PlaceMatters logo PlaceMatters text logo

The Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Walkable and Bike-able City and Town Centers

unnamed (1)

A great webinar hosted by Smart Growth Online, Sign up HERE!

Date and time:Friday, October 30, 2015 2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)

Duration:1 hour 30 minutes

Description:The webinar will feature the experiences of 8 U.S. cities in creating or increasing the walkability and bicycle-friendliness of their downtown areas. The cities profiled include small towns (Grandview, MO and West Jefferson, NC); medium-sized cities (Orlando, FL, Redmond, WA and Lancaster, CA) and large cities (the Bronx in NYC, Cleveland, OH, and Charlotte, NC). The webinar will focus on the implemented strategies, the resulting increases in walkability and bike-friendliness, and the economic and fiscal benefits of each project.

unnamedPanelists:
– Jim Cohen, Senior Lecturer and Director, Urban Studies and Planning Program, University of Maryland College Park (Moderator)
– Dennis Randolph, Director of Public Works, Grandview, MO
– Carolyn Hope, Park Planning, Arts and Culture Manager, Department of Parks and Recreation, Redmond, WA
– Brian Ludicke, Planning Director, Lancaster, CA
– Gustavo Castro, Project Manager, Transportation Planning Division, Orlando, FL
– Dean Ledbetter, Senior Planning Engineer, North Carolina Department of Transportation

Ponderosa Mobile Home Park: Building Trust and Capacity

Since March 2015, PlaceMatters has been working at the Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in North Boulder, CO, around issues of affordable housing, community engagement and communicating complexities. Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative and a subsequent contract with Trestle Strategy Group, we had the pleasure of working with the Ponderosa community and the City of Boulder to navigate the complexities of annexation for the parcel of land that currently offers a valuable asset for low-income residents.

IMG_0030_2 
The community of Ponderosa is unique: 69 trailers are located on a privately-owned parcel that falls under the Boulder County jurisdiction but is surrounded by the City; residents enjoy wonderful views of the foothills, river and park access, a community garden, and can walk to shops, bus routes, and bike paths.The community offers affordable, single family units that are not subsidized by affordable housing programs or the government. The residents know they have something special, which is why many of them have been here for over twenty years. 

 

Green frame - view The issue of affordability in Boulder has been at the forefront of the regional conversation and for good reason. Trulia.com reports that the median selling price for a home in Boulder, CO from May to August 2015 was $538,000. In 2014 the Boulder Weekly reported that the large number of high earning households in the community is creating higher housing prices and a dwindling stock of affordable housing units. As part of addressing affordability, Boulder has looked to preserving mobile home parks as an asset.

 

As residents have noted, they are proud to own their homes and that they are not subsidized. They appreciate having their own space, not in a multi-story apartment building and value having room for their children to play in a stable community. From their perspective, the park is a very different life than other affordable housing types.

However, Ponderosa, like many mobile home parks that are owed by a single landowner, certainly does have issues to confront. Aging infrastructure can be overly burdensome for a single landowner or cause drastic rent hikes to cover. Road improvements and flooding concerns can also be factors. The City of Boulder is working with the landowners to find innovative and collaborative ways to address these issues and keep the residents of Ponderosa in place.

 Green frame - river

Our work on this project started with compiling research on practices and land use policies for mobile home parks across the nation. PlaceMatters reviewed existing policy for mobile home parks across the nation, area experts in mobile home park issues and created a resource guide for mobile home park policy considerations, common issues and area experts. The research led us to understand that
Colorado has relatively few protections for residents and unfavorable land use policies for parks. It also showed how parks can become places where residents thrive from an appreciable asset.

 

Research provided the base knowledge that we needed to engage with the community. Marine Siohan and Anne Kuechenmeister had the opportunity to work with Ponderosa residents alongside Trestle. Annexation is a complicated process that is difficult to understand. The community was also starting in a place of mistrust for city government. The team knew that building trust and communicating complex issues, while learning about what the community needs and values were, would be critical pieces to guide the annexation scenarios that were recommended.  In order to build trust and learn about the community, PlaceMatters sought to shift the power dynamic of interactions between the team and residents.

 

Crowd at July 1 meetingMeetings were held in the community, in a comfortable outdoor space, in English and Spanish, using low-tech community methods. This was the basis for integrating power shifting techniques to open up dialogue.

 

PlaceMatters used a variation of PhotoVoice, a process of collecting input telling place based stories through photos. Residents used red and green frames to take photos of what they wanted improved and what they value and appreciate in the community. Red frame symbolized what they would like to be changed about their community and green frames represent what they value. Residents taught us what was important to them about the community and what they would like to change. This helped us understand values and community assets while building trust.

 

Using photography to communicate also assisted in breaking down language barriers between English and Spanish and made enabled people with different levels of literacy to equally participate. In addition, the activity was accessible to youth and adults, and resulted in nuances being communicated in a way that may be lost in a traditional written survey.

 

Alongside static photos, we also worked with residents to videotape their stories and connections to Ponderosa and the surrounding community. Through storytelling residents have shared their vision for the future and what they value about their community. Sharing residents’ voices has given city leaders a better understanding of who lives here and why the opportunities that the park affords them is so valuable. We are excited to announce that after seeing the video and hearing information on the park, the Boulder City Council has stated that they are not willing to move forward with annexation if it means that residents will be displaced.

 

Attachment C - Green Frame-2

 

 

Re-imagine West Colfax!

 

 

ColfaxViaduct

Caption: The Colfax Viaduct facilitated moving vehicles, and trolleys in its early days, from Downtown Denver to West Colfax. Many businesses were moved to make way for its construction. Photo from: colfaxavenue.com

Colfax Avenue turned 140 years old this year. Since its inception as a six block long road, it has swelled and expanded to over 26 miles across the Denver metro area and has become the longest continuous commercial street in the United States. At one point, Colfax was the place of mansions, trolleys, trees, and wealth, but with the introduction of interstate highways and disinvestment in the properties along Colfax, the spine of Denver fell from prominence. Colfax became less of a destination to live close to and more of a thoroughfare, widened to 60 feet, for moving vehicles East and West through the center of the city.

 

Today Denver is seeing a resurgence of population in the city and higher demand for urbanized, bikeable and walkable living. Colfax continues to transform, with new businesses adding to existing, and more residents wanting to be within close proximity to vibrancy. However, the physical layout of the road has not changed at the same pace as the communities that surround it. The incongruent change has created concerns for pedestrians and bikers.

 

IMG_0504

Biker uses the pedestrian space to navigate West Colfax. Photo credit: Anne Kuechenmeister

 

The West Colfax Business Improvement District from Sheridan to Federal Blvd is one area of Colfax leading the charge to find design solutions to make the road more compatible to walking, biking, and transit. Data collected by PlaceMatters, WalkDenver, the University of Colorado, and residents in the West Colfax area has helped pinpoint key pedestrian concerns. Bike route analysis has identified large service gaps, which create high stress biking environments. Stakeholder input has further refined priorities for area businesses, property owners, residents, employees, and visitors. The resulting partnership and efforts to identify design solutions for the area is called Re-imagine West Colfax.

 

 

Kansas City Demonstration_0

Temporary design demonstration showing parklets, or pop-up parks, more space for pedestrians and added greenery/ Photo Credit: Kansas City Better Block

The Gates Family Foundation has awarded grants to PlaceMatters and WalkDenver and have partnered with Groundwork Denver, the University of Colorado, Alta Planning + Design, and Radian to organize a series of activities and events this summer assisting the West Colfax Business Improvement District and its efforts to demonstrate what the next era of Colfax could be. The Re-imagine West Colfax design demonstration on August 16th will include several types of bike lanes that allow riders to test what it feels like to ride on each. It will include pedestrian bulb outs to decrease the crossing distance on Colfax. Participants can also experience enhanced crosswalks, median refuges, wider sidewalks and small pop-up parks along Colfax. All of these features will be paired with food trucks, music, art and beer!

 

 

Pop up bike lane

Pop-up bike lane lets riders test a safer and lower stress riding experience

The long term vision for this demonstration is to show the community and city how data collection, community participation and short term design demonstrations can lead to better long term improvements and planning in the community. The temporary design demonstration allows residents, business owners, government agencies and traffic engineers to see the designs in action prior to long-term implementation.

 

If you would like to see collaborative community planning in progress, and test out how bike and pedestrian environments can be improved, please join us on August 16th, 10 am to 4 pm, on West Colfax Avenue between Tennyson and Utica.

 

Support Re-imagine West Colfax by volunteering your time. Please join us at a community meeting at 4500 W Colfax Ave Denver, CO 80204 from 6pm to 8pm on July 28th or August 11th.

Support Re-imagine West Colfax with your donation, and see your pledge matched by the WCBID’s $3000 match grant! Donate Now!

For more information contact: Anne Kuechenmeister, anne@placematters.org

 

Housing Recovery in Lyons, CO

Lyons Generic 2

Map of Lyons, CO and flooding effects

Following the 2013 flooding in Colorado, the Town of Lyons continues to navigate the complex world of disaster recovery. The Town is continuously aiming at transparency and public outreach in their efforts to rebuild stronger and smarter. In a landlocked community, the issue of where and how to rebuild housing has been a challenging process. Refer to our November 2014 post, Resilience Planning in Lyons, CO, for a map and additional background on the flood recovery process.

Through our grant with HUD-EPA Sustainable Communities Initiative, PlaceMatters was able to assist the Trestle Strategy Group and enhance their community engagement strategy by bringing high- and low-tech solutions to the process. In October of 2014 the Town had tasked Trestle to conduct additional site analysis for Lyons residents to vote on a site for replacement housing. They had only four months to complete their analysis, with robust engagement for stakeholders, who would ultimately decide if the proposed site was acceptable through a vote.

The first issue that arose was the need to get accurate information to the community on the immense amount of work that had been going on since the flood to determine where housing should go and how it would be paid for. Between the fast pace of disaster recovery, the numerous other concerns of residents, and wide range of ongoing projects, much of the current work on housing recovery was not known to residents. Several different websites hosted relevant flood recovery information and it took searching to find all of the plans, meeting minutes, and analysis that had been performed.

In an attempt to centralize all information in one place in a visually engaging manner, PlaceMatters created an interactive Tiki-Toki timeline. The timeline displays events that happened in Lyons since the floods; it is searchable and allows for colored content bands to help the user navigate the information; and it links back to the original documents they referenced. The Town of Lyons embedded the timeline on the main page of the housing recovery website allowing for residents to more easily navigate information. Residents were then able to easily access the Recovery Action Plan, Housing Recovery Plan, numerous meeting minutes, Board of Trustees deadline information, and recovery videos in one location.

Tiki-Toki-EventTiki-Toki

As more residents became aware of housing efforts, concerns also peaked. A primary concern for residents was to not have a clear understanding of what the future held for this process and when they would be heard. We created a simple infographic timeline that gave residents a better understanding of how they would be involved throughout the planning process, what the time frame was, and what the next steps would be. Copy of Lyons Recovery Housing Process

Another key concern was the location of housing. A group named SOPOS, or Save Our Parks and Open Space, formed to voice their opinion against placing recovery housing in Bohn Park, or any other park space. Lyons, CO is a landlocked community, surrounded by open space. This leaves very little space for development within the town limits. Bohn Park was one location being considered for recovery housing.In Lyons, CO any resident can bring any issue to a full town vote with 50 petition signatures. Those working on identifying sites were aware that if they selected Bohn Park for housing, SOPOS would most likely circulate a petition and bring the issue to a town vote.

On January 5, 2015 the BoT voted to use Bohn Park for a future housing project and the design process began. As expected, SOPOS managed to get enough signatures to bring the issue up for a town vote. The town then prepared for the vote, giving residents information on available funding that was related to the initial flood and the importance of timing, and continued to provide information on the site.

In February 2015, the Lyons Housing Collaborative was formed to conduct outreach to residents and provide education and solicit input on recovery housing. The team included the architecture firm Workshop8, the landscape architect DHM Design,  the landscape consultant Urban Oasis, Trestle Strategy Group as the engagement consultant , Boulder County Housing Authority as the master developer, Habitat for Humanity of St. Vrain Valley, and Milender White Construction.  PlaceMatters supported the overall process and the team. The team had a storefront in Lyons, open to answer residents questions on housing issues. They had an Internet presence, held public meetings, conducted weekly site visits and a visit to explore what affordable housing looks like in the area. The outreach was extensive. The architecture firm, Workshop8 gathered resident input in a workshop and then needed to refine and understand resident inclinations, by polling them on design preferences. PlaceMatters was able to support the Team through live keypad polling at the meeting. Keypad polling allows participants to rank or choose preferences with instant feedback, providing transparency and moving discussion forward on the nuances of why residents voiced the opinions they did. The polling is also anonymous, giving residents a safe venue for providing honest feedback without the worry of neighbor reactions.

Residents were pleased with the instant feedback and they were eager to discuss the pro and cons of their choices. The meeting was highly productive and architects were able to leave with a clear understanding of the residents top choice for site layout, construction materials and amenity preferences.

The Lyons Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF) hired Janaki Jane to assist with communication to displaced residents. Over a year after the flooding, it has continued to be difficult to identify how many residents are still displaced and there is little understood about what, if any, information is being communicated to them. Janaki has taken video of potential types of housing for the displaced residents, but doesn’t have the capacity or tools to edit and share the video.

PlaceMatters supported communication with residents by assisting Janaki with editing and distributing footage she took of replacement housing examples. The product is an informational video on affordable housing typologies in Boulder County.

The Town voted on using 5-7 acres of Bohn Park for recovery housing on March 24, 2015. Emotions peaked leading up to the vote and you were hard pressed to find a resident who was unaware of the vote and hadn’t been in contact with some form of outreach.

The residents voted not to use this space for recovery housing. A local news outlet, the Longmont Timescall, reported that 614 voted against and 498 voted for using Bohn Park for housing. This is 55% of the voting population and the highest recorded turnout for voting in the town. PlaceMatters role was to provide support engagement and information sharing for replacement housing. Given the mission of the grant we were careful to stay out of political advocacy.

While finding homes for those displaced by disaster is something that we may believe on a personal level, the outcome of the vote does not discount the success in the high level of participation, conversation and engagement the the residents were part of leading up to it. Residents are now looking at a range of options that could still lead to some affordable housing units being built in town to help some of the displaced residents return. Without Federal recovery funding, however, we will mostly see fewer units built over a longer period of time.