America’s 10 greenest cities

Silvia Ascarelli | MarketWatch

Terrence Horan/MarketWatch

Terrence Horan/MarketWatch

10. Jersey City

Score: 55

“Maybe it’s a surprise to some people,” Mayor Fulop says about being his city being on the list. “But it’s not a surprise to us. Our goal is to move up the list.” It seems to be on the right track.

Jersey City has changed dramatically since the days of that burning landfill, now being cleaned up to become the site of at least 4,000 residential units and an extension of the city’s light-rail system. Another contaminated site, next to then PPG Superfund site in the heart of the city, is expected to reopen as a 17-acre park by the end of this year, increasing the city’s green space by 10% in one stroke.

Gentrification has turned parts of the city into what some call New York’s sixth borough. The city has aggressively changed zoning rules to allow for greater density and require fewer parking spaces; a 70-story tower is now going up in Journal Square, above a transit line. Among Jersey City’s many other environmental initiatives is a planned bike-share system of 350-400 bikes that would be linked to New York’s Citibike program. Read more

 

PA lawmakers set to approve changes to law supporting transit oriented districts

Jim Saksa | NewsWorks

One Transit Revitalization Investment District, located around a light rail station in the Pittsburgh suburb of Dormont, has made it from planning to implementation. (Ryan Loew/WESA)

One Transit Revitalization Investment District, located around a light rail station in the Pittsburgh suburb of Dormont, has made it from planning to implementation. (Ryan Loew/WESA)

A bill aiming to revamp a barely used state law promoting transit oriented development passed the state Senate unanimously Monday.

The bill, SB 385, overhauls the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Act of 2004.

Transit oriented development refers to clustering high-density, mixed-use buildings around transit hubs like train stations. Proponents argue that TOD helps limit urban sprawl, improves mobility and leads to higher property values.

Former Senate Majority leader Dominic Pileggi introduced the bill back in February, and expects it to move through the state House of Representatives without delay. The bill addresses one of the TRID Act’s fundamental flaws: they don’t raise enough money initially to fund investment. The bill allows proposed TRIDs to use a “tax capture” funding mechanism for infrastructure improvement funds. Read more

Density is the key to sustainable cities

Alisha Newton | Vanderbilt Orbis

Macau (Flickr Creative Commons)

Macau (Flickr Creative Commons)

Macau, China is one of the world’s densest cities, with 44,183 people per square mile. Nearly half of the families in Macau live in dwellings that have an average of 180 square feet per person, which is about the size of a large bedroom. Because of their space-efficient lifestyles and their use of public transit, each resident of Macau citizen is responsible for roughly 3 metric tons of carbon emissions per year — one sixth of the carbon footprint of the average American.

True, it’s not fair to compare the city of Macau to the entire expanse of the United States. But even our densest city, New York, is half as dense as Macau, with 27,000 people per square mile, and we have dozens of other cities that are low-density and high-carbon. Take Nashville, Tennessee, one of the highest carbon-producing cities in the U.S.

Of course, Nashville is part of the southeastern United States, which suffers from the same set of carbon challenges, like historical dependency on coal for electricity. But Nashville looks bad even compared to other cities in the South. For example, Charlotte, North Carolina, is a peer city to Nashville based on the two cities’ population sizes and growth rates, but Charlotte is still much more energy-efficient.

The key difference lies in density: Music City has 1319 people per square mile, compared to Charlotte’s 2663 people per square mile. Fewer people per area means sprawl, and sprawl makes the city necessarily car-dependent. When people have to drive from home to workplace, the city consumes much more fuel. Read more

 

Report highlights positive growth in Center City Philadelphia

Ayana Jones | The Philadelphia Tribune

The Center City District has released the “State of Center City, 2015” report, which provides a detailed look at the diverse sectors that make Center City Philadelphia the largest employment center in the region. — AP Photo/Matt SlocumThe Center City District has released the “State of Center City, 2015” report, which provides a detailed look at the diverse sectors that make Center City Philadelphia the largest employment center in the region.

The report documents how Center City provides jobs, education, medical, cultural and retail services for residents across the city and the region, while supporting the second largest residential downtown in the United States. According to the report, 293,700 jobs are concentrated in Greater Center City and 52 percent of those jobs are held by Philadelphia residents. An average of 25 percent of employed residents from every neighborhood outside of downtown work in Center City.

CCD President and CEO Paul Levy said while downtown growth is strong in the education, healthcare and hospitality sectors, the district is under performing in the areas of business and professional services and that is impacting the ability to raise rents for office space. Center City’s 40.3 million square feet of office space contain 38.8 percent of all salaried jobs downtown. Read more

 

Concord picks two finalists for $6 billion naval base development project

Roland Li | San Francisco Business Times

A rendering of Lennar Urban's Concord redevelopment proposal. The Concord City Council has selected Lennar Urban and Catellus Development Corp. as the two finalists to redevelop the city's former naval base.

A rendering of Lennar Urban’s Concord redevelopment proposal. The Concord City Council has selected Lennar Urban and Catellus Development Corp. as the two finalists to redevelop the city’s former naval base.

The Concord City Council has selected Lennar Urban and Catellus Development Corp. as the two finalists to redevelop the city’s former naval base into up to 12,000 units of housing and over six million square feet of commercial space, though developers may choose to build less than that.

The development promises to be one of the largest real estate projects in the Bay Area. Building out the project will involve an estimated $6 billion in construction spending.

The City Council’s decision on Tuesday night came after an advisory board recommended Lennar and Catellus as the finalists.

“Catellus is very excited to be selected as one of the top two candidates to serve as master developer for the Concord Naval Weapons Station,” said Steve Buster, vice president of Catellus. “This is an incredible opportunity and we believe our successful track record in public-private partnerships will serve this project well. We are looking forward to the next steps in the selection process.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to work collaboratively with Concord, just as we’ve done in San Francisco and elsewhere, in developing a world-class plan for the Navy property,” said Kofi Bonner, president of Lennar Urban.

“We have gained a lot of experience and know-how through our work on The Shipyard, Treasure Island, Mare Island and the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine,” he said. “That experience will be extremely helpful as we now work through the details of a development plan with the city of Concord and the U.S. Navy.” Read more

 

NWI needs resolve (and cash) to build commuter rail

Keith Benman | NWI Times

 

Passengers get off a South Shore train at the Miller stop. The stop is being targeted for big improvements by the city of Gary and South Shore operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Passengers get off a South Shore train at the Miller stop. The stop is being targeted for big improvements by the city of Gary and South Shore operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Northwest Indiana’s ambitious plans for commuter rail expansion and developing vibrant neighborhoods around train stations face financial hurdles because of a lack of local funding sources.

Enterprising plans for the same kind of development around Metra stations in Illinois have turned into reality only when local officials have swallowed hard and plunged in, often using local taxpayer funds to leverage private development, according to officials there.

In Orland Park, officials did that four years ago when they approved borrowing $63 million to have a developer build the five-story Ninety7Fifty luxury apartment building adjacent to its 143rd Street Metra station, said Karie Friling, Orland Park director of Development Services.

Today, the bonds used to borrow the money are being paid back out of revenues generated by the building, and Orland Park has even realized a profit. But if that hadn’t worked out, precious local sales tax revenues may have been needed to pay back the bond. Read more

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