Master Planning and Implementation Strategies to Help Downtown and Village Centers Get Ready for the New Economy

APA Massachusetts Chapter

#9177284

Friday, May 31, 2019
9 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. EDT

CM | 1.25

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Overview

This session will present recent examples of towns working to make their downtowns and village centers more attractive to the developers, business owners, and residents who are the drivers of the New Economy. Peter Flinker will moderate, and will talk about an ongoing masterplanning and consensus-building process that is helping the town of Upton re-design and re-zone their historic town center.  He will also describe a current masterplanning process to support redevelopment on Main Street in downtown Northampton and Florence center.  Ted Brovitz will describe the use of context-based zoning to implement mixed use, business development, and a strong public realm interface in downtown Northampton and the Florence village plan, along with similar rezoning efforts in Danvers, Grafton, Norwood, Medway, and Scituate. 

 

Finally, Mark Westa will present the innovative work of Stevens & Associates, who work from the designer’s and developer’s side of the equation to overcome the economic barriers to mixed-use downtown projects.  This is primarily through innovative financing strategies, including the use of historic or New Market tax credits and “community-supported development.”

 

This session will address one of the key economic issues facing redevelopment of main street: while it is relatively easy to come up with an attractive plan for redevelopment, and (somewhat less) easy to rewrite zoning to promote attractive, historically-appropriate mixed use development, it is devilishly hard to get landowners and developers to actually build anything. Why?  The potential value of new or renovated space is simply not enough to generate a return on investment with construction costs that run to hundreds of dollars per square foot. 

 

One answer is great design of both the public and private realm, design that adds value to existing and potential buildings.  This requires zoning strategies, including form-based codes, that foster great design, as well as regulatory policies that reduce the cost of parking, transportation and other public services.  It necessitates a clear and predictable design review and permitting process.   And it requires a new kind of developer, one who understands how to close the inevitable gap between potential revenue and the cost of construction.

 

This economic dynamic is playing out in cities and towns across New England, but is especially acute in the hundreds of smaller downtowns and villages that were stranded when commercial activity was sucked out of town by the suburban commercial districts closer to the interstates. This session will help participants understand this dynamic and learn about a series of practical tools that can help overcome the social, political and economic barriers to revitalizing our historic centers.

This session will present recent examples of towns working to make their downtowns and village centers more attractive to the developers, business owners, and residents who are the drivers of the New Economy. Peter Flinker will moderate, and will talk about an ongoing masterplanning and consensus-building process that is helping the town of Upton re-design and re-zone their historic town center.  He will also describe a current masterplanning process to support redevelopment on Main Street in downtown Northampton and Florence center.  Ted Brovitz will describe the use of context-based zoning to implement mixed use, business development, and a strong public realm interface in downtown Northampton and the Florence village plan, along with similar rezoning efforts in Danvers, Grafton, Norwood, Medway, and Scituate. 

 

Finally, Mark Westa will present the innovative work of Stevens & Associates, who work from the designer’s and developer’s side of the equation to overcome the economic barriers to mixed-use downtown projects.  This is primarily through innovative financing strategies, including the use of historic or New Market tax credits and “community-supported development.”

 

This session will address one of the key economic issues facing redevelopment of main street: while it is relatively easy to come up with an attractive plan for redevelopment, and (somewhat less) easy to rewrite zoning to promote attractive, historically-appropriate mixed use development, it is devilishly hard to get landowners and developers to actually build anything. Why?  The potential value of new or renovated space is simply not enough to generate a return on investment with construction costs that run to hundreds of dollars per square foot. 

 

One answer is great design of both the public and private realm, design that adds value to existing and potential buildings.  This requires zoning strategies, including form-based codes, that foster great design, as well as regulatory policies that reduce the cost of parking, transportation and other public services.  It necessitates a clear and predictable design review and permitting process.   And it requires a new kind of developer, one who understands how to close the inevitable gap between potential revenue and the cost of construction.

 

This economic dynamic is playing out in cities and towns across New England, but is especially acute in the hundreds of smaller downtowns and villages that were stranded when commercial activity was sucked out of town by the suburban commercial districts closer to the interstates. This session will help participants understand this dynamic and learn about a series of practical tools that can help overcome the social, political and economic barriers to revitalizing our historic centers.

Speakers

Peter Flinker

Dodson & Flinker, Inc

Mark Westa

Mark Westa has over 30 years of experience in landscape architecture, with a focus on creating vibrant, functional and livable places. He has substantial work experience in the areas of community planning, campus planning, and urban design. Mark earned degrees in landscape architecture from Cornell University and Harvard University and ... Read More

Contact Info

Brian Currie, communications@apa-ma.org