BLOGS: Multifamily Focus

2007-01-31, 14:35

A new village at the foot of the Great Smokies

By: Jonathan Groner
A new "village" is opening up soon in Gatlinburg, Tenn., at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, less than two hours from Asheville, N.C.

Known as White Oak Flats, this will be a 15-acre, $50 million development that will include 84 luxury condominiums and about 50 retail shops, food, and entertainment venues. The theme will be the heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains and Southern Appalachian arts and crafts. Publicity materials say:

"Highly respected professionals who have been designers and planners for Disney and MGM have carefully master-planned White Oak Flats to be an environmentally sensitive development with native arts and crafts, exquisite dining, a fully operational winery, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and a magnificent mountain lodge.

"From homemade ice cream to gourmet coffee and pastries to a country deli or an upscale restaurant featuring continental cuisine, the Settlement at White Oak Flats provides a wide range of dining and snacking experiences. And from a playhouse to an amphitheater to quaint boutiques full of unusual finds and galleries featuring Appalachian’s best artisans, there is something for everyone.

"The Settlement at White Oak Flats is truly a unique small town experience."

This is a different vision of mixed use -- more like a luxury condominium community with a mountain lodge and various forms of entertainment. It's an attempt to replicate a small town, but a very affluent one.

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2007-01-30, 14:43

How mixed is mixed use?

By: Jonathan Groner
Retail Traffic magazine is doing a survey on the different uses that can all be part of mixed use. Here's the entire content of their survey. Readers might want to participate.

"It’s no secret that mixed-use projects are very hot right now. Developers have largely settled on core uses including retail, office, residential and hotel in putting these projects together. But we’re curious to hear about some less common uses that may be getting incorporated.
We’ve seen a few projects that include seniors housing and a few that have civic uses like libraries or museums. Are there other creative uses being thrown into the mix?"

To answer, go to:

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Mixed use near Fort Totten station in D.C.

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Post reported yesterday, Jan. 29, 2007, that two major mixed-use projects are planned for the Fort Totten area, near the Metro station there. This area has been down at the heels for some time, and residents are welcoming the new places to live and shop. Where check-cashing storefronts and a discount store now stand, there will soon be a grocery store, a restaurant, and a coffee shop.

One project will be called the Dakotas, and will be located at Riggs Road and South Dakota Avenue NE. (Possibly a subtle reference to the storied Dakota building on Manhattan's West Side?) It will be a $300 million project on 9 1/2 acres with 900 condominiums and apartments, as well as retail and restaurant space. According to reporter Dana Hedgpeth's story, prices will range from the high $100,000s for a studio to the high $300,000s for a two-bedroom with den. That's half of what these would cost in Dupont Circle or some other already established neighborhood.

The other project will have 300 apartments and include a pool, a fitness center, and 5,000 square feet of retail.

Hedgpeth quotes an advisory neighborhood commissioner as saying, "The community is very interested in having a good project come to the neighborhood to spruce up that intersection and bring positive changes. . . . We want to have convenient amenities for our residents in a more pedestrian-friendly project."

Mixed use in Fort Totten goes hand in hand with the revitalization of a neighborhood and with development near a mass transit stop.

2007-01-29, 16:43

A very illuminating survey on mixed-use development

By: Jonathan Groner
The National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) just announced the results of a survey of owners, developers, and building operations managers that it conducted along with the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA).

The subject of the survey, which received nearly 1,000 responses, was mixed-use development. Many of the results were fascinating. Among them:
  • Three quarters of all respondents said that mixed-use development is characterized by having amenities and architectural expression and by mitigating traffic and sprawl.
  • The most common reasons given for the popularity of mixed use were convenience of live-work-play options in a single location, rising land prices, and encouragement by local public agencies.
  • An overwhelming percentage of respondents said mixed use would characterize an increasing percentage of new projects in the next five years.
  • The biggest challenges to mixed use were seen as the issues of assembling land parcels, working with multiple development teams, and managing financial challenges of a sequenced rollout of a project.

Many of the conclusions of the survey are further elaborated at

The NMHC also plans a 2007 survey about the management of mixed-use developments.

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An incubator in Rockville Town Square

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Business Journal reports in its current issue (Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2007) that an incubator facility will be located in Rockville Town Square, a signature mixed-use project that is opening this spring in Rockville, Md.

An incubator is a set of offices occupied by several new firms that are just starting their operations. The technique is frequently used for high-tech and biotech companies, and that's who will be located in Rockville Town Square. The Rockville Innovation Center, as the incubator is called, will occupy about 25,000 square feet on two floors and will have about 50 offices. It will be just above the arts complex in the town square. This will be the fourth incubator facility in Montgomery County, Md.

This is yet another example of the flexibility that is inherent in the mixed-use concept.

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2007-01-26, 14:02

Mixed use planned for Harlem

By: Jonathan Groner
Harlem isn't the part of New York City where one would have expected an upscale mixed-use center to spring up. But this is the 21st century, New York is flush with money, development is booming, and Harlem's reputation as a decrepit, crime-ridden neighborhood is outdated. In fact, Harlem is hot. It's becoming a much less expensive alternative to midtown Manhattan.

According to a Dec. 6, 2006, column in the New York Sun by real estate investor Michael Stoler, construction on a major joint venture mixed-use project headed by Vornado Realty Trust is scheduled to begin in April. It will be a Class A office and retail center in East Harlem, right at a Metro-North transit station and the Lexington Avenue subway station.

Stoler says the president of Vornado Office, David Greenbaum, told Stoler's New York University Real Estate Institute class that his company is planning to build a 600,000 square building with about 500,000 square of Class A office space, 100,000 square of retail, and underground parking. Rents are expected to be 40 percent less expensive than any new office tower in Midtown Manhattan. Net rent for a new office tenant, after various credits, would be about $43 per square foot, compared with $80 to $100 per square foot in Midtown.

"Harlem is an excellent alternative to a company relocating to Jersey City or Long Island City, with excellent transportation and infrastructure," the president and chief executive of Cushman & Wakefield, Bruce Mosler, told Stoler.

Mixed use is finding a home in the most urban as well as the most rural parts of America.

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2007-01-25, 09:39

Does rapid development harm public schools?

By: Jonathan Groner
On Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007, city commissioners in Lawrenceville, Ga., some 30 miles northeast of Atlanta, approved a large mixed-use development to be built on 193 acres near the Mall of Georgia.

The Mall of Georgia, in Buford, Ga., is the largest shopping center in the state and the second largest in the Southeast United States, and the entire area is upscale and suburban. The new mixed-use project would include homes, townhouses, and shops.

The Gwinnett Daily Post, a local newspaper, reports that some residents question whether their already packed public schools will become even more overcrowded once the new residents move in. But the residents also felt that the quality of the development -- some townhouses will be 2,200 square feet, and prices could top $500,000 -- will more than make up for the overcrowding.

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2007-01-24, 09:36

Frank Gehry looks at mixed use in a big way

By: Jonathan Groner
I don't usually discuss proposed mixed-use projects in Utah in this space, but Frank Gehry's promise to design a major project in Lehi, Utah, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City, is worth a mention.
The 77-year-old world-famous architect, well known for the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, seems to have in mind a project that will dwarf many people's conventional ideas of mixed use.
According to a front-page article in the Daily Herald, a central Utah newspaper, Gehry discussed his ideas at a private luncheon in the area on Jan. 19, 2007.
"The idea of doing something special architecturally means it will look weird when you first see it," Gehry said at the meeting. "But we won't build something that people won't buy into. It's subtle how culture translates into architecture. And there is a culture in Utah."
The proposed project would sit on an 85-acre site on Interstate 15. It would include a 12,000-seat arena, a five-star hotel, high-end shopping, restaurants, offices, a wakeboarding lake, and a massive residential community. The project, including land rezoning, is now awaiting city approval. Further details will be announced on Jan. 31.
Calling the site a "blank canvas," Gehry told the newspaper that he is inspired by what he called a "Utah landscape quality, the big flat spaces that relate to the mountains."
The full article can be found at I will follow this story in the coming months.
This is certainly a mixture of uses, but because of the project's size, I wonder if it has anything in common with the town center model that mixed-use advocates often want to foster. I wonder if it will add to a sense of community.

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2007-01-23, 15:19

Mixed use in Silver Spring, Md.

By: Jonathan Groner
Redevelopment in Silver Spring, Md., is continuing and moving north. The other day, it was announced that The Bozzuto Group, a Baltimore developer, will build a mixed-use project in downtown Silver Spring on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Spring Street. This is about two blocks north of the existing massive redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring.

The site is a 3.24-acre location that now houses the offices of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Bozzuto will be partnering with Spaulding and Slye Investments and Harrison Development on the project, to be called SilverPlace. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2008, and occupancy of the new Park and Planning Commission headquarters could begin in 2010.

The project will include 358 residential units, including affordable housing units; retail space; a nine-story, 120,000-square-foot headquarters for the commission; a 150,000-square-foot office building; and a public plaza.

So far, so good. It doesn't look as if Silver Spring is near the point of being overbuilt.

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2007-01-22, 18:14

Mixed use approaches middle age

By: Jonathan Groner
In the Jan. 22, 2007, issue of Real Estate Business Online,, shopping center consultant Jeff Green speculates on whether lifestyle centers and mixed use have run their course, or whether there is life remaining in the form. He concludes that there is plenty of time and life left.

Mixed-use developments, Green notes, "are appealing to communities, including the high growth ones with outstanding demographics. They are a means to jump-starting a community destination or gathering place and, when done well, have a valuable role in identity building. And, unlike some of the pie-in-the-sky streetscape programs of the past, the best communities are listening to the end-users, bringing about mixes of uses that are less likely to sit empty."

As far as what the future holds, Green has some interesting speculation:

"In the quest for locations for retailers, the lifestyle center must continue to find holes of potential. This means becoming more of a community hub that can combine destination, convenience and service. We are already seeing smaller lifestyle centers, often no more than 80,000 square feet, which are comparable in size to most strip centers. As developers identify these niche locations and demographics, there is an opportunity to re-introduce, in up-scaled fashion, the service component of retail that is often missing in the modern environment. Examples include hair salons, smaller spas and skin care centers, designer eyeglasses centers, ethnic and specialty grocers, or artisan bakeries.

"The lesson or direction is not to overstore America by building another generic or prototype lifestyle center wherever one can be shoehorned in, as we may have done in the heyday of regional malls and their department store anchors. Prototype centers may have been OK for the first incantation of lifestyle centers. Not now."

The idea is not to repeat with mixed-use and lifestyle centers the same errors that were made with traditional malls.

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Clarendon thinks about mixed use in its future

By: Jonathan Groner
The Clarendon area of Arlington, Va., once a bit down and out and later funky and ethnic, is now chic. It's got more than its share of restaurants and upscale retailers. But it hasn't had much planning.

Now, according to the Washington Business Journal, Jan. 19-25 issue, the director of Arlington's Economic Development office thinks Clarendon needs to keep and add mixed-use projects. The director, Terry Holzheimer, says Clarendon shouldn't try to mimic high-density parts of Arlington like Ballston or Rosslyn but should favor low and mid-rise buildings.

"There's an opportunity in Clarendon to diverge from the traditional office products, the 12-story buildings with the large floor plates," Holzheimer said. "We see a lot of smaller mixed-use buildings. The importance of these smaller tenants can't be understated. That's the core of our job base."

The article goes on to point out that at the corner of Wilson and Clarendon boulevards, which is directly adjacent to a Metro station, developer B.F. Saul plans to redevelop two properties and bring in 185,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of retail space, and 244 residential units.

This seems like a good move. Anyone who has ever tried to find his or her way among the office canyons of Rosslyn can easily comprehend why smaller-scale development might make sense in other parts of Arlington. The full article is not yet available to nonsubscribers, but I'll try to put it online in a week or so.

2007-01-19, 13:40

Maryland as a longtime leader in smart growth

By: Jonathan Groner
A book review by Amy Cynkar in the January 2007 issue of Urbanite, a free-distribution Baltimore magazine, discusses This Land: The Battle Over Sprawl and the Future of America, by Anthony Flint. The 2006 book argues that suburban sprawl can seem enticing at first to urban residents but that this type of low-density development leads to ecologically destructive and financially unsustainable consequences.

In the book, Flint, a former journalist who is now at a think tank in Cambridge, Mass., discusses smart growth as an alternative to sprawl and says the smart growth movement "campaigns for using land to its fullest potential."

Flint also notes that out of all the states, Maryland has been one of the most aggressive in promoting smart growth. Here are a few paragraphs from the Urbanite book review.


"You couldn’t write a book about smart growth without devoting a chunk to Maryland," says [Flint]. The state has been a sponsor of growth management since the 1960s, and while Marylanders have mixed feelings about the success of smart growth initiatives in the state, national experts continue to recognize that Maryland leaders began thinking about and attempting to curtail sprawl before most other state’s officials had defined the problem.

Flint discusses several of the state’s smart growth projects in his book. In 1997, then-governor Parris Glendening, an influential but controversial figure in the smart growth movement, established an Office of Smart Growth to oversee the state’s general development policy and launched the Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative, in an attempt to make Maryland a leader in smart growth policy. The program included policies to redirect state money to "priority funding areas" to help maintain and improve infrastructure in existing communities, and a farmland-preservation program to protect rural areas from being turned into subdivisions.

Although Glendening’s policies helped bring key development issues and the concept of smart growth to light in Maryland, the reality is that implementation has been slow and the few outcomes have been largely disappointing. Flint argues that smart growth initiatives need to "get into the DNA" of development and be actively pursued and executed rather than just included in a development plan that "sits on a shelf." Almost ten years later, Marylanders are still debating the true effect of Glendening’s efforts to curb sprawl in the state.


So it seems that Maryland epitomizes both the successes and the disappointments of the smart growth movement.

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2007-01-18, 10:37

Proposed upscale mixed-use project in Chapel Hill

By: Jonathan Groner
East-West Partners Management Company, a North Carolina developer, is planning to build University Village in Chapel Hill, N.C., featuring "upscale urban living," Class A office space, a LEED-certified green building design, not to mention coffee shops, restaurants, outdoor cafes, and a 100-room hotel. The developer proposes to tear down the existing University Inn motel on State Route 54 and to create a mixed-use development with nearly 240,000 square feet of residential space, 120,000 square feet of office space, and 58,000 square feet of office space.

Again, green building seems to intersect nicely with mixed use. The project's Web site promises the following:

"By using an innovative concrete mixture, the project's contribution to global warming will be reduced by 40%. Affordable housing requirements will be exceeded, and the project itself will serve as a teaching tool to inform those who live, work or visit the development how this project strives to improve design and the environment."

The building still awaits approval from the Chapel Hill Town Council. Public hearings on the project were held last night, Jan. 17, 2007.

2007-01-17, 11:52

Upscale D.C. condo building becomes a rental as market softens

By: Jonathan Groner
Multi-Housing News reported on Jan. 16, 2007, that View 14, a planned upscale D.C. condominium building just off the hot U Street corridor, is going to be a rental building rather than a condominium.

According to the building's Web site, its developers -- D.C.-based Level 2 Development and Centrum Properties of Chicago -- were planning to sell the mixed-use building's 180 units for prices ranging from the upper $200,000s to a cool $2 million. But Multi-Housing News reports that when the sales office opened, the builders didn't get the expected crush of prospective buyers.

The D.C. condo market is slowing, even for fashionable buildings in fashionable city neighborhoods. The location, at 14th Street and Florida Avenue, N.W., is a couple of blocks north of U Street but still walkable to many downtown offices and still near a Green Line Metro station.

View 14 is expected to break ground in May 2007. It will have plenty of "green" features, including Energy Star appliances, high-efficiency central heating and cooling systems, and a green roof to reduce runoff and heat load.

Developers of mixed-use buildings, in the D.C. area and probably elsewhere, need to recognize that the condominium sales market is not what it was a couple of years ago.

2007-01-16, 11:46

Requiring mixed use in Virginia to alleviate traffic woes?

By: Jonathan Groner
I have recently discussed the "Bacon's Rebellion" site, which covers public policy issues in Virginia. On Jan. 11, 2007, there was another fascinating article on that site by Robert L. Burke called "Time to Grow Up." Burke discusses a bill recently introduced by GOP state legislator Clay Athey that would require counties to map out where new development will happen over the next 20 years, and then be largely responsible for managing the transportation network needed to serve that growth.

Burke says Athey wants to assure that each county is "ready to think about what it will cost you when you approve new development." The state suffers from a transportation crisis, with traffic in built-up areas like Fairfax County truly in a sad state.

The effect this will have on mixed use is very interesting. Burke writes:

"What’s more, the bill would require localities to adopt New Urbanist development concepts, such as mixing commercial and residential, walkability, and interconnected road networks. Injecting 'new urbanism' into the state code is unheard of in Virginia. But increasingly, populist GOPers like Athey are tired of kneeling to development interests and paying them what they consider a public subsidy."

New Urbanism equals more-compact development, equals fewer transportation woes, equals better public policy, according to this view.

The full article is at

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2007-01-15, 15:09

Mixed use in an old neighborhood of Savannah

By: Jonathan Groner

On Martin Luther King Day, a reflection:

In 1940, Fellwood Homes opened on Savannah's West Side as public housing for blacks. That followed local custom and law, which of course did not mandate desegregation until the 1960s. The development was torn down in 2003, and now there are plans to revitalize the neighborhood with mixed-use development. Here are the first few paragraphs of a Jan. 9, 2007, article from the Savannah Morning News:

Fellwood Homes and Annex to be replaced by eco-friendly mixed-use development

Savannah's oldest public housing neighborhood is giving way to a mixed-use development that developers say will help revive the west side.

The structures at Fellwood Homes and Fellwood Homes Annex came down this weekend, but it could be well into 2008 before "Sustainable Fellwood" begins to take shape on the 26-acre tract.

Replacing the 1940-era buildings off West Bay Street will be multi-use housing, a large park and retail/office space.

"We're starting with a clean slate," said Rosalyn Truitt, development services manager at the Housing Authority of Savannah.

Last month, the authority selected Melaver Inc., a local development group, to head a team as master developer for the more than $30 million public-private partnership project, Truitt said.


Like many mixed-use developments that are planned or under way, this will be an environmentally friendly, energy efficient development. From the discredited mid-20th century regime of segregation to the early-21st century ideal of green building is a long way.

For the full story, please visit

Is Rockingham County, Va., becoming another Fairfax?

By: Jonathan Groner

A few days ago, I wrote about a proposed mixed-use project in Harrisonburg, Va., about 130 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., and still a good 80 miles from even the outskirts of the D.C. area. Now, the prospect of this "new subdivision that resembles a small town," in the words of a local journalist, as well as new commercial and industrial growth, are making local residents wonder if their cherished small-town way of life is soon to change.

"Some wonder if the area is becoming another Northern Virginia," wrote reporter Jenny Jones in the Daily News-Record, a local newspaper, on Jan. 11, 2007.

Jones' story continues:


"Metropolitan Northern Virginia and its many pleasantries are gaining on you and your way of life," wrote Lance Strong, of Harrisonburg, in a recent letter to the editor of the Daily News-Record. "The Friendly City and surrounding Shenandoah Valley as you know it are gone … forever."

In response to a recent story on the Preston Lake development, an anonymous reader wrote on the Daily News-Record Web site, "I hope everyone enjoys Fairfax County and Arlington County, because it sounds like Rockingham County will soon be nearly identical to those two counties."

But officials say Rockingham County will retain its identity and will not become similar to Northern Virginia.

"I really don’t see us becoming an extension of Northern Virginia," said Del. Matt Lohr, R-Broadway. "We’re probably 20 years behind Fairfax and Loudoun counties when it comes to growth."


Again, mixed use, which patterns itself to an extent after small-town life, may be coming into conflict with actual small-town life.

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2007-01-12, 10:57

Mixed use in Hampton Roads area of Virginia

By: Jonathan Groner
According to a Jan. 6, 2007, article in the Virginian-Pilot, a major mixed-use building will sprout in Norfolk, Va., and will be ready for occupancy by 2010. It's the planned $150-million Wachovia Center in downtown Norfolk, just north of the city's central business district.

The 22-story building will include 250,000 square feet of office space, 175 apartments, and 50,000 square feet of retail space spread over 4.5 acres. Plus, the city will build two garages that will house 2,000 parking spaces. It's going to fall in the category of transit-oriented development, since it will be right in front of a stop on the city's proposed light rail line.

Business tenants will include the building's developer, S.L. Nusbaum Realty Co., as well as Wachovia and Goodman and Company, a major regional accounting firm. Construction will begin in mid-2008.

Norfolk is facing a crunch for office space, and this building may help alleviate the shortage.

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2007-01-11, 11:01

Mixed use faces engineering challenges

By: Jonathan Groner
The January 2007 issue of Southeast Real Estate Business (not online yet) has a Page One story by Daniel Beaird about the unforeseen engineering challenges that face builders of mixed-use communities. The article discusses issues related to traffic, storm drains, power lines, and the like. Frankly, although the article is interesting, I found that it relied too heavily on the experience of one engineering firm, Highland Engineering of Atlanta. I am sure that this is a fine firm and I have no client or other issues in this connection, but I would normally expect a feature article to quote folks from three or four different engineering firms, not just one.

Still, I must share the following first few sentences of the article with all of you readers:

"It seems like you can't speak with a developer or a city planner today without discussing the next mixed-use project. Mixed-use has gone from a buzzword to an evolving trend in the commercial real estate industry during the past few years, and it shows no signs of slowing down as more people move back into urban areas. Cities are drawing the masses back throught hese mixed-use developments that offer the opportunity to live, work and play without stepping a foot inside an automobile."

Mixed use is not a fad; it "shows no signs of slowing down" in the Southeast and across the country. Real estate attorneys, developers, engineers, planners, and others need to know this.

2007-01-10, 09:42

D.C. opts for transit-oriented development in key site

By: Jonathan Groner
Mark Bisnow, an astute commentator on the D.C. real estate scene who runs a bunch of newsy online magazines, just wrote a piece about "Square 54," a rather pricey and important vacant lot in the District of Columbia's Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Square 54 is soon to become, well, a rather pricey and important mixed-use development. Here's Bisnow's take, excerpted from his online "Real Estate Weekly":

Square 54 is the 2.6 acre site where the old GW hospital used to stand. It's been vacant three years now, yet is considered by many the premier buildable spot in DC. Opponents have focused on keeping GW within its traditional boundaries to prevent congestion and more bustling student activity, but GW counters that commercial development of Square 54 benefits their students who enjoy its retail and entertainment aspects, and provides the amenities needed to recruit faculty and staff. GW also feels it needs more of a revenue source since its student numbers are constrained by other zoning requirements. Square 54 would have 450,000 SF office space, 333 residential market-rate apartments plus an affordable component, and 85,000 retail feet anchored by a well-known, as yet-unspecified, grocery store.

If all goes well, ground would be broken in 2008 and occupancy would begin in 2010. City agencies strongly support GW, as did Mayor [Anthony] Williams. That's no surprise. Square 54 sits on top of the Foggy Bottom Metro, and higher-density, "transit-oriented development" is a key element of the Comprehensive Plan adopted unanimously last month by the City Council.

Or, as GW's public affairs maven Tracy Schario writes:

The preliminary proposal draws on and responds to the site’s location at the northwest corner of the Foggy Bottom Campus, its proximity to the Central Business District and Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor area, the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro stop, historic Foggy Bottom, and the institutional and financial area. Through careful location of buildings and uses, Boston Properties/KSI’s proposed design for Square 54 seeks to strengthen the surrounding streets and create an active mixed-use neighborhood for shared benefits.

If all goes well, ground-breaking will occur in 2008 and occupancy will begin in 2010. This could be a showpiece project.

2007-01-09, 11:06

Is mixed use the answer to New Jersey's sprawl problem?

By: Jonathan Groner
An op-ed a couple of days ago (Jan. 7, 2007) in the Asbury Park Press raises the argument that New Jersey's suburban sprawl problem can be fixed by the judicious building of mixed-use communities -- what the author, a developer, calls Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND).

Ralph Zucker, the author of the op-ed, is president of Somerset Development, which is building Wesmont Station, a 737-home development in Bergen County, N.J., not far from New York City.

"TND helps solve the traffic problem by getting cars off the road," Zucker writes. "By concentrating development, TNDs create walkable neighborhoods. Instead of getting in their cars, residents can walk to visit friends. They can also walk to the dry cleaner or the video store. Mixed-use development -- retail, office and residential uses co-existing in one location -- is another hallmark of traditional neighborhood design. TNDs also get cars off the road by providing a market for mass transit."

Zucker adds, "Town homes and apartments, duplexes and single-family colonials -- all are part of the TND vision, which emphasizes offering a variety of housing types for a variety of incomes.
Wesmont Station will even offer housing for merchants above their stores -- a form of housing that hasn't been commonplace in several generations."

As I've said before, some of the appeal of mixed use involves a nostalgia for old-time small-town America, where neighbors would chat on their front porches, where people would walk to the grocery or dry cleaner, and where store owners would live above the shop.

The full New Jersey story can be found at

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2007-01-08, 12:16

Mixed use in Harrisonburg, Va.

By: Jonathan Groner
The Daily News-Record of Harrisonburg, Va., reported on Jan. 6, 2007, that Preston Lake, a new mixed-use development that recently broke ground, "will change the area's retail market and residential opportunities dramatically."

The description of Preston Lake in the newspaper account sounds familiar to devotees of mixed use. Preston Lake will include 515 residential units as well as retail and office space. Jared Burden, an agent who is working to attract businesses to Main Street Preston Lake, called the development a "lifestyle center" that is unlike any other in western Virginia. The neighborhood will include flats priced at more than $150,000, Charleston-style row houses priced in the low to mid-$300,000s, cottages priced in the $400,000s, and estate homes priced in the $600,000s, Burden said.

"They will be all upscale," Burden said. "This is a different kind of living, more citylike."

This will be the first mixed-use project in the relatively rural area, which lies about 130 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., along U.S. 81. Obviously, D.C.'s Northern Virginia suburbs are not viewed as Harrisonburg's retail competition, but Charlottesville, Va., just over an hour's drive away, is seen as such competition.

Burden, the agent, is quoted in the article as saying the new development "will keep retail dollars here that are now going across the mountain to Charlottesville."

Mixed use is a formula that seems to work these days in large cities, small cities and rural areas, with the appropriate adjustments for the specific setting.

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2007-01-05, 13:00

Baileys Crossroads looks at mixed use

By: Jonathan Groner
Fairfax County, Va., is farther from D.C. than close-in Arlington, and Fairfax (the county that includes Tysons Corner) is known for its traffic problems and for its sprawl almost as much as it's known for its wealth and its high-tech companies. Perhaps mixed-use development will help alleviate Fairfax's problems. Here is a very recent, brief article from the D.C. Examiner.

Baileys Crossroads could be 'next urban hub,' land experts say
William C. Flook, The Examiner
Jan 1, 2007

A panel of land-use experts says Baileys Crossroads could be "the area's next urban development hub," recast in a mold similar to that of Rosslyn or Ballston.

After a weeklong study of the area, the Urban Land Institute last month suggested that Fairfax County officials plan for higher density mixed-use development akin to Arlington County's pedestrian-friendly, rail-driven neighborhoods.

The area now exists largely as an aging commercial hub defined by the intersection of Columbia Pike and Leesburg Pike.

"The ULI study was very exciting, because it was a fresh look," said Supervisor Penelope Gross, who represents Mason District. "The caution we need to take with the study is that it is looking out 20 years, so there are a lot of things that would have to happen before you can achieve that particular vision."

For example, property owners must be interested in investing in the community’s revitalization, she said.

The report is the latest manifestation of the hope that Arlington County's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor can be duplicated somewhere in Fairfax County, though the county has yet to come close to that goal. The communities are often cited as examples of successful land use, with manageable traffic and dense development.

Baileys Crossroads is not far from Metro's Orange Line.

"You have the opportunity for more mixed-use [development] so that you put people where they can live and work and shop in the same area without having to get in their car and go a long way," Gross said.

ULI will also recommend that officials move forward and fund a streetcar proposal, coordinate transportation with neighboring jurisdictions and plan the area "in terms of districts surrounding transit stops," according to the group.

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2007-01-04, 08:54

City Vista begins to take shape

By: Jonathan Groner
Construction is moving along very quickly at CityVista, a mixed-use development in a D.C. neighborhood that used to be viewed as shaky or an "urban frontier" and is now becoming downright fashionable. Those who haven't been in the city since the 1980s or whose visits are limited to downtown offices and hotels will be surprised to see that 5th and K Streets, N.W., will be the site of a residential and retail complex that features a Starbucks, a Safeway, a SunTrust bank branch, and a dry cleaners. The building also has a 26,000-square-foot gym.

"Ideal urban living means convenience," reads CityVista's Web site. The developers are gearing their pitch to young urban professionals who can afford the one- and two-bedroom condominiums. The $210 million public-private venture will open in phases, and the first units are expected to be open for occupancy in the spring of 2007.

My law firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, represented one of the lead lenders to the project, a subsidiary of Wachovia.

2007-01-03, 11:41

Why fire regulations can conflict with mixed use

By: Jonathan Groner
James Bacon is a Virginia-based journalist and Web author and the former publisher and editor in chief of Virginia Business magazine. He runs a fascinating Web site called Bacon's Rebellion,, that calls itself "the op/ed page for Virginia's new economy." It focuses on a variety of issues in the Commonwealth -- transportation, development, and public policy of all sorts. I will be returning to Bacon's Rebellion from time to time, I am sure.

Right now, I want to highlight a piece that Bacon wrote on Dec. 18, 2006, entitled "Design by Fire Truck." It makes the fascinating point that development on a human scale, the New Urbanism, and mixed use have been impeded by -- the need to build broad, pedestrian-unfriendly streets in suburbia to permit access by fire trucks! The story focuses on the rezoning and redevelopment of the Tree Hill farm in Henrico County, Va., near Richmond. The full story is now on the home page of the site, noted above. Here is an excerpt:

The point of contention: the width and turning radius of Tree Hill's streets. [Renowned architect and planner Elizabeth] Plater-Zyberk, a leading visionary of the New Urbanism school of development, regarded narrow streets as a critical component of the pedestrian-friendly community she envisioned for the river-side community. But [Deputy Fire Marshal David] Seay, an anonymous public servant, stood in the way. If the streets were too narrow and the corners too tight, he said, the county's fire trucks couldn't reach every house. County regulations called for turning radii of 25 feet, Seay said. No exceptions allowed.

* * *

Building "pedestrian friendly" communities is all the rage now in the Richmond region and much of Virginia. As consumer tastes change, developers have gotten that old-time religion: People want mixed-use communities with the scale, look and feel of 1920s-era small towns. They want to live where they can work and play, and they want streetscapes that invite them to walk instead of drive.

Even county planners and local elected officials are seeing the light: When people walk to a restaurant, the drug store or the corner video store, it means they're not driving. Pedestrian-friendly communities take cars off the road and alleviate traffic congestion, relieving the pressure on state and local governments to lay more asphalt at great expense.

While many local government officials are increasingly comfortable with New Urbanism design, the fire-fighting profession still mans the barricades. When it comes to regulations that might save peoples' lives, fire fighters aren't inclined to compromise. The result, as land use attorney Daniel K. Slone puts it caustically, is "design by fire truck."

2007-01-02, 10:33

Smart growth conference in L.A.

By: Jonathan Groner
The Smart Growth Network,, defines smart growth as growth that "is more town-centered, is transit and pedestrian oriented, and has a greater mix of housing, commercial and retail uses. It also preserves open space and many other environmental amenities."

The network is promoting the Sixth Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Los Angeles, Feb. 8-10, 2007.

Sponsors of the conference include the Urban Land Institute, the Fannie Mae Foundation, Forest City Development, the EPA, and many others. Among the interesting topics on the three-day agenda are: "From City to Suburb: Urbanity Embraced," "Smart AND Green: LEED for Neighborhood Development and Municipal Green Building Programs," and "Turning Bases Into Great Places," regarding former military bases.

Organizers say the conference will draw participation from "local elected officials, city and county staff, landscape architects, developers and builders, planners, transportation professionals and traffic engineers, public health professionals, architects, bankers, crime prevention professionals, realtors, urban designers, parks and recreation professionals, environmentalists, advocates for older adults and youth, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, advocates for social equity and affordable housing, labor representatives, and all others committed to building safer, healthier, and more livable communities everywhere."

The registration fee is in the $300 range, depending on category. Registration deadline is Jan. 26, 2007. This sounds interesting.

2007-01-01, 15:47

The old becomes new again

By: Jonathan Groner

A December 27, 2006, editorial in the Florida Times-Union (a Jacksonville newspaper) has an interesting perspective on mixed use. It is a return to fashion of an older form of development, and zoning laws need to be changed, if necessary, to allow it. Here is the full text of the editorial.

ZONING CODE: Mixed-use virtues

What do clothing, furniture and development have in common?

They're all ruled by the age-old principle that everything old eventually becomes new again.

In the development world, that means communities of the past are back in fashion.

Pedestrian-friendly streets, retail shops with living quarters on the second floor and closer distances between home and work are in demand from a growing segment of home buyers.

But does Jacksonville's zoning code allow for this?

Sort of.

St. Johns Town Center, River City Market Place and Kendall Town Center are examples of successful retail developments with apartments or condominiums on site.

And there are others.

Through overlays, special categories and urban designations, the city allows mixed-use development, said John Crofts, deputy planning director.

But the city's upcoming zoning code rewrite is an opportunity to make it easier to combine uses, Crofts said.

And promote infill, which is critical to older neighborhoods under revitalization.

That's good news, especially when considering Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Michael Lewyn's recent discussion on zoning and urban sprawl in Jacksonville.

Lewyn offered the following data:

About 93 percent of residents drive to work.

Most zoning districts are designated for a single use.

Higher density has been discouraged in suburban areas, causing sprawl.

Parking space requirements reduce land that could be used for homes.

Streets are too wide and block lengths too long, a deterrent to walking or biking.

Lewyn pointed to San Marco, Riverside and Avondale as models.

"I would suggest to you that all we have to do to have more streets like [San Marco Boulevard] is to legalize them," he said.

Lewyn's point is timely.

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