Three TOD Trends Dominating the Southeast

Jennifer LeClaire | Real Estate Forum

Miami is witnessing three game-changing mixed-use and transit-oriented developments coming off the drawing board and out of the dirt, one of which is the $2-billion Miami Worldcenter, with office, residential, retail and hotel components.When you talk about Southeast commercial real estate, you consistently hear three topics of discussion: multifamily, mixed-use and distressed assets.

Although it’s clear that Atlanta’s office market has made a massive rebound and Miami’s industrial market is booming—and although it’s obvious that Memphis, Raleigh, Charlotte and other southern cities are rebounding strong from the Great Recession on most fronts—multifamily, mixed-use and distressed assets are still the hot buttons as the Southeast begins competing nationally with other regions.

“More so than in other regions, we’re seeing greater national focus on the Southeast,” says Charles Williams, senior vice president and southeast regional manager at KeyBank Real Estate Capital. “Our clients are continuing to look closely at the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia, in particular. We’re seeing more people moving away from the Rust Belt and toward areas like the Sunshine State and Carolinas. This population boom combined with the trend of Millenials postponing home ownership, the multifamily sector remains red hot.”

Multifamily Melts the Thermometer
It’s not a new story, but multifamily remains the hottest trend in the Southeast. You can measure the temperature of the multifamily market in the region by drilling into the major metros. According to Marcus & Millichap, metrowide vacancy in Atlanta has improved nearly 500 basis points since 2009 to hit 4.9%. In Miami, vacancy sits at 3.5%. Orlando sits at 6%. Read more

6 Reasons Grand Rapids in Michigan Earned a Place on the Great Transit Map

Rachel Dovey | Next City

A Silver Line BRT stop in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Photo by ByteofKnowledge)

A Silver Line BRT stop in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Photo by ByteofKnowledge)

It’s been a big year for the small city of Grand Rapids. First, the transit authority launched Michigan’s only bus rapid transit line in August. Then, on Monday, the city held a dedication for its new $6 million Amtrak station — part of a line that’s so well-traveled, the train’s beleaguered higher-ups tout it on slash-happy Capitol Hill. With new bike lane protections in the works as well, it’s no surprise that the national Center for Transportation Excellence announced it would hold its 2015 transit initiatives conference there, calling the city a “learning laboratory for leaders around the country.”

But actually, it is kind of a surprise. As much larger cities on the progressive coasts struggle to prioritize multi-modal transportation against car-loving codes, infrastructure and voting populations, what is the Midwest city’s secret? What, exactly, is it doing right?

For one thing, the area’s transit authority has a unique structure, according to Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell. Because suburbs surround the main city, The Rapid is a standalone regional agency. It isn’t housed within any one city’s government. Read more

So long Google bus? Silicon Valley tech giants back new Caltrain upgrades

Lauren Hepler | Silicon Valley Business Journal

Caltrain, Silicon Valley's primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?

Caltrain, Silicon Valley’s primary commuter rail system, is slated to upgrade to new trains by 2019. Could a new coalition of businesses help move the needle sooner on upgrades to help address spiking ridership demand?

Along with gourmet corporate cafeterias and sprawling, insular tech campuses, Silicon Valley employers are famous for their unique approach to commuter benefits — namely, the practice of eschewing public transit for private charter buses.

Now, however, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that businesses including Google Inc., Oracle Corp. LinkedIn Corp., Stanford University and the San Francisco 49ers are among a group of area employers coming together to form a new Caltrain Commuter Coalition to improve local rail transit.

“This is the result of conversations we have had for years with these companies,” Seamus Murphy, Caltrain’s director of government and community affairs, told the Chronicle. “They realize that they can’t continue to rely on shuttles or expand shuttles, and they’ve been frustrated, frankly, that they can’t rely on Caltrain or public transportation.”

As we have reported, Caltrain has struggled to keep up with surging ridership demands — particularly in the northern corridor running from San Francisco to Peninsula tech hubs like Palo Alto and Mountain View — ahead of a planned upgrade to new, electric trains in 2019. In the 10 years since the regional rail provider has offered a bullet train from San Francisco into the South Bay, the average number of daily weekday riders has jumped from 24,000 to 61,000 passengers.

In the meantime, the Chronicle reports that the new coalition will focus on the electrification effort and other capacity issues. Specifically, the group will, “press for funding to expand the commuter railroad’s capacity, replace its trains pulled by diesel locomotives with electric trains, extend the tracks to the Transbay Terminal and make other improvements.” Read more

Making room for transit in Washington DC can make better streets for everyone

Dan Reed | Greater Greater Washington

The new Green Line runs through the University of Minnesota. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

The new Green Line runs through the University of Minnesota. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

Many proposed transit projects in our region, from streetcars to bus rapid transit and the Purple Line, involve vehicles running in the street. Giving transit a place on our busy streets can be a hard sell, especially when it means displacing cars. But a recent trip to Minneapolis shows how it can create better places for everyone, including drivers.

Minneapolis finds a compromise on the Green Line

While presenting at Rail~Volution last month in Minneapolis, I had a chance to ride the Green Line, a new light-rail between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line bears a striking similarity to the proposed Purple Line here in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Like the Purple Line, the Green Line faced resistance from a Republican governor and concerns about gentrification and neighborhood disruption from nearby large immigrant communities.

But it’s how the Green Line interacts with the University of Minnesota, and how community leaders came together to make it a success, that might be the biggest lesson for our area. Like the Purple Line, which would pass through the University of Maryland, the Green Line travels on Washington Avenue, the main street at the University of Minnesota. Read more

6 Common Mistakes Made By Cities and Towns in Urban Renewal

Bill Adams | San Diego UrbDeZine

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.

For the last half century, cities have attempted to repair the damage to their urban cores from migration to suburbs and exurbs. Redevelopment has evolved into smart growth, transit oriented development, and complete streets. In the last 15 years or so, the urban renewal efforts have had a receptive audience as people, tired of the car oriented lifestyle of the suburbs, are returning to urban cores and older urban neighborhoods. However, while cities get the big picture, too often in my 25 years as a land use attorney, I have seen the same mistakes repeated.

1) Failing to Understand How to Provide for Pedestrian and Other Active Transit:

Too often, cities and towns seem to think that all pedestrians need are sidewalks to walk on and greenery to look at. The same goes for bikes and bikelanes. It goes without saying that pedestrians and bikes work differently than cars, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, a newish residential development near my home provides ample sidewalks along its curving streets. Much of the development is only a stones throw from a park and three public schools comprising K – 12.

Cars can drive there in a few minutes, but pedestrians must take the same circuitous route as cars, which of course takes much longer. A simple narrow walkway or stairs down the slope, to steep for cars but easily traversed by pedestrians , could have been a boon to walkers in the area. What makes this oversight particularly tragic is that in the adjacent older neighborhood where I reside, there are three sets of stairs that do exactly that, and which should have served as a model for the new development. Another example is in the downtown area in which my office is located. Read more

PennDOT: 91 Projects to Improve Mobility, Safety with Act 89 Multimodal, Transit Funds

Staff | Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Artist rendering of the condos being constructed at Voltaire and Catalina.Eighty-six projects in 35 counties will improve safety and mobility with $84 million in Multimodal Transportation Fund investments from Act 89, the state’s transportation plan.

“All types of transportation drive our economy and Act 89 gave us the tools to ensure our non-highway modes receive the funding they need to maintain a connected transportation system,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. “These are vital investments that underscore Governor Corbett’s dedication to improving transportation in communities across the state.”

In addition to the 86 multimodal projects announced, PennDOT is investing $7.2 million in Act 89 transit funding for five transit projects that applied for multimodal funding.

These grants were made possible by Act 89, which increased transit funding and established dedicated multimodal funding for aviation, passenger rail, rail freight, port and bicycle-pedestrian projects. The project funding comes from three state fiscal years of Act 89 investments.

PennDOT evaluated the applications and made selections based on such criteria as safety benefits, regional economic conditions, the technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency and operational sustainability. Read more

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