Mesa jumpstarting downtown development in advance of light rail completion

Eric Jay Toll | Phoenix Business Journal

Metro light rail

Metro light rail

Mesa is taking the lead to spur downtown development in advance of this summer’s light rail completion to Mesa Drive.

Mayor John Giles announced the city is offering a parcel on the southwest corner of Main and Center streets for a transit-oriented development.

 

Transit-oriented development provides spark to transform Dorchester

Casey Ross | The Boston Globe

More than 275 apartments are under construction next to the JFK/UMass station. BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

More than 275 apartments are under construction next to the JFK/UMass station. BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF

The streets around Dorchester’s MBTA stations are on the cusp of transformation.

Adjacent to the JFK/UMass Red Line station, more than 275 apartments are under construction, and another 184-unit building is planned on nearby Mount Vernon Street. The next southbound stop, Savin Hill, has attracted a proposal for 375 new homes and a 60,000-square-foot cluster of restaurants and stores.

The owner of the South Bay Center, sandwiched between the Red Line and Fairmount commuter rail, is pitching apartments, stores, hotels, and a 65,000-square-foot cinema. And at Ashmont Station, a developer that completed one residential and retail building will add another in 2016.

Transit-oriented development is finally becoming more than just high-minded planning jargon in Dorchester. It is sweeping through the neighborhood, bringing new housing, shopping options, and broader economic growth that promises to revitalize residential and commercial districts.

“This is a huge opportunity,” said Richard Taylor, director of the Center for Real Estate at Suffolk University. “You get a lot of ripple effects from this kind of development. It increases residential density, you have more arts and entertainment, and it injects more income to support local retail.” Read more

 

California climbs to 8th most bike-friendly state

MacGregor Eddy | The Californian

Construction workers with Capital Rail Constructors lift a 2,000-pound girder into place on the Dulles extension of the Silver Line of the Metro last month. (Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)California is now the eighth-most bike friendly state in the nation, according to the annual list compiled by the League of American Bicyclists. Two years ago, in 2013 the Golden State ranked 19th. Ratings were based on overall scores derived from five categories: legislation, policies, funding, education and planning.

So, what happened in 2014? Well, a lot.

The California Transportation Commission allocated more than $360 million in 2014 for locally administered Active Transportation Program (ATP) projects, with 2015 ATP grants expected to total even more. Locally the Via Salinas Valley project will use state ATP money to improve bike paths and sidewalk safety in east Salinas and south valley cities.

Caltrans has set a goal of tripling the frequency of cycling, adding bicycle-friendly features to streets as part of its Complete Streets Implementation Action Plan.

In 2014, Caltrans also officially endorsed the street design guidelines of the North American City Transportation Official, which includes augmented features for bicyclists and pedestrians. Salinas will implement complete streets policies with the downtown Vibrancy plan. Read more

Why transit is good for business

Luz Lazo | The Washington Post

Construction workers with Capital Rail Constructors lift a 2,000-pound girder into place on the Dulles extension of the Silver Line of the Metro last month. (Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)

Construction workers with Capital Rail Constructors lift a 2,000-pound girder into place on the Dulles extension of the Silver Line of the Metro last month. (Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)

When it comes to business, the areas around Dulles International and Reagan National airports couldn’t  differ more, a hospitality executive told business and government leaders recently.

Hotel rooms are booked fast in Crystal City near the robust National airport, a vibrant employment center with access to multiple modes of transit.  Combined, those factors make the perfect equation for strong hotel occupancy rates, said Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, which owns hotels near Reagan and Dulles.

By contrast, it’s a challenge to fill rooms near Dulles where business is down dramatically. The area around the airport is car-centric and lacks the vast public transit options available near National.  Hotel rooms were built around the idea that by now Dulles would have 30 million to 35 million passengers annually, Carrier said last week at a transportation forum in Tysons. Last year, 21.6 million passengers flew through Dulles, a significant drop from 27 million in 2005.

“The employment growth immediately around the airport is not as robust either and as a result it is a challenge,” he said.

But Metro’s Silver Line, scheduled to arrive at Dulles in 2020, provides hope that it could contribute to turning that around.  The rail extension to Loudoun County is projected to drive up economic development in the Dulles corridor, boosting not only current businesses but also the airport’s growth opportunities. Read more

 

Top players predict commercial real estate picture to stay strong

Steve Brown | The Dallas Morning News

Construction workers with Capital Rail Constructors lift a 2,000-pound girder into place on the Dulles extension of the Silver Line of the Metro last month. (Pete Marovich For The Washington Post)More construction cranes will be sprouting on America’s skylines. The commercial real estate sector is forecasting one of the longest periods of expansion on record. Top players predict that investment and returns in U.S. real estate will stay strong through 2017.

The forecast is for almost $500 billion a year in transactions over the next three years, according to a new study by the Urban Land Institute, which is meeting in Houston this week. The Washington, D.C.-based organization is the country’s largest commercial real estate association.

“Real estate volumes have been growing steadily,” said Urban Land Institute’s William Maher, a director with LaSalle Investment Management. “It looks like they will continue to grow in 2015.

“For real estate, it’s really about jobs,” Maher said. “This is the highest rate of job growth we have had for 15 years.”

The U.S. commercial property market has been expanding since 2010, following a sharp downturn during the recession.

Transaction totals are expected to increase this year and in 2016 to almost twice the 14-year annual average.

No surprise then that average commercial property prices are jumping.

“Last year it was up 13 percent — an enormous number,” Maher said. “This year it’s forecast for 10 percent, but trailing down.”

Even with higher price tags on many properties, the returns are high enough to continue attracting investment dollars, top industry execs say. Read more

 

More housing provides sustainable opportunities

Janet Borgens | SF Examiner

An artist's rendering of a proposed four-mile streetcar line from the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center to a new center at Westminster Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. (City of Santa Ana)It is often said that all politics is local. And nowadays, local politics is more local than ever. Take The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ recent study session on affordable housing.

As residents described debilitating rent hikes, overcrowded apartments and myriad housing hardships, the supervisors voted to implement 10 progressive policies for more affordable housing.

The ink was barely dry on their vote tallies before San Carlos issued a report recommending it establish its own housing authority to create more affordable housing for its low-income and aging residents. And in January, Burlingame, at the behest of deeply concerned renters — more than half the residents are renters, according to county Supervisor Dave Pine — held a study session and public forum on housing policy. Last summer, Redwood City held an in-depth study session to explore housing issues and constraints. These initiatives are worthy attempts to get ahead of a very serious and growing problem. But it is not nearly enough.

What’s coming in Silicon Valley is the perfect storm: epoch-shattering job growth and roaring demand for office space juxtaposed against a nonexistent supply of housing. This year’s imbalance is next year’s full-blown crisis. And what’s happening here is a poignant example of the insidious rise of inequality playing out across the country.

According to Jill Lepore in the March 16 New Yorker, income inequality in the United States has been growing for decades and is greater than in any other democracy on Earth. Economists and sociologists from all ends of the political spectrum agree — and the problem is so widespread that last year a technical treatise detailing the causes of inequality by French economist Thomas Piketty became a runaway national bestseller. Read more

 

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