Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Testimony on adding residential buildings as paying members of business improvement districts in Downtown DC

I wrote earlier about the Downtown DC Business Improvement District's proposal to include multiunit residential buildings as an eligible class of property in its assessment district.

-- "If apartment buildings are "forced" to join Business Improvement Districts, there must be a way for residents to be represented on BID boards independent of property owners"

I am fine with the inclusion of such properties as residents are big beneficiaries from the programming and public space management activities by the BIDs. And I don't see a justification for resident owners -- in cooperatives and condominiums -- of being excluded since they garner significant appreciation in property values as a result of a BID's management, planning, and maintenance activities. But I do think more attention needs to be paid to ensuring the inclusion of residents on BID boards and committees. This is my testimony from a couple weeks ago.

Bill 21-905 “Downtown DC Business Improvement District Amendment Act of 2016

Committee on Finance and Revenue
Council of the District of Columbia

Wednesday November 16th, 2016

Thank you Councilmember Evans and members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak to you today about Bill 21-905 concerning the inclusion of multiunit residential buildings in the assessment class for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District.

Including residential properties in BID districts makes sense. Such property types are already included in other BID assessment districts elsewhere in the city. It is eminently reasonable to include these types of properties in the assessment district for the Downtown DC BID.

The importance of formalizing the inclusion of residents in BID governing and oversight processes. However, Bill 21-905 affords the opportunity to raise an important issue, inclusion of residents in BID governing and oversight processes.

BIDs in and around the Central Business District especially are increasingly mixed use districts including commercial office and retail properties, civic assets, and residential buildings among the many property types represented, although only some are assessed the BID tax. It was not anticipated when the process for creating BIDs was developed in the late 1990s that these geographies would become home to thousands of residents mixing with commercial activities.

The act and regulations enabling the creation of BIDs allows for a diverse membership on BID boards, including residents, although in reality such boards are dominated by commercial property owners, as it is commercial properties that provide the bulk of the assessment revenue which funds BIDs.

Currently, only the Mount Vernon Community Improvement District includes residents, albeit representatives of resident owner-occupied buildings, that is condominium properties, on its board.

No BID has a broad category of representation for residential tenants even though increasingly BIDs are populated by residents and ultimately the assessment is paid, pro-rata, by residential tenants as part of their rent.

The Council should address in its consideration of this bill, and when other relevant BID matters come before Council, including reauthorization of BIDs and the creation of new BIDs the representation of residential tenants on BID boards.

Ensure resident tenants, not just resident owners, can serve on BID boards. This is especially important because by default BIDs are the primary planners and managers of their geography, including the public spaces therein, it is important to raise the matter of lack of direct representation of non-property owning residents, that is, tenants, on BID boards. Building owners are represented on BID boards but it cannot be presumed that they can adequately represent tenants in terms of their interests as citizens in the neighborhood in which they reside.

In San Francisco, the Dogpatch and Northwest Potrero Hill Green Benefits District specifically includes a board representation category for tenants. Similarly, in the Charles Village Community Benefits District in Baltimore, which includes a variety of residential property membership categories, including even single family properties, in its assessment district. These offer models going forward for the inclusion of residential tenant members on BID boards. In DC, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee has members appointed by various organizations, as well as a community member who is elected by the board, but any resident is eligible for nomination. These and likely other models demonstrate that it is possible to include residential tenants on BID boards.

It has been suggested in testimony that the Downtown BID will add staff to address resident participation and engagement issues, hold various public meetings, etc. But it is still important to offer the opportunity for tenants to be on the BID board, although we must recognize that many residents may not be interested in serving, and may have shorter term goals and interests when compared to property owners.

Inclusion of condominiums and cooperatives in BID assessment districts. Some testimony today referenced the new Southwest DC BID, which will include apartment buildings but not cooperatives or condominiums. Similarly, earlier testimony suggests that there could be financial hardship on the part of condominium owners, especially as they age, if condominium buildings were to be included in the eligible assessment district.

I argue that condominium owners benefit extraordinarily in terms of added appreciation and property value from the services of BIDs, which indirectly and directly improve the area around residential properties in their districts. There is no real justification for condominium and cooperative buildings to be automatically excluded from eligibility for assessment in BID districts because it is not in the public interest to support “free riders.” It is reasonable for condominium and cooperative owners to pay into BIDs, in recognition of the extraordinary financial benefits that they reap from BID services.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer this testimony.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Elected officials have to take responsibility for failure to enact necessary transportation demand planning and implementation

Today's Post has a column by Courtland Milloy, "The biggest gamble at MGM National Harbor may be on the traffic getting there," which whines about the lack of improvements to the transportation infrastructure serving the National Harbor development in Prince George's County, which will soon feature the opening of the MGM National Harbor Casino.

Traffic is expected to double to about 180,000 cars/week.  Frankly, while that seems like a lot, it really isn't.  A typical four-lane arterial (plus parking lanes in DC gets 25,000 to 35,000 cars/day, and suburban arterials even more traffic.

But that level of traffic growth can be problematic even so depending on the nature of the system, chokepoints, queuing capacity at intersection, traffic signal timing, etc.

-- Traffic Volume Map, Prince George's County, Maryland

And that concerns County Councilman Obie Patterson, in whose district National Harbor is located.  From the article:
But Patterson is worried that the good luck is about to run out. When the slots begin to spin at MGM National Harbor on Dec. 8, weekly vehicular traffic to the site is expected to double — from 90,000 cars, buses and trucks a week to an astounding 180,000.

Given the casino’s location — where the heavily traveled Wilson Bridge links Virginia and Maryland and connects with the District on Interstate 295 — a traffic tie-up could potentially cause disruptions from Charles County in Southern Maryland to downtown Washington as well as for miles along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and on the Beltway.

“The casino has a pretty slick traffic plan once you get on the property, but off-site, it’s going to be nothing more than a nightmare,” said Patterson, who lives in Fort Washington, Md., just a few miles from the casino. “I expect people to go crazy when they can’t get to the doctor or work or church.”

When Maryland state legislators approved a casino for the county in 2012, the bill called for developing a comprehensive transportation plan for the site and the surrounding area. The National Harbor location was selected in December 2013. The county finally unveiled a traffic plan last month, but it is far from comprehensive.
After the fact pointing out of the obvious is worthless.  (Also see "Construction is officially underway on the Wynn casino," Boston Globe.)

Where elected officials can make the most difference is in advance of the change.  I've made this point about the need for transportation demand management planning for National Harbor over the years, including "Transportation demand management requirements for large developments and the MGM National Harbor Casino as an example of why this is absolutely necessary," "Yet another example of failures in metropolitan transportation planning: no transportation demand management requirements for casinos in Maryland," and "National Harbor in Prince George's County and the Inter County Connector in Montgomery and PG Counties: belated critical analysis in the Post."

For example this project would have been a great opportunity to put on the table the extension of the Purple Line from New Carrollton to Alexandria, to serve among other destinations, National Harbor.  Although that is very much a long term transportation system improvement.
Purple Line Map  DC Metro

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BTMFBA revisted: nonprofits and facilities planning and acquisition

Because of DC's height limit, the kinds of buildings that Jane Jacobs was thinking about when she wrote that healthy cities need "a large stock of old buildings" that have been paid off and have low running costs and therefore lower rents affordable to start ups, nonprofits, and other innovative uses looking for lower cost space, tend to get demolished and rebuilt to the maximum allowable size, and because the buildings are new, at the current highest rents.

A few weeks ago there was an op-ed in the Washington Post, "The rent is too darn high for nonprofits, too," about how DC nonprofits face a crisis because of the cost of space.  This isn't a phenomenon unique to DC, it's a particular problem in San Francisco ("SF takes action: perspectives on nonprofit displacement, NCG; "Skyrocketing Rents Challenge San Francisco Bay Area Nonprofits, Nonprofit Quarterly), New York City, and other high cost markets.

Like my frustration with the art community complaining about the same problem, but rarely availing themselves of the opportunity to buy buildings (";BTMFBA: the best way to ward off artist or retail displacement is to buy the building" and "When BTMFBA isn't enough: keeping civic assets public through cy pres review"), the nonprofit community needs to come together, develop a facilities/space plan, and create vehicles to assist them to buying and holding buildings.

Organized as the Center for Public Administration and Local Government, in the late 1980s, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments did this for themselves and a couple of related nonprofits, including the International City/County Management Association, constructing a building close to Union Station.

But there hasn't been much of a push to do something similar for groups of lesser means. I discuss some options in the BTMFBA article.

Photo: Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register.

Nonprofit shared spaces.  The Nonprofit Centers Network is an organization that assists facilities across the country that offer shared spaces for nonprofit groups.

The Village in Orange County is one example, with a focus is providing space to housing-related organizations ("This Village is Orange County's first building dedicated to housing nonprofits," Orange County Register).

More communities should work to develop spaces to support nonprofit groups as well as civil society initiatives (although neighborhood groups could be provided space/facilities access at community centers and branch libraries).

A way to "use up" a so-called "white elephant" buildings: multi-faceted arts centers.  With deindustrialization, many communities have large manufacturing buildings that have been abandoned.

In many instances, buildings and communities have been revived by redeveloping these buildings or complexes into multi-faceted arts centers.  Examples include the creation of the MassMOCA contemporary arts museum in North Adams, Massachusetts, which has huge spaces capable of displaying very large art pieces and installations, the GoggleWorks in Reading, Pennsylvania, the Cablefactory in Helsinki, or LaFriche in Marseille, France.

The Trans-Europe Halles organization is a collective of such arts facilities across Europe.

-- New times, new models: Investigating the internal governance models and external relations of independent cultural centres in times of change
-- CREATIVE BUSINESS MODELS: Insights into the Business Models of Cultural Centers in Trans Europe Halles
-- Managing Independent Cultural Centres

In my opinion, DC should have done this with the old Walter Reed Medical Center building on Georgia Avenue in Northwest DC.

The 2.1 million s.f. building could have seeded arts and cultural initiatives for a generation.

But white elephant buildings can be used more generally for nonprofits too.  Note that the best nonprofit arts centers also provide low cost office space to cultural organizations.

Central libraries have the potential to become multi-faceted cultural centers.  There are some examples of libraries sharing some of their space with related organizations.

In the DC area, Arlington County expanded the Shirlington Library to include theater facilities, the Signature Theatre Company. Some Montreal neighborhood libraries include cultural centers.  The provincial "state" library in Montreal has spaces on its back alley/court for small booksellers.  The Hollywood library branch in Portland has a cafe on the ground floor and affordable housing above.

The Drumbrae Library in England has a teen center, cafe, and day care.  Some libraries have space for used bookstores.

The best example is how the Salt Lake Central Library has space for related facilities such as the local NPR station and the Community Writing Center program of the local community college.

I've suggested that libraries could expand upon the SLC example in significant ways ("Civic assets and mixed use: Central Library edition") but thus far we don't see many examples of such co-locations.

Note that community center facilities could be similarly reconfigured to serve more and multiple uses along these lines.

Conclusion:  Um, how about some planning?  The point of urban planning is to manage community needs, land use, and other characteristics of a community.

Given the increasing importance of the nonprofit sector as an element of a community's social, cultural, and community health, as well as a source of economic activity, planning offices should step in and provide leadership for planning space needs for the nonprofit sector, and work with local governments to create ways of providing such space, perhaps through community development corporations comparable to the "Center for Public Administration and Local Government" or the SEMAEST organization in Paris.

In San Francisco, the Northern California Community Loan Fund has stepped in to provide such assistance through the San Francisco Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program, which is a model easily exported to cities like Washington.

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Another ahead of the curve moment: Trader Joe's to open in DC's Union Market district

According to WTOP ("DC's next Trader Joe's coming to Union Market"), the Trader Joe's food store group is opening a store at 4th Street and Florida Avenue NE, in the Union Market district near the NoMA Metrorail station.

In testimony I gave/submitted to the DC Zoning Commission concerning a project in what is now again called the Union Market District, a wholesale and retail food district in Northeast Washington, DC, I laid out a framework for a retail plan and public space improvements, including an analysis of gaps in the retail offer and suggestions on how to fill those gaps, including recruiting particular store marques, including Trader Joe's.

-- "Retail planning and Florida Market"

Although at that time I figured to get Trader Joe's an incentive payment would have to be proffered, as I hadn't foreseen the speed at which the area is adding population, as well as the resurgence of the market district after the repositioning of the Farmer's Market building after a fire which pushed out most of the old tenants, who focused on satisfying the needs of low income consumers, in favor of the creation of a food hall with restaurants and vendors selling artisinal and higher priced goods.

Interestingly, despite the company's reputation as a low price provider, a survey of supermarket pricing by Washington Consumer Checkbook ("How Do Trader Joe's and Aldi's Prices Compare to Supermarkets'?") found when weighted for package size, prices at Trader Joe's are comparable to the area's major supermarket chains, Safeway and Giant (although recently Safeway's prices seem to have taken a significant upward jump), although produce prices average about 10% lower, according to the survey.  (Also see "Which Supermarkets are best for price and quality").
Union Market Sign

The Union Market area is quickly moving away from its somewhat dingy and disinvested state.

For the longest time, that part of Northeast had access to one grocery store, the Safeway at Hechinger Mall.

Now they have additional access to Harris-Teeter and Giant, with a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's coming, not to mention an upscale food hall, all within walking distance, and Walmart (ugh) and MOM's Organic Supermarket within an easy bike or car trip, and the Walmart is easily accessible by transit.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Toronto's Laneway Project and November 30th Summit

Toronto's Laneway Project aims to enliven the city's alleys, with more housing (what in DC we would call carriage houses or accessory dwelling units--ADUs), events, greening, and public art, and general advocacy and promotion.

-- "Toronto Laneway Project launches photo contest," The Bulletin

The organization's website is full of resources including guides to organizing events, creating public art in alleys, and greening, comparable to Toronto's Park People Project's set of guides, "Park People, Toronto, new report on modern parks planning and amenities, and parks toolkit resource guides."

Photos from the contest will be exhibited at the upcoming The [Lane}Way Forward 2016 Summit and Exhibit Wednesday evening, November 30th, which features a presentation, reception, and the exhibit.

Moderated by Annabel Vaughan, Project Manager at ERA Architects and principal of publicLAB, five panelists will discuss:

• Opportunities and challenges to improving Toronto’s laneways
• What needs to change to realize the potential of our laneways
• Who and what we need to create a stronger laneway movement in Toronto 

• Jake Tobin Garrett, Manager, Policy and Research, Park People
• Jessica Myers, Executive Director, Junction Bus. Improvement Assn.
• Jonathan Morrice, Community Safety and Social Media Officer, 55 Division, Toronto Police Service
• Mark van Elsberg, Project Manager, Pedestrian Projects, Public Realm Section, Transportation Services, City of Toronto
• Monica Wickeler, Laneway Mural Artist
Even though it's not a full-blown conference, I think it's still a great concept and event, because it brings attention to the opportunities presented by "alleys."

Alley housing as an option in a time of rising housing costs.  The City of Toronto sees the advantage of laneways as another place for housing that is relatively less expensive, as a way to add to the city's housing stock.("Campaign aims to boost laneway housing in Toronto," Metro;  "Laneway house owner says homes like his are 'real opportunity' for Toronto," CBC-TV).

Public meeting.  Two city councillors have scheduled a public meeting to discuss alley housing as an option for Monday December 5th.

Edmonton ADU incentives program. But there are a lot of barriers to moving forward and it's hard to scale since property owners have to take the initiative one at a time.  Edmonton addresses that in part through an incentive program of up to $20,000 per created unit.

DC has recently made it easier to build accessory dwelling units in more parts of the city, but unlike programs in other cities such as Seattle (A GUIDE TO BUILDING A BACKYARD COTTAGE) as yet there is no pilot program aimed at figuring out what the potential barriers might be and how to address them.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Steps at Smithsonian American Art Museum featuring an homage to the Gene Davis exhibit at the museum.

The reality is I am sucker for graphic design featuring stripes and blocks and bold colors, as well as architectural lighting.  This treatment calls attention to the Museum's exhibit on Gene Davis, called "Hot Beat."  Other exhibits in the past on the Washington Color School featured painting of color bars on nearby streets, but that gets eroded pretty quickly and loses its visual impact.

Steps at Smithsonian American Art Museum featuring an homage to the Gene Davis exhibit at the museum

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Very good American Express television commercial promoting shopping tomorrow, on "Small Business Saturday"

I think the Amex commercial running in support of Small Business Saturday is quite good.  It shows a way forward for doing more of this kind of advertising, in support of independent retailers and commercial districts.  The differential impact of independent retailers and districts on local economic activity needs to be explained, constantly.

This is what I call the difference between "economic development" -- which typically is a "strategy" in favor of any type of business activity -- versus "building a local economy" which is focused on making better choices and looking at multiplier effects, economic flows, etc., and choosing accordingly.

For example, while sports events like All Star Games and the Super Bowl are touted as a great economic development activity for communities because most of the money spent is on travel, lodging, rental cars, and those businesses typically aren't locally owned, much of the total money spent doesn't remain within the community after the event is over.

Therefore, it doesn't have the same kind of multiplier effect as different types of spending, such as a local festival, or at a locally-owned retailer or an independent commercial district versus a chain retailer or shopping mall owned by a distant developer.

-- Shop DC challenge from Charles Allen, Ward 6 Councilmember

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thoughtful Thanksgiving host/ess gifts beyond wine

I was too distracted to write this post a week or two ago when it would have had more effect. (This is somewhat of a reprint with some additions.)

It happens that the traditional foods at Thanksgiving--turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, even cranberry sauce, vegetables, squash, breads, pie (pumpkin, apple, pecan, sweet potato) and ice cream--comprise my favorite meal.

This year we're going to our neighbors, and we'll be bringing roasted vegetables (who knew that by simply roasting them in olive oil, salt and pepper, brussel sprouts could actually taste really good?) -- a medley of potatoes, squash, and brussel sprouts.

I won't be baking pies (wasn't up to making crusts this year), but I am going to use the Washington Post recipe for Rosemary Biscuits.  We'll see how that turns out.

The alternative was a Wall Street Journal recipe for Parker House Rolls, "Dinner-Roll Recipes That Rise to the Thanksgiving Occasion," but the biscuit recipe seems easier to double.

The New York Times ran a bunch of themed Food sections related to Thanksgiving.  Last week's section focused on immigrants and how they've adapted to the Thanksgiving holiday and ritual with recipes of their own and modifications of traditional "American" dishes.

-- "Thanksgiving 2016 - NYT Cooking"

The Wall Street Journal provides other advice ("How to Have Thanksgiving Dinner Without a Family Blowup") for getting through the family meal as does this blog entry, "Tips and Resources for Better Thanksgiving Conversations," from the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.  From the article:
1. Be an active listener
2. Keep an open mind
3. Be curious
4. Discuss stories rather than debating facts
5. Look for common ground
6. Try to end on a positive note
The New York Times had a great piece by writer Ann Patchett, "Collecting Strays at the Thanksgiving Table," about her first attempt at cooking Thanksgiving Day Dinner in her otherwise empty dorm backed up by Joy of Cooking.

Since Thanksgiving is the kick off for the holiday gift buying season, it occurs to me that it's possible to develop a great new Thanksgiving tradition for "host" gifts that are food/foodways related, rather than a quickly bought bottle of wine (although the Wall Street Journal suggests prosecco and other bubbly wines, "Why the Best Thanksgiving Wine Is Sparkling").

1.  A gift subscription to a regional food magazine.  A gift subscription to one of the Edible Communities regional publications on the local food system would be great.  They now have 83 affiliates in the US and Canada. Each magazine covers its local food scene, from farmers and restaurants to markets and recipes.

2. Or to Cook's Illustrated, an independently published speciality recipe magazine.

3.  Gift subscription to a regional lifestyle magazine that covers foodways issues.  If you live in the South (Southern Living), in California/Pacific Northwest (Sunset) or New England (Yankee Magazine) these magazines are great guides about homes, regional traditions, travel, and food, with great recipes.

4.  Books on regional foodways/cookbooks.  There are a number of books published that explore regional foodways and systems, and I think it would be cool to come in hand with a great book on regional foodways. Darrin Nordahl's newest book, Eating Appalachia: Rediscovering Regional American Flavors, explores the Appalachian region. Writing primarily about (but not limited to) the Southwest, Gary Nabhun has written many books about food, cuisine, and agriculture.

A good local bookstore ought to be able to make recommendations relevant to your region.  I'm still looking for a killer recipe for Brunswick Stew, a dish that both Georgia and Virginia claim as their own.

And, I never knew about Sweet Potato Pie until I moved to Washington and started eating in soul food restaurants.  Or oyster stuffing, which is common in the Chesapeake Bay region and the Pacific Northwest, where oysters are grown.  Or Mashed Turnips instead of mashed potatoes--they're really really good.

Barbecue is another cuisine with many regional variations, although as "BBQ" has become a cuisine marketed on a national basis, even in their home states, the place-based versions of 'cue can be on the decline ("The Fight for Authentic Barbecue," New Yorker Magazine).

Relatedly, a week or two ago we were visiting friends in New York State, and the lady of the house is into pro-biotics (she makes her own kefir) and pickling.  She had a book, the Art of Natural Cheesemaking, that looks really cool, which provides the right kind of guidance for being able to make your own cheese, and a wide number of varieties too.  (Even though sometimes making a pie crust is more work than I want to do sometimes.)

5. Planning-related books on food and gardening.  I was first introduced to Darrin Nordahl through his books on urban agriculture and transit. Produce: Cultivating Our Parks, Plazas, and Streets for Healthier Cities, published by Island Press and now in its second edition, explores how to utilize public land as a way to grow food.

A community-focused illustration of Nordahl's thesis is presented in The Urban Garden: How One Community Turned Idle Land into a Garden City and How You Can, Too.

It explores the programs of Garden City Harvest, a non-profit in Missoula, Montana.  They sponsor a variety of a farm projects, community gardens, school-based gardens, and CSAs, and the book discusses the impact of participation on individuals and the community.

(It's in the vein of The Town That Food Saved, about a very small Vermont town which is reorienting its economy around artisanal food production.)

Edible City has been out for a few years, and explores Greater Toronto's food system.  It's a model for cities in how to cover this topic in a readable way, but focused on planning and policy.

(The book was published by Coach House Books as part of series called uTOpia, addressing various concerns in the Toronto region from a variety of perspectives.  That series too is a model of the value of having local publishing houses focused on publishing titles relevant to their region.)

In proof of the adage that big issues never go away, just pop up again and again in slightly different guises, note the headline at the bottom of the page of this 1923 magazine cover.

6. Herb planters.  Or how about a set of seeds, planter and soil (planted by you) of herbs, a so called "kitchen garden" so that your host--after the plants have grown--has access to fresh herbs for cooking.

7. Locally-produced artisan food items.  They can be specially produced items, locally produced wine, or even ice cream.  For example, in DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia, bringing a couple half-gallons of Trickling Springs Ice Cream (my favorite flavor is Coffee Bean Frappe).

Virginia has a great variety of vineyards.  (We're fond of Ingleside Vineyards in Virginia's Northern Neck, which is on the way to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.)

8.  Besides bringing a gift, how about making a gift to a food-related charity in honor of Thanksgiving and in the name of the host/ess?  Food banks and community feeding programs of various sorts are an obvious choice.  Or farmers markets serving the underserved (like the Crossroads Community Market in Takoma Crossroads/Langley Park, Maryland).  Or community kitchen/food incubators, like the one being developed in Takoma Park.  Or programs working with youth like DC's Brainfood.

9.  Set a place at the dinner table for a "silent, unseen guest".  In this vein, History News Network has a post, "This Thanksgiving Invite a “Silent Guest” to Dinner," about how students at Ohio's Mount St. Joseph University are leading a "silent guest" food program fundraising campaign ("Students revive 'silent guest' tradition," Cincinnati Enquirer. Apparently it is modeled after a campaign in the late 1940s ("Feed a silent guest and help promote peace," Wichita Eagle. From the article:
After World War II, thousands of American households took in "silent guests" at Thanksgiving. The "silent guest" campaign of 1947-48 asked Americans to open up their hearts and share their Thanksgiving bounty. Governor Robert Bradford of Massachusetts, a descendant of the Pilgrims who started Thanksgiving, proclaimed the new tradition of feeding a "silent guest" at the holiday meal.

American families were asked to donate the cost of feeding their "silent guest" to a committee in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The "silent guest" donations from Americans led to CARE packages of food being sent to starving families overseas. This was crucial for many countries in Europe, who were still reeling from the destruction caused by World War II. Drought had struck in the summer of 1947, causing severe food shortages.

The food from the "silent guest" helped keep Europe afloat until the U.S. backed Marshall Plan to rebuild could kick in. As Secretary of State George Marshall said, "food is the very basis of all reconstruction."

Enjoy the day.

Shopping Small Business: This Saturday, November 26th

I've written a few posts about this over the years:

-- "Shopping Main Street: Small Business Saturday," 2011
-- "Saturday November 24th, Small Business Saturday," 2012
-- "Small Business Saturday, November 29th, 2014 and shopping locally," 2014
-- "Shopping local during the holidays: Small Business Saturday and beyond," 2015
-- "President Obama and his daughters shop on Small Business Saturday," 2015

and I don't feel the need to write another post saying the same things.  Click on one randomly if you so choose.

Retailers seem to believe that the holiday shopping season will be fruitful ("National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 3.6%, NRF press release; "Retailers Holiday Sales Outlook: Not So Horrible This Year," Investors Business Daily; "Department Stores Change Tactics as They Lose Ground to Screens," Bloomberg).

Like how consumer sentiment (called "consumer confidence" by economists) shifted after the election--Republicans who had felt the economy was bad changed their tune once Donald Trump won the election and for Democrats is was reversed--I am not particularly positive.

Hopefully I am wrong.

Regardless, rather than buying stuff that will end up in landfills, why not buy more meaningful gifts, and from independent retailers, for whom the sale means a lot more and has more economic impact locally.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Dolly micro-move app as an element of the Sustainable Mobility Platform

I have moved beyond discussing what I call the mobility shed ("Updating the mobilityshed / mobility shed concept") to thinking more about what I am calling the Sustainable Mobility Platform.  Although I need a top notch graphic designer to express it graphically.

The concept is influenced by a graphic from an older version of the German National Bike Plan and the Sustainable Transportation Hierarchy graphic produced by Transportation Alternatives.

Cycling as a system (of Traffic)
Bicycle Traffic as a system, diagram, German National Bicycle Plan, 2002-2012
German National Bicycle Plan, 2002-2012

Mobility shed concept.  Note that the bands should vary in width depending on their catchment area.  The core point/hub is a transit station, commercial district, or major activity center.
Mobility shed diagram

Sustainable transportation hierarchy
transportation hierarchy

Some Ikea stores in Denmark provide bikes and trailers to get purchases home.

What I say is that the idea of the sustainable mobility hierarchy is to support a lifestyle where owning a car is not required but car use can still be an element within it, for those trips where it makes the most sense.

It's a "car light" lifestyle, and there are many reasons for communities to support it from the standpoint of transportation demand management and optimal utilization of the throughput capacity of the transportation system.

These are the elements:
  • walking
  • cycling
    • access to trailers
    • cargo bikes
  • transit
  • bicycle sharing
  • car sharing
    • one-way car sharing
    • two-way car sharing
  • scooter sharing (there's a program in San Francisco)
  • e-bikes
  • taxi type services
  • delivery services
  • car rental
Of course, most of the elements, like the car sharing or bicycle examples, can be further divided and sub-categorized, depending on rider demographics, trip characteristics, etc.  I separated out e-bikes because to my way of thinking, they are more about serving longer trips (3-20 miles) for demographics unwilling to make such trips on a regular bike.

Dolly move and delivery service.  Anyway, I just learned about Dolly, an "on-demand moving service" for a limited number of items.  It's like "Uber" for delivery. From the website:
Dolly is a marketplace that allows background-checked Helpers with pickup trucks, vans, and large SUVs to connect with people who need help with micro-moves in the city. ...

We provide a price that's determined by distance, item count, and specific details about your item(s), with the choice of Curbside delivery for a discounted price. The minimum price is $30.
Right now Dolly operates in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and San Diego ("Meet Dolly: A new way to move bulky items (without bugging friends," GeekWire).

Granted, Zipcar car sharing is also an option, as most of the vehicle fleets have a variety of vehicles including SUVs, pick ups, and vans. I've used Zipcar a bunch of times to move a large item (bookcases, file cabinets, outdoor grill) from where I've found or purchased them.

But Dolly is a good option when you need an extra pair of hands because of the size and/or weight of the item.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

RPA/Transit Riders Alliance proposal to respond to the L Subway shutdown includes a dedicated transitway on 14th Street in Manhattan

New York City's L Line subway carries about 225,000 riders per day.  It experienced severe damage because of Superstorm Sandy and the line will be closed for 18 months, beginning in 2019, for repair, rehabilitation, and overhaul ("L Train Will Shut Down From Manhattan to Brooklyn in '19 for 18 Months," New York Times).

Corridor management in terms of person throughput not motor vehicle throughput.  Similar to how I suggested that Metrorail, NPS, DDOT, MARC, Maryland SHA, and others should have taken a broader "corridor management approach" to dealing with issues relating to I-270 capacity, shutdown of Beach Drive, and shutdowns of portions of the Metrorail Red Line ("Transportation network interruptions as an opportunity: Part 2" and "Transportation network service interruptions part 3: corridor/commute shed management for Northwest DC and Montgomery County, Maryland"), New York City's Regional Plan Association and the Rider's Alliance have joined together to create a community-centered corridor management approach to dealing with the shutdown of the L line.

-- Fixing the L Train and Managing the Shutdown

As to be expected of a report involving RPA, it is superb, with many many great recommendations, including repositioning 14th Street in Manhattan as a high capacity transitway to be used for high capacity replacement bus services, but also open to bikes and taxis, but closed to cars.
Image showing some of the recommendations from the report concerning the transitway proposal and complementary bus services.

Attempt to create a congestion pricing zone in Manhattan as a result of post-9/11 changes in traffic management.  This reminds me a bit of how congestion was significantly eased in New York City when after 9/11, to reduce motor vehicle traffic in Manhattan, New York City instituted HOV-equivalent requirements for automobiles using the East River bridge and tunnel crossings south of 63rd Street--for rush hours, single passenger automobiles could not cross.

It had a couple of interesting effects.  Traffic was shifted to times outside of rush hour, both before and between rush periods and to other bridges outside of the restriction zone, while traffic declined overall, but congestion on feeder roads was accentuated.)


The experience and positive impact on congestion from the restrictions on Single Occupant Vehicle trips set the stage for creating a congestion charge system in New York City, which US DOT was willing to support and provide funding for, but the State Legislature prevented the city from going forward ("New York assembly shelves Manhattan congestion charge," Guardian).
It also set the stage for Sam Schwartz' more recent proposal to change how the bridges are tolled in order to ease congestion ("Plan to change New York City's bridge tolls, reduce traffic hits Albany," Crain's New York Business

L Train shutdown as a corridor management opportunity.  The closure of the L train, even temporarily, if the city created a dedicated transitway in response, could be as significant a change to the city and to "North American best practice" as NYC's readjustment of road space between motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian and placemaking use, such as on Broadway Avenue and in Times Square, and the creation of dedicated cycle tracks on major roads. These highly visible actions helped to shape the vision and practice of transportation and planning departments elsewhere.

Reprioritizing road space towards pedestrians in New York City serves as a global example.  The reprioritization of road space towards pedestrians in New York City has had a dramatic effect on urban design practice across North America. Along Broadway and around Times Square, the transportation department enacted a number of "tests", which later became permanent, shifting traffic lanes to pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and related uses.

 Before and After, Times Square.  NYC DOT photo.
Before and After in Times Square, pedestrian-placemaking

Transitways and transit malls.  Dedicated transit "malls" exist in a number of US cities, although they may vary in how much other traffic is allowed.  The Nicolett Transit Mall in Minneapolis, the Bus Mall in Portland, Oregon, and the 16th Street Transit Mall in Denver are particularly prominent examples.  Many European cities employ a variety of dedicated surface transit and pedestrian ways.

The Spitalerstrasse transitway, Hamburg, Germany, is open to cyclists and taxis.
Spitalerstrasse transit mall, Hamburg, Germany

Nicolett Transit Mall, Minneapolis
nicolett and 10th

Replacing the capacity of the shut down high capacity L line subway service will be very difficult for New York City.
Capacity of different transit modes

A highly visible transitway as a communication device for best practice in transit service.  It is a struggle in many communities to create a dedicated transitway network for surface transit, especially buses (see "16th Street's traffic lights are now optimized for buses," Greater Greater Washington), and if NYC DOT is willing to create a dedicated transitway on 14th Street and if MTA responds with expanded and extended bus service--such as cross-borough high capacity bus services to stand in for the shut down subway--and complementary changes elsewhere, such as dedicated bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge to support cross-borough bus service, it could be equally transformative for sustainable mobility practice across the country.

Will MTA and NYC DOT implement these concepts?  It will be interesting to see how NYC and MTA respond to the recommendations, which include other changes for the line and some of the stations to improve accessibility, access, circulation, capacity, and interlining, as well as marketing of commercial districts affected by the loss of high capacity transit service.

Some of the recommendations from the report
Recommendations, L Train shutdown, RPA

Two important ideas they overlooked: three-section buses and a free bus fare 

Bi-articulated bus, Spitalerstrasse, Hamburg, Germany
Bi-articulated bus on Spitalerstrasse transitway, Hamburg, Germany.

How about bi-articulated buses?  While articulated buses are allowed for use on US streets, three-section bi-articulated buses are not authorized for use on the public roadway system--even though many states have authorized the use of similarly lengthy truck and trailer units on certain roads (most often Interstate Highways) that are about the same length as a triple-section bus.

Articulated buses are about 60 feet long, while bi-articulated buses are about 82 feet long.  Depending on the seat configuration and the willingness to sit or stand very closely, bi-articulated buses can carry about 200 riders, while the capacity of an articulated bus is about 120 passengers.

Typical articulated bus, Metrobus, Washington, DC.

Triple trailer semi-truck  (called Long Combination Vehicles or LCVs)
SAIA Truck on I 70 Dec 26 2015-2367

But why not allow New York City to use them for a special L train replacement bus service?  This would increase rider capacity, reduce the number of buses needed to provide replacement service, provide incredible branding and marketing, and reduce the number of bus drivers needed to operate the service.  Such buses are used on "regular roads" in many cities, although many cities like Curitiba and Bogota primarily use such buses on a dedicated transitway network not accessible to automobiles.

Aachen, Germany
Двойная гармошка / Bi-articulated bus

Luzern, Switzerland
Luzern, Obergrundstrasse 25.02.2009

Consider free fare for the special cross-borough BRT service.  For the special replacement high capacity bus service only, especially if a three-section bus could be used, providing free fares should be considered, which would significantly speed entry onto buses and reduce the amount of dwell time--the time the bus sits at a stop, while passengers exit the bus and enter and pay.

For various reasons, it's not possible to create the prepayment process and dedicated stations comparable to Curitiba's bus rapid transit system ("How Curitiba's BRT stations sparked a transport revolution," Guardian). From the article:
But high ridership created a problem. Buses in the system still used conventional boarding systems, where passengers entered through the front of the bus and paid fares on board. Lerner, who was back in office for his third term as mayor, came up with an elegant solution.

He called for a revamped station design that enabled faster boarding through multiple doors, and fares would be exchanged before entering the station – similar to subway or light-rail systems. Offboard payment would also allow for the creation of transfer stations, meaning one fare would cover the entire system. To top it off, Lerner gave the stations a distinctive look by placing them in futuristic glass tubes. These new “tube stations” debuted in October 1991 as part of the first Ligeirinho express line. Today there are 357 tube stations throughout the city.

With this important addition, the city’s system became the world’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) network.
But you can accomplish the same effect with free fares.

Note that while the report does not propose free fares, it does propose free transfer between ferry and bus, which isn't the case now, as ferries are city provided services, while bus and subway services (which do provide free transfers between bus and subway for pass holders) are run by the State of New York.

Note that certain dedicated service bus service in both Minneapolis and on the 16th Street Transit Mall in Denver are free.
Free ride bus sign, Metro Transit, Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

Mall ride w-capitol web

But the current shutdown schedule can't accommodate the approval of bi-directional bus services, acquisition of buses, and identification of funding for such changes.   Even though the shutdown is supposed to happen in 30 months, that's not enough time to acquire and receive hundreds of bi-articulated buses, and deal with how to store them, let alone getting FTA to approve their use in the city, to train drivers, etc.  Plus you have to line up the money to acquire the buses and you have to figure out how to use them once the L train goes back into service.

And providing a free transit service wouldn't be cheap.  But it would be temporary.  And had Hillary Clinton become President, maybe the US DOT/FTA would have funded such a service in part, as a demonstration also, in concert with the demonstration and test of the efficacy of bi-articulated buses.

But their omission makes their consideration unlikely.  By putting the ideas out there, they'd be out there.  It'd be worth delaying the shutdown for a year or more if it were possible to use bi-articulated buses and have them be free in order to create and deliver the best possible replacement service, reducing inconvenience and problems as much as is possible.

And that, by the way, is the point of planning to begin with, to make things better and easier, not harder.

WRT Metrorail and MARC and I-270, one element of corridor management that should be studied is bi-directional service on the MARC train line between DC and Montgomery County. Currently the service runs in only one direction, from West Virginia/Maryland in the morning to DC, and from DC to Maryland/West Virginia at night.

 The opportunity for commuting is high between DC, White Flint, Rockville, and Gaithersburg more generally, but with subway shutdowns, riders could be shifted to the MARC railroad service, and this would help to market the service and create more demand for various service and integration improvements, including a common transit fare media system ("One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example").

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Implementing transit services (water taxi) before the market will support them

It's reported ("The Wharf to bring new daily D.C. water taxi," Washington Business Journal) that with the opening of the first phase of the redevelopment of DC's Southwest Waterfront there will be the concomitant introduction-expansion of water taxi services. From the article:
The Wharf will [...] bring D.C. and its surrounding areas daily water taxi routes when it opens in October 2017.

Entertainment Cruises, which earlier this year acquired Potomac Riverboat Company, will launch daily water taxi routes late next year that will make stops in National Harbor, Alexandria, Georgetown, The Wharf and Nationals Park, Wharf developer Hoffman-Madison Waterfront and the cruise company announced Wednesday.

Potomac Riverboat Company already runs regular water taxis between Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor, as well as seasonal boats to the National Mall and Nationals Park, but the partnership between PRC’s new parent company and The Wharf will introduce daily, regularly scheduled water taxi routes connecting D.C., Maryland and Virginia for what officials believe is the first time.

Entertainment Cruises CEO Kenneth Svendsen anticipates that the boats will stop at each location 10 times daily during the high season, which will run from March through December. During the other two months, there will still be approximately six or seven boats per day from each stop.
Of course, I am fine with adding a water taxi to the mix of transit services in the area, I just don't think the market and spatial conditions are there to support such a service as "a transit service" ("Water taxis/ferries in the DC region," 2011).

Maybe a tourist oriented service could work, with "fares" to match, as opposed to prices more in line with typical passenger ferry/water taxi transit services.

By comparison, Baltimore's water taxi service focuses on moving people along the Inner Harbor waterfront, from point to point, and across "to the other side.'  They charge $8 for a single ride or $14 for a day pass.  Still, the bulk of the riders are tourists.

The San Antonio water taxi service is very simple, as is the river it runs on.

A number of cities have successful ferry services including San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Boston, and other cities, such as Oklahoma City and San Antonio have tourist-focused water taxi services on centrally located rivers.

Buffalo has a summer "bike + pedestrian" water taxi (Queen City Water Taxi) and this summer the Thames River Heritage Area provided water taxi service between key destinations in New London and Groton, Connecticut ("Water taxi to start offering special river tours," "Best summer deal: Thames River Water Taxi season pass," and "Heritage park, water taxi mark end of first season," The Day). These services are simple, more akin to the boats on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

There is a water taxi service on the Chicago River (boat at the Madison Dock pictured at right) that is a kind of hybrid transit-tourist service that is priced comparable to a distance-based subway fare.

The City of New York fosters ferry service because it is the only transit service they can run-because all of the other transit services in the city are run by the State of New York or other entities.

-- Citywide Ferry Service, New York City Economic Development Corporation

In the DC area, by either land or water the distances between Alexandria, Georgetown, and The Wharf are significant, and the piers are far from the kinds of office agglomerations that could support transit.

It reminds me a bit of the extension of the Green Line light rail in Sacramento.  It was created to serve a developing district called Township 9, with plans to eventually extend service to the airport.

The developer with their own money built an awesome station.  But then the recession hit in 2008 and while they still own the property, it isn't being developed and fewer than 500 people ride the extension daily.

To save money the transit agency plans to shut the service next year ("Light-rail Green Line may shut in Sacramento to save money," Sacramento Bee).

The developer challenged the decision, but the reality is that having transit services run "in advance" of demand is financially imprudent. (A local example is the DC Circulator Navy Yard bus service. The area has a Metro Station of its own, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of demand to go between the Navy Yard District, Eastern Market, and Union Station, although as the Wall Street Journal notes, the area is attracting a great number of new residents and multiunit residential projects continue apace.)

I could see supporting ("subsidizing") water taxi service in DC from the tourist tax revenue stream (hotel occupancy taxes, restaurant tax, etc.), but not as a transit service, as cool as the idea is.

Yet, were the Potomac River was located within the city center, the way it is in Chicago, it would be a much different story.

Whether or not this particular service succeeds, it will be interesting to see the changes that will come from the revival of the Southwest Waterfront district and how they can support access to the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and the waterfront.

DC is a kind of river city but with limited awareness of the water.

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Main Streets Around The World | 2017 Report from Cushman & Wakefield

In the US, the five retail districts experiencing the greatest growth in rents are in San Francisco (Union Square and Post Street), Chicago's East Oak Street, Downtown Seattle, and the Georgetown district of DC, according to the annual report Main Streets Around the World by Cushman & Wakefield, a leading commercial real estate broker active globally.

In San Francisco, Macy's is consolidating their Union Square properties a block off the square ("Is your local Macy's closing? Department store lays out real estate plans," MarketWatch).
Union Square, San Francisco
Union Square, San Francisco.

Spatially, I've always thought that it would be possible to create a kind of Union Square effect around Farragut Square in Washington, which is between 17th, 18th, K and I Streets in Washington.  It's served by two Metrorail stations, Farragut West and Farragut North, but it isn't as big as its counterpart in SF, and the buildings aren't easily reconfigured into department stores, plus Macy's big store investment in the city's Central Business District is at Metro Center.

For DC, I don't think the report adequately distinguishes between retail and restaurants.  There is a lot of activity, even creativity, in the restaurant side of "retail" and commercial district development."

But I don't feel that's the case for retail.  Most commercial districts are weak in categories outside of convenience retail--groceries, pharmacy, hardware.  And there isn't a profusion of creative retail outlets.

There are many reasons for this.

(1) DC is still relatively small population-wise

(2) and has too much retail space that needs to be filled vis-a-vis demand

(3) and the phenomenon of what I call "intra-city sprawl" where new areas are being developed (The Wharf, CityCenter, Capitol Riverfront/Navy Yard, etc.) while other areas still languish

(4) plus rents are too high based on the revenue capacity of building footprints (see "Clevelad Park retail: my off hand assessment is that the rents are too high," 2009).

This has to do with how the commercial property market is shaped by the international market of Downtown real estate and how this creeps out and shapes submarkets across the city, even those that are decidedly local in their customer base, sales potential, and property ownership ("Avoiding the real problem with DC's property tax assessment methodologies," 2007).

(5) the way to address this is twofold; in terms of rents, DC could develop an initiative like that of SEMAEST, a community development corporation in Paris which has been charged with buying/leasing/holding prime retail properties and renting them to quality tenants at below market rates.

According to NextParis ("Opération Vital'Quartier: pour le commerce de proximité à Paris!") so far the initiative has supported 372 businesses in more than 500,000 s.f. of space.

(6) the other is the creation of an initiative to support the development of retail concepts and businesses as opposed to restaurants.  DC helped to fund a "Vibrant Streets Toolkit" produced by the StreetSense retail consultancy, but it doesn't seem to have had much effect on the "retail" aspect of DC's commercial district, although there are some exceptions where apparel, book stores, and other concepts exist here and there in retail districts across the city.

DC Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit.  They've since gone on to develop the approach more broadly, and have produced a book on the subject, marketed on a separate Vibrant Streets website.

DC Vibrant Retail Streets Toolkit, eight elements, text

One best practice example I think about a lot is the Historic Downtown Los Angeles Retail Initiative, now no longer extant, which aimed to stoke retail development in the then languishing retail district.

Another is the development of the Second Street district in Austin, Texas where the city and the developer, wanting to create retail in concert with Austin's independent vibe ("Keep Austin Weird") made developing independent businesses the priority for a district that will eventually have 200,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, and other retail services.

In 2005, when I first wrote about it, they focused on clothing and housewares and furniture stores, but with a wider range including a scooter store and a day spa. The lease provisions included build out allowances, a graduated rent schedule so that precious working capital at the opening of a store could be spent on inventory, and the retailers contribute funds to a joint marketing program.

These days of course there are plenty of restaurants, galleries, and also well known design forward retailers like Design Within Reach (see "Another point about urban retail," 2012).
Various articles over the years in the Austin American-Statesman describe the Second Street District effort.  If you have a local library card and access the newspaper database, the articles are available to you.

Another example is the creation of "market spaces" as a kind of independent retail incubator.  One example is Building Character in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, or the Midtown Exchange in Minneapolis and the Mercado in Portland, Oregon.  Of course, public markets and food halls are the most well known example of this type.  Such spaces address the issue of access to space and concentration and focusing of a customer base.

(7) it's key how the Austin effort included joint marketing.  That's a major weakness for the various DC commercial districts.  Although it can be hard to market "retail" when there is very little of it (see "Why it's hard to (holiday) shop in DC's neighborhood retail districts," 2011).

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Implications of a Trump/McConnell/Ryan Administration on DC's commercial real estate market

Welcome to Washington, DC at Rhode Island & Eastern Avenue NEThe Bisnow real estate e-letter posits the DC commercial office market (and the area economy) will benefit from a Trump presidency.  From the article:
Avison Young US capital markets managing director John Kevill expects to see a pickup in leasing activity from the GSA, government contractors, consultants and lobbyists. "His promise to spend on infrastructure, reinvigorate the military, hire more ICE agents than ever before," John says, "will lead to a growth in the local government footprint."

He says this may result in a resurgence in demand for existing suburban office stock that has largely been considered functionally obsolete. He also predicts a growth in lobbying for industries like healthcare and tax reform, leading to increased demand for trophy CBD office space.

Elizabeth Norton's research team at Transwestern looked at the market impacts of every election since World War II, and found generally greater local office demand when the White House was in Republican hands. 
Although, she says, this is largely due to the timing of events like military conflicts and recessions, and cautions against looking too much into the party in power. "It's hard to speculate the true impact at the end of the day, but historically we find it's events, rather than the president, that truly impact the market[.]"
I am not disposed to be as positive.

(This blog entry from 2015 discusses the state of the local economy within DC and this recent post is about the high cost real estate market within the city making it difficult to attract businesses seeking lower cost locations, "Choosing urbanized places vs. choosing DC as a place to locate significant headquarters business operations: Marriott and CoStar.")

While there is no question that "events' shape what happens with government and its growth and post-9/11 hyper growth of the federal government, especially the national security elements, are the perfect example.

For example the Washington Post series from 2012 on the rise of the homeland security function ("Top Secret America") outlines how the rise of the National Security State in the post-9/11 environment has significantly benefited the DC region, and more IT-related military contractors (like SAIC) are relocating their headequarters to Northern Virginia to be closer to their clients. (Also see "Montgomery County's real jobs problem is that it is an adjunct, not a full-fledged, member of the military-industrial complex.")

But while that happened, there has been plenty of stinting on other areas of government, and plenty of animus towards investing in large scale projects such as a unified campus for the Department of Homeland Security or a new campus for the FBI.

Plus military installation consolidation away from Arlington County, Virginia has crushed their commercial office market in Crystal City especially, and has for many years.  And Congress hasn't been much open to paying extranormal market rates for federal leases in the Washington area ("A follow up example with regard to Metropolitan Revolutions: the National Science Foundation moving to Alexandria").

It's important to distinguish between what we should call the Legislative or Congressional Republican Party and the Presidency.

Increasingly year after year since the Gingrich Speakership in the early 1990s, Congressional Republicans haven't been much interested in "investing" in the federal government, outside of projects in their districts or state, and they especially haven't been interested in investing in federal facilities in DC in particular.

-- "Neglected National Mall Languishes," Associated Press, 2009
-- "Washington's Boom Goes Bust," New York Magazine
-- "Federal Government Downsizing Sends D.C. Region Tailspinning," Falls Church News-Press
-- "Will Congress Pull the Plug on Homeland Security's Move to St. Elizabeths," Government Executive
-- "New Year's Post #3: an illustration of the decline of the federal role in DC's real estate market (at least right now)"

That kind of sentiment was expressed earlier in the year by Iowa Congressman Ron Blum, animated and angry about the success of DC's local economy.
Iowa Congressman Ron Blum isn't happy with DC's boom in real estate development
With conservative control of the House and Senate I can't see them becoming pro-government in terms of agency expansion and real estate, especially in DC, or in Virginia or Maryland, both of which went for Clinton, although in Virginia it was much closer and outstate Republicans still control the state government more or less.

Another project to watch will be the final selection of a site for a completely new FBI headquarters campus.  Maryland, a very Democratic state, has a Republican Governor, while Virginia's Governor is a Democrat, but the State Legislature is dominated by the Republican Party.

The Washington Business Journal ("How Donald Trump's victory might affect the FBI headquarters competition) figures the project will land in Maryland.  From the article:
Clinton is a close friend of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, is a former governor of the commonwealth. It stands to reason that if Clinton had defeated Trump, it would have significantly boosted Virginia's shot at landing the 2.4 million-square-foot FBI headquarters.

Maryland, long the front-runner for the $2 billion-plus HQ project, should remain there with Trump's victory.
That the federal government doesn't do traditional capital budgeting is another problem. See the past entry "We are all asset managers now."

Twitter photo by Ellison Barber.

But, with the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office Building, maybe President Trump will be inclined to push for real estate investment in DC.  Or not ("Protestors gather outside Trump hotel in DC," WUSA-TV)

What about the residential market?  As far as DC's residential real estate market is concerned, Republicans tend to live in the suburbs, Democrats in the city.  Maybe it will stay about the same, maybe it will decline.  I don't think that it will continue to be extranormally successful.

I can also see the potential for a rise of Mideast-policy-related terrorist incidents in the U.S., which mostly has been immune from it, outside of "homegrown" incidents (Orlando, San Bernardino, etc.).

If such incidents happen in DC, it could have major implications on the residential real estate market because for safety reasons, people may choose to not live in the city.

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