Friday, August 17, 2018
Business

Any Tampa Bay transit project will bring development opportunities, expert says

Big transit projects are often about much more than moving people from one place to another.

Thatís where real estate adviser Marilee Utter comes in. Her specialty is helping communities get the most out of development opportunities that arise from building a light rail or bus rapid transit system, like the one proposed for the Tampa Bay area.

The industry lingo is transit-oriented development. Think of it as all the new things that get built around the train or bus stations. It could be restaurants in an area without any. Or office space in a neighborhood that needs it.

The goal: Create a place around each station where people want to be.

"Done right, each area has a brand, an identity," said Utter, president of Citiventure Associates. She will be speaking at Fridayís Tampa Bay Transit Forum.

RELATED:Five Tampa Bay transportation projects in the works

RELATED: Judge allows Suncoast 2 construction to continue

Utter, who has worked on projects in Phoenix, Seattle, Charlotte, Houston, Salt Lake City, and her hometown of Denver, knows that not everyone is onboard with the benefits of big transit projects. Thatís why she stresses the importance of doing them right and maximizing the development features.

Last week, she spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about ways to get a diverse area to galvanize around a project. Here are the highlights from that interview, edited for length and clarity.

From a development standpoint, what does success look like? What would people notice near one of the stations?

Usually you put transit in areas where you want redevelopment. Often itís in industrial corridors, or in Tampa Bayís case, itís in a highway corridor. That allows for opportunities for change, to create new, interesting places for people.

You want it to be a place that people know about and want to go and do a lot of different things there. Some people work there. Some people live there. Some people shop there. People just hang out there. There might be recreation or entertainment. They all have different characters depending on the location and the market, but they all are a destination.

How far out from a station does the effect go?

What weíve found happens, because itís market driven, is that itís more like an amoeba shape based on where the station is and where the roads are and any barriers. The shape and size of the amoeba depends a lot on the connectivity, the access, to that station. So if you have good streets and sidewalks, good lighting and parking, and interesting destinations along the streets, people will go a long way. They will walk a long way, they will ride their bikes a long way, a lot further than youíd expect, much further that we ever projected. Sometimes the amoeba is a mile long.

Think of it this way: People go to the mall and walk a mile without thinking about it because there are a bunch of interesting things for them to look at. Thatís what happens around the successful stations.

And thatís good for ridership?

Absolutely. By creating interesting, vital areas around the station, ridership increases. Transit officials donít want it jammed at rush hour and empty the rest of the time. They want whatís called off-peak ridership. They want people riding it during the day and later at night. So if you make the stations mixed-use destinations that attract people at different times of the day, that really suits the transit agency and it helps the community.

If Tampa Bay goes forward with a big transit project, is there a city it should emulate?

They are all different. Every city has to make it up to suit its purpose. If you follow a formula from another place you will probably fall into trouble.

How do you sell a sprawling area on the merits of a rail or bus rapid transit system that will run through many jurisdictions, with varying priorities and needs?

Donít feel alone. Itís very typical.

Transit-oriented development does not happen by itself. It is a public-private project. It really takes a joint effort.

Iím doing work right now in Minneapolis. The new line will go through four or five jurisdictions with very different makeups and political views. Ultimately the most success weíve had is working individually with each jurisdiction and with the neighborhoods around the stations. We talk with them about what they lose and what they get. Weíve found that to be a really powerful tool.

When you talk big generalities people donít really understand what it means for them.

Why not just expand or improve the roads instead of spending money on a transit project?

First, Iíll given an example. In Denver, we had a lot of the same political dynamic and concerns going on as in Tampa Bay. When they decided to widen the interstate, it was great for about six years. Now itís 10 years later, and you donít want to be on it again. So adding two lanes and all the great stuff they did, 10 years later you canít tell you did it. It was super expensive, and it didnít solve the problem.

The second reason is that the economic development piece, especially for attracting young people, is huge. Denver has had a good run lately attracting companies. Of the companies that moved, 90 percent have located their office within a half mile of a transit station. They do that because their workers want to ride transit or at least have the option to ride transit.

It draws workers that draw employers that draw jobs that support the economy. Itís not that everyone wants to live at a transit station, but a lot of them do. They want the option to try to live with one car or no cars. They want to live a different lifestyle. Itís a much broader economic piece than it sounds.

What about bus rapid transit versus light rail?

I think BRT is a great option if itís designed properly. A lot of people will say they are adding an express bus to the freeway and call that BRT. But BRT needs permanent infrastructure at the station areas, and then a dedicated right-of-way that gives it preference over the rest of traffic, which is a really important point.

Any other advice?

The other thing I would say is it takes longer than you think. So better to get started now.

Contact Graham Brink at [email protected] Follow @GrahamBrink.

Comments
Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG ó A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat Amy K...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tampa Bayís seventh renovated Winn-Dixie opens in Hernando County

Tampa Bayís seventh renovated Winn-Dixie opens in Hernando County

SPRING HILL ó The latest Winn-Dixie remodel opened in Hernando County on Thursday.This marks the seventh remodeled Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers has unveiled in Tampa Bay this year. The chain promised renovations following emerging f...
Updated: 10 hours ago
St. Petersburg ranks No. 39 in U.S. for affordable living, study says

St. Petersburg ranks No. 39 in U.S. for affordable living, study says

ST. PETERSBURG ó St. Petersburg is beating the national averages on affordable homeownership, according to a SmartAsset study.The financial technology company ranked 115 of the biggest cities in the U.S., measured by mortgage payments, property taxes...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Florida unemployment falls to 3.7 percent

Floridaís unemployment rate hit an 11-year low in July. The jobless rate inched down a notch to 3.7 percent, according to state figures released Friday, continuing the stateís 10-month run of a sub-4 percent unemployment rate. "This is one of the big...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Welfont, KnowBe4, Teami and other Tampa Bay companies rank high in Inc. 5000 list

Welfont, KnowBe4, Teami and other Tampa Bay companies rank high in Inc. 5000 list

While a Wisconsin company that makes software to execute shipments and a trendy cellphone grip company out of Colorado may have taken the top spots in this yearís Inc. 5000 list ó Florida still had an impressive showing. Every year, Inc. ranks the 5...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Wages remain stagnant in Florida despite super low unemployment. Whatís going on?

Wages remain stagnant in Florida despite super low unemployment. Whatís going on?

It remains our biggest economic enigma: Sluggish wage growth despite low unemployment. In a robust job market, pay rises as the supply of available workers shrinks. At least thatís the way it normally works. This time around, the ingredients appear ...
Published: 08/17/18
Children who lived with smokers are more likely to die of lung disease as adults, study says

Children who lived with smokers are more likely to die of lung disease as adults, study says

Childhood exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to lung disease decades later, according to a study published Thursday by the American Cancer Society.For 22 years, researchers have been following more than 70,000 adults who have never smoked. At the...
Published: 08/17/18
What would it take to overthrow king Publix? Safewayís Florida exit begs the question.

What would it take to overthrow king Publix? Safewayís Florida exit begs the question.

LARGO ó Everything is on clearance inside Tampa Bayís only Safeway grocery store. Patio furniture, 40 percent off. Beach chairs, too. Most grocery items are 30 percent off; the entire liquor store is 20 percent off.The discounts will probably get ste...
Published: 08/17/18
Trump asks SEC to look into ditching quarterly filings

Trump asks SEC to look into ditching quarterly filings

NEW YORK ó President Donald Trump says heís asking federal regulators to look into the effectiveness of the quarterly financial reports that publicly traded companies are required to file. In a tweet early Friday, Trump said that after speaking with ...
Published: 08/17/18
Dear Penny: How can I tell my boss to stop making fun of my old car?

Dear Penny: How can I tell my boss to stop making fun of my old car?

Dear Penny,Iím a recent college grad whoís been working an entry-level job for the past year. I only make about $33,000 a year, but Iím doing OK. Iím able to pay my bills without taking on more debt. One of the reasons Iím able to do so is that I dri...
Published: 08/17/18