Transit Oriented Development (TOD): Weathering the Economic Storm


Transit oriented development is great for all sorts of reasons. It fosters community, efficiency, conservation, walkability, and mobility, while still promoting development. Two recent news stories help to articulate another valuable component. Transit oriented development is also becoming more recognized as a strategy for weathering economic downturns, even when they come in the form of a severe recession.

The first is an article in the New York Times from October 6th, highlighting the economic success of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, a great example of transit oriented, mixed-use development in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington. The article discusses the astonishingly low vacancy rates in the corridor despite increases in vacancy rates across the country.

Tying together this 3.3 mile corridor of what Terry Holzheimer, Arlington County’s director of economic development calls, “urban villages,” is the metro system which runs from one end of the corridor all the way into D.C. The result is a corridor which attracts residents, businesses, and consumers with all projections pointing towards continued development and success.

For more information on the history of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, including a link to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor video, visit this Smart Growth America blog post.

The second story, aired on NPR’s Morning Edition last week, is about a developer in Phoenix, Arizona, who is buying up foreclosed properties near mass transit lines. Phillip Beere, of Green Street Developers, buys foreclosed properties and then remodels, modernizes, and makes those properties more energy efficient. The idea is to sell the properties to people, young professionals and others, who want to avoid the costs of suburban living, including energy efficiency and the Phoenix commute, which averages one hour roundtrip. Because the properties were foreclosures, they can be resold at a reasonable price, even after the remodeling. Beere’s claims that the properties will offer a walkable community where people can live comfortably, and walk just a short-distance to catch the light rail to work each day.

Although Pheonix is well-known as a “sprawling metropolitan area,” Philip Beere’s sees this project as an investment. Another developer interviewed in the segment discusses the shift in focus from living spaces that “impress” with size and amenities, to living spaces that are functional, efficient, and that meet a person’s budget. In a time when people are learning the value of efficiency and the risks of budget-stretching, many believe that there will be a real market for the project despite the Phoenix development paradigm.

Check out Ryan Champlin’s blog post for commentary about funding problems common to transit oriented development initiatives.

Posted on October 19, 2009, in Housing, Media Coverage, Neighborhoods, Public Infrastructure, Transportation, Trends, Urbanism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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