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Great article about the economics of mixed-use development, something we’re always pushing here at Laurel Park Management. Mixed-use helps makes places walkable and livable. It helps make them better, more beautiful, and more vibrant. So, naturally, it provides an economic boon as well. What’s more, the study below was also performed in Sarasota:

Are cities across the country acting negligently in ignoring the property tax implications of different development types? Joseph Minicozzi thinks so, and he’s done the math to prove it.

The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality.
— Andrew Jackson

Downtown Pays
Asheville, North Carolina — like many cities and towns around the country — is hurting financially.

It’s not that Asheville is some kind of deserted ghost town. Rather, it’s a picturesque mountain city with a population of about 83,000 that draws tourists from all over the world, especially during the leaf-peeping season. But it’s also a city that appeals to its residents, who revel in strolling about a true walkable downtown chock-full of restaurants and retail shops featuring locally grown and crafted products. Downtown is not only one of Asheville’s main draws; it also serves as a major driver in helping the city overcome its budgetary doldrums.

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.

We’ll use the city of Asheville as an example. Asheville realizes an astounding +800 percent greater return on downtown mixed-use development projects on a per acre basis compared to when ground is broken near the city limits for a large single-use development like a Super Walmart. A typical acre of mixed-use downtown Asheville yields $360,000 more in tax revenue to city government than an acre of strip malls or big box stores.

If you were a mayor or city councillor facing a budget crisis, this comparison should serve as an eye-opener, both in terms of your policies and your development priorities. The comparison should also get you thinking about not just how you could encourage more downtown development, but also what kind of development could increase the value of buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s not just officials in Asheville who should be asking these questions. In the growing number of diverse cities where we have studied this same equation (such as Billings, MT, Petaluma, CA, and Sarasota, FL) we’ve found that the same principle applies: downtown pays. It’s simple math. keep reading at planetizen.com

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Instead of blabbing on about The HuB, “a warehouse space on Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota that has become a combination new-media incubator and gathering spot for hip people,” we thought we’d excerpt a recent Herald-Tribune article detailing the young venture. Laurel Park Management is happy to go on record, however, by saying that it makes us proud to see developments like this in Sarasota. We love this town, and would love to see it become even better. Sarasota’s present will be more enriching, its future more dynamic, if we embrace mixed-use neighborhoods and diversity of all kinds. Downtown should be a place that welcomes young and old, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, the hip and the square.

Remember the times you stopped by Sarasota News & Books (or Charlie’s, for those with longer memories) to pick up a coffee and the newspaper or pick out a book? You never knew who you might run into, who you might strike up a conversation with. Those were heady moments in a truly urbane place. The interaction of “others,” of people of different stripes, is what makes a city interesting. So congratulations to The HuB for adding to the mix in downtown Sarasota. Now for the article:

The HuB occupies a large space with high ceilings and one of those big roll-up garage doors leading into the middle of it. The two founders of The HuB — Rich Swier Jr. and former Michael Saunders & Co. Realtor Matt Orr — have retained large open spaces near the entrances and built a collection of cubicles and work stations toward the back.

Since it is Tuesday and lunchtime, acupuncturist Hayley Enright is conducting one of her weekly community acupuncture sessions in a comfy seating area — couches and cushioned chairs anchored around a coffee table and area rug. She moves deftly between six walk-in patients. One by one, she studies their pulses and any medical complaints they have noted on a one-page form, then places the sterile pins in an effort to encourage the life force within each of them to function as effectively as possible.

Meanwhile, her husband, sound engineer Frank Enright, is around the corner, involved in his own unique combination of art and surgery. Closeted inside his tiny but well-equipped sound studio, Enright is editing short musical segments he has created electronically to fit visuals and voice-overs in a proposed new commercial for “Ask Gary,” a lawyer and doctor referral service that has become a customer of HuB Studios.

That is a tiny slice of life at the HuB. It is a free-wheeling, hard-to-categorize business that deals in video and audio productions and in helping clients do Internet marketing with an emphasis on social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

Oh, yeah, and in raising the collective consciousness of mankind.

Besides making money, the HuB lists for its members a parallel mission of finding ways to make Sarasota more interesting for people like themselves. They are younger, creative types who tend to live a large part of their waking lives in an Internet cloud, while at the same time loving music and being with their friends.

Along those lines, the HuB two years ago created the Vinyl Music Festival. This summer, the festival drew 6,000 visitors.

When search engine giant Google Inc. announced early this year that it would pick a U.S. community to receive ultra-high-speed Internet-to-the-home service, the HuB was behind the curtain, pushing all the right buttons to improve Sarasota’s visibility as a candidate. In other words, when the mayor jumped into the shark tank at Mote Marine Laboratory and created a hot YouTube video in the process, it was HuB co-founder Rich Swier Jr. who instigated the scheme.

The weekly acupuncture session is typical of the way the HuB’s founders try to make work life more interesting.

They also asked electric vehicle maker Pete Hansen to convert a van to run on rechargeable batteries. Hansen then installed his prototype for a charging station at the HuB as well. It displays sponsors’ videos while the owner plugs and unplugs his vehicle.

If you look a little closer at Enright’s relationship to the HuB, you can see how different this place is from a standard media/public relations shop. continue reading at herald-tribune.com

 

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On the heels of last week’s post about Gillespie Park, we’d like to share an article on the area from SRQ Magazine. Downtown Sarasota—including Main Street, Laurel Park, Gillespie Park, the Rosemary District, and all the surrounding neighborhoods—has been in flux for decades. After it boomed it busted, and just twenty years ago it seemed our deserted downtown core might be down for the count. But a number of determined locals refused to let it die, and downtown Sarasota today is a beautiful (and increasingly bustling) place to live, work, and play for renters and home owners alike.

We at Laurel Park Management understand that change of any sort is never easy, and that all too often changes in neighborhoods (particularly when made by developers) pave the way for gentrification and price out the very people who remained committed to those neighborhoods through the tough times. Change of this sort can line the pockets of a few, but it rarely makes a neighborhood a truly better place.

That said, change is inevitable, everywhere and always, and can be a tremendously positive thing. After all, it wasn’t long ago that our charming Historic Laurel Park neighborhood was less than savory. Gillespie Park and the Rosemary District are vital downtown neighborhoods with their own distinct mix of characteristics and their own distinct futures. Just imagine what they can be—not as imitations of Laurel Park, but as the best and most fully realized versions of themselves!

In the spirit of keeping the conversation alive, here’s an excerpt from the article:

Rosemary and Gillespie

Retirees might move southward, but Sarasota’s real estate development has a northern pathway. As the downtown reaches its capacity (and beyond that capacity, some might say), the desire to develop is finding its newest potential in the neighborhoods north of Fruitville Road—the Rosemary District and Gillespie Park.

How will These Two Neighborhoods Reach Their Potential?
The development in the Rosemary District and Gillespie Park doesn’t mirror its neighbors to the south. For one, it’s calmer. The market has stagnated, and condo pre-sale requirements that are required to get new projects off the ground are harder to meet. “It’s always a challenge,” says Atlanta-based developer Wayne Morehead of meeting the pre-sales for his Rosemary District condominium project, CityPointe. “I’m hopeful that by coming out with a well-conceived development that’s priced correctly, we can receive a good reception. We don’t want this to be luxury.”

But what the areas might lack in market conditions, they are attempting to make up in developer cohesiveness and unique planning. Both neighborhoods have just a few major landowners who control much of the property in the area—Morehead owns 6.5 acres in Rosemary, Devin Rutkowski owns two block-long parcels and two active corners in Gillespie—and these developers have expressed a desire to work with other landowners in their separate neighborhoods while shaping the future of the area. “We’re not in competition,” says Rutkowski of other Gillespie Park developers. “We complement each other. Obviously, having a vision for the neighborhood is important.”

To foster that vision, these areas also have another opportunity the more-developed areas in Sarasota don’t: potential. A drive through Gillespie Park or Rosemary today reveals rundown homes and vacant lots. But through the rose-colored glasses of the New Urbanism movement, many developers are saying they can create livable, walkable communities—in both neighborhoods. But the majority also say that in order to do this they will need the city to increase densities and make zoning exceptions for their ultimate plans to come to fruition. Here’s a peek at some of those plans.

click here to keep reading at srqmagazine.com

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“To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t given much thought to vernacular architecture until fairly recently. I grew up in New England, surrounded by old buildings, and I suppose I’ve always taken them for granted. One of my childhood homes was a 200+ year old farm house complete with big red barn. I loved its charm, its character, its sagging floors, but from a young age my aesthetic sensibility preferred the clean lines and zen minimalism of modern design.

“After college I moved around the country, exposing myself to various vernacular or vernacular-inspired forms. I came to appreciate regional design as an essential expression of place. I understand why modern design and the International Style have proliferated, beyond any financial motivations, and I think that aesthetic diversity sends a message of participation and relevance in a global era. It suggests that a place ‘gets it.’ What a tragedy it is, though, when an intact tradition is wholly supplanted or abandoned to squalor.

“The retention of vernacular architectural practices maintains a place’s connection to its past. It also informs the direction it charts into the future. I’m currently living in a small town in Florida—Sarasota—that has had its share of troubles during a growth process that has seen disparate vernacular styles such as Florida Cracker and the Sarasota School emerge, prosper, decline, and slowly reemerge. A new crop of craftsmen/builders are reviving traditional design, including Devin P. Rutkowski, founder and president of Bungalow Builders, LLC.

“Devin is a Florida licensed contractor and a member of the US Green Building Council, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America, the Congress for New Urbanism and the NAHB. He is one of a select few to receive the Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation from the National Association of Homebuilders.

“Bungalow Builders’ design philosophy, from their Web site:

The “Arts & Crafts” movement popularized at the turn of the 20th century and coinciding with the birth of the classic American Bungalow has been rediscovered at Bungalow Builders, LLC. We trade excess square footage for efficient use of space and include rich architectural details, intimate nooks, character and comfort. Our homes are designed for low maintenance and low operating costs.

Each of our new (old) homes includes a traditional front porch, classic proportions and  authentic materials all within an energy conscience compact footprint. We believe in a “less is more” design philosophy that results in an authentic Bungalow home. We respect every future home owner and home site and work tirelessly to create that special place to call home.

I sat down with Devin yesterday to get his perspective on vernacular architecture.

planologie: What exactly is vernacular architecture? Is it design influenced by the local climate? Does it suggest buildings largely built by hand? Does it require local materials?

DR: I think it’s all of those. In general, I think vernacular architecture should respond to the demands of the local environment, and it is typically built by local craftsmen using indigenous materials. But a fourth quality is how it expresses a local interpretation of outside influences. Just as the Spaniards brought Spanish Mission, American vernacular architecture is always influenced by outsiders.

planologie: Do you consider the homes you build to be in a vernacular style?

DR: They have components of Florida vernacular, which is a cousin to a Craftsman style, which is itself a step-brother to the Arts & Crafts movement. It all stems back to just building honestly, building with those three concepts you mentioned. I try to include as many traditional design features as possible, but within a modern envelope. Is it vernacular architecture? It has characteristics. But a pure form of vernacularism? I don’t think that exists.

planologie: What makes a traditional-style house different than other new construction?

DR: An obvious difference is the [lack of attached] garage. As soon as you remove an enclosed room for a two ton piece of metal you change the box. I refuse to build a house with an attached garage, the only exceptions being in situations that allow rear-loading. What are called traditional homes were mostly built before cars, and removing the garage is an immediate step away from suburban-style design and toward something more traditional. Now you have room to add a real front porch.

planologie: Why build traditional-style homes?

DR: Not everybody wants to live in the same house, so by simply offering people a choice you open up the market. We went from living in traditionally designed homes—it wasn’t long ago that all homes were traditional homes, no matter where you’re from—to mass-produced homes that are built as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible, and there’s a segment of the population that doesn’t buy into that. They’re seeking an alternative. I try to provide that.

(more…)

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