Richmond Business Recovery Action Plan

There is no comprehensive playbook for how local communities should recover from COVID-19, but it’s critical to balance meeting immediate needs with building a more equitable and resilient economy.

In Richmond, HR&A collaborated with the City and the Economic Development Commission to develop guiding principles for inclusive recovery that set the foundation for a comprehensive Business Recovery Action Plan focused on addressing the short-term needs of small and locally-owned businesses. The team identified recovery needs and available resources and made recommendations such as expanding available grants for small businesses, often owned by people of color and reluctant to take on additional debt in an uncertain economic environment; removing barriers to access and consolidating information about City services, recovery resources, and regulatory approvals; and identifying opportunities to use federal recovery dollars to support workforce recovery and capital improvements.




The plan focused on identifying priority actions that could be meaningfully advanced within a six-month timeframe and that aligned with equitable recovery principles including addressing community needs, building local capacity, and improving equitable access. HR&A has since helped the City to advance several recovery actions including the creation of a new Economic Development Working Group, and to identify longer-term economic development strategies with a focus on building the capacity of the City and local businesses. As we help advance the plan, including forming the initial agenda for the multi-stakeholder economic working group and framing a buy local campaign, we look forward to applying lessons to other communities across California and beyond. The City of Richmond continues to demonstrate its commitment to supporting underserved residents and recently retained HR&A to lead a community-centered engagement process for allocating the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

SDSU Mission Valley Innovation District Development

Universities across the country are taking on new roles to increase opportunity for their students, faculty, and surrounding communities by creating inclusive spaces for innovation.

San Diego State University (SDSU) made the bold move to purchase a 135-acre site from the City of San Diego to create SDSU Mission Valley, a mixed-use, transit-oriented community that will help expand SDSU’s educational, research, and entrepreneurial missions. This site will include a 1.6 million square foot Innovation District, up to 4,600 residential units, a multi-use stadium, and over 80 acres of parks and open space. The entire project will increase career opportunities for SDSU’s 35,000 students, 54% of whom are students of color, and grow SDSU’s $5.7 billion annual impact on the San Diego region.


Quidel Corporation, a provider of rapid diagnostic testing solutions, cellular-based virology assays and molecular diagnostic systems, was announced in July of 2022 as the first partner in the Innovation District and a Founding Partner at SDSU’s Snapdragon Stadium. SDSU expects more private, public and non-profit-sector partners to be announced in the coming months, who will contribute to interdisciplinary hubs of research and innovation.


We collaborated with SDSU to refine a vision and business plan for the Innovation District and to guide refinement of a master plan for the district. We are currently supporting the procurement of a developer to construct as much as 500,000 square feet of space within the Innovation District, where SDSU will expand its research presence to anchor the new development.


SDSU Innovation District Quad and Public Realm, Image courtesy of SDSU.

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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The Ion Innovation District Master Plan and Development Strategy

HR&A is serving as strategic partner and development advisor to Rice Management Company, which manages the Rice University Endowment, for both The Ion and broader 16-acre Ion District, overseeing real estate and programmatic development of the project with the goals of creating a thriving and inclusive tech ecosystem in Houston.

Beginning in 2018, HR&A managed the recruitment of a planning and urban design team and the development of a master plan that prioritizes the public realm, 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. At full buildout, the project will include 3-5 million square feet of mixed-use development

To catalyze the District, HR&A managed the design and development process of The Ion on behalf of RMC by overseeing the transformation of the 266,000-square foot former Sears Department Store into an innovation hub to bring Houston’s entrepreneurial, corporate, academic, investment, and community members together. HR&A led the financial planning, tenanting strategy, programming, operator solicitations and partnership development, community engagement, and branding processes to ensure that the building benefits its neighbors by fostering an inclusive, welcoming neighborhood and creating equitable economic opportunities. The Ion now houses classrooms, a large forum staircase for events and programming, flexible workspaces for startups and investors operated by Common Desk, and offices for major tech tenants, including Microsoft and Chevron Technology Ventures. The Ion is also now home to three minority-owned restaurants. HR&A also supported RMC and its community partners in developing a Community Benefits Agreement signed with the City of Houston. Concurrently, HR&A provided the analysis underlying a substantial development agreement between Rice Management Company and the Midtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that will support district infrastructure.


In Spring 2022, RMC, the City of Houston, and its partners celebrated the official grand opening of the Ion. With The Ion fully operational, HR&A is now supporting RMC in the selection of a development partner for the next phase of the 16-acre District. This work includes drafting solicitation documents, marketing the project to potential developers, reviewing proposals, and advising on partner selection and negotiation. Already, the Ion District is home to Greentown Labs, Houston’s first climate-tech incubator and a development partner for the next phase of the District is expected to be announced in 2023.

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.



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.

Economic Impact Analysis for the Expansion of Klyde Warren Park

The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation used a detailed economic impact estimate to generate support and funding for the expansion of Klyde Warren Park.


Following the remarkable success of Klyde Warren Park, a 5.2-acre park spanning over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation considered expanding the park by an additional block. This expansion would enhance value by improving park functionality, activating new development parcels, increasing connectivity with major venues in the city’s arts district, and creating opportunities for new attractions. To gain a clearer understanding of how the proposed improvements would affect the city, the foundation engaged HR&A to assess the potential economic and fiscal impact of these park improvements.


HR&A analyzed the incremental benefits of the park expansion in three district scenarios: (1) an economic baseline of the impact of the park since opening, (2) the future economic benefits of the current park without improvements, and (3) the future benefits of an enhanced park. The team assessed potential benefits in each scenario including – an increase in park-oriented real estate development, increased value of existing properties due to an enhanced park amenity, increased downtown tourism, and local spending and multiplier impacts of capital and operating investment.
HR&A estimated that the impact of park, at the time of the study, was $1.3B and the incremental value of the expansion would generate an additional $870 million in future economic impact.


The foundation used the findings from our reports to support outreach to potential funding and implementation partners for the project. In 2017, the Woodall Rodgers Foundation successfully secured $10 million in bond funding from the City of Dallas, $20 million from a private donor, and additional funds from the North Central Texas Council of Governments for the project.
In 2018, the park finalized a partnership with VisitDallas to create a new, best-in-class visitor center in the expanded park, which will solidify the park’s role as the central hub of Downtown Dallas’ visitor experience. Construction on the expansion is scheduled to begin in 2019.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.