Urban Design

San Carlos Breaks Ground on a Landmark Hotel

 

The City of San Carlos recently broke ground on a new four-story, upscale, extended-stay Landmark Hotel. The hotel will include 204 guest rooms with individual kitchens, outdoor patio areas with a pool and sport court, fitness and laundry center, and a meeting room.

 

 

The hotel will be located near the City’s gateway entrance off the 101 freeway. It will provide much needed transient occupancy tax revenue to diversify the city’s tax base and increase revenues to fund services for the community. All buildings previously on the site have been demolished, and the entire project is expected to be completed in August 2017

RSG was involved in every step along the way from site assembly and acquisition, drafting purchase and sale agreements, relocating existing businesses, developer negotiations and agreements, and obtaining approval from local agencies. Call us to find out how we can facilitate your next project.

Written by Suzy Kim, a Senior Associate at RSG

The Pros and Cons of Gentrification

In our last post, we provided a definition for gentrification. What are its impacts?
 
“The hipster-hating mob ignores evidence that gentrification helps eradicate gang violence, strengthens the local economy, and encourages diversity in neighborhoods separated by racial lines. These positives far outweigh the only logical advantage to opposing progress: cheaper rents and Spanish colonial architecture that will crumble like Jenga pieces in the next big earthquake,” according to an opinion article by Art Tavana in LA Weekly (“Just Say Yes to Gentrification,” January 2015.)

However, Isaac Simpson, in the companion article, “Gentrification Is a Form of Oppression,” points out that gentrification can also lead to displacement, eviction, forced homelessness, police violence, and destroyed communities. He adds that though it may be done with good intentions, the result can be devastating to the residents who are pushed out of the path of development. Gentrification can also cause clashes between classes instead of bringing people together as a community.

While gentrification can benefit an area by decreasing crime, improving the economy, and increasing property values and taxes, it can have the negative consequences of pricing out former residents, changing the culture of the community, and causing resentment. Are the benefits and costs unevenly distributed? If so, are there tools available to mitigate this phenomenon? We will explore this question in our next post.

Written by Brett Poirier, a Research Assistant at RSG

New Tools for Old Problems

 

High technology is everywhere. More technology and apps are being implemented to solve urban planning/real estate challenges.

One such problem is infill development, the process of developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed. Successful infill development creates complete, well-functioning neighborhoods with residential densities high enough to support transportation, convenience services, and other amenities while offering cultural, social, recreational, and entertainment opportunities, gathering places, and vitality to older centers and neighborhoods.

A case in point for the use of technology is Infill Score, a free tool for citizens, community planners, city managers, and developers to learn strategies to attract investment and revitalize communities. Powered by Crowdbrite.net, Infill Score creates a strong foundation to begin the process of identifying opportunities to have the greatest impact. After taking a self assessment survey, users gain access to 30 strategies to quickly activate and implement their plans. The strategies assure that the new development fits the existing concept and gains neighborhood acceptance while developing a cooperative partnership between government, the development community, financial institutions, non-profit organizations, neighborhood organizations, and other resources, according to one user, Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) in Washington State.

RSG anticipates more creative thinking such as this solution to come forward in the future. It reduces the gap between planning and actual project delivery while offering convenience for users.

While technology is a boon to the work we do, RSG still works face-to-face with practitioners and civic leaders to develop new ways to solve age-old problems.

Written by Jim Simon, a Principal at RSG.

Fresno Pedestrian Mall Slated to Re-Open to Traffic

 

In February 2014, the Fresno City Council voted in favor of a project that would use a $16 million federal grant to reopen a downtown pedestrian mall to traffic.  The Fresno Fulton Mall, built in 1964, was one of the first pedestrian malls in the nation.  It pioneered the idea of fighting urban sprawl and traffic congestion by preserving an attractive open space for pedestrians.  The mall hosts a collection of fountains, mosaics, and public art, including a sculpture by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

When the Fulton Mall was closed to traffic, City officials were trying to preserve Fulton Street as the City’s main commercial corridor as residents and businesses migrated to the suburban outskirts of the city.  While initially successful, the mall declined as a regional destination and lost many large retailers over the next several decades.  Today the mall is occupied mainly by small businesses and has several large buildings with long-term vacancies.

RSG conducted an urban decay analysis of the Fulton Mall as part of the Environmental Impact Report for the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan.  RSG assessed the probable effect that three different development scenarios would have on the physical condition of the mall.  The study analyzed physical and economic conditions such as deterioration, vacancy and lease rates, taxable sales, crime, and maintenance costs.

The decision to reopen the mall to traffic was highly contentious.  Proponents argue that reopening the mall to traffic will provide much needed vehicle access and parking to revitalize businesses.  Opponents value the communal outdoor space as an area to gather and enjoy the surroundings.

What are your thoughts on pedestrian malls?  What makes some successful and others not?

Written by Suzy Kim, Associate at RSG.