How to have a Successful Community Meeting

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Community Meetings…just bringing them up causes some folks to shudder. They can be contentious, angry, prolonged and sometimes more destructive than helpful. The upside? A good engagement process with stakeholders can rally the community around a project, bring new ideas and positive energy to the project, and improve plans – all great benefits for the challenging process of neighborhood development. Here are a few approaches that have helped bring about successful dialogue and a good collaborative effort for projects:

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Appropriate Density

Density is the culmination of context, scale, and market. Urban planners, developers and architects consider density constantly when discussing housing and scale and sustainability. Transit oriented development is predicated on the concept of higher density living, working and entertaining. “18-24 hour cities” is a concept that supports the idea that there is always someone on the street and that a city is more functional and productive if this is the case. But is it always better to increase density? And why has it become such an attractive argument that increased density is the right approach? These are many of the arguments that are consistently made in support of higher density development in urban areas:

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Communities that Learn

(Based on presentation by Alexandra Stroud of Urban Focus at GreenBuild 2014- Health Matters: Communities That Learn)

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Communities that Learn require a more challenging approach to development and consists of the following components: they have many partners, they are incremental, they serve local markets and reflect local culture, they manage investment and preserve affordability and they leverage  investment and capacity to bring the most impactful solutions.

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The (new) New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance needs to prepare for future potential

HIstoric Urban (HU B1) example in proposed CZO

Historic Urban (HU B1) example in proposed CZO

A recent article in the New Orleans City Business discusses the challenges of the new Comprehensive Ordinance and how it reduces the density of areas along the riverfront. “Many in the development community aren’t expecting a drastic change in the way future projects are approved, some say there are details that still need to be ironed out.”

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How to Write a Good RFP (Request for Proposal) for development

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This article is written to help to municipalities (in particular) in understanding how developers look at the RFP for real estate development. In development, the request for proposals is most commonly used by municipalities, private and public institutions that are interested in the redevelopment of a certain area and in a certain manner such as a civic purpose but it is also sometimes used by the private owner when the parcel is large enough to impact the area or when there is potential for an exciting new project and the owners wants to promote some creative ideas. Often the RFP is used as a way to dispose of land from a public portfolio but it is also a great tool for private or public institutions to influence the development on owned land, if it’s adjacent to their other properties or they want to impose some mission driven expectations on the development. (more…)

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Gentrification is NOT a four letter word

I live in a town not unlike many towns in this country. A place with 25% of the population below the poverty line. A place with many blighted properties and neighborhoods that are underpopulated and unsafe as well as areas where businesses thrive and rents are high comparatively. And a place with many commercial properties renting at below $12 per square foot (very low and very unsustainable for new economic investment to come in) as well as commercial corridors that are attractive enough to draw a new West Elm store. And I live in a place where there is an ongoing and continuous concern about gentrification. Gentrification is the enemy. This seems to be the prevailing attitude and the overriding concern of neighborhoods that resist development of any kind in their neighborhood. Too much density, too much height, this project (or that) will change the character of the neighborhood for the worse. These are neighborhoods that have lost population and all they want built is single family homes.  Multifamily and commercial development is feared for fear that it will drive neighbors out.   Once thriving areas, not necessarily thriving financially, but definitely populated, that are still struggling and have too few people living in them to support much of a local economy. They are often neighborhoods with very loyal residents who remember the stronger times and are committed to staying. They are areas where sometimes there are committed non-profits and community groups, and sometimes there are not. The goodwill of non-profits that promote housing development in these neighborhoods is challenged by the very real problem of housing sale prices that are so low that both construction subsidies and homeowners’ subsidies are required to make a project work and then be affordable to very low income buyers who are interested in living in the area. (more…)

Samson, Ugandan farmer with his cassava

The Need for Sustainable Practices Is Easier to See In Extremes

Uganda is a country that is rarely on any Americans’ radar.  It wasn’t really on mine until a colleague connected me to a filmmaker who was going there for the fifth time to visit a group of farmers in Eastern Uganda.  They invited colleagues along with them to this village and to travel through this beautiful country where the Nile begins while they worked on adding 15 minutes to their documentary (A Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean (http://www.deliciouspeacethemovie.com/) on the Delicious Peace Coffee Cooperative in the farmland outside of Mbale, Uganda so that it can be shown on PBS.  This documentary was created 3-4 years ago and introduces the world to a farmers’ cooperative that grows coffee in the hills of eastern Uganda.  What is unique about this cooperative is that the members are Muslim, Jewish and Christian all working together to sell their coffee at fair trade prices through a fair trade distributor (The Thanksgiving Company out of San Francisco http://store.thanksgivingcoffee.com/storefront.aspx ).  This trip was enlightening in so many ways.

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The Greater New Orleans Foundation takes a position – Part II of II

Published on Examiner.com, May 2010

The Greater New Orleans Foundation is one of a kind says Albert Ruesga, President & CEO since January 2009. Or at least it’s pretty unusual. As a community foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) accepts philanthropic donations and directs them to programs serving the thirteen-parish region of metropolitan New Orleans. Unlike other philanthropic organizations, the GNOF also creates grants and develops directed programs of their own to place funding where they see the greatest need. In this two part series, the Greater New Orleans Foundation is presented for making a direct impact on the redevelopment of New Orleans and for guiding the future development of the City.  Click here to read the first part of the series. (more…)

Greater New Orleans Foundation is a unique community foundation – Part I of II

Published on Examiner.com, May 2010

Part I
The Greater New Orleans Foundation is one of a kind says Albert Ruesga, President & CEO since January 2009. Or at least it’s pretty unusual. As a community foundation, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) accepts philanthropic donations and directs them to programs serving the thirteen-parish region of metropolitan New Orleans. Unlike other philanthropic organizations, the GNOF also creates grants and develops directed programs of their own to place funding where they see the greatest need. In this two part series, the Greater New Orleans Foundation is presented for making a direct impact on the redevelopment of New Orleans and for guiding the future development of the City. To read the second part of this series, click here. (more…)

Federal City is more than a reorganized military base, it’s a new town center for Algiers

Published on Examiner.com, April 2010

Currently the Westbank component of the Naval Support Activity encompasses 200 acres of land between the Mississippi River and General Meyer Drive in Algiers. This facility has operated for over one hundred years. In its early years, from 1903 to the 1920’s, it existed to serve as a Navy yard to repair sea vessels. In 1939, it became a base to handle transient naval personnel and in 1944 it was designated as the US Naval Repair Base. In 1944 it became known as the US Naval Station and held this name until in 1962 it became the Headquarters, Support Activity because the Eighth Naval District was stationed there. The heyday of the base was during World War II when it was used as a port for shipping supplies to the troops overseas. The population has varied over the years. (more…)