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April 2014

Four development ideas Boston should steal

Paul McMorrow | Boston Globe

FOR THE past 20 years, development in Boston has happened in a disjointed, unpredictable manner. Mayor Marty Walsh took office promising to smooth out construction approvals for both developers and residents. Boston has a lot of catching up to do on this front, and Walsh’s team should start by looking outside City Hall. Here are four good ideas from other cities that Boston planners should steal.

■ Make upzoning easy. Boston isn’t Houston. It can’t grow by loosening its belt and spilling outward. If Boston is going to keep growing, that growth will have to come around subway nodes. Transit enables developers to build far more densely than they would be able to in, say, West Roxbury. But for every Jackson Square or Downtown Crossing, where developers have successfully harnessed subway access to launch transformative housing developments, there’s an Andrew Square or a Forest Hills or a North Station, where residents have pushed for development parameters that minimize or ignore the subway stop next door.

Chicago successfully linked transit to development across the city in one swoop. Chicago’s transit-oriented zoning gives automatic height and density bonuses to new developments close to any subway stop. The zoning bonuses reward larger developments on main streets, and limit incursions onto smaller side streets. And by kicking in automatically, upzoning around transit means that the easiest building to construct is the type of building the city most wants to promote. Read more

In NYC, a $185M tunnel that leads nowhere, for now

Verena Dobnik | Yahoo Finance

NEW YORK (AP) — Taking shape on Manhattan’s West Side is a $185 million, federally funded tunnel that leads to nowhere, for now. The 800-foot-long, 35-foot-deep concrete trench could someday lead to two new commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River to New Jersey, if the billions needed to build them ever materialize.

The access tunnel is being built now because the massive Hudson Yards development with six skyscrapers, the tallest being 80 stories, will soon be built on top of it. Trying to dig such a huge trench through the bedrock after those buildings are completed, officials say, would be an
engineering and financial nightmare.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was among the lawmakers who pushed Congress to approve Superstorm Sandy relief money for the planned flood-resistant access tunnel, calling it mitigation to protect infrastructure from future storms. But he argued it would have to be built now because the skyscraper developers could not be delayed indefinitely. Read more

Transit Oriented Development is the key to better cities

Lloyd Alter | Urban Design

For years, city builders have called for Transit Adjacent development, piling density on top of subway stations and at transit nodes. Now the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has introduced a far more sophisticated concept of TransitOriented Development (TOD) and a TOD standard to promote it.

TOD implies high quality, thoughtful planning and design of land use and built forms to support, facilitate and prioritize not only the use of transit, but the most basic modes of transport, walking and cycling.

This is a very different thing from what we are used to. It focuses on developing communities that push away from car-centric city forms, towards an efficient walking, cycling and transit city.

The TOD Standard sums up the new priorities for contemporary urban development. They reflect a fundamental shift from the old, unsustainable paradigm of car-oriented urbanism toward a new paradigm where urban forms and land uses are closely integrated with efficient, low-impact, and people-oriented urban travel modes: walking, cycling, and transit. Read more

Orlando Health to redo site near SunRail station

Anjali Fluker | Orlando Business Journal

The region is gearing up for the start of SunRail commuter rail service this week— and Orlando Health has plans in the works for a small retail strip just across the street from the Orlando Health/Amtrak station in the Downtown South district.

Karl Hodges, vice president of business development for Orlando Health, said the hospital system is in the “exploration and planning stages” of redeveloping nearly 10,000 square feet of old commercial space on Sligh Boulevard that faces the commuter rail station. Read more

How Daylighting the Saw Mill River Helped Yonkers Become a Mixed-Use, Multimodal Hub

Madeline Marvar | Mobilizing the Region

Downtown Yonkers has undergone a dramatic change in the last decade thanks largely to the inspiring success story of the Saw Mill River Daylighting campaign, a project which was presented last week at GreenHomeNYC’s April Forum.

In the 1920s, the Army Corps of Engineers redirected a large portion of the Saw Mill River into underground flumes as part of a sanitation and flooding mitigation effort, where it lay hidden from sight for nearly a century. It wasn’t until the 1990s that anyone began to consider the potential for unburying the river, though the idea at the time seemed too massive an undertaking, especially given the hazardous pollution levels from illegal dumping in nearby industrial areas. Read more

A Radical Approach to Adding Density in New York’s Outer Boroughs

Jenny Xie | Atlantic Cities

 

The urban planning community is constantly touting the benefits of building dense communities around public transportation. But according to designers Chad Kellogg and Matt Bowles, few solutions have been ambitious enough to do the whole Transit-Oriented Development idea justice. So they came up with their own.
Behold the Urban Alloy Towers, a proposal to take over spaces immediately surrounding transportation infrastructure like elevated train lines and highways.
To develop their concept, the pair picked the intersection of the Long Island Railroad and MTA 7 Train in the New York City borough of Queens as their test site. According to the project description, this intervention is an opportunity to “draw the energy of Manhattan out into the four other boroughs without disrupting existing land use.” Read More

The nuts and bolts of CTFastrak

Scott Whipple | New Britain Herald

Kevin Bartram | Staff Work continues on the CTFastrak East Main Street Station on Wednesday. CTFastrak is a 9.4-mile bus rapid transit system connecting Hartford and New Britain and is scheduled to begin service next year.

NEW BRITAIN — More than 150 people got the opportunity Wednesday night to learn everything they’ve always wanted to know about CTFastrak but were not afraid to ask.

Connecticut’s bus rapid transit system is scheduled to begin operations in March 2015. Attendees at the Institute of Technology and Business Development grilled Michael Sanders, CTfastrak transit administrator, with more than 40 questions ranging from how many new bus drivers will be hired — more than 100 — to will there be lavatories at the bus stations — No. Few of the trips are long enough to merit rest rooms.

Formerly, CTfastrak was known as the New Britain-Hartford Busway. The project includes 10 stations in New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford with buses running every three to seven minutes during peak commuting hours. Traveling on a bus-only road, CTfastrak offers faster travel times for riders, providing service from Bristol, Waterbury, Southington, and Cheshire to destinations in the CTfastrak corridor. Most of the public was delighted at what they heard.  There has been talk of a shuttle service between local CTfastrak stations and East Side restaurant on Dwight Street. No surprise. East Side Restaurant owner Nick Augustino is all for the idea. Read more

How parking data drives urban planning

Patrick Marshall | GCN

The relationship between population density, parking spaces and public transit availability is a critical one for planners, developers and, yes, apartment hunters.

Thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, residents and city planners in King County, Wash., can access that data on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis on the Web by calling up the King County Multi-Family Residential Parking Calculator, or Right Size Parking, for short.

Right Size Parking also contains a great deal of regional data about land prices, average rents and even the amount of annual greenhouse gases emitted by construction and maintenance of parking structures.  Users can scan neighborhoods to see how well they are served by public transit and how many jobs are located within the selected neighborhood. Read more

screenshot of rightsizeparking

A Glimpse Into 2050 And The Invasion Of 2.5 Million More Utahns

Eric S. Peterson | City Weekly

Imagine your life as it exists now. Waking up, walking the pooch in the morning, commuting to work, slugging through the day and coming home after stopping by the store on your way back. Now imagine it’s the year 2050 and your sharing your little world with 2.5 million more Utahns that now call the Beehive State home. What’s the air quality like with millions more wheels on the ground? Where we gonna put them all?– a floating city on Utah Lake? Planners shed light on their vision of the future Thursday and argued the state can accommodate growth and preserve a quality of life to make the future more utopian than dystopian.

Alan Matheson, Executive Director of Envision Utah and Andrew Gruber, Executive Director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council gave attendees of the Utah League of Women Voters a glimpse into the year 2050 at the organization’s “State of the Community” luncheon program Thursday.

The conundrum they explained was sharing Utah’s great quality life with future generations that will more than double the state’s population by 2050. That growth means adding 1 million new jobs and creating a transportation infrastructure that gets everyone whey they need to go and hopefully doesn’t add 2.5 million more cars to Utah streets. The key they argue is in planning that gives breathing room to the free market and that concentrates density around transit-oriented developments which in turn can still provide space for rural and agricultural neighborhoods elsewhere.

“We’re not saying everyone has to live in a walkable mixed-use community and take the train,” Gruber said. “But if we encourage more growth to occur in centers in Salt Lake City or Ogden, or along the Frontrunner transit-oriented development then that creates the opportunities to preserve the character of existing suburban or rural communities.” {….}

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