Thursday, July 19, 2012
I am very excited for the opportunity to blog on the Land Use Prof Blog over the next month. Thanks to Matt Festa and the other editors for inviting me to do so. As Matt mentioned in his introduction, I am a Research Fellow at NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. For those not familiar with the Center, we are a joint endeavor of NYU's law and public policy school and we conduct interdisciplinary legal and empirical research on land use, affordable housing, housing finance, neighborhood change, and a host of other urban issues. Although we particularly focus on issues in New York City, we are increasingly pursuing projects in other cities and working on national affordable housing and urban policy issues.
My plan during the next month is to talk about a few interesting projects I am pursuing with the Furman Center, a few of my personal research projects, and of course to write about new land use issues.
For this first post, I thought I would discuss one of the big land use issues on our radar here in New York, Mayor Bloomberg's recent proposal to rezone a significant part of East Midtown Manhattan, in the area around Grand Central Terminal. Over the past decade the Bloomberg administration has dramatically altered New York City's zoning through over 100 rezonings affecting approximately one-quarter of the city's land. This new proposal, which includes changes in the rules governing the use of the air rights/transferable development rights over Grand Central (the rights at issue in Penn Central, only a fraction of which have been sold) raises a number of interesting issues and questions.
The proposed rezoning (see the Department of City Planning study presentation) covers 78 blocks and seeks to encourage the development of more modern and taller office buildings in an area where the average office building is currently over 70 years old. The proposal would allow new buildings substantially taller than what currently exists in the area and potentially as large as the Empire State Building. These new buildings, which would only be allowed on sites that cover a block's full frontage on one of the area's avenues, would provide larger floor plates, fewer internal supports, and other amenities the City feels are needed for the area to stay competitive with business districts in "global competitor cities."
What is particularly interesting is that -- rather than simply upzone the area to allow these larger buildings -- developers would be able to obtain greater densities (through a higher maximum floor-area-ratio) as-of-right (meaning no required city planning approval process) only by either purchasing transferable development rights (TDRs) from nearby landmarks (the major seller being Grand Central, which has nearly two million square feet available) or by obtaining a bonus in exchange for a contribution to a City fund dedicated to area improvements. Beyond these as-of-right FAR increases, even taller buildings (close in size to the Empire State Building) could be constructed, but would be subject to a Special Permit process, which would include a design review and would require certain public improvements to be provided.
The proposal raises a host of issues. If additional density is desirable in the area, why not simply rezone, rather than require the purchase of TDRs on the private market or contributions to a City fund? Is the City simply selling an upzoning or demanding an exaction from developers? And of course, for area residents and workers and potential developers other concerns exist: what effect would these new buildings have on the nearby subway, which already operates above capacity, and how much will it cost to buy these additional square feet of permitted development?
The proposal is also interesting because it represents the latest example of the City's creative use of transferable development rights, a tool that in New York has historically operated in a manner akin to density zoning or, in the case of landmarks, as a means of mitigating the effects of development restrictions. These new programs in New York use TDRs instead as a means of furthering traditional and quite specific planning and land use goals in a manner more akin to how TDRs have been used in suburban and rural areas nationwide. The City's proposal builds upon the use of TDRs in the rezoning of West Chelsea, site of the elevated High Line Park, and at Hudson Yards, an area west of Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan. Both these districts involve the innovative use of TDRs to serve a variety of planning, preservation, and development goals. Vicki Been and I will be exploring these themes further in a forthcoming article.
At the Furman Center, we are also nearing completion of the first comprehensive database of TDR transactions in New York City. We have recorded data on over 400 of these transactions between 2003 and 2011 and have begun reviewing the data to learn more about the market for TDRs in New York and how developers use them in place or in addition to other tools for increasing the size of a project. I plan to say more about this data, our plans for it, and its relevance for thinking about TDRs in other cities in a future post.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Just wanted to follow up on Stephen Miller's post about the new TDR Handbook. I've had the privilege of working with co-author (and planning consultant extraordinaire) Rick Pruetz on several TDR projects here in the Southeast. This Handbook is a follow on to Rick's two previous books, Saved by Development and Beyond Takings and Givings. Rick is amazingly knowledgable and very generous with his time and expertise. We just finished helping the City of Milton implement a TDR program as part of their form-based code. I will continue to work with Rick during my year off (which starts Friday!).
Jamie Baker Roskie
Monday, February 6, 2012
During his excellent stint as a guest blogger, Stephen Miller posed the question, "Does the best planning happen in a recession?" Like him, I tend to think that currently most jurisdictions are focused on crisis management rather than forward thinking.
However, one exception is Newton County, Georgia - a community that just happens to be a UGA Land Use Clinic client since we began assisting them in 2003 with sprawl reduction tools like infrastructure planning, agricultural land conservation, and transferable development rights. Newton's forward thinking planning processes are highlighted in a four part series on CoLab Radio. The first of the series is entitled "Planning for Growth in a Recession."
Jamie Baker Roskie
February 6, 2012 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Suburbs, Transferable Development Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
A couple of times now I've I posted about an interesting project Will Cook and I have in Beaufort, South Carolina, helping them implement a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. Our team went back to Beaufort last week, although I wasn't able to join them due to a schedule conflict. (I was at the Red Clay Conference.)
Today the local paper in Beaufort ran an editorial supporting the TDR program. As I've previously mentioned, TDRs are a popular idea in Beaufort because they potentially serve the twin goals of preserving rural land while protecting the Marine Corp Air Station from encroachment. In the past several years the Department of Defense has been supporting Joint Land Use Studies in areas where bases and local land uses potentially conflict. The Beaufort TDR program comes out of the Lowcountry JLUS. This combination of federal and local resources makes implementation of a land conservation tool like TDRs uniquely viable. I'll continue to post about developments.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
As I mentioned last week on this blog, last week we were in Beaufort, South Carolina working on implementing their Transfer of Development Rights program. Our visit there got some press in the local paper. The article covers a meeting we had with local landowners in Beaufort, who were subjects of a downzoning because of their proximity to the Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station. The local governments and the air station are limiting density in the flight zone due to noise and safety concerns. The TDR program is a mechanism for allowing landowners to recoup the development potential of their land by sending it to city areas where more density is appropriate. I'll continue to blog about this project as it progresses.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Will Cook and I are headed to Beaufort, South Carolina this week to assist in the implementation of their Transfer of Development Rights program. I have been working with various jurisdictions in Georgia on TDRs since the clinic started in 2002. In fact, one of our first projects was drafting a TDR ordinance for Chattahoochee Hill Country. Since then I've worked with TDR expert Rick Pruetz and other faculty here at UGA on TDR feasibility studies for other Georgia counties.
This time Rick and I have joined forced with Bill Fulton (a planner so famous he has his own Wikipedia page) and his crackerjack staff at DC&E consulting (particularly Aaron Engstrom, who specializes in TDR work).
Beaufort's TDR program is interesting for a number of reasons. It will be an inter-jurisdictional program with the City of Beaufort and the Town of Port Royal. It also has twin goals, to conserve agricultural land and to protect the overflight zone of the Marine Corps Air Station.
We'll have more to report as this project progresses. Also, if Will brings a digital camera, maybe we'll even have some pictures! This is a beautiful area - and where many movies have been filmed, most famously The Big Chill.
Jamie Baker Roskie