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April 2015

NYSDOT: Final Options on the Table for Replacing I-81 in Syracuse

Scott Willis | WAER Syracuse

I-81 looking north at the I-690 interchange from the top floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
I-81 looking north at the I-690 interchange from the top floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

The New York State Department of Transportation released its list of three final options that the state will consider for the I-81 Viaduct thru Syracuse, and a tunnel is one of them.

Stephanie Miner says in a statement,  “The Interstate 81 project is a complex, once-in-a-generation opportunity that requires us to make a carefully considered, data-oriented decision. This decision should not be made simply on what moves cars as quickly as possible. We should focus on ensuring our decision advances the City of Syracuse as an economically vibrant, connected, and livable City by finding ways to utilize the existing transportation network beyond the viaduct corridor, enhancing connectivity between the University Hill, Southside, and Downtown neighborhoods, and being sensitive to community impacts—particularly to those living and working around the viaduct. Any alternative should encourage pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit travel, be financially responsible, and protect the historic buildings in whose shadow the highway stands.”

The scoping report is the second stage in the creation of the Environmental Impact Statement that is required by New York State. As the decision making continues, public input and review are highly encouraged by the city and state. Representative John Katko says, “Central New York deserves to have a full and robust community dialogue on this important project, and I’m happy to see that today’s report includes a variety of reasonable alternatives.” Read more

 

How federal ‘Promise Zone’ could benefit development in challenged Sacramento neighborhoods

Ben van der Meer | Sacramento Business Journal

Passengers disembark from a southbound Metra commuter train in Homewood, where village officials are pitching the Metra/Amtrak station there as a prime asset for businesses that locate nearby.Housing projects and other developments in Sacramento’s more challenged neighborhoods should get a boost from the announcement Tuesday of a federal “Promise Zone” in the city.

According to city of Sacramento officials, the designation allows the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to get “priority points” when applying for federal grants, as well as tap into other resources.

“With the elimination of redevelopment, we lost more than $20 million annually in reinvestment dollars,” said LaShelle Dozier, SHRA’s executive director. Under the promise zone designation, SHRA will pursue five goals: job creation, increased economic activity, improved educational opportunities, improved health and wellness, and neighborhood revitalization.

Dozier said that could mean a greater chance of getting federal dollars for redeveloping the Alder Grove/Marina Vista and Twin Rivers public housing projects, all of which are within the designated zone. Dozier and other SHRA officials said there’s a long-term goal to convert those sites, possibly into mixed-use, mixed-income developments. Read more

 

Commuter trains power economy, revive downtowns, officials say

Keith Benman | nwi.com

Passengers disembark from a southbound Metra commuter train in Homewood, where village officials are pitching the Metra/Amtrak station there as a prime asset for businesses that locate nearby.What village officials bill as Orland Park’s downtown doesn’t look much different from the rest of the LaGrange Road corridor, a 2-mile retail mecca crammed with restaurants, malls and big box stores.

But that’s starting to change as it kick-starts an ambitious plan to transform the area around LaGrange and 143rd Street into a transit-oriented development centered on the Metra station there.

“This station is important to us because we are building a downtown around it,” said Karie Friling, Orland Park’s director of development services. “The mayor thought we needed a downtown. This has been his baby.”

A 295-unit, $65 million luxury apartment building dubbed Ninety7Fifty opened there two years ago. It is now 96 percent occupied. A $1.3 million hike-and-bike path now bridges LaGrange Road. Construction of a 120,000-square-foot University of Chicago Medical Center is slated to start in an empty lot just east of the train station this year. And a Mariano’s grocery is going up across LaGrange Road along with a 230-unit apartment building. Read more

 

Hoping to Resuscitate a Portion of the City’s Heart in Atlanta

Richard Fausset | The New York Times

An entrance to the street-level stores, many of which are closed, at Underground Atlanta. Credit Kevin Liles for The New York Times
An entrance to the street-level stores, many of which are closed, at Underground Atlanta. Credit Kevin Liles for The New York Times

There was a time in the 1960s when Underground Atlanta, a 12-acre complex of viaducts and storefronts in the heart of downtown, was billed as this city’s answer to Bourbon Street. In the 1980s, it was reimagined as a tourist-friendly “festival marketplace” full of novelty retailers angling to attract out-of-town conventioneers. When that idea faltered, there was talk of turning it into a casino.

Today, after languishing for years as a tacky, costly hole in the center of the city, Underground is due for its next major makeover, one based on a radical concept for this sprawl-loving metropolis: People might actually want to live downtown.

By September, a South Carolina development company is expected to complete its $25.8 million purchase of Underground. Plans discussed by the company, WRS, call for adding roughly 900 apartments and a supermarket, and renovating the cavernous below-street-level mall, home to a row of shuttered nightclubs and vendors hawking hip-hop CDs, $10 jeans and rhinestone cellphone cases. Read more

 

From PlaNYC to OneNYC: New York’s Evolving Sustainability Policy

Steven Cohen | The Huffington Post

The Miller South Shore commuter rail station is being targeted for improvements by railroad operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the city of Gary. Both want the station to become the center for a vibrant neighborhood.One of the signature accomplishments of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s twelve years as mayor was the development and implementation of New York City’s first sustainability plan: PlaNYC 2030. Mayor Bloomberg saw projections of New York’s population growth and realized that environmental goals needed to be integrated into the city’s economic development goals. The plan’s focus on measurable accomplishments and frequent performance reporting mirrored the highly successful anti-crime techniques pioneered by the NYPD’s CompStat system. Key to the success of PlaNYC was its clear status as a mayoral priority.

PlaNYC joined environment to the mayor’s top priority of economic development. Last week, we may have seen a similar moment in policy development as Mayor de Blasio linked sustainability to his top goal of poverty reduction. The fact that he is attempting to integrate sustainability with his highest priority is a strong indication that sustainability goals will continue to advance in New York City.

The different goals of our very distinct mayors reflect the different conditions they inherited when they assumed office. Mayor Bloomberg took office less than one hundred days after the horror of the World Trade Center’s destruction. Our confidence was low and the city’s economic viability was under threat. Bloomberg’s steady, business-like approach and his focus on management and economic development reassured New Yorkers and led to a decade of renewal. In 2008 and 2009, the shock of the Great Recession further reinforced the need to create a city attractive to businesses that would bring energy, creativity, money and employment to the City. Read more

 

Trains do more than transport people

John Luke | The Times Editorial Board

The Miller South Shore commuter rail station is being targeted for improvements by railroad operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the city of Gary. Both want the station to become the center for a vibrant neighborhood.
The Miller South Shore commuter rail station is being targeted for improvements by railroad operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the city of Gary. Both want the station to become the center for a vibrant neighborhood.

Much has been written about the simple rationale for extending commuter rail service in Northwest Indiana. Everyone knows it’s about bringing Northwest Indiana residents to high-paying jobs in Chicago. But that’s far from the whole story.

Keith Benman’s series on commuter rail last week shows that expansion of South Shore service in Northwest Indiana, coupled with improvements along the existing line, has the power to bring improvements to host communities, and those benefits spread far beyond those communities.

Benman’s stories looked at how Metra stations have influenced Chicago’s Illinois suburbs.

Orland Park, for example, is seeing the benefits of transit-oriented development around the station at LaGrange Road and 143rd Street.

“This station is important to us because we are building a downtown around it,” Karie Friling, Orland Park’s director of development services, said. Read more 

 

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

 

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