TODs Prove To Be A Boon For Urban Regions

<p>In this special report, the WSJ examines the growing popularity of rail-based TODs, examining their effect on land values as well as the challenges they may face in obtaining approval.</p>
June 13, 2007, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Demographic and lifestyle shifts are among the primary reasons many cities and developers are willing to bet on transit-oriented development (TOD). A growing number of households include singles and retiring baby boomers who are opting to live in smaller homes in urban areas."

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, attributes the TOD boom partly to "the growth of smaller households that are desiring denser and more-convenient living choices."

"This isn't to say that the traditional suburb is going away," he says, but there will be more housing built "for this demographic who desire walkable communities with easy access to transportation."

This article takes a close look at the plans of developer Alex Conroy, who "is planning a $700 million transit-oriented development that will include housing, offices, retailing, hotels and entertainment on 60 acres in downtown Naugatuck. The Conroy Development Co. plans call for rubber-tire trolleys, jitneys and buses to provide connections to the Naugatuck stop on the commuter rail line that runs into New York, so that cars won't be necessary for those working, living and shopping in the development." {Ed: See video, "Can New Transit Revive A City?" accompanying the article and also provided as a related link}.

"Towns like Naugatuck can take some encouragement from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Arlington County, Va., which has transformed its economic base through transit-oriented development. During the 1970s, Arlington was in decline, like many of the suburbs nearest to major cities. In response, the county planned five closely spaced metro stations along its aging commercial corridor, stretching from Rosslyn to Ballston. The plan was for these stations to anchor medium- to high-density, mixed-use development, generally within a quarter mile of each stop." {Ed: See Planetizen related link}.

"Most successful TODs are public-private partnerships. Local governments build or refurbish rail lines and surrounding infrastructure like roads and parking facilities. Private developers then build in the surrounding areas. "There's a lot of research that shows that if the public sector puts money into a transit system, they can expect three to five times that amount in private money" for adjacent development, says Marilee Utter, president of Citiventure Associates LLC, a Denver firm that has worked with a number of cities on development around light-rail systems."

"Research shows that the value of commercial and residential properties close to transit stations often rises -- and that translates into higher real-estate tax revenues in that area. Economists from the University of North Texas, for instance, found that between 1997 and 2001, office properties near suburban Dallas Area Rapid Transit stations increased in value 53% more than comparable properties not served by rail. Values of residential properties rose 39% more than a control group not served by rail."

[Ed: Although this article is only available to WSJ subscribers, it is available to Planetizen readers for free through the link below for a period of seven days.]

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Published on Monday, June 11, 2007 in The Wall Street Journal
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