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July 2007
Volume 3, Number 2

TOD 101: Why Transit-Oriented Development And Why Now? (2007)

By Reconnecting America

Need a way to make the case for development near transit? Want to explain TOD to a new council member or community group? Reconnecting America and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development have published a new 24-page “picture” book highlighting the benefits of TOD and how it can help maintain the economic vitality of communities. The book cites numerous examples of new mixed-use development near new and existing transit hubs and provides short case studies evaluating development in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in northern Virginia and in Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District. Among the topics reviewed are the changing demography of the U.S. population, the need for efficient forms of development and the trade-off between housing and transportation costs. The publication is not intended to be a detailed examination of TOD or to provide a full accounting of its benefits. Rather, it is a good primer for those new to the subject and should whet the appetite of those wanting to vitalize their downtowns and/or make the most of their transit assets.

 
TOD101

Getting Started with Brownfields–Key Issues and Opportunities: What Communities Need to Know (April 2006)
State and Local Non-Cash Tools and Strategies to Enhance a Brownfield Project’s Bottom Line (October 2006)
Local Brownfield Financing Tools: Structures and Strategies for Spurring Cleanup and Redevelopment (October 2006)

By Charles Bartsch and Barbara Wells
(Northeast-Midwest Institute)

Charles Bartsch and Barbara Wells have been examining brownfield redevelopment issues since the early 1990s and recently offered several articles outlining ways that localities can reclaim underutilized and contaminated properties and help bring these properties back into productive use. In “Getting Started with Brownfields,” Bartsch frames the issue, outlining the context, goals, and strategies affecting redevelopment. By addressing key concerns such as the ever-increasing cost of financing environmental cleanup, community involvement, and the need for Voluntary Cleanup Programs (VCPs), Bartsch makes a strong case that brownfield redevelopment can in fact be achieved. Furthermore, he contends that since the federal Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002, there are many more ways for local and state officials to obtain financing and clean up old industrial sites that were not previously feasible. Citing nearly two dozen federal programs that can be used to aid in clean up, Bartsch outlines a bright future for communities looking for new economic opportunities through brownfields revitalization. Specifically, HUD’s Brownfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) program can be most beneficial for TOD planners, as funds from this program are not limited to specific brownfield sites, but can be used for overall economic development and community clean up. Thus a community can also improve the land around the brownfield site.

In “State and Local Non-Cash Tools and Strategies to Enhance a Brownfield Project’s Bottom Line,” Bartsch and Wells provide clearly itemized examples of innovative financing, development and planning strategies that cities can utilize to redevelop brownfield sites and other undeveloped property. Describing the three types of insurance options available to redevelopers, the authors outline ways to alleviate the common concerns of brownfields work: cost overrun and unexpected contaminations. Citing many examples from across the United States, Bartsch and Wells describe the effectiveness of 1) establishing redevelopment authorities, corporations, and partnerships, 2) fostering regional cooperation, 3) subdividing property, 4) facilitating property transfers and 5) establishing institutional or land use controls. A primer of sorts for those looking for successful redevelopment options, this report encourages brownfield development through clear examples.

The largest hurdle in recent years to advancement of brownfield development has been lack of innovative funding. In “Local Brownfield Financing Tools: Structures and Strategies for Spurring Cleanup and Redevelopment,” Bartsch and Wells provide a unique financial perspective on brownfield redevelopment and profile several familiar and less familiar tools used to support revitalization, such as tax increment financing, tax abatements, locally capitalized and operated revolving loan funds and general obligation bonds. Drawing on examples found throughout the US, it becomes clear that redevelopment can occur at brownfield locations through these succinctly described techniques. If one were to only look at one of these three documents it should be “State and Local Non-Cash Tools and Strategies to Enhance a Brownfield Project’s Bottom Line” as it provides the clearest examples of implemented development. These successful examples can improve future development and as such should be read by anyone interested in brownfields redevelopment as well as those associated with transit-oriented development.

Visualizing Density (2007)

By Julie Campoli and Alex S. MacLean
(Lincoln Institute of Land Policy)

People cite all sorts of reasons for not supporting transit-oriented development. One of the most prevalent is a professed aversion to density. The problem is that density is hard to conceive—and is most often talked about in a way that is difficult for the public and many professionals to envision—as ratios. Residential development will be quantified in dwelling units per acre while non-residential development depends on FARs—floor area ratios, or the gross floor area allowable divided by the net area of the site. Neither of these conventions is well-suited to communicating how the density of a project will affect a neighborhood or answer the all-important question to most of the public–how will that density look in our community?

VisualizingDensity

Campoli and MacLean, through text and color photographs, demonstrate the tenets of good density—highlighting locations where density has developed organically or been handled well. This book grew out of a series of Lincoln Institute courses by Campoli, a landscape architect and planner, and MacLean, an aerial photographer. Through the book and accompanying website (available with free registration), they demonstrate how the visual impact of density is not always what it seems. Merely stating a specific unit ratio often fails to relate the actual impact of proposed development or how projects of similar densities can ultimately have much different impacts on their communities. Visitors to the website can view the effect of different densities and examine how higher density projects can be more easily incorporated into existing neighborhoods. There is even an online game (Building Blocks) where users can create their own neighborhood by arranging houses, streets, yards and parks to create an environment that satisfies their needs and achieves a desired density.

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