3 Issues Transportation Plans Often Miss

Helloooo Detroiters, PPPers and those of you who didn’t know that Jared Leto cut his hair

jared leto hair.jpg
jared-leto-haircut.jpg

Just in case you're wondering, the Oscar-winning actor has never played Jesus in a movie.


Quick Summary for my busy PPPers:  A thoughtful transportation and mobility plan that takes into account:

  1. Economic Development
  2. Real Estate Market Economics
  3. Placemaking Issues, one of the Five Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy

Unfortunately, transportation plans often miss or ignore these three issues. There are some exceptions - there are DOTs, planning firms and A&E firms out there who are including these issues in their analysis and plans.  Transportation decisionmakers should request that these three issues be analyzed upfront to gain new stakeholders, obtain critical information that will better their decisionmaking, and help secure public/private funding or approvals for their projects.  Assessing and addressing these issues will not only improve the quality of our transportation plans, but it will also improve the quality of life in our cities.

3 Issues Transportation Plans Often Miss

3 Issues Transportation Plans Often Miss


Full Blog Post:

I am not a transportation planner.  I don’t even play one on Netflix (See what I did there?).  But I do see a startling trend when I look at neighborhood level, citywide or regional transportation plans:  They often don't assess the economic development, real estate market, and placemaking ramifications of their transportation planning decisions.  More often than not, these three issues are missed or ignored. 

This is how transportation plans usually deal with economic development & real estate issues.

This is how transportation plans usually deal with economic development & real estate issues.

Why do most transportation plans usually ignore these issues?

  1. Many DOTs don't consider economic development and real estate market issues as part of their purview, so they don't request that analysis from the staff or firms they hire;
  2. The engineering firms hired to create transportation plans usually: a) Don't have staff members who are expert in these issues b) Don't put on their team a firm that does that work and/or c) Don't recognize that these are issues that should be analyzed and integrated into the transit plan;
  3. Decisionmakers haven't read this blog post yet.  ;-)

There are some enlightened players out there.  There are some DOTs (e.g. DC's DOTAtlanta's MARTA & theJacksonville Transit Authority), planning firms (ASGGensler and Nelson/Nygaard (Hi Karina!) come to mind) and A&E firms (HDRHNTB and RS&H get shoutouts here) which are including these issues in their analysis and plans.  This list is not exhaustive -- there are others who get it too. Let me know in the comments who YOU think gets it.  

It takes some guts to be a DOT or city planning department talking about economic and real estate development issues when developing a transportation plan.  It requires some cojones for a planning firm or A&E firm to talk about economic development or placemaking when competing for a transportation planning project. I applaud the organizations who are doing it and spreading the gospel. 

THOU SHALL consider the effects on neighborhood redevelopment! WE MUST understand the implications to businesses on our commercial corridors!  I DO DECLARE affordable housing impacts are important!!

THOU SHALL consider the effects on neighborhood redevelopment! WE MUST understand the implications to businesses on our commercial corridors!  I DO DECLARE affordable housing impacts are important!!

Why should transportation decisionmakers care about Economic Development, Real Estate Market & Placemaking Issues?

  1. Your plans could gain key stakeholders and champions by addressing these issues.
  2. You may obtain information that changes your transportation decisions for the better. 
  3. You might Find Money Under the Mattress.

  1. Your plans could gain key stakeholders and champions by addressing these issues.  These are stakeholders that vote, attend community meetings and call their local elected officials.  These issues are the type of kitchen table issues that people come out to fight for or against!  If transportation plans did a better job of assessing and addressing neighborhood placemaking, economic development and real estate challenges and opportunities, decisionmakers might find themselves with new stakeholders who are championing their projects, rather than, ahem, derailing them.   Have all the stakeholders you need?  Times change quickly my friend.  Ask DC streetcar proponents with a partially-built line who are losing critical political support, and the streetcar proponents in Alexandria, Virginia who lost their entire project, whether you can ever have a diverse and broad enough set of stakeholders and champions for important transportation projects.

    Real Estate Market Economics - Not Just Finance! A second shout-out goes out to my friend Karina for reminding me to clarify this point.  There are many DOTs, planning and A&E firms that include on their transportation planning teams a firm that analyzes how to finance the construction and operation of transportation systems.   That finance related work is not what's missing from these plans.  What I'm referring to as missing is an analysis of the real estate market and real estate development implications of a transit system - not how it pays for itself.  As I mention below, these two points (how you finance the new transit and the transit's effect on the real estate market) can intersect, since value capture and tax assessment strategies can unlock new funding options for the system!
     
  2. You may obtain information that changes your transportation decisions for the better.  What if it turned out that the economic and fiscal impact of a transportation decision could be increased if changes were made?  What if more affordable housing could be subsidized through additional development if the new line went down that block rather than that block?  What if a struggling commercial corridor could be brought to life if a new bus or streetcar stop were put on one corner rather than another? What if putting a new rapid bus, streetcar line or major bike lane on one street would only minimally increase the transportation headways (time between arriving vehicles) but double the economic benefit to a neighborhood?  If there are potential upsides, why wouldn't you analyze these issues upfront?

    Sometimes we learn what transportation-related economic development mistakes we've made only because of nature:  It took the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 to sufficiently damage the dreadful, double-decker Embarcadero Freeway to give decisionmakers the guts to tear it down and replace it with grand boulevards and great open spaces.  The quality of life, economic development and real estate benefits of tearing down the freeway cannot be denied.
Before and after. From Flicker user Vision 63, via the Seattle Transit Blog.

Before and after. From Flicker user Vision 63, via the Seattle Transit Blog.

3. You might Find Money Under the Mattress.  No one ever has enough money to build the transportation project they want right?  The most innovative projects in recent years leverage value capture, tax assessment districts, and public private partnerships for funding.   The property owners and private sector actors who participate in these structures are often focused on the real estate development and placemaking ramifications of the transit decisions.  Transportation plans should assess these issues upfront to build the case for future stakeholders who hold the key to these funding sources!

Conclusion.  A thoughtful transportation and mobility plan that takes into account economic development, real estate market and placemaking issues is one of the Five Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy.   Transportation decisionmakers, contractors and stakeholders must demand that these issues be analyzed and addressed when transportation plans are being developed.  Not only will that work improve the quality of those plans, it will improve the quality of life in those cities.

--Calvin  

P.S. If you want to hear how the preacher might sound in real life click HERE.

Posted on March 7, 2015 .

How to Maximize the Impact of Neighborhood Investments

Hellllooo Detroiters, PPPers, and those of you who think Tom Brady and the Patriots need to bring in Olivia Popeto deal with Deflate-Gate.

It's not whether or not you cheat.  It's whether you cheat and it can't be fixed by a fixer.


Executive Summary for my busy PPPers:  Cities, philanthropic organizations and non-profits often take a "Measles" approach (spread a little bit everywhere) or a "Mumps" approach (one big investment in one place) with their neighborhood investments.  Those approaches do not maximize the impact of those investments.  The three things you should do to maximize your impact:  

  • Use Data to Inform Decisions.
  • Prioritize the Outcomes You Seek.
  • Synchronize Your Investments. 

Full Blog Post:

Today's blog post is called "How to Maximize the Impact of Neighborhood Investments," or as I like to ask people when discussing their investments in urban neighborhoods:

Do you want Measles, Mumps or Impact?

You remember the measles right?  Of course you do, since you now have to worry about getting the measleswhile hanging with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Disneyland...

Considering the outbreak, that was an unfortunate choice of dress, Minnie.

Considering the outbreak, that was an unfortunate choice of dress, Minnie.

Many cities, foundations and non-profit organizations take a "Measles" approach to their revitalization investments:  They sprinkle a little bit here, there and everywhere, and end up with little overall impact or catalytic effect. Their investments kind of look like a measles outbreak:

No, those are not freckles.

No, those are not freckles.

You think I'm stretching this analogy? Look at this summary of certain foundation & non-profit investments in Detroit at one point in time:

A little bit to you, and to you, and to you!!

A little bit to you, and to you, and to you!!

This "Measles" approach surely doesn't lead to sustainable impact or catalytic change.

Conversely, many urban revitalization investments often reflect a "Mumps" approach:  A disproportionately large investment is made in one large-scale project, with the hope that it will spark change throughout the city, or "trickle-down" to other neighborhoods. 

No, that's not chewing tobacco:  12 NHL Hockey players and referees contracted the mumps late in 2014.

No, that's not chewing tobacco:  12 NHL Hockey players and referees contracted the mumps late in 2014.

This "Mumps" approach has the same "M.O.":  Each deal is an expensive, one-off, custom-tailored suit.  It won't fit any other neighborhood.  And it won't work in the next market cycle.  The "Mumps" approach is not limited to real estate deals, but can also be found in infrastructure projects and government subsidies of company relocations.   Most city-funded sports stadiums are "Mumps" deals that tend to be bad or mediocre investments for the city in the long term. 

So, how do you maximize your ROI on neighborhood investments?  How do you create replicable and scalable impact through strategic investments in neighborhoods?

Three things you can do to maximize the impact of your neighborhood investments:

  • Use Data to Inform Decisions. 
  • Prioritize the Outcomes You Seek.
  • Synchronize Your Investments. 

Use Data to Inform Decisions You would be surprised how many philanthropic and government investments in neighborhoods are made without the benefit of defensible data.   Neighborhoods are targeted without a quantitative basis for choosing that neighborhood.  Certain types of neighborhood investments (e.g. facade programs) are prioritized without clear data that they catalyze change.  Invest in compiling clean and current data, analyze the data for patterns and associations, and do your market and feasibility homework.  After that work is finished, invest based on what you learn.  Do this right and you are more likely to end up with replicable projects.  A great example of a data-driven approach is the City of Detroit's fight against blight through the data collection, cleaning and analysis efforts of the Motor-City Mapping project led by Data Driven Detroit and Loveland Technologies

Prioritize the Outcomes You Seek.  Is your #1 goal to improve the housing stock in the neighborhood? If yes, what kind of housing?  Affordable?  Market-rate?  Mixed-Income?  Mixed-Use?  Rental or home-ownership? Single or multi-family? Or is your priority supporting local small businesses and neighborhood supporting retail?  Or are you trying to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood through open space and infrastructure investments? If you look at the resources you've allocated to a neighborhood and your top priorities are not clear, you are almost certainly going to have a limited return on those investments. 

Synchronize Your Investments.  Make sure that your investments follow or correlate with other investments in the same geography.  Are there local organizations on the ground making similar or complementary investments?  If you're a city with limited resources (don't you all have limited resources?), strive to invest where there are also philanthropic, non-profit and private sector investment and resources being deployed.   The same rule applies to philanthropic and non-profit organizations -- just because you're mission-driven doesn't mean you need to be an "island of investment" floating by yourself with no partners and no cavalry in sight.  You cannot have the impact you seek if you are the only source of positive activity in a neighborhood! Make sure your investments flow to places where there are community leaders and local organizations that will help make your investments catalytic, rather than just cathartic for your glossy annual report. 

Use Data.  Have Priorities.  Synchronize Investments.  That's the way you maximize the ROI on your neighborhood investments.

-- Calvin

Posted on January 31, 2015 .

How to Manage a Retail Pop-Up Placemaking Project

Helloooooo PPP'ers, Detroiters and those of you who've had enough of year-end lists!

Turn Down For What?!  Thanks Spin Magazine. 

Turn Down For What?!  Thanks Spin Magazine. 


It's the last day of the year, so I just wanted to quickly drop the mic on how to manage a placemaking orneighborhood revitalization strategy that uses retail pop-ups as the catalyst for change.

Check out my infographic below.  *Boom*
 

Let me know what you think!

-- Calvin

Posted on December 31, 2014 and filed under Most Read.

3 Ways Developers and Land Use Professionals Can Help Urban Schools & Neighborhood Revitalization

Hellooo PPPers, Detroiters, and those of you who are not one of the 20 million people who have already watched the new Star Wars trailer!

The new light saber may help you handle drunk co-workers at the company holiday party.

Raise your hand if you’ve been to a conference on real estate development or neighborhood revitalization where one of the key topics was urban schools.
— No one?

Okay, well raise your hand if you’ve been to an conference on urban schools where they’ve discussed real estate development.
— *crickets*

Despite the lack of an integrated conversation on these topics, the fates of urban neighborhoods, real estate development and urban schools systems are often intertwined.

RealEstateUrbanSchools

Unfortunately, how we discuss these issues -- in separate conferences, hearings and studies - is only part of the problem.  The other problem is the lack of cross-sector accountability. As an example, the schools chancellor is mainly focused on the educational outcomes IN the building -- he or she is not responsible for the effects on the neighborhood if the building is empty. Nor is she responsible for the vibrancy-killing, anti-placemaking effects of hulking school buildings that are a dead zone during evenings and weekends.

The Walking Dead.  Oh wait, not THAT kind of dead zone.

The Walking Dead.  Oh wait, not THAT kind of dead zone.

This kind of dead zone.

This kind of dead zone.

Empty or underutilized schools are a persistent blight on urban neighborhoods around the country. Public schools aren't the only blighting force in urban neighborhoods, but they are a significant one.  The declining quality of our public schools is directly correlated with an increase in empty or underutilized public school buildings in our urban neighborhoods.  The reasons for the correlations are numerous, and they depend on the city.  The common thread is poor quality public school education causing parents to flee urban public schools and therefore urban neighborhoods.  Many are flocking to urban charter schools (which are public schools, btw) and therefore staying in urban neighborhoods.  However many people are also moving to the suburbs or, when they can afford it, out of emerging neighborhoods and moving to other neighborhoods in their cities which have better public schools.

Why Should We Care?

Let's face it, many of us developers, consultants, land use professionals do not live in the type of neighborhoods where hulking, soul-killing public school buildings are usually located.  Nor do we usually have to send our kids to schools in those neighborhoods.  The state of public school education and public school buildings don't affect our day-to-day lives.  However, a number of us care anyway.  We just do.  With that said, there is a business case for real estate professionals to care about the state of the public school system and its school buildings. We should care for reasons that go beyond sheer compassion:  Empty or underutilized public school buildings negatively affect the development and retail market in urban neighborhoods, particularly emerging neighborhoods or ones with other challenges.

Here are two ways underutilized public school buildings limit urban neighborhood revitalization:

  1. Debases Your Customer Base. A vacant and/or poorly designed school building will have an effect on who is willing to move to the neighborhood and who will stay.  If you think about the folks who will pay the greatest rents, the people who will pay the highest condo prices and the customers who will pay the most for a cup of coffee (supporting your ground floor retail), they all pick neighborhoods that are not pock marked by poorly lit, out-of-scale and mostly dark, public school buildings.   Moreover, long-time residents of neighborhoods, even if they are of limited means and have less neighborhood choices, may leave for affordable housing in other neighborhoods, if they can find a neighborhood without a public school building eyesore.   To be clear, this debasement of your customer base is not just about the buildings -- the lack of quality education being provided in many of these schools also keeps your ideal renters, buyers and shoppers away, and helps push longtime residents with options out of the neighborhood.  As a matter of fact, the state of many public school buildings is really just a symptom of the larger disease -- poor urban school educational outcomes. 
  2. A Pox on your Placemaking (and your Retail). Residents, developers and investors alike benefit from well-lit, pedestrian oriented places which feel vibrant, safe and welcoming.  As Chris Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo showed in their seminal Brookings analysis, better built environments --i.e. better places--are directly correlated to higher rents, higher values and better development metrics.  Many of these school buildings and urban schools contribute to the aspects of the neighborhood which are the antithesis to great placemaking -- including poor design, limited pedestrian activity and large, monolithic curtain walls.   If you are thinking about doing a multifamily building with ground floor retail near a public school building, your retailer options often become limited to cell phone stores, fast-food places and miscellaneous shops.  It's all correlated --the school building negatively affects the placemaking near your building, and accordingly limits your retail options. Residents suffer from the limited neighborhood-serving options, and your proforma suffers as well. Poor placemaking and urban design can almost singlehandedly restrict the urban regeneration potential of an emerging neighborhood.

What Can Land Use Professionals, Real Estate Developers and Public Officials Do?
"Do what you do!" is a mantra of many rap songs.  That mantra can also apply to real estate developers and land use professionals when it comes to urban public school education and its buildings.  We're not educational professionals, so we often believe our ability to directly affect public school educational outcomes is limited.  So we usually move on, skip those neighborhoods and ignore those school buildings. But we can do more.


Here are three examples of things we can all can do in the intersection of real estate and public education - and two of them involve "doing what we do":

1.  We can become part of public-private partnerships that redevelop the buildings themselves. Earlier in this post I called Hine Junior High School a dead zone.  You can see from the pictures below that I wasn't joking. 

One side of Hine Junior High School on Capitol Hill in DC.

This side of Hine Junior High faces retail across the street.

The building is underutilized, hulking and not a positive contributor to placemaking or neighborhood revitalization in the area.  This area of Capitol Hill has boomed in recent years, but for years this building stood tall as a remnant of the not-so-good-ole days.  Luckily, the DC government and a local development team have joined forces to redevelop Hine Junior High into new luxury rental apartments and affordable housing.  It's a public private partnership at work.  
 

2. We can leverage new financing tools to build new schools that will better support the neighborhood. Developers can partner with cities to redevelop schools into a higher and better use, but they can also help bring new schools to a neighborhood and simultaneously improve public school education and a neighborhood's revitalization efforts.  Forest City development's ground breaking partnership with Johns Hopkins and the City of Baltimore is a great example of how a developer can help catalyze the redevelopment of a neighborhood partially through the building of a new school.

The East Baltimore Development Initiative's revitalization of East Baltimore includes a new charter school.  Graphic courtesy of Gene Thorp, Washington Post. 

3. We can support our elected officials and legislators in their activities to assist in the redevelopment of urban neighborhood schools. Developers and land use professionals not only have to make our jackhammers heard but our voices heard as well.  We need to support efforts by our elected officials and legislators that support neighborhood revitalization and the redevelopment of urban schools.  We also need to speak up and push back on legislative or regulatory efforts that make the redevelopment of urban schools harder or less likely.

Developers should help city legislators repeal laws that harm our ability to execute on school building redevelopments like the Hine School redevelopment discussed above. 

For example, in DC, Senator Mary Landrieu created a huge stumbling block for the redevelopment of vacant school buildings by secretly passing a law that forces the DC government to give charter schools "a right of first offer" to lease or purchase such buildings at a 25 percent discount.  The law creates unnecessary red tape and does not necessarily focus on the highest and best use for the buildings or the neighborhood's vision for its own revitalization.  Maybe they don't want a new charter school!  The Landrieu law -- and Senator Landrieu may be the Walking Dead herself considering her current political status -- is an example of a law that real estate developers and land use professionals should fight against.


All in all, there is a clear intersection between the fate of our public schools, our neighborhoods and the real estate development market.  We developers, consultants and land use professionals should care, not only because we have a unique ability to help, but also because the fate of public school buildings does have an effect on our pocket books.

Let me know what you think!

-- Calvin

Posted on November 27, 2014 and filed under Most Read.

The 5 Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy

Helloooo Detroiters, PPP'ers and those of you who will absolutely, positively, be watching the Scandal season premiere this Thursday!

Will Olivia Pope wear white after Labor Day?

Will Olivia Pope wear white after Labor Day?


Here's the Executive Summary of this entire Blog Post for all of you busy PPPer's:

*BOOM* (I just dropped the microphone and walked off of the stage.)

*BOOM* (I just dropped the microphone and walked off of the stage.)


The 5 Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy

There’s plenty of buzz these days about the comeback and preeminence of cities.  Bruce Katz has written about it in The Metropolitan Revolution. Edward Glaeser has trumpeted cities in The Triumph of the City:  How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.

In contrast, two of Mr. Katz’s colleagues, Elizabeth Kneebone and Allan Berube, recently wrote extensively aboutthe epic struggles with poverty occurring in the suburbs. Not only are the suburbs struggling with poverty, they're also struggling with, well, urbanity. As an example, Ellen Dunham-Jones has led the call to have suburbia "retrofitted."  To me, much of that retrofitting seems designed to bring the urban amenities of the city out to the suburban people who fled those same cities! Cities are the new golden child of our country, and the country's population is getting increasingly urbanized.  This is not just a U.S. but a worldwide phenomenon-- the UN announced in June that more than half of the world's population live in urban areas.  It’s almost become axiomatic that the city is the [revitalized] place to be.

"If I can maaaake it there, I can make it...anywhere!"

"If I can maaaake it there, I can make it...anywhere!"

What’s discussed less is the “how.”  How are urban cities revitalizing themselves?  What is the one strategy that has brought cities like Pittsburgh, Washington, DC and yes, New York back from the dead?  What’s the silver bullet which will save the day? 

The answer:  There isn’t just one strategy.  There isn’t just one plan.   As we discussed in a previous post, there isn’t one silver bullet that works for all cities.  


A successful citywide revitalization strategy is really the synchronization of 5 sub-strategies and plans

I call these 5 sub-strategies and plans "The 5 Pillars."  The 5 Pillars are the core components of any sustainable and equitable revitalization of an urban city.

The 5 Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy.jpg


The point of this blog post isn't to go into a detailed dissertation on each of the 5 Pillars, but I do want to point out the key activities, topics and issues that tend to fall within each of the Pillars.  Cities will differ on how important is each Pillar -- however, every city will ultimately need a solid foundation for each Pillar.  Each Pillar, is not, however, an end goal itself-- they are only tools to be used to achieve the larger vision for the City.  Accordingly, the creation and implementation of each Pillar-- i.e. each plan and strategy-- must be synchronized, prioritized and designed to achieve the same goal:  the actualization of the residents', Mayor's and City Council's vision for the city.  

Let's briefly discuss each of the 5 Pillars below:

Pillar:  Land Use Policy & Zoning.   Cities signal their long-term vision for the city through their land use policies and plans.   However, those land use policies and plans are only as good as the zoning laws and regulations that implement the policies.  Policies are necessary, and nice, but investors and developers want to know what the law says.  They follow the rules, not the suggestions.  Use the combination of land use policy, zoning laws and regulations to signal to residents, stakeholders and the private market where your city is going -- and where you want them to go.   This need for thoughtful follow-through is being recognized by smart policy makers through out the country.  As an example, in Detroit the Kresge Foundation and the DEGC have opened an implementation office to assist the city in moving forward Detroit's land use vision

To achieve a land use vision you have to plan AND implement. 

To achieve a land use vision you have to plan AND implement. 

Pillar:  Housing & Commercial Corridor Strategy.  What type of housing do you want built in your city?  Where do you want these new product types built?  How many units?  By when? By whom?  As your city improves, how will you deal with issues of affordability and equity?  How does your housing strategy deal with your homeless problem (almost every city has one)?  What will the city do, spend and support to achieve these goals? Commercial corridors in urban neighborhoods either connect or divide communities. What's your revitalization, stabilization or celebration (for thriving corridors) plan for each of your cities' key commercial corridors?  What tools do you have or could create to implement those plans?

Pillar:  Economic Development Strategy.  "It's the economy stupid," a pretty famous guy once said.  It's about jobs! Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.  

No, no, not that Jobs.

No, no, not that Jobs.

It's also about workforce development to help current residents access and compete for those jobs. The plan must include a focus on industries.  What industries can support the needs of your city?  Where can you realistically be competitive to recruit or bolster those industries?  Small business and local entrepreneur support, recruitment and retention are key.  A branding and marketing strategy for the cities' industries and small businesses- both current and desired - is necessary.  But economic development cannot be truly achieved without a baseline quality-of-life for your cities' residents.

Pillar:  Quality-of-Life Plan.  A citywide quality-of-life plan has to have both a citywide and a neighborhood level perspective.  Its key components include implementable strategies on:
 

  • Public Safety
  • Public Health
  • Open Space/Placemaking; and
  • Blight

A special word on blight.  Many cities are making real strides to eliminate blight in their cities.  I was a working member of the Dan Gilbert-led Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, and it is clear that the eradication of blight in cities requires an interdisciplinary and holistic strategy to achieve long-term success. There are tons of definitions of blight, but in many ways you know it when you see it. 

This is clearly blight on a city.

This is clearly blight on a city.

This is clearly blight on a city too.

This is clearly blight on a city too.

Pillar:  Transportation & Mobility Plan.   I often get the feeling that some cities believe that a defined citywide strategy for transportation and mobility is a luxury, something only big boy cities do, not something that every urban city needs.  That sentiment is dead wrong.  A city cannot achieve its' economic development and quality-of-life goals without a forward-looking, innovative and correctly resourced transportation & mobility plan.  I'm not just talking about the current sexy like streetcars and light rail, but basic stuff like are there functional sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians; are there buses that can take residents to jobs centers; and are there bike lanes and paths for bikers? (Yes, I said it-- bike lanes, bike paths and the ability to navigate a city by bike are BASIC transportation infrastructure, not luxuries.)   

So those are the Five Pillars of a Citywide Revitalization Strategy.  But...

The implementation of the 5 Pillars is not the end goal.  The 5 Pillars only serve as tools to execute on the long-term vision for the city.  So first the city – often led by the Mayor and City Council but now sometimes led by philanthropic and non-profit interests– must create and communicate a narrative vision for the city.   Only after that vision is in place, and there is general buy-in from the city’s residents and key stakeholders, can the sustainable implementation of the 5 Pillars begin.

You Must Have a Citywide Vision for a Revitalization Strategy to Be Successful.

You Must Have a Citywide Vision for a Revitalization Strategy to Be Successful.


So there you have it. 

Does your City have a Citywide Vision and the 5 Pillars in place to create and implement a sustainable, equitable and innovative Citywide Revitalization Strategy?

Let me know what you think!

-- Calvin 

Posted on September 21, 2014 and filed under Most Read.

The P3 is Dead, Part 2: Have You Experienced the Power of the People in Urban Placemaking?

Helloooo Detroiters, PPP'ers and those of you who will continue to celebrate the life and unique comedic genius of actor Robin Williams...

Robin Williams as Mork in "Mork and Mindy."  They'll never be another one like you Robin.

Robin Williams as Mork in "Mork and Mindy."  They'll never be another one like you Robin.

The P3 is Dead, Part 2: Have You Experienced the Power of the People in Urban Placemaking? 

I wrote my last blog post, The P3 is Dead:  The Rise of the P5 as the 21st Century Tool for Placemaking and Urban Regeneration, to spark a conversation about a shift in the landscape of urban placemaking and neighborhood revitalization.  And boy did a conversation get sparked!  Thousands of you PPP'ers read, forwarded and posted the blog post (thank you so much!), and many of you wanted to know more about how each of the players fit into the grand scheme of P5 Partnerships.
Well you asked for it and now you've got it! This post will be the first of my new 5-part blog series spotlighting each of the "Ps" within the P5 Partnership universe.  

These are the 5 Ps in a P5 Partnership- rather than just the 2 Ps in a public-private partnership ("P3").

These are the 5 Ps in a P5 Partnership- rather than just the 2 Ps in a public-private partnership ("P3").

This blog post will focus on the P for People.  

The People as Urban PlaceMakers and Neighborhood Change Agents

How are the People positively impacting urban neighborhoods in a different way than in the old P3 model of the past?

Individual People can now be the catalyst and the implementer -- no longer do the People have to wait for the public or private sector in a P3 framework to implement neighborhood revitalization projects.

As an example of the more robust power of the People to create a P5 to effect neighborhood change, let's discuss New York City's famed High Line.  Friends of the High Line Co-Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond didn't wait for the government or the private sector to try to save an elevated rail spur from demolition in a New York neighborhood -- they just did it!

The Friends of the High Line Founders.  Photo by Joel Sternfeld.  Source:  www.thehighline.org blog

The Friends of the High Line Founders.  Photo by Joel Sternfeld.  Source:  www.thehighline.org blog

Those guys single-handedly catalyzed a P5 Movement to revitalizate the High Line and the surrounding neighborhood.  Joshua and David (two individual "Ps" who had never met before) sat next to each other at a community meeting on demolishing the High Line and realized they both wanted to stop the demo.  They decided to form a non-profit called Friends of the High Line (another "P"), received private and philanthropic donations (that's two more P's!), and simultaneously leveraged the Herculean (and multimillion dollar) efforts of the Bloomberg mayoral administration (yep, the public sector-- the final "P" in the High Line P5!).  It took all of the P5 Players to re-envision and remake the High Line.

The High Line was and is a People-powered P5.  Joshua and David became the change they wished to see in the world.  And they used every player in the P5 universe to do it.

This is what the High Line looks like now

This is what the High Line looks like now

The Rise of People-Powered Placemaking with all of the P5 players isn't just a New York, big city, massive project thing -- it's happening around the world and is driving small-scale change too!

Jeniffer Heeman of Curativos Urbanos in Brazil didn't wait for the government to help revitalize her neighborhood, she and others went out and did it themselves!

Jeniffer, who I met at a PPS Placemaking Leadership Council meeting, is 2nd from the left.

Jeniffer, who I met at a PPS Placemaking Leadership Council meeting, is 2nd from the left.

The "urban bandaids" in action

The "urban bandaids" in action

So why is this happening with greater frequency now? Why are there all of sudden many more P5 Partnership projects driven by People and revitalizing neighborhoods?   

There are TWO reasons the High Line, Curativos Urbanos and other People-driven placemaking projects like the Heidelberg Project in Detroit have been able to leverage P5 Partnerships:

1) The Internet and
2) Mobile applications or "apps" that leverage the Internet.

The Internet and mobile apps are resource-raising, fundraising and awareness-raising tools that have changed everything for individuals.  You probably used a new mobile "app" today, didn't you?  

Hey man, I got this new mobile technology I wanna show you

Hey man, I got this new mobile technology I wanna show you

You have some blight in your neighborhood and want the blight removed?  In Detroit and other cities you can leverage a smartphone app created by Detroit tech start-up Loveland Technologies and others to "blext" information and update a public mapping database that will include detailed information and highlight the problem properties. You could also work with Mosaic and the Urban Imprint team to train you on how to use the State of Place tool to help you assess your block or your neighborhood, and then affect change.  State of Place™ is a data-driven decision-making and community engagement tool used by communities and funders to guide investments, interventions and policies that boost walkability and economic development in urban neighborhoods.  The State of Place tool and Loveland's blexting technology are only two of the many applications and Internet-based technologies empowering the People. Whatever tool you use, you and your community members can now collect, reconcile and analyze important neighborhood placemaking data so that you are working with defensible information on the variables that directly affect a neighborhood's future.   

There are so many things a neighborhood needs to survive, regenerate and thrive... how will the new power in the hands of People change the dynamic of neighborhood revitalization? 

This info-graphic by Australia-based "Thriving Neighborhoods" shows everything needed to make a neighborhood thrive.

This info-graphic by Australia-based "Thriving Neighborhoods" shows everything needed to make a neighborhood thrive.

Individuals and the community can now arm themselves with data, share it and broadcast it worldwide, and get the public sector, private sector and the world to conspire with them to implement their revitalization vision-- if they're not too busy implementing their vision themselves! 

Who can stop the community when the strength of their beliefs is matched by the strength of their data?

The roles and responsibilities of CDCs, CDEs, CDFIs and neighborhood non-profits will also have to change, no? 

What will be (or should be?) the role of community organizations going forward when there's more power in the hands (literally) of the People? 

Behold the rise of the individual.  Behold the rise of the People.  Behold the rise of the P5.

Posted on August 20, 2014 and filed under Most Read.

The P3 is Dead: The P5 as the 21st Century Tool for Placemaking and Urban Regeneration

Hellllooo PPPers, Detroiters and those of you don't know the difference between boy bands One Direction, The Vamps and Five Seconds of Summer (5SOS)! 

Which group's lead singer is this?  Put your answer in the comments!

Which group's lead singer is this?  Put your answer in the comments!


The P3 is Dead: The P5 as the 21st Century Tool for Placemaking and Urban Regeneration

It takes a village to raise a child
— African Proverb
It also takes a village to raise Honey Boo Boo!

It also takes a village to raise Honey Boo Boo!

Not only does it take a village to get placemaking and urban redevelopment projects done, it also takes every tool in our toolkits, including Public-Private Partnerships (or "P3s").  However, if you think about the urban neighborhoods and cities that have the greatest challenges, or the placemaking projects with the greatest obstacles, you'll see a new trend:

The P3 is dead because the village has expanded.

Let me explain.

A public-private partnership (or "P3") is typically made up of only two players: The Public sector and the Private sector.  Those two players collaborate, allocate resources and risks, and get a project done. 

A diagram of the P3 Village looks like this:   

"Juuuust the two of us.  We can make it if we tryyy, just the two of us.  You and I."  - Bill Withers

"Juuuust the two of us.  We can make it if we tryyy, just the two of us.  You and I."  - Bill Withers

But when you analyze the most complex urban placemaking and community development projects around the country, you'll find that getting things done is no longer a two-player (P3) game. The village has expanded. These projects take a village where there are 5 players working together to get things done. 

Behold...the Rise of the P5!  The Village looks more like this: 

Public.  Private. Philanthropic. Non-Profits and the People!

Public.  Private. Philanthropic. Non-Profits and the People!

As you can see in the chart above, in addition to the Public and Private sectors, there are three new players actively making urban regeneration projects happen:

  1. The Philanthropic Sector;
  2. The non-Profit Sector (non-community based); and
  3. Everyday People

The increased public presence, activity and resources of these three players changes everything.
It changes the scale of projects.

Do you know a philanthropic organization that is taking a public role in a large-scale urban revitalization project? Many of these current projects wouldn't happen without proactive philanthropic support.  For example, in Detroit there are a number of philanthropic organizations that are actively supporting urban redevelopment projects: Kresge, Skillman, Ford, Surdna, and Hudson-Webber all come immediately to mind.  The newest philanthropic player in Detroit is JP Morgan Chase, which recently announced a $100M investment in Detroit's redevelopment efforts.   $50M of that $100M investment is being made into CDFIs.

Source:  www.jpmorganchase.com

Source:  www.jpmorganchase.com

The new prominence and assertiveness of the Philanthropic sector is not limited to Detroit. You'll find foundations and philanthropic organizations catalyzing urban revitalization projects all around the country, including my friends over at Anne E. Casey in Baltimore, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation in Baton Rouge, and at the Rockfeller Foundation, in, well everywhere! 

Anne E. Casey supported the first new school built in East Baltimore in 20 years

Anne E. Casey supported the first new school built in East Baltimore in 20 years

The Second New Player is a Not New in General, but is newer to this game:  

Non-Profits which are not neighborhood or community-based.

I won't talk long about community-based non-profits since they have been the on-the-ground leaders of neighborhood revitalization efforts for decades.  They have also been critically important and will continue to be until the last neighborhood has been regenerated.  However, the non-profits that represent the new players in the P5 world are the national, regional and non-neighborhood-specific non-profits who are actively creating, impacting and leading revitalization efforts.   When I say "non-neighborhood specific" I am referring to non-profits that are not based in a particular neighborhood or community.  Examples include national non-profits like LISC, NeighborWorks and Enterprise who are doing wonderful work in urban neighborhoods around the country.  They also include non-neighborhood based (but area-focused) organizations like CDAD (focused on the entire city of Detroit) or BRIDGE Housing Corporation in San Francisco (focused on affordable housing development throughout California).  All of these non-community specific non-profits are putting their imprint on neighborhood revitalization by bringing a different set of resources, experiences and perspectives to the table.  

I worked on BRIDGE's Mandela Gateway TOD project in Oakland.  Source:  MWA Architects.

I worked on BRIDGE's Mandela Gateway TOD project in Oakland.  Source:  MWA Architects.

Finally, the Rise of the P5 also changes who are the Placemakers in neighborhoods:

Everyday People are becoming the placemakers and redevelopers in neighborhoods.

Tyree Guyton didn't wait to effect change in his neighborhood in Detroit. He just did it.

Tyree Guyton didn't wait to effect change in his neighborhood in Detroit. He just did it.

Mr Guyton isn't a public official and he isn't a private developer. He is just one of the everyday People around the country deciding to personally become a placemaker and changemaker.  There is power in the People!!  A big reason everyday People are able to effect neighborhood change is the revolutionary capacity of the internet and mobile applications ("Apps").  Websites like Fundrise,Motor City Mapping (shoutout to Jerry, Mary and Mike at Loveland in Detroit!) and Kickstarter all let individuals spark and make change happen in their neighborhoods. 

Conclusion.  So there you have it.  The P3 is dead because the predominate tool in the regeneration of urban neighborhoods, and impactful placemaking in the future, will be P5s.  

What do you think?  Share with us in the comments examples of P5s in your city.  My next blog post will discuss an example of a deal in Detroit, and how the 5Ps play a part in getting it done. 


Posted on July 25, 2014 and filed under Most Read.

Transportation IS Placemaking (Are you Hiring Quarterbacks or Wide Receivers?)

One guy asked for a 50' inch flat screen TV, and got his wish!

One guy asked for a 50' inch flat screen TV, and got his wish!


Transportation IS Placemaking (Subtitled:  Are you hiring quarterbacks or wide receivers?)

From the way transportation infrastructure projects get run, you'd think multi-modal transportation decisions have nothing to do with placemaking.  The choice of street for your streetcar, the location of the lane for your bike lane -- all of these decisions create and alter places, and therefore...

Transportation IS Placemaking.  

Unfortunately, if you think about how these projects (streetcar, bike lines, light rail etc) are organized, the transportation and transit infrastructure alternatives are described and analyzed separately.    The lead consultant is almost always an engineering or transportation infrastructure firm, and they are not placemakers.  Hell, they are mostly not planners either. The smarter engineering firms add a planning firm to their team and then stick them in a corner to plan, sort of like that salad dressing that comes in a separate pouch with your salad.

We'll just pour the urban design on the top of our transportation choices

We'll just pour the urban design on the top of our transportation choices

What's worse is that planning is not placemaking.  You can get the "urban design" right but if the placemaking is wrong, you're still toast.  There are a whole lot of well-designed places that are sterile or go unused.  Did they get the programming right?  Does the place work for the user, and not just the person who looks at it? 

However, the siloed nature of the planning team member in transportation projects hides a larger problem.  The hidden larger problem is that the interdisciplinary, place-based, market-appropriate and people-centric process known as placemaking -- see my own definition of placemaking here -- is usually not discussed at all.  The economic development ramifications of transportation choices are often ignored as well. 

I'm over here thinking about placemaking and economic development.  I wonder what the transportation guys are up to?

I'm over here thinking about placemaking and economic development.  I wonder what the transportation guys are up to?

Most of the discussion in the transportation analysis is about engineering feasibility, traffic ramifications, and mobility outcomes.  Can we get people where they want to go as fast as we want them to get there?  The transportation concerns are well-represented.

But what about the places? 

  • Who's representing the place that is created or altered when you put a light rail line on my street?
  • Who's analyzing the effects on retail of putting streetcar on one side of the block versus the other?
  • Who's assessing the potential damage (or possible improvement) to the vibrancy of the place?
  • Who's doing a specific analysis of each line or lane, each stop or station, to understand and then shape the placemaking outcomes?  

These are not planning or transportation questions. 

All these reports, and no analysis of placemaking or economic development??

All these reports, and no analysis of placemaking or economic development??

Transit-oriented placemaking (I just coined this term, you heard it here first!) is an interdisciplinary activity that cannot be divorced from market realities, community desires or potential economic development effects.   On the contrary, those issues should be front and center in the placemaking analysis - and therefore the transportation analysis -- not siloed sideshows left for the appendix of the final report.  

Transit-oriented placemaking should not be the province of just engineering firms or planning firms or passionate non-profits.  (Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are planners or passionate non-profit folks).  There are economic ramifications to these transit infrastructure (and therefore placemaking) decisions, and it's not just the ramifications for development.  How many struggling retail spaces do you know of near transit? A lot of retail struggles near transit because the transportation consultants neglected to think of themselves as placemakers and not just transportation providers.

I get off at this stop and I don't feel like shopping.

I get off at this stop and I don't feel like shopping.

Transit-oriented placemaking is not just whether the real estate development looks nice next to the train stop.  Build a well-landscaped plaza next to transit and it doesn't mean they'll come.  And if they come they might not stay. 

HUD Plaza in DC:  Proximity to transit does not equal great placemaking

HUD Plaza in DC:  Proximity to transit does not equal great placemaking

In my opinion the lead of the transit-oriented placemaking analysis should not be a planning or engineering firm but should be an interdisciplinary firm that fully understands markets, economic development, programming and people as well as planning principles (Does anyone here speak New Urbanism?). There definitely needs to be planning expertise and urban design capacity on the team, but that doesn't mean that expertise has to be the lead.

Planners and engineers should be catching the ball, not throwing it.

For transit-oriented placemaking you need a interdisciplinary Quarterback to call and run the play, not a star wide receiver who should be catching, but not throwing, the ball. 

Transportation IS placemaking.  But placemaking is not planning.  Be careful who you're hiring to analyze, plan and implement your multi-modal transportation projects. 

Are you hiring quarterbacks or wide receivers?

-- Calvin

Posted on December 13, 2013 and filed under Most Read.