Thursday, November 15, 2007

So What Pencils?

In every city in America right now there is a fight between a community and a developer. It's happening in Austin as M1ek and AC are discussing at the moment. In this instance the community is asking for something that the developer could, but does not want to give because really why should they? The rules were laid down and the developer followed them.

So when cities come up with extensive plans for the area around a light rail station that won't be there for a few years, what is a developer or city to do? The City of Aurora south of Denver is in that predicament right now. So what are citizens who want good development to do?

One way to go is to bank the land and do something that can be easily be turned when the market changes or when the rail line extension comes. Community land trusts and affordable housing funds could possibly do this or the city could buy it to hold although thats almost like the third way below. Another is to let them develop the junk they were going to, which in the case of Aurora, like Austin, is the much hated Wal-Mart. A third and sometimes unpopular way to go is to provide incentives to make the development pencil. This is what Aurora is thinking about as well.

Bob Watkins, Aurora's director of planning, said Aurora hopes the vacant plot will be developed into "a special place that would be unique and help establish an identity for the city."

The city is currently trying to develop an incentive package for the project.

"It probably is going to require some kind of incentive package ... I think the time is right. We have things happening with FasTracks, with RTD, everything that's going on," Hogan said.

RTD plans to extend light rail from the Nine Mile Station at Parker Road along I-225 and then swing away from the highway with a station planned at the location.
A big problem is figuring out where that is going to be since engineering on LRT projects and other improvements might take years. This is where developers can take issues into their own hands if they decide to help build these transit lines. Perhaps we'll start seeing more of that soon. So when a piece of land is scoped for future development, better make sure that everything people want is in order (coding, zoning, plans, affordable housing, etc) so you don't get unlucky and stuck with Wal-Mart or providing incentives.

Update: Here is a map of the area. The line will take an angle and go right.
Update 2: Had the wrong line. Better picture below.



Cap'n Transit said...

"Watkins said it's not surprising the area stayed vacant for so long, because it was difficult to access before the Alameda-Interstate 225 interchange opened in 2000.

"Early on there was kind of this vision for the land as an urban center much like what you might find in LoDo," said Mayor Ed Tauer.

He said city officials have had a close eye on the property for more than a decade and were disappointed in the 1990's when Prudential Real Estate proposed a plan for a high density urban center, only to sell the property once the company realized it wasn't a financially viable development.

There's your problem right there. Wal-Marts can't survive without easy highway access. If the city had not allowed that interchange to be built, the company wouldn't think that a Wal-Mart was "better suited" for the area. If they're serious about TOD, they'll tear down the interchange.

"RTD plans to extend light rail from the Nine Mile Station at Parker Road along I-225 and then swing away from the highway with a station planned at the location."

I don't know the geography, but it's pretty well established that putting rail in a highway median is not conducive to TOD. Isn't there somewhere else they could put it?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I don't think it will be in the middle of the freeway. There are actually some good opportunities down there to serve developable land. Check out the map i put up.

Anonymous said...

You've got the wrong line. The one referred to in the article is here.

The photo is also wrong. That is the Highlands Ranch area, a completely different part of town from Aurora.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Oops. I fixed it. In this area it looks like it will come out of the freeway median to get closer to the activity center. Thanks Anon

Cap'n Transit said...

I'm sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I read the part where they said that the line would "swing away from the highway," but it's still near the highway, where it's more cost-effective for developers to build Wal-Marts.