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Transit and Station Oriented Development Initiative

Need for Project

The United States is experiencing a rail renaissance as well as a resurgence of interest in developing neighborhoods to take advantage of their proximity to inter-city rail, commuter rail and urban rail stations. For the first time in years, new inter-city rail service has been initiated in states like Oklahoma, Texas and California and new high-speed rail service is planned in the Midwest, along the Atlantic Coast and on the Pacific Coast. New suburban commuter rail operations are springing up all over the country, and almost one hundred cities are planning rail transit lines or extensions, including virtually every air quality non-attainment area.

Dignitaries participate in groundbreaking at Oakland, California's Fruitvale Transit Village, a Station Foundation grant winner and TOD project on the Bart system in a low income community of color.

These new services present a mandate for station revitalization and an opportunity for mixed-use transit oriented development in the areas surrounding the stations. Such station-oriented development is generally within walking distance of the station, and often includes a mix of housing, retail and office development. Transit-oriented development increases ridership and reduces the need for auto travel, and thus can help both to reduce traffic and improve air quality. At the same time, it takes advantage of the increased traffic around the station to create a climate that is suitable for residential, retail and other forms of mixed-use development. Unfortunately, few transit-oriented development projects have been entirely successful in recent years, partly due to planning and zoning regulations and lending practices that discourage mixed use, walkable development. In addition, many potential developers have had difficulty working with transit agencies and local government to accomplish these innovative projects, and transit agencies have had trouble convincing developers of the market opportunity.

Accordingly, there is a need for information, technical assistance and training for organizations involved in station revitalization and transit-oriented development. The Great American Station Foundation is forming a partnership with The Center for Neighborhood Technology to fill this gap. Over 75 percent of the cities responding to a recent US Conference of Mayors/ Great American Station Foundation survey specifically requested assistance with either financing or partnering strategies. In addition, there may be a need for specialized types of financial assistance, including loans or grants for pre-development activities such as planning and design, land assembly and market feasibility studies.

Project Description

In the first eighteen months, the program would seek to undertake five activities:

  • First, we will form partnerships with key organizations, with a goal of establishing a network of services in support of communities seeking to revitalize stations and station areas. Initial partners would include the following:
  • the Partnership for Regional Livability, a federal-NGO-foundation collaborative, which can provide a template at the regional scale for many of these concepts;
  • the Congress for the New Urbanism, which brings together developers, architects, and planners who are supportive of more compact, transit oriented development;
  • the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose Main Street and Community Partners programs provide key resources.
  • We will also reach out to groups like the Enterprise Foundation, the Urban Land Institute, the Local Initiative Support Corporation and the International Downtown Association.

  • Second, we will create a best practices manual on station revitalization and transit oriented development activities. This document would supplement the Station Revitalization Guidebook published last year. The approach will be to define best efforts in the areas of planning, design, financing (both public and private), business improvement districts, marketing, legal and organizational strategies, development strategies, job creation, and promotion. The manual will reach across a variety of projects that would range in scale and type from efforts at the scale of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to station projects at the 16th Street BART Station in San Francisco's Mission District.

  • Third, we are holding seminars and workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Chicago/Milwaukee region, the Atlanta metro area, and south Florida in late 2000 and early 2001. These seminars will both present information and help the Station Foundation to build partnerships and establish the networks that would facilitate station development activities. We would bring together the station owners and sponsors, targeted non-profit organizations, key funders, and sources of capital, expertise, or technical assistance. The program would start with a movable swat team aimed at assisting projects currently underway in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and Milwaukee, and Atlanta and Miami in the Southeast.
  • Fourth, we would undertake a station and station area inventory to identify key opportunities for successful station oriented development nationwide, building upon the aforementioned survey done with the Conference of Mayors and upon the pre-existing station data base held by the Station Foundation. The report would look at the status, ownership, condition and redevelopment potential in each of the major metropolitan areas impacted by high-speed rail, or major commuter or urban rail projects. In addition, the report would assess revitalization potential, market condition, and inventory available land and structures in each region. The report would also identify the gaps that need to be filled by an intermediary organization, both technical and financial.
  • Fifth, we will develop a three to five year business plan for a national intermediary function for station oriented development, with the Great American Station Foundation serving as the hub of a network based financial and technical assistance intermediary.
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    For more information about the programs we offer, contact Erich Strebe at
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