Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What the State of Maryland still doesn't get about smart growth

It's about building transit networks and having stations located in vibrant, connected, robust networks.

I have written about this in the context of the Baltimore region. As long as you don't have a functioning transit network, it doesn't matter if land is located proximate to transit, because transit proximity-adjacency doesn't add any value to the property and the potential for commercial development.

So since it takes 8 years before the return on investment from mixed use development becomes equal to traditional sprawl oriented development--only after that does mixed use development become significantly more profitable (so you need portfolio investors, not just people looking to earn the immediate buck)--you can't get the values you need to change the development paradigm.

I overheard a person working for the state asking a question about "how do we get the Department of Business and Economic Development on board for smart growth?" I explained to her the real problem. Either she didn't get it or she didn't care. (I actually think she didn't understand.)

This blog entry has a lot of good resources about how to go about urban revitalization and capturing the value of transit:

and this ULI report is good also:

Yes, Maryland has 100+ transit stations. But are the transit stations where the development should be? Is there a reason why living around transit should be seen as attractive?

• 27 WMATA stations (4 shared with DC)
• 34 distinct MARC stations (five additional stations provide direct connections to the WMATA system) on three lines
• 32 light rail stations in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County (a couple stations offer a couple block walk to subway stations; plus Penn Station is intermittently served by a light rail shuttle although it's also a two block walk to the UB-Mount Royal Station)
• 14 (11 in Baltimore City and 3 in Baltimore County) subway stations in Baltimore City and County.

Plus there will be 15 new stations for the Purple Line (four additional stations will be at subway stations--Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton), and 17 stations for the Baltimore Red Line light rail system (plus one station that will connect with MARC and one station that will connect with the Baltimore subway).

Maryland needs to do a conference of its own on the lessons of transit and transit-adjacent development from Maryland, based on the differences in impact between MoCo and PG County, and the Washington suburbs compared to the Baltimore region, and the difference in value between railroad connections and heavy and light rail connections, the value of building a network vs. a couple lines (the other lesson from comparing the Washington region to the Baltimore region), and the Arlington experience.

And then, put it all together to refashion the State's priorities. Building parking garages at Owings Mills Mall misses the point pretty significantly.

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