeconomic segregation) and opportunities to be addressed in the EDP.
 
By evaluating the successes and failures of past efforts and the unique context of Harold Simmons Park, HR&A developed an Equity Toolkit that provides discrete tactics to prevent involuntary displacement, facilitate the creation of opportunity neighborhoods, protect cultural heritage, promote wealth creating and community ownership, and establish equitable policies and practices within the Conservancy for park management and operations. Finally, HR&A prepared an action plan to guide implementation of the EDP, detailing roles and responsibilities for Conservancy, the City, and private partners. Implementation of the EDP will require adding responsibilities within the Conservancy and growing capacity among community and implementation partners, and actions today to position the project for success.
 
In addition to the EDP, HR&A conducted a real estate impact study for Harold Simmons Park. HR&A’s analysis projected that the $150 M park investment will generate approximately $3.5 B in net-new real estate value, and $1.2 B in net-new property tax revenues between 2020 and 2050. These projected values accounted for a reduced market value assuming tradeoffs are made between maximizing real estate value and uplifting equity, inclusion, and community development consistent with the EDP.
 

IMPACT

The Conservancy has begun implementation of the EDP, including advocacy for policy changes and internal capacity building. The plan will inform the organization’s forthcoming programming plan, public sector engagement, and investment strategy in advance of a groundbreaking in 2020 or 2021.
 

The Ion and South Main Innovation District Master Plan and Development Strategy

Rice University is creating Houston’s first innovation district to grow the local tech economy, attract new investment, and foster entrepreneurial talent.

Challenge

Houston has the third-highest concentration of STEM workers in the country and an abundance of innovation occurring at its universities and leading companies. Nevertheless, the city is not known as a hub of entrepreneurship and has struggled to attract private investment. Rice University is seeking to change this narrative by creating Houston’s first innovation district.
 
Rice Management Company, the university’s endowment manager, owns 14 acres in Midtown Houston anchored by a historic Sears department store and hopes to transform the underutilized assets into a vibrant innovation hub and district. To accomplish their goals, Rice engaged HR&A to serve as project manager for both the Sears building and broader district, overseeing both the real estate and programmatic development of the project.

Solution

HR&A is managing the implementation process on behalf of RMC by overseeing 15 firms working on the design and construction of the building. HR&A is also leading the financial planning, tenanting, programming, partnership, community engagement, and branding processes to ensure that the building serves as a vibrant and inclusive place for all Houstonians to collaborate and interact.
 
For the surrounding district, HR&A is concurrently supporting the development of a master plan that creates investment value over time and supports the resilience of the Houston economy. The plan draws on an examination of precedent innovation districts across the country, assessment of market supply and demand in Houston, and cutting-edge urban design and open space planning. As project manager, HR&A is ensuring that the Sears building construction and implementation processes maintain a pace that will ensure delivery in alignment with the broader master plan.

IMPACT

In 2018, Mayor Sylvester Turner and Rice University publicly announced plans for the new South Main Innovation District and, in July 2019, broke ground on The Ion, the district’s innovation hub in the renovated Sears building. Rice Management Company anticipates the launch of The Ion in early 2021.

Development Management & Public Financing Strategy for Broadway Station

Broadway Station Partners crafted a market-supportable master plan and a public financing strategy to develop one of Denver’s largest and most complex transit-oriented development sites.

Challenge

After acquiring the former Gates Rubber Company plant, Broadway Station Partners pursued development of one of Denver’s only remaining urban transit-oriented development sites. Located three miles from downtown and directly adjacent to one of the busiest light rail stations in the city, the site will provide much needed housing, office space, and walkable retail in one of the fastest growing cities in America.
 

Solution

Working closely with an engineering and planning team, HR&A advised Broadway Station Partners on strategies to unlock and create value by identifying activating uses, infrastructure improvements, and amenities. The team’s assessment of the local real estate market and financial feasibility of different development densities, typologies, and infrastructure programs informed the master plan, which targets infrastructure investments that improve connectivity and placemaking to unlock potential for development density and value.
 
To understand the extent of public financing needed for the substantial infrastructure improvements, HR&A analyzed the potential for value-capture tools to fund infrastructure development. To do this, the team assessed the impact of the development program, phasing, local market, and financing structures among other considerations for potential capital sources – including tax increment financing (TIF) and revenues from the site’s metropolitan district, or special taxing district. This analysis formed the foundation of the landowner’s tax increment financing request, financing plan, and negotiations with local public authorities, ensuring that revenues generated by the site are sufficient to finance required infrastructure and help produce market returns for the landowner in the long-term.
 

IMPACT

The Denver City Council unanimously approved the landowner’s $140 million public infrastructure financing request, including a $90 million tax increment financing package, the second largest ever approved in the city. Infrastructure development on the site broke ground in 2018.

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

Redevelopment Strategy and Entitlement Management in Long Island City

CHALLENGE

Plaxall is a family-owned plastics manufacturing company operating in Long Island City, Queens for more than 70 years. Over seven decades, the family invested in local cultural and community institutions and acquired a significant portfolio of properties. Their holdings include a 12-acre assemblage surrounding Anable Basin and along the East River, which features spectacular views of Midtown Manhattan. However, the site’s obsolete built form and low-density industrial zoning prevents Plaxall from realizing the true value of its unique waterfront property in one the nation’s strongest markets for new development.

SOLUTION

Alongside a team of architects and land use attorneys, HR&A worked with Plaxall to design a development vision for the future of Anable Basin to create long-term value for Plaxall’s shareholders while addressing community needs and City policy goals.
 
Drawing on our deep understanding of New York City’s policy priorities, HR&A recognized that Plaxall’s experience with light industrial and artist tenants would be a key asset in discussions with the City. The team devised a unique plan that integrated industrial and artist space into new residential buildings, addressing local interest in job creation and fears of industrial displacement. The plan comprised almost 5 million square feet of new development, including 5,000 mixed-income residential units, and more than three acres of waterfront open space. The design of building forms reflects the neighborhood’s industrial heritage.
 
HR&A oversaw all planning activities associated with the site, including managing a 9-firm consultant team, evaluating the financial performance of this pioneering mixed-use development, leading engagement with City leadership on a rezoning, overseeing a successful application process to New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, and working with Plaxall to create a long-term redevelopment strategy.

 

IMPACT

In fall 2018, Amazon selected the Anable Basin site as one of two main sites for the company’s East Coast headquarters, though it ultimately withdrew its selection. Since then, Plaxall has partnered with neighboring developers in the YourLIC consortium, which has engaged with City Council leadership and community stakeholders in a visioning process for redeveloping 28 acres of the Long Island City waterfront.

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.