Doing Urban Corridors the right way, the Houston wayHad a conversation this week with Josh at HRG about the Urban Corridors initiative moving forward at the Houston Planning Commission, which involves encouraging dense development near Metro rail stops. There are debates about the right standards, but the real issue is mandatory vs. incentives. Another big issue is who will pay for needed infrastructure upgrades, like wider sidewalks, landscaping, utility moves (and burials), public space, and street parking (ideally diagonal).
Here's an interesting compromise solution we came up with:
- The Planning Commission describes their "ideal" development standard around rail stops.
- Landowners near each stop have the option to voluntarily join together to put deed restrictions on their property meeting something close to this standard (although it does not have to be exact, if there are certain "ideals" that don't make sense for their specific case).
- If the Planning Commission signs off on the voluntary group deed restrictions (i.e. they're close enough to the ideal), a partial TIRZ gets created around that stop where some (but not all) of the tax increment gets reinvested into infrastructure upgrades around that stop. This is a strong incentive for the landowners to come to a voluntary deed restriction agreement: their value goes up, and that tax increment goes directly into improving the public assets around their land.
- Property rights are respected and everything stays voluntary.
- No "one size fits all" standard is forced on everyone. The landowners around each stop have the flexibility to craft specific standards that work in their context.
- Landowners get improved land values, rents, and adjacent public infrastructure investments.
- Development gets maximized because no onerous regulations drive developers away (i.e. no "dead zones" near rail stops), which is also raises the city tax base.
- It creates money for the needed infrastructure investments.
- The city gets some dense, new urbanist neighborhoods attractive to a certain young creative class demographic that is more likely to ride the light rail rather than add to traffic woes.
- The citzens and taxpayers get maximum benefit from their expensive rail investments by increasing density and ridership near the stops. (aside: this is not an argument for rail - I'm just taking it as a given and asking how we can get the most out of it)
I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments.
UPDATE: This was passed along to me today. Hat tip to David.
NEW NORTH TEXAS TIF DISTRICT APPROVED
DALLAS (Prescott Realty Group) – The city recently approved its first TIF district focused on multistation transit-oriented development.
The new TIF includes 559 acres in addition to public rights-of-way. It stretches from the Lovers Lane and Mockingbird area along the DART rail line to the Lancaster and VA Medical Center region.
The district will have a 30-year life, during which real property values are predicted to grow from $320 million in 2008 to $3.52 billion by 2038. About $328 million in incremental tax revenue is expected to accrue in the district during the life of the TIF.
"The primary focus of this effort is to encourage high-density, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments around existing DART Rail stations," said Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm. "The TIF provides an effective development tool to encourage the redevelopment of important, centralized areas of the city, as well as new development."