4 Smart Renewal Concepts That Can Help Build Inclusive Communities
When a city has the chance to rebuild, it has the opportunity to create a healthy and diverse community through smart urban renewal. Design teams, developers, builders, and city planners are all in the position to provide infrastructure that meets the needs of residents with varying levels of income, physical abilities, and living preferences.
In Bend, Oregon, the BCD Initiative recently called on the design community to “advocate for new models of urban revitalization that support community wealth-building through an equity lens.” At Ashley & Vance, we feel intimately familiar with the goals of developers and city planners, and we understand the realities of actually constructing a building. As a values-driven company, we feel a responsibility to contribute to building better communities by focusing on solutions that celebrate health, diversity, and equity. In this blog, we’re highlighting 4 smart renewal concepts that we believe help build more inclusive communities:
1. Taking Smart Risks on Affordable Housing & Workforce Housing
When an area is targeted for redevelopment, there is a high likelihood that rent prices will rise, affordable housing will disappear and people who are critical to the health of a community will be pushed out. In Bend, Oregon, affordable housing is funded by many sources, including the City of Bend, which helps set rent at a certain level. As of May 2020, the City of Bend adopted the framework for helping with redevelopment through the TIF District Plan. Using TIF funds to improve off-site infrastructure costs such as water and sewer systems takes some burden off developers and should lower overall costs. Taking on smart debt to encourage smart growth and affordable housing is one way Bend is poised to encourage a healthy community, especially with the Core Area Project.
2. Mixed-Use Building Requirements
Cities promote inclusivity through smart urban renewal planning by requiring mixed-use buildings in critical areas. Mixed-use infill provides opportunities for people to live closer to their places of work and creates business development opportunities. Combining commercial spaces with affordable residential units reduces the burden on roads and parking while allowing people to live within walking and biking distance of their jobs.
3. Increased Allowable Building Height
In order for developers to invest in affordable mixed-use buildings, the numbers need to pencil. The Bend Central District (BCD) is predominately made up of two zonings that allow 45- and 55-foot-tall buildings. Currently, the City of Bend has an approved variance that allows developers extra height if they include a floor of affordable housing. Increases in building height allowables can help with the overall efficiency of construction.
For example, in Bend, it is expensive to build foundations if you have to hammer into basalt bedrock; however, the bearing capacity of basalt, which underlies much of the BCD, is very high, allowing for efficient foundations of tall structures. This allowable height variance, combined with the City's investment in affordable housing, could benefit underserved populations by creating more opportunities for inclusive, affordable housing.
4. Lower Parking Square Footage Requirements to Reduce Housing Costs
Another way cities promote healthy communities through smart urban renewal is by reducing the square footage requirements on parking spaces. Currently, the City of Bend calculates parking spaces for housing by unit type, giving a discount to affordable housing. The combination of investing in affordable housing, focusing on mixed-use infill, and increasing allowable building height immediately addresses some transportation and mobility concerns. An additional way cities can address parking concerns is by investing in efficient and profitable parking structures that balance the reduction of parking requirements for developers and provide space for the business development on which the TIF relies.
Bend’s Population is Growing
Bend is an attractive place to live and therefore bound to grow. Sometimes we are excited about the change growth brings. Sometimes we are discouraged and concerned about maintaining the quality of life we love. The City of Bend cannot change how many people move here in the next 5, 10, 25 years, but it can influence where and how space is made available. Instead of allowing urban sprawl and building 4-lane highways that inevitably lead to more traffic, we like the idea of investing in smart development plans that promote mixed-use infill and community-minded building requirements.
We are proud to be a part of Bend’s talented design community, and are thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the amazing city that Bend is growing into. We think Bend, and our local design community, can help set the bar as a model for smart development for other cities, using our community values as a guide.