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.
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.
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.
As NP wrote about in July, the City of Richardson, Texas launched the Collins/Arapaho Transit-Oriented Development and Innovation District Study in April 2018 with the intention of creating a vision and plan for a 1,200-acre industrial area within the city. The district is at the heart of Richardson’s Telecom Corridor®, which has been a job center and hub of technology and innovation in the region.
The American Planning Association’s Texas Chapter has recognized the project for its excellence in economic development planning with a Silver Award, to be celebrated at the organization’s upcoming conference in November. These awards recognize efforts to transform economies and stimulate economic development.
In September the City received a Made to Move grant in recognition of its efforts to improve mobility; it is among five cities that will share $500,000 in funding. The city will implement a “road diet”, which will remove driving lanes and add bicycle lanes and an at-grade pedestrian crossing to better integrate the light-rail station with the planned Innovation District as well as help install the City’s first roundabouts to help calm traffic.
In addition to the placemaking efforts that NP wrote about in July, the Study puts forward strategies to update the district’s older, industrial building stock in order to attract new businesses and support entrepreneurs who are looking to start or scale up. The City is considering ways to incentivize the modernization of buildings and enable greater zoning flexibility in industrial zones. Currently, the City is reviewing a draft form based code for the district.
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