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November 2006
Volume 2, Number 2

 

Boston Suburb Banking on Big TOD

The construction of a new Route 128 rail station and the demolition of a landmark General Motors 260,000-square foot parts distribution center have paved the way for an expansive, 135-acre mixed-use development in the Boston suburb of Westwood, MA. The development abuts the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s new Route 128 commuter rail station on the Northeast Corridor, which has for years been a major stop for Amtrak’s high speed and regional rail services.

The principal developer for the project, called Westwood Station, is Boston’s Cabot, Cabot & Forbes. Elkus Manfredi Architects, also of Boston, drew up the comprehensive master plan for the site which calls for 1.75 million square feet of office space, 1.2 million square feet of retail space, roughly 1,000 residential units and at least one hotel. Improvements to the Route 128 rail station will better accommodate commuters living and working at Westwood Station. Most of Westwood Station’s residential units will be within walking distance of the train station.

Westwood_Aerial
Source: Cabot, Cabot & Forbes

Aerial View North
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Westwood town administrators and business development proponents spearheaded the effort to attract more commercial and retail business to Westwood. Local residents lent their support by approving a series of zoning changes to permit a dense, mixed-use development at the obsolete industrial park. Westwood Station will significantly grow and diversify the town’s tax base, easing pressure on existing homeowners. And in concert with Massachusetts law, 10 percent of the residences are to be rated affordable, with an additional 5 percent priced just above median income affordability. With construction slated to begin in March 2007, Westwood Station’s developer plans to complete all of the retail, 400 residential units (mostly apartments) and a 125,000-square foot office building by September 2008.

Westwood_Plan
Source: Cabot, Cabot & Forbes

Los Angeles Makes TOD a Priority

Metro
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Long viewed as the epitome of auto-centric suburban sprawl, the City of Los Angeles is making a concerted effort to nurture TOD in the ever-growing metropolis. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is promoting a vision of “urban villages” that firmly supports the trend toward denser, mixed-use developments near bus and rail lines. He is also a proponent of an expanded public transit network around which TOD could take shape. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) operates the region’s extensive bus system, three light rail lines and one subway line. An extension to the existing Metro Gold Line and the construction of the Expo Line along the I-10 corridor will add 18 new light-rail stations.

MTA and city executives have agreed to find ways to ease the approval process for residential developers by seeking zone changes or variances near subway or light-rail routes. Not surprisingly, with the possibility of streamlined approvals, the Mayor’s vision is raising concerns among citizens' groups. Even developers are wary because of resistance from neighbors and problems acquiring land from multiple owners.

The MTA, on the other hand, is applauding this new approach to TOD development. Its own Joint Development Program (JDP) to promote TOD projects around its 62 train stations and numerous and scattered bus terminals has been hampered by the city’s difficult approval process. Created in 1993, the JDP has coordinated five finished TOD projects, has four projects in development, and has identified 11 additional sites for potential development.

LA_Metro
Hollywood/Highland Station, Los Angeles

One project fostered by the JDP will transform the Wilshire/Vermont stop along the Red Line subway. The site proposal contains 380 residential units, 26,000 square feet of commercial space, a child care center, an 800-student middle school and 700 parking spaces. Potential developers at a designated JDP site must adhere to guidelines specified by the JDP’s Request for Qualification (RFQ) document. The RFQ lists goals for each project that developers must incorporate into their designs, ensuring the site serves the interests of TOD and respects the social and design context of the existing community.

For reference, the California Department of Transportation maintains a searchable database of TOD in Southern California and the Bay Area.  The database lists information on project cost, project developer, acreage and demographics, plus much more. Site photos normally accompany the individual TOD descriptions.

TOD Comes to the Texas Capital

In two short years, the Texas capital city of Austin and nearby Leander have approved construction of a new commuter rail link and launched comprehensive plans for transit-oriented development before the new system has begun running. The process began in November 2004 when voters approved construction of a 26-mile commuter rail line between downtown Austin and Leander. The Austin City council, intent on maximizing usage of the commuter line, crafted a transit-oriented development ordinance which passed in May 2005 to encourage development near stations. The TOD ordinance is designed to create development zones around six of the eight stops on the newly branded MetroRail. A similar ordinance was adopted in Leander to allow for TOD around the route’s terminus station. These new regulations mandate higher densities (15-25 units per acre) than previous zoning, as well as mixed-use development.

At Metro's future North Lamar station in north-central Austin, work is a well advanced on a $100 million project, dubbed "Crestwood Station," located at the intersection of Lamar and Airport Boulevards on the site of the former Huntsman Chemical research facility. Dallas-based Trammell Crow has partnered with Austin’s Stratus Properties to develop ythe 73-acre property into a high-density, mixed-use development that will include:

MetroRail_map Source: MetroRail

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  • 800 apartments and condos located closest to the station
  • approximately 400 single-family “row-house” style homes at the periphery of the development
  • 64,000 square feet of retail and office space

Demolition of the Huntsman buildings has already been completed and construction is set to begin in April 2007 following remediation of the site. The rail station is scheduled to be fully operational by 2008.

Austin_conceptdrawing
Source: Trammell Crow

Concept Drawing for Crestwood Station
 
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