|Regional TOD News|
Volume 7, Number 1
On Manhattan’s West Side sits what is arguably the last large area suitable for development in the borough – the 26 acre West Side Yard, a rail storage facility operated by the Long Island Rail Road. The site, situated between West 30th and West 33rd Streets and 10th and 12th Avenues, represents a remarkable opportunity to remake the West Side and to expand commercial and residential development in midtown Manhattan. The site has long been the target for redevelopment by the Bloomberg administration—having been the proposed site of a West Side Stadium. While grandiose plans have been envisioned, moving forward has always been hindered by a lack of transit access.
That situation will soon be remedied with the extension of the No. 7 Subway line of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (NYMTA). The line currently links Times Square with Grand Central Station on the East Side and continues eastward to Flushing, Queens. The No. 7 Subway line also connects with all of the north/south subway lines in midtown Manhattan. When the extension is complete in 2013, the No. 7 line will continue to the west from Times Square to its new terminus at West 34st Street and 11th Avenue, adjacent to the Javits Center and the West Side redevelopment zone. NYC is also studying the possibility of extending the No. 7 Subway line beyond Manhattan to Secaucus. This infrastructure improvement makes possible the construction of building platforms over the eastern and western portions of the rail yard and enables development to proceed on this significant air rights opportunity. The subsequent redevelopment of the site is expected to bring 750,000 additional workers and 20,000 new residents to the area.
The other key step for moving this project forward has been changes in zoning for the redevelopment area, comprised of six city blocks, sandwiched between 10th and 12th Avenues and 30th and 33rd Streets. In 2009, the New York City Council rezoned the industrial site to allow residential and commercial uses.
Of particular interest to major transit agencies and tax payers alike is that the subway extension and associated infrastructure improvements have not been financed by transit agency or public funds. Rather funding for the project has been provided by the sale of $2 billion worth of New York City municipal bonds. This process, known as tax increment financing (TIF), allows governments and public agencies to raise funds based upon the anticipated increase in real estate tax revenues that will result from major infrastructure improvements. While the first TIF plans date to the 1950s, they have not been widely used in New York City. Using TIFs, New York City raised $1.4 billion slated for the subway extension; the remainder of the funds will be used for other infrastructure improvements in the Hudson Yards area.
In 2010, the NYMTA signed a deal with the Related Companies to redevelop the site. Currently land is being cleared for the first building of the redevelopment effort, now known as the Hudson Yards. Ultimately the Hudson Yards plans call for the construction of 12 million square feet in 14 towers that will include new Class A office and retail space, a total of 5,000 affordable and luxury residential units, a cultural center, a hotel, a school, a parking garage, and ten acres of green space. The buildings are expected to be LEED Silver certified.
The construction of Related’s first tower, a 1.4 million square-foot office building, should begin once the land is cleared, though this is dependent on securing a tenant and construction financing. The first phase—four million square feet of office space atop of 750,000 square feet of retail space on the east side of 11th Avenue—is scheduled to be completed by 2015, while completion of the full plan is at least ten years away. Stephen Ross, the chairman of Related Companies, has stated that the project will be able to attract tenants by the end of the year despite the slow economy. He predicts that the company will sign 3.5 million square feet of space by the end of 2011 and is currently in negotiations with possible tenants.
The redevelopment of West Side Yards presents a significant opportunity as well as challenges to Manhattan. These changes and others such as the recent extension of the High Line—the park fashioned from a former elevated rail spur—are expected to bring a large number of new residents, workers, and visitors to the area. As the last large developable area in Manhattan, the project is an important one, and the forthcoming opening of transit access will play a central role in its success.
In 2009, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) awarded grants of between $10,000 and $50,000 to eight municipalities within the TSTC region of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut for projects that promote mixed-use, mixed-income development within a half mile of bus or rail stations. The winners, selected from more than 40 applicants, were as follows: Stratford, CT; Mount Vernon, NY; Peekskill, NY; Ronkonkoma, NY; Wyandanch, NY; Newark, NJ; and Trenton, NJ. Recently, grant recipients presented results at TSTC’s 2011 Transit-Centered Development Conference. Work conducted in Trenton and Newark, as well as that in Wyandanch on Long Island, provide useful lessons for others pursuing TOD throughout the region.
Trenton used its grant to elicit public input on future development near the Trenton Transit Center. That facility, the object of a $75 million makeover completed in 2009, acts as a hub providing connections between NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor, RiverLINE light rail line, and bus services, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor intercity service, and SEPTA’s service to Philadelphia.
Trenton is actively encouraging adjacent mixed-use redevelopment of new housing, retail, and office spaces near the station. The 14-member citizens’ advisory committee of local stakeholders, formed in 2009, has been advising the city on station area planning efforts. The citizens’ advisory committee utilized the TSTC grant to hire a respected advocacy group, NJ Future, to facilitate committee meetings and to conduct a series of public meetings to broaden public input. In all, more than 250 area residents took part in the committee’s public forums, where they learned about station area redevelopment plans and offered feedback about the city’s plans for the station area. The feedback was incorporated into a report of findings and recommendations to the city. Recommendations focused on four areas: public safety, benefits to existing residents, workforce development, and eminent domain.
The TSTC grant to Newark allowed the city, working with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and NJ Transit, to investigate what changes to its zoning ordinance could be made to encourage pedestrian-friendly development on the Springfield Avenue bus rapid transit (BRT) route. Connecting the Irvington Bus Terminal and Newark Penn Station, the Springfield Ave BRT or Go Bus links 11 stops over 4.8 miles. After debuting in 2009, the BRT route has quickly gained substantial ridership, such that service was doubled not long after it opened to accommodate demand. Riders can now board one of 18 trips made each weekday morning and afternoon. This demand spurred the city to pursue efforts to encourage development along the route, using as a baseline the Kent/Brenner/Springfield Redevelopment Plan, adopted in 2009, through which Springfield Avenue runs. The city explored strategies for streetscape improvements that would enhance the pedestrian environment and identified potential land uses for vacant and underutilized properties near the BRT stops, including the Plan’s proposed Springfield Avenue Marketplace. The largest new mixed-use development in the city, the Marketplace will be 205,000 square feet, including 120,000 square feet of retail space. NJ Transit staff contributed expertise and “in-kind” resources to move this effort forward—providing details on the operations of the Go Bus and reviewing concepts during the development stage so as to ensure that direct connections to the bus network were preserved and enhanced.
On Long Island, Wyandanch, a hamlet in the town of Babylon, used its grant to compile a toolkit of low-impact, sustainable design practices that could inform its Wyandanch Rising Community Revitalization Initiative, an ongoing effort to revitalize the Wyandanch station-focused town center. That initiative coordinates different transit modes, improves bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and improves the streetscape and way-finding. Wyandanch’s plan also includes redeveloping nearby parcels for mixed-use buildings, including affordable rental housing units, retail and office space, and public green space. The selection of the developer for the Wyandanch Rising project is expected soon.
The toolkit provides strategies that could be used by future developers for implementing environmentally-friendly design practices to mitigate storm water runoff and adverse effects of construction, as well as methods to preserve the town’s surface and groundwater conditions. These recommendations have been incorporated as the Wyandanch Transit Oriented Development Conceptual Design, which forms a part of the redevelopment plan for the train station area.
Wyandanch’s efforts have had an impact on the larger community as well. As part of this effort, Wyandanch recommended the adoption of a Complete Streets policy for the redevelopment area. In 2010, Babylon approved the policy, based in part on Wyandanch’s recommendations in its Conceptual Design handbook.
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