Panel: Bright Future for Transit-Oriented M-F Developments

Changing tastes of Gen X, GenY and Baby Boomers, rising gas prices, and bumper-to-bumper commutes are all factors that are driving an increased focus on transit-oriented-developments, according to a panel that convened on Thursday at the Multi-Housing World Conference in Denver. Since the popularity of suburban development in post-World War II America, today’s younger generation, and some Baby Boomers, are turning their backs on suburban sprawl. “In Southern California, it used to be ‘drive until you qualify’ [for a house that is affordable,]” he said. “But, it’s a waste of time to sit in traffic 2, 3, 4 hours a day.” But mass transit is gaining ground in car-centric Los Angeles, Vasquez said, noting that ridership is up over 25 percent from last year. His firm is designing MTA Headquarter Towers in Los Angeles, an effort to rejuvenate the Union Station area as a transportation hub, and to tie the CBD to growing East Los Angeles.Many times, sustainability is a key selling point for these projects, according to William Kreager, principal at Mithun. His firm designed Mosler Lofts in Seattle, a 203-unit apartment complex in Seattle that features sustainable elements such as stormwater collection. But, building green doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, Kreager claimed. To gain LEED certification, building a dense project gives a developer a good head start to achieve that standard. Of course, transit-oriented developments can pose challenges. Rick Williams, founding partner of Van Meter Williams Pollock, which is designing a transit-oriented development outside of Honolulu, Hawaii, to be built around a rail transit system. He said complications arise from residents who prefer less dense communities. “Many of them favor development types that are seen in the Orient and Japan, that are 1 or 2 story buildings rather than 4 or five story towers,” Williams said. And developers and lenders still cling to some outmoded ideas when working on transit-oriented-developments, said Brian O’Looney, associate principal of Torti Gallas and Partners, architect of three transit oriented developments in and around Washington, D.C. Lenders require, and developers are building, the number of parking spaces needed in a typical development, rather than a transit oriented development, thus needlessly increasing construction costs.