Despite the challenges of 2020 many of NP’s partner communities have moved ahead with planning and implementation on a number of fronts:
Montgomery, AL Wins Best Comprehensive Plan
The City of Montgomery completed its first Comprehensive Plan in over fifty years and the City's effort is being celebrated. The Alabama Chapter of the National Planning Association recognized the City of Montgomery with the award for Best Comprehensive Plan in communities over 50,000 in population at its recent annual planning conference. The City Council unanimously adopted its new plan in July 2020.
NP provided the economic development and housing analysis as well as the recommendations related to continued economic development and neighborhood regeneration. NP has been continuing to support the implementation of the plan working with the Montgomery Chamber on building out the needed economic ecosystem as well as setting priorities.
Richardson, TX Continues to Reinvent Its Telecom Corridor
The reboot of the Telecom Corridor continues in Richardson. In 2019 NP worked with Interface Studio to develop a strategy to regenerate the Telecom Corridor through its transformation into a TOD centered innovation district. Among the actions identified was having a point person to oversee the activity and partnerships, developing a partnership with the University of Texas Dallas (UTD) research engine, placemaking initiatives, new zoning to promote revamping of buildings, and community building activities.
Since the report the area has been rebranded as the Richardson Innovation Quarter, staff has been committed to oversee implementation, new zoning was passed, a community building platform IQBrew has been launched and the city and UTD have entered into a strategic partnership to bring UTD entrepreneurs to the IQ.
University of Georgia Uses Innovation District to Connect to Downtown
The University of Georgia’s Innovation District continues to make progress since the innovation district study conducted by NP in 2017. Over the course of the study, NP had worked with the city and the UGA to identify potential opportunities, locations and areas of focus and what it meant for building typologies. NP recommended against a stand alone suburban style research park that had been part of a prior university assessment, and instead recommended using an innovation district to stitch together the campus and downtown Athens. Beginning in 2018 UGA launched its innovation initiative and today it is a full-fledged effort that blends the innovation facilities with the downtown.
Pop Up Restaurant Proving the Potential For Change in Brockton, MA
The Boston Globe recently featured Brockton, MA's Prova pop up beer garden and restaurant in its On The Street series. Prova opened in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign and has been the proving ground for start-ups like the Brockton Brewing Company. The pop up’s success has catalyzed the City to take other actions supportive to new food enterprises including improving ordinances and creating a $1.5 million restaurant development fund.
In 2017, NP worked with the City of Brockton and MassDevelopment to evaluate the feasibility of a restaurant incubator. NP's research suggested that it was critical to "prove" the market for downtown restaurant activity and a temporary, pop up model made more sense before committing the capital required to for the full build out of restaurant incubator. The report also noted that there needed to be a comprehensive approach to restaurant development that included access to capital, support for tenant improvements, a marketing campaign, and targeted place-making efforts.
Building Design & Constructions Weekly Show featured NP's Kevin Hively in its latest episode, which focused on post pandemic retail planning. Drawing on NP and Interface Studio's recent Restart Reset Retool Refill Report (link) Hively emphasizes the importance of serving the diverse millennial population living in cities as an opportunity for growth.
New Geography, a site dedicated to leading edge thinking and analysis about place, featured Restart Rest Retool Refill in July. The report, produced by NP and Interface Studios, focuses on what cities and towns can do to manage their downtowns and main streets during the time of COVID 19.
Increasingly, it's clear that communities are going to be wrestling with the economic uncertainty of COVID for awhile; Restart Reset Retool Refill offers decision makers a framework to use as they adapt and respond to the challenges ahead. It addresses short term stabilization needs as well as structural issues that will need to be addressed for cities and towns to become more resilient and equitable for the long term.
Like many professional conferences this year, the American Planning Association went online with NPC20@Home. As part of the proceedings NP's Kevin Hively co-presented on Contextualizing Big Data. The presentation drew approximately 1,800 attendees to the live Zoom session and it is now available through APA Learn. It was the largest draw of any of the online sessions offered.
Why does contextualizing big data matter so much to so many planners? Because while there is a huge number of large datasets available at our fingertips it can be hard to interpret that information in a particular community context. The presentation focused on ways to use local data sources and primary research in order to ground truth and add depth to big data analyses.
Hively presented along with Mindy Watts from Interface Studio LLC, Kira Strong from the City of Philadelphia, and Bridget Marquis from U3 Advisors.
The next several months will shape our downtowns, main streets and commercial corridors for years to come. Restart Reset Retool Refill provides a thought process and checklist to begin taking action to manage the change that is taking place thanks to COVID.
The American Planning Association’s Sustainable Communities Division recently awarded its Best Community Plan to the City of Pittsburgh for its EcoInnovation District Plan. The awards, granted annually, showcase the leaders in sustainability across the United States.
Pittsburgh’s Innovation District is first of its kind; it mixes the concept of an Ecodistrict with the concepts of an Innovation District. In addition, developing equitable economic opportunity for existing residents was an important component of the plan. After an 18-month planning process the Pittsburgh City Council adopted the District Plan in September of 2017. The City has adopted the zoning changes recommended in the plan including an innovation performance based model that takes into consideration social equity and environmental considerations. In addition, a district energy concept is moving forward.
NP performed the economic, real estate market, and innovation analyses for the plan as well as helped shape the redevelopment strategy. NP was also heavily involved in examining new funding models such as TRID, green bonds and carbon offsets as mechanisms to help pay for the civic improvements.
When Yale New Haven Hospital announced its plans for a $838 million neuroscience center in Spring 2019, leaders in New Haven began to think about what an investment of this kind would mean for city. The proposed center will be developed at the current St. Raphael campus with the addition of 505,000 square feet including 204 in-patient beds. It will focus on the research and treatment of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
The City hired NP to help local partners better understand what opportunities could become possible based on national neuroscience trends, New Haven’s existing strengths, and an examination of local workforce and land use issues that could contribute and/or hinder neuroscience industry growth. Building on NP’s 2016 Life Sciences analysis for the City along with more recent work on Innovation Places, NP examined the current state of neurosciences in New Haven and the economic development implications for city.
The findings included:
The City intends to use the study’s findings to inform a marketing and development program to grow the neuroscience industry in New Haven.
City officials in Richardson, TX recently announced two major actions that will better position the city for new growth. The actions are a result of the City’s 2018 vision and strategy for the area; an effort for which NP provided economic and innovation sector assessment, real estate analysis, engagement with key stakeholders, and strategy development.
In December 2019, the City Council approved a rezoning of the 1,200-acre district to encourage higher density growth and a mix of uses. Prior to the rezoning 90% of the area was zoned industrial. The rezoning is organized into four subareas:
In January 2020, local partners unveiled the district’s new brand: The Richardson Innovation Quarter (The IQ). The IQ promotes Richardson’s district as a place to “live, work, and invent”, seeking to attract entrepreneurs looking to commercialize new developments and grow their companies in the area. The district is already home to companies like id Software; and Honeywell, Raytheon EO Innovations and Siemens have operations based there as well.
The regulatory and marketing efforts will work hand in hand to attract new business and residents to the area and will be bolstered by additional work to increase multi-modal transportation options, for which the City received a grant in September 2019.
NP’s recent work with two universities laid the foundation for new developments that will support the economic growth of the universities’ host cities (and states):
University of Dayton Invests in City’s Future
The University of Dayton was featured recently in The Atlantic for its commitment to the revitalization of the city of Dayton, OH. It is among a class of institutions of higher learning that recognize the important role they play in creating new economic opportunities for their communities. The University’s “onMain” project was one of efforts featured; it is a partnership with Premier Health to revitalize a 38-acre former fairgrounds site (for which NP provided economic and feasibility analysis).
New Development in UGA’s Innovation District
The University of Georgia (UGA) is moving forward with a new physical space to catalyze the institution’s new Innovation District. Its $4.4 million renovation of its former Business Service Annex building will be the second building re-purposed to support innovation in the district and will include flex space for entrepreneurs, meeting rooms, and collaborative spaces. The development follows from recommendations NP put forward as part of the Athens Innovation Initiative in 2018, which highlighted the growth and focus of UGA research as well as the need for flexible work space.
Three NP projects made the news recently for their efforts to move from redevelopment plans to action including a site re-use project in Ohio, a downtown district in Massachusetts, and riverfront redevelopment in Connecticut:
$30 Million Commitment to Spur Site Redevelopment in Dayton, OH
Premier Health and the City of Dayton, OH have pledged $15 million each to redevelop the Good Samaritan Hospital site in Northwest Dayton. The City and Premier Health plan to use their funds to secure additional public and private funds in order to redevelop the site for a mix of uses that encourage market rate housing and new job creation. The pledge comes as result of the recently completed Phoenix Next project, which engaged community members and stakeholders in planning for the future of the 13-acre site. NP prepared the economic and data analysis to support the redevelopment planning.
13-acre hospital redevelopment site and potential build-out in Dayton, OH.
Neighboring Cities in CT Take Steps to Revitalize Riverfront Districts
In August, NP completed an analysis for the Cities of Groton, CT and New London, CT on how they could revitalize two riverfront districts connected by a multi-use path. The Thames Street Promenade Study produced guiding strategies for the districts as well as short term actions to spur early stage redevelopment. The City of Groton has already begun to take next steps including creating a Tax Increment Financing District and applying for grants to improve accessibility and address resiliency planning.
The Thames River Waterfront in Groton, CT
Downtown District Dining Fund to Bring New Business to Springfield, MA
The City of Springfield is offering up to $200,000 in low interest loans to attract new restaurants to the city’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) District. The Fund is part of a broader effort to accelerate growth in the district including other actions such as Develop Springfield’s Lease It Local Program, which subsidizes leases for small businesses in vacant or underutilized buildings. Much of the implementation has its roots in the TDI program’s Active Implementation Plan produced by NP in 2016.