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.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

(Over)Focusing on community benefits agreements does not substitute for economic revitalization planning: Atlanta; Chicago

Recently, I've come across two interesting articles about "community benefits agreements," as part of development projects.

Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood, foreground, is a short distance from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, right; the Georgia Dome, center; and the Georgia World Congress Center, left. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times.

One is on the construction of the Atlanta Falcons football stadium ("Building a stadium, Rebuilding a neighborhood, New York Times) and the other is an op-ed in the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, "One way for Obama to secure his legacy: Make sure his library helps Chicago's South Side," University of Chicago sociologist Eve Ewing caling for a "community benefits agreement" in association with the construction of a new Presidential Library honoring Barack Obama, in Chicago's South Side.

From the article on the Falcons:
... But rarely does such public investment do much good for the areas around these mammoth stadiums. Such venues effectively blot out a part of the neighborhood when not in use, reducing foot traffic and fraying the fabric of the community. Even when stadiums do draw big crowds, ticket holders spend little of their money at local businesses.

While some owners try to offset these problems by donating money to local charities or buying land to make way for new homes and shops, Blank wants to rebuild the neighborhoods where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Julian Bond and other civil rights leaders once lived. ...

So far, his foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has donated $20 million to pay for, among other things, a job training center called Westside Works, new parks, a youth leadership program called American Explorers, and homes for police officers willing to live in the area. Blank’s investments have been matched by groups including Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, more than doubling the amount raised.
And Blank has also committed to spending millions more while also getting the team’s sponsors to strengthen their ties to the community. ...

While Blank’s spending on the Westside so far is significant, it is still just a fraction of what the city is spending on the stadium. Although some residents appreciate his efforts to create jobs and fight crime, others fear they will ultimately be pushed out.

Indeed, speculators have bought up hundreds of parcels of land hoping to turn a quick profit, and rents have risen by about 20 percent since the stadium plan was announced in 2012, according to a Georgia Tech study.

“This is not a sports stadium. This is a development deal, and unless you understand that, you can’t really get a grasp of what’s happening here,” said State Senator Vincent Fort, whose district includes English Avenue and Vine City. “The stadium deal is nothing but an engine for gentrification.”
Generally, community benefits agreements call for hiring protocols, employment of locally based and minority/women owned firms, and buying agreements. They don't usually focus on ancillary economic revitalization programming in association with the project.

-- "Community benefits agreements (revised)"
-- "Community benefits agreements revised (again)"
-- "Not understanding what triggers a community benefits process"
-- "Whole Foods and community change: Prince George's County vs. Boston"

The issue comes down to helping individuals and firms, through workforce, hiring, and purchasing agreements versus investing in complementary revitalization, or doing both.  Mostly, CBAs and these projects do the former--workforce, hiring, and purchasing agreements--and not the latter.

Another way to look at this is the classic conundrum in economic development -- do you invest in people or places?

I think that comes through in the op-ed.  From the article:
Community benefits agreements, or CBAs, have emerged over the past decade and a half as a strategy for residents and businesses in cities to make sure that large development projects help them, not harm them. CBAs are legally enforceable contracts and may require developers to meet a number of local demands. One of the most well-known CBAs was drafted in 2001, when Los Angeles residents, businesses and organizations agreed to support the construction of the Staples Center in exchange for community benefits such as local park improvement, residential parking, a job training program and affordable housing. Since then, CBAs have been implemented across the country, from New York to Oakland, for projects ranging from a research hospital to a casino. Each CBA is different, responding to the perceived needs of the community and the resources the new development might be able to offer — from a transit developer agreeing to preserve historic buildings in Atlanta, to a wireless provider in Minneapolis offering free Internet access in public locations.

In the case of the Obama Presidential Center, what do residents want? A coalition of South Side organizations has created a list of development principles that includes setting aside jobs for young people and formerly incarcerated people, guaranteeing a living wage for employees, partnering with local public schools to provide educational programming and free admission for students, and improving nearby public transportation. When the Obama Foundation first announced that Chicago would be home to the Obama library, foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt dismissed journalists' questions about a potential CBA: “This whole initiative is a community benefit, right? That's what this is about.” But without a written commitment, the definition of “benefit” is likely to be a slippery one, left to the city's most powerful to determine at the potential expense of those whose actual lives are most affected by the library.
CBAs as a panacea?  Not to knock workforce and purchasing programs, but I argue that the best long term place-based economic development comes from the development and execution of broader revitalization programs.

It's not either/or but and/and.

The Falcons project is a little different, in that area community foundations have matched the donation, but there still isn't a full-fledged economic development program focused on assisting existing residents and the built environment, along the lines of recommendations from The Community Economic Development Handbook, by Mihalio ("Mike") Temali, director of the Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul Minnesota.

The text identifies four points that comprise the foundation of successful neighborhood economies, which he calls pivot points:

■ developing the community work force;
■ revitalizing the commercial district/industrial base;
■ growing good neighborhood-based jobs; and
■ developing micro-businesses.

I was impressed though that the Falcons have followed through on the job training program and have hired some people through it.  There is no question that those programs and actions are changing the lives of many in positive ways.

At the same time, there needs to be focused investment in the built environment, on residential improvement, new housing, business district physical improvement, and business development.

Similarly, while all those desires on the part of people in the South Side community are great, and they will have some impact, if agreed to by the various parties, they aren't likely to have the real impact people are seeking.

I'd argue that a fair amount of money needs to be put into programs assisting housing rehabilitation comparable to the Healthy Neighborhoods program in Baltimore targeting emerging neighborhoods ("The Healthy Neighborhoods Program: A Middle Neighborhoods Improvement Strategy," Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco) or the Elm Street neighborhood revitalization model developed from the Main Street commercial district revitalization model ("The Elm Street Program," Places Journal). Plus commercial district revitalization.

DC Convention Center.  For example, upon the opening of the new DC Convention Center 13 years ago, I said it was a mistake to not simultaneously invest in physical and business improvements in the corridors--9th and 7th Streets NW--bracketing the facility ("If you don't understand linkage and context then you have learned nothing" and "The time to plan for retail in and around the Convention Center was long before it opened in 2003 and certainly before 2015").

The original "community investment program" associated with the project provided small home improvement loans totaling $1 million (miniscule), a job training program, and a commitment to hiring and/or purchasing from local small contractors, but no investment in commercial properties and businesses and business development (Washington Convention Center, ULI Case Studies).

But it is only in the last couple years, more than ten years after the opening of the Convention Center, in an area within walking distance of Downtown, that there has been significant and evident progress in the commercial districts, even though for the most part retail in the facility still lags (and will continue to do so because of design flaws).

1200 block 9th Street NW, west side
1200 block 9th Street NW, west side, 2006.

1200 block 9th Street NW, west side, 2014, Google Street View.

Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock.  Little Rock attributes a great deal of its recent success (as does the Clinton Foundation) to the construction and operation of the Clinton Presidential Library there. While it was an important anchor, many other revitalization steps and investments occurred before and after its construction, which in combination have significantly assisted community improvement there.

River Market in Little Rock, ARStreetcar at the River Market (a newly constructed public market which is also very successful in its own right) in Little Rock, Arkansas. Flickr photo by Skyline Scenes.

The Clinton Library and related developments followed by five to ten years other investments in the area, including the creation of a Downtown streetcar system connecting Little Rock and North Little Rock, the construction of a new public market, River Market, which has been very successful, an 18,000 seat sports and events arena called the Verizon Arena, just like the one in DC, a new Central Library relocated to a renovated historic building, and an expanded Convention Center ("Ten years after the Clinton Library opened," Arkansas Times).

That being said, it is key that the Clinton Library was complemented by additional new major projects as well, including the construction of a new University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, a 30-acre public park, and (from the article):
Development just as and since the Clinton Center opened in 2004: The Courtyard Marriott, which opened just in time for the dedication of the new library. High-rise condos at 300 Third. River Market Tower, another high-rise condo development that includes a grocery and a pub on the ground floor. The Capital Commerce Building at River Market Avenue and Third Street. The Axciom building. Heifer International. The Arkansas Studies Institute, across the street from the River Market, which houses the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and Clinton's gubernatorial paper and classroom space for the Clinton School. The new Arcade Building, with its state-of-the-art theater and the Little Rock Film Festival headquarters, along with a new restaurant and retail. The Residence Inn, another Marriott development. The Hampton Inn and Suites. The Hilton Homewood Suites, going up at River Market Avenue and Fifth Street. The MacArthur Commons apartment development by Moses Tucker.
Renovated and occupied building in the River Market district of Little Rock.

Conclusion: purposeful revitalization programs work better than community benefits programs and trickle down economics.  In "short," revitalization projects before the Clinton Library, with the Clinton Library, and after the Clinton Library added to to be much more significant than the Library itself, a fact that the average person paying attention to revitalization is not likely to appreciate.

A street in the English Avenue neighborhood of Atlanta. English Avenue and Vine City are two of the poorest neighborhoods in the Southeastern United States. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times.

While the conditions and opportunities were different in Little Rock from Chicago's South Side and the English Avenue and Vine Street neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown Atlanta, it's fair to say that having a broader revitalization planning effort has a much bigger impact than a much narrower focus on "community benefits agreements" focused on workforce, hiring and purchasing programs, expecting revitalization to occur over a multi-decade period from "trickle down" improvements.

Or as I wrote in the 2008 piece, "Another example of 'trickle down policy' and service failure":
It's not enough to "merely" build the big project. You've got to take simultaneous steps to ensure that the community outside the lot boundaries of the big project is ready to connect.
 A full-fledged economic revitalization and implementation program is the way to do that.  It's unfathomable that this message still hasn't percolated through the economic development office of the typical American city.

For more discussion of neighborhood revitalization programming see "Sexy and fashionable programs don't make blight go away."

And for wide-scale revitalization, "Economic restructuring success and failure: Detroit compared to Bilbao, Liverpool, and Pittsburgh," That includes a recap of some of the lessons I learned writing about urban revitalization in seven European cities:

The six components of a successful broad ranging revitalization program.  In writing about the various efforts, I drew the conclusion that successful revitalization programs, especially in those cities that were working to overturn serious disadvantages, were comprised of these elements:
  • A commitment to the development and production of a broad, comprehensive, visionary, and detailed revitalization plan/s (Bilbao, Hamburg, Liverpool);
  • the creation of innovative and successful implementation organizations, with representatives from the public sector and private firms, to carry out the program.  Typically, the organizations have some distance from the local government so that the plan and program aren't subject to the vicissitudes of changing political administrations, parties and representatives (Bilbao, Hamburg, Liverpool, Helsinki);
  • strong accountability mechanisms that ensure that the critical distance provided by semi-independent implementation organizations isn't taken advantage of in terms of deleterious actions (for example Dublin's Temple Bar Cultural Trust was amazingly successful but over time became somewhat disconnected from local government and spent money somewhat injudiciously, even though they generated their own revenues--this came to a head during the economic downturn and the organization was widely criticized; in response the City Council decided to fold the TBCT and incorporate it into the city government structure, which may have negative ramifications for continued program effectiveness as its revenues get siphoned off and political priorities of elected officials shift elsewhere);
  • funding to realize the plan, usually a combination of local, regional, state, and national sources, and in Europe, "structural adjustment" and other programmatic funding from the European Regional Development Fund and related programs is also available (Hamburg, as a city-state, has extra-normal access to funds beyond what may normally be available to the average city);
  • integrated branding and marketing programs to support the realization of the plan (Hamburg, Vienna, Liverpool, Bilbao, Dublin);
  • flexibility and a willingness to take advantage of serendipitous events and opportunities and integrate new projects into the overall planning and implementation framework (examples include Bilbao's "acquisition" of a branch of the Guggenheim Museum and the creation of a light rail system to complement its new subway system, Liverpool City Council's agreement with a developer to create the Liverpool One mixed use retail, office, and residential development in parallel to the regeneration plan and the hosting of the Capital of Culture program in 2008, and how multifaceted arts centers were developed in otherwise vacated properties rented out cheaply by their owners in Dublin, Helsinki, and Marseille).

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At 1:13 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Great post.

At least in DC, the CBA is being done at an ANC level which isn't really in the business or capacity to do this larger planning.

ANd far too much focus on local jobs as part of the CBA program -- see the Line Hotel.

I was talking to that developer and his attitude was if DC wanted to count the jobs he'd just hire 150 guys to lay carpet at a very low wage.

A bunch of links:

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

out in Kansas City area I saw the Truman Library- but its very car oriented and most of KC is not easy to get around in unless you drive. Its fairly flat which makes it decent for cycling

At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

thanks for cites. ... I did walk into and explore Lakewood from where I staying for the 2002 NTHP conference, but I can't claim I remember much. I don't remember that general area being "walkable" but it had great bones, attractive housing stock, etc.

I stayed in a "guest house" within walking distance of an RTA station that must have been close by.

Anyway, in Detroit, cities like Royal Oak, and Ferndale have had similar kinds of revitalization energy. All along, Birmingham has remained attractive. All are traditional towns, not too far from Detroit, but a completely different world.
WRT CBAs, there is a role for ANCs, but not as prime negotiator. In my original writings on CBAs and throughout, I argue that neighborhoods need to develop, through visioning sessions/planning what their consensus priorities are.

(e.g., like the Visioning sessions I worked on years ago in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.)

Then when opportunities for CBAs come up, direct the monies towards projects previously identified as priorities.

The other problem in DC is that these negotiations are done by Councilmember offices too (e.g., the debacle with Harry Thomas Jr. and EYA--they gave the $ to ward 5 "business development activities") and not open to the public.

Like with most ANCs, the monies awarded via Councilmember negotiation often don't have much long term impact.

As I wrote in my various pieces, there needs to be "an open transparent process" for creating and negotiating agreements with assistance and guidance from govt. agencies. The avg. citizen, even an ANC will get their clocks cleaned by developers/lawyers representing developers.

2. In this entry, I didn't mention the recent CBA between Sagamore Development (Kevin Plank) and Baltimore area groups.

I never sat down and read the agreement, but I imagine I'd have similar criticisms.

Yes, invest in workforce development and hiring.

But simultaneously, invest in neighborhood improvement of both residential and commercial building stock, retail business development, etc.

Structural investments are key.

E.g., I didn't mention in the point about Atlanta, that as far as the "home improvement" projects go, you could create a business cooperative that is jobs training, jobs development, business development, modeled after the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and PUSH Buffalo (I will have to mention this again), to do projects in the neighborhoods there, keeping the money within the neighborhood and accomplishing those other objectives.

Make it preservation focused too, if appropriate.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the Truman Library, we need to cut them some slack... it was built long before the modern "new urban"/back to the city movement.

But an interesting question. In today's 24/7/365 media environment, is there still that much interest in libraries of presidents serving before 1960?

At 9:40 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

do you have a link to your posts on the visioning?

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

unfortunately, it is many computers ago. It is not on the FBA website anymore. I found a link via, but it won't load for me. Maybe it's a network issue, or a "my computer" issue or a particular timing issue.

It's acknowledging that it has the file and its size though. But I tried with both Explorer and Chrome.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually Truman Library is quite fascinating and great resource- the locals are very proud of Harry . KC itself seems to be a city relatively passed over by new urbanists.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

It turns out I found the Word version in my email. I am not sure if there were changes between this and the final, posted draft.

But it's 8 years old.

If you want it, I can send it by email. If you want to stay anonymous, you can create a dummy email account for me to send it to.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Actually, the original town shopping development by JC Nichols in KC, Country Club Plaza, is considered a new urbanism touchstone.

That being said, when I was in KC was not quite 30 years ago and long before I was clued into that level of understanding about urbanism. Mostly, I was at the convention center, and I remember not totally loving Arthur Bryant's, and thinking I was in the same hotel where the mezzanine collapsed years before, killing many people.

I think the Hall Family (Hallmark) owns it now? One thing I think is "really cool" is how the family runs a mini department store there, to be able to keep the retail space fully occupied.

There aren't many such independent dept. stores still in existence.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

KC has a thriving visual arts industry and many fine artists live and work there which may be a surprise to snobby northeasterners and west coasters who think all the art is there. KC also has wonderful public art- traditional patronage dates back over 100 years.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The KC area has a monthly arts magazine that impressed me. It's not Arts Examiner sure, but the fact that the metropolitan area is capable of supporting a regularly published glossy magazine on the arts is pretty impressive.

It helped clue me into the idea that a cultural master plan needs to have a communications element too. But I haven't done a blog entry on it.

I discovered that there are a couple of NY/NJ Media/public television programs on regional arts. WETA does an occasional show. But I think public television could do more.

WNET does a show called "NY Arts."

WLIW (Long Island) does an arts show:

And CUNY has a cable tv channel that produces a wide array of programs on the arts, including on theater:

but they have others.

I saw it on cable television in Southern New Jersey over the holidays, so it might be distributed reasonably widely.

And there is this:

At the early days of cable, I suggested UM having two channels, one not unlike CSPAN, broadcasting lectures, talks, performances, etc. I don't remember if CSPAN was already in business. Basically I would have had the idea sometime between 1982-1986.

In DC now, maybe we could have an higher education channel with programming from all the various schools.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DC had a more thriving fine arts /gallery scene in the early 80's than now- the high real estate has driven many of the private commercial galleries and arts non profits away from the city

plus we lost our oldest established art school- and the federal government museums have nothing at all to do with local efforts and do zilch to contribute or to promote anything locally art related- their excuses being " it favors one region over another and this is the capitol city, etc." so what do they wind up selling in their museum stores here in DC? Chinese made products and materials from other countries when they COULD sell works and chochkies made here. Total heretics and blasphemers these museums are..........

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

of course the NGA moves in for the kill to acquire the Corcoran's former holdings without any shame whatsoever.....

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

not that I would have changed the trajectory necessarily, but I regret not thinking that issue through at the time:

.... But last fall, I realized I failed to make the right "end game" recommendation at the time:

1. That the city take over the Corcoran Gallery of Art and reposition it as the "local fine arts museum" for the City of Washington, DC (as opposed to the national art museums already present in the city run by the Smithsonian Institutions and the National Gallery Art).

2. That the city take over the Corcoran School of Art and Design and have it managed by the new Corcoran/City of Washington Fine Arts Museum and the University of the District of Columbia, comparable to how the former Antioch College School of Law located in DC eventually became part of UDC.

Without there being such a recommendation out there, it was fulsome to expect the AG's Office to be creative and innovative. Instead, they were content to go with the flow, which ended up with GWU taking over the property and the school, and the National Gallery of Art getting the art collection, as well as divvying up the art with local and other institutions. GWU also benefited by getting some ancillary properties that it was able to resell for its own financial benefit.

Granted there would be many obstacles in the way of the city taking on the financial responsibility for a local museum, and for adding to the expense of running UDC, but for the long term the city's cultural ecosystem would have been considerably strengthened and extended.


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