Fascinating article about why places like the Pike District are where people want to live over the next ten years

According to a new ULI report, Demographic Strategies for Real Estate, “surban” communities—suburban neighborhoods offering the most desired features of urban and suburban living—will attract the most households in the United States over the next ten years. (In case you missed the obvious conclusion because you haven’t had your morning coffee, the Pike District is a classic example of a “surban” community.)

“Surban” developments will replace shopping centers – More retail stores will be transformed into places that sell experiences, rather than goods, and more development will combine housing and retail to satisfy consumer demand for places that offer convenient, car-free shopping. An 86-percent surge in household formations in the coming decade will drive retail activity, particularly purchases by renters, who will comprise 58 percent of the net new number of households.

Suburban office demand will return – As more people born in the 1980s move into more senior management roles and start families, many will move from urban cores to the suburbs to live in areas with good schools, but which are also near employment hubs and entertainment and recreational amenities. They will be willing to share space and work remotely.

Housing rental rates will surge over the long term – The sharing economy’s de-emphasis on ownership will be reflected in soaring demand for rental units. Well over half of the 12.5 million net new households created over the next decade will rent, including those who have never owned, and those making the switch from owning to renting as they age. Homeownership will decline, with the national rate anticipated to be 60.8 percent by 2025, the lowest point since the 1950s.

Municipalities will take a stronger role in encouraging successful growth – Local government redevelopment investments have revitalized urban and suburban areas, and the most astute suburban – or surban — municipal leaders will continue changing zoning regulations to encourage mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development that accommodates the preferences and needs of new households.

The report groups the U.S. population by decade born, rather than by generation, to draw conclusions about behaviors shaping trends, with the most influential (and largest) groups being the following:

Innovators, born 1950–1959, who led a technology revolution;

Equalers, born 1960–1969, who achieved more equality between women and men in the workplace;

Balancers, born 1970–1979, who led a shift toward a better work/life balance;

Sharers, born 1980–1989, who led the transition to the sharing economy;

Connectors, born 1990–1999, who led 24/7 wireless connectivity; and

Globals, born 2000–2009, who effortlessly think and interact globally.


Rising numbers of female executives, affluent immigrants, younger and older workers, and retirees will have a profound influence on community building over the next ten years, according to the ULI Report.

What makes a community vibrant?

Vibrant — it’s such an appealing word. We all want to live in neighborhoods that are vibrant — lively, stimulating, and friendly.

Vibrant centers attract educated millennials and empty nesters—as well as the economic activity they support. Office tenants prefer vibrant suburban centers to typical suburban office parks, and vibrant suburban centers command higher rents, lower vacancy rates, and greater absorption.

The Urban Land Institute recommended eight ways for a community “to find its own path to greater vibrancy”. The White Flint sector plan has embraced these eight suggestions, and it appears that the White Flint 2 sector plan may also embrace them.

Courtesy of Urban Land Institute

1. Encourage higher-density housing of all types. Successful, urban and suburban vibrant centers become expensive because they are desirable places in which to work, live, and play. Higher rents, rising property values, and deeper tax bases should be celebrated instead of vilified as the path to gentrification. However, vibrancy cannot be sustained without social and economic diversity.

Vibrant centers need housing for middle- to lower-income people who work in the retail, personal services, and entertainment sectors, as well as empty nesters, students, and young people with entrepreneurial ambitions. The market will provide all the higher-income housing needed. Lower-income households should be retained through use of inclusionary zoning, density bonuses, and the array of state and federal affordable housing programs.

2. Remember the rule of pi. A hypothetical circular urban area that is 20 miles (32 km) across has an area of 314.16 square miles (814 sq km). If its downtown has a radius of one mile (1.6 km), its area is 3.14 square miles (8.1 sq km)—pi, or 1 percent of the urban area—and many downtown areas in the United States are smaller than pi. Downtowns are truly special places because they have so much development in such a small area. Keep it tight.

3. Take full advantage of policies and regulations that treat downtowns as special places. CBDs are usually zoned with high floor/area ratios. Often, mixed use is allowed or even encouraged; parking requirements are minimal. CBDs may contain unique historic properties or historic districts. These special conditions enable real estate developers to create financially feasible projects in spite of longer entitlement periods, more difficult construction staging, higher land prices, and other constraints.

4. Reject suburban development proto­types at all costs. Suburban prototypes imposed on urban centers reduce density, compactness, connectivity, and walkability and often destroy urban fabric. Features such as adjacent surface parking, drive-through lanes, lack of sidewalks, front entrances from parking areas, and the like have no place in centers that want to become more walkable.

5. Provide public space and multimodal infrastructure to support downtown redevelopment. Vibrant urban centers need transit of all kinds to reduce auto use and encourage walking. Transit includes car sharing, taxis, bike lanes, bike sharing, trolleys, buses, and, when feasible, rail. The public realm is enhanced by small public parks and hardscape areas where people can gather to celebrate, engage with one another, or rest.

6. Consider housing for downtown workers as necessary infrastructure. Most jurisdictions recognize that structured parking is infrastructure necessary to achieve vibrancy. Workforce housing should be put in the same category. Public/private partnerships may be needed to serve this market segment. One approach to provide small apartments and micro units is to attach liner buildings to parking decks above the ground floor and on all sides that have street frontage.

7. Seek ideas about redevelopment selectively. In many automobile-oriented, highway-dominated areas, the vast majority of households live, work, and play in three separate suburban locations and devote considerable time each day to driving from one activity to another. Central city workers rarely live or play there. Suburbia is the only environment many Americans know. Therefore, it is better to gather ideas on downtown redevelopment by convening small focus groups of people with high “urban IQs” than by holding large meetings open to the general public.

8. Prequalify real estate developers who are interested in urban redevelopment. Many capable suburban developers have never built urban product and do not know how to create urban character. In order to provide good precedents for future development, developers that have this know-how should be recruited to initiate downtown redevelopment. Requests for qualifications (RFQs) can be used to identify developers who can deliver urban projects that will increase vibrancy.

Positive Examples of Smart Growth in Our Neighboring Communities

The White Flint Sector can look to neighboring towns for some strong smart growth examples. According to an article from Grist, Bethesda and Silver Spring have become walkable new urbanist areas in Montgomery County because of their ability to implement smarter development strategies. Many suburbs in Montgomery County “have already been built up in the standard sprawl fashion, and the challenge now is to retrofit them into sustainable communities.” This is why various mass transit options, walkable sidewalks and bike lanes are so important to communities such as ours.

Surface parking lots are one the biggest challenges we have in the White Flint Sector to creating a “sustainable community.” To create our walkable and connected street grid, we must implement smarter growth opportunities to use these spaces more wisely. In addition, it is important to protect open space that already exists from becoming surface parking lots in the future. This is why keeping Wall Park and making it accessible for many types of community events is necessary.

National Building Museum’s Smart Growth Series

The National Building Museum downtown is a pretty fantastic resource.  In addition to unique exhibits and a stellar kids’ play-area, they also host a variety of Speakers Series’ throughout the year.  Next week, their focus will be on White Flint!

As part of the Smart Growth Series, I’ll be at the museum on Wednesday, February 5th from 12:30-1:30pm to share how the community is collaborating to ensure that a redeveloped White Flint reaches its potential.  Admission is free and pre-registration is available.  More details are below (as a side note – we’re always available to tell your community group more about what’s happening in White Flint – just email us at info@WhiteFlint.org).


<align=”center”>White Flint Boulevard

Smart Growth: Renewing White Flint, Maryland

Montgomery County, Maryland has approved a plan to transform the suburban, car-oriented area surrounding the White Flint Metro station into a center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops, and transit.Lindsay Hoffman, executive director, Friends of White Flint, explains the goals of the plan, efforts to build consensus for implementation, and how the plan can be used as a model for other jurisdictions. 1.0 LU HSW (AIA) / 1.0 CM (AICP) / 1.0 PDH (LA CES)

FREE. Pre-Registration required. Walk in registration based on availability.

Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Registration is for event planning purposes only and does not guarantee a seat. Online registration for Museum programs closes at midnight the day before the scheduled program.

The Museum’s award-winning Shop and Firehook Café are open for one hour prior to the start of the program. Shop and Café hours are subject to change.

Smart Growth is generously supported by the National Association of Realtors, and presented in association with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additional support is provided by Smart Growth America.

Photo: The transformation of Rockville Pike into a Boulevard that values all travelers is at the heart of the White Flint Sector Plan. Image courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Department.

Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Time: 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

If you’d like to attend this event you can RSVP online.  Click here to register: http://go.nbm.org/site/Calendar/1334693065

Baby Boomers, Will They Reside in White Flint?

In past posts, we have focused on White Flint, and Montgomery County in general’s, efforts to attract younger generations to live, work, and play in the cities throughout the county. Though the younger, millenial generation is important for White Flint to draw in, it seems the aging baby boomer generation may find their place in White Flint’s new multifamily units and apartments first. According to Ben Leubsdorf, the baby boomer generation is moving out their single-family homes to live in multifamily apartments in more mixed-use communities. This trend may also affect the construction of homes, leading developers to focus more on multifamily units than single-family homes.

This trend may allow for two important elements to happen, both elements on which White Flint hopes to capitalize:

White Flint will offer multifamily units, retail space, public space, recreational space, public transportation, and other amenities, all the elements baby boomers are searching for. White Flint is an ideal location for baby boomers looking for a convenient community that is walkable, safe, and easy to navigate.


What Do Americans Want Out of Their Neighborhoods?

The latest poll from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), released in late October, focused on Americans’ housing and community preferences.  It seems that Americans prefer mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods over subdivisions that require driving as the main source of transportation when they have a choice.

Robert Steuteville points out in his Better! Cities and Towns article that Americans choose their housing based on “trade-offs on many factors, many of them conflicting.” These factors include short commutes, easy access to goods and services, public transportation close to their home, and access to arts and recreational facilities.

According to Kaid Benfield from The Atlantic Cities,a majority of respondents to the survey would most like to live in suburban neighborhoods. In addition, a majority of those who choose suburban living prefer to have “a mix of houses, shops and businesses” in the suburban community. However, Americans still choose to live in a single-family, detached home with a large yard. This is why coming up with one consistent message from this research is impossible. There is evidence that Americans prefer accessibility, walkability, large yards, and even the ability to travel by car but as Benfield states, “is it possible to have all that in the same community?” Perhaps by creating a community that offers many different lifestyle choices for residents is crucial to be a successful and sustainable community.

For the White Flint area, the Sector Plan is designed around the preferences of local residents and community development practitioners, similar to those expressed in the NAR survey. This is why mixed-use developments and a walkable street design are major components of the White Flint Sector Plan. The Plan will allow for residents to have more choice in the lives they live, since it seems this is the only way for White Flint to be a sustainable community.

Check out Steuteville’s full article and Benfield’s full article.

Is Walking the “New Wonder Drug”?

The design of our cities and towns may have a major impact on our health and well-being. As diseases such as obesity and diabetes rise to epidemic levels in the United States, what strategies are both health professionals and community development practitioners using to combat these health concerns? How does urban design impact the levels of these diseases in the US?

Jay Walljasper, a guest writer for Project for Public Spaces, recently uncovered a “new drug” doctors are prescribing to treat or even prevent these health concerns, an activity community development practitioners should focus their attention on.



Walljasper interviewed Bob Sallis, a leader from the National Walking Summit which took place in D.C. a few months ago, to discover why walking is the “new wonder drug.” Sallis discussed three factors that make walking the best treatment: “1) Low or no cost; 2) Simple to do for people of all ages, incomes, and fitness levels, and 3) Walking is Americans’ favorite physical activity.” Sallis’ reasoning seems straightforward but why are doctors prescribing walking now? Walking may be one of the oldest activities known to human-kind, so I should be able to walk to work or walk to my favorite shop.

Well, a problem is that many regions across the U.S. are not designed to promote physical activity like walking. If we want to use walking as a treatment or prevention for epidemics such as obesity and physical inactivity, then the places we live in must make walking easier. As we know, the built environment of an area influences the way people live. We believe that cities should be built to encourage walking, which will ultimately make us happier and healthier.

White Flint’s current design is focused on the car, preventing pedestrians from having a safe and secure space to walk. The White Flint Sector Plan is designed to encourage healthier living by promoting walkable spaces. Walking may be the best “new” treatment but our towns and cities must foster the ability to walk for this treatment to be successful.

Read Walljasper’s full article here.

Five ways to design for safer streets

Earlier this month, NYC’s Department of Transportation released a major report, “Making Safer Streets” which outlines the various ways the department has re-imagined and redesigned their streets. The results include:

  • 30% decline in fatalities since 2001
  • 29% decline in people killed or severely injured since 2001
  • 1,000 NYC lives have been saved by the decrease in traffic fatalities since 2001—including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers, and passengers

The overarching aspect of safer streets is “[creating] the opportunity for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to move through the street network simply and easily, minimizing the unexpected, the confusing, and the potential for surprises.” More specifically, here are the five basic principles highlighted in the report:

  1. Make the street easy to use by accommodating desire lines and minimizing the complexity of driving, walking, and biking, thus reducing crash risk by providing a direct, simple way to move through the street network.
  2. Create safety in numbers, which makes vulnerable street users such as pedestrians and cyclists more visible. The same design principle, applied to arterial streets when traffic is light, reduces the opportunity for excessive speeds.
  3. Make the invisible visible by putting users where they can see each other.
  4. Choose quality over quantity so that roadway and intersection geometries serve the first three design principles.
  5. Look beyond the (immediate) problem by expanding the focus area if solutions at a particular location can’t be addressed in isolation.

White Flint may not be New York, but it certainly has its share of dangerous traffic. Safer streets are a must in order to realize the vision of a sustainable and walkable community! Check out StreetsBlog’s post on the report for another perspective.

New report highlights the hidden costs of suburban sprawl

Source: Sustainable Prosperity, thecostofsprawl.com, November 5 2013

Source: Sustainable Prosperity, thecostofsprawl.com, November 5 2013.

A report from a University of Ottawa research and policy network released last month reveals that suburban sprawl comes with a bigger price tag than many might expect. While (understandably) the report largely focuses on development in Canada, the big picture holds true for the U.S. as well. Author David Thompson notes in an interview that transportation is a major hidden cost; long commutes and needing more cars per household (and subsequently, the taxes to create the infrastructure to support these cars) is a huge expense. “Free” parking, which as the report notes, isn’t really free since it is instead built into prices at stores, is another hidden cost.

Thompson has said:

“We’ve known about the environmental effects for decades, we’ve known about the health impacts for 10, 20 years…Now we’re learning that the financial costs of sprawl are going to be staggering and we’re leaving a major deficit to our children and grandchildren.”

Concerned that Thompson is suggesting we all pack up and move to the city? Don’t be. As one Canadian newspaper explains, “Thompson stressed that curbing sprawl doesn’t mean everyone must live or work in a skyscraper. His report advocates infill development and suburban retrofits. The latter phenomenon is more common in the U.S. where older malls, industrial and commercial properties are being redeveloped into suburban hubs.” Sound familiar?

You can read the full report here. Want just the highlights of the report? Check out its informative and easy-to-use website at http://thecostofsprawl.com/.