No one enjoys passing by a deserted building or decaying parking lot — let alone spend time there. Some cities understand that and actually are making some changes.
Mid- to large-size cities have started to see the benefits of tearing down these unsightly areas and creating places people want to live, work, visit and shop.
With these urban renewal projects, cities turn rundown, concrete areas into revitalized, sustainable spaces. These projects help improve and redevelop areas that are deteriorating or older.
Not only do urban renewal projects create a sense of community pride, but they also:
- stimulate the local economy
- reduce crime
- attract new business
- enhance property values
Recent census data has also shown the nation’s largest cities are growing faster than surrounding suburbs, in part because of the accessibility of transportation, more green space and updated neighborhoods.
Atlanta and other urban cities are incorporating renewal projects into their communities. Here’s a look at the Atlanta BeltLine and four more of the country’s coolest urban renewal projects.
BeltLine — Atlanta
The largest transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the city, the Atlanta BeltLine integrates land, transportation, green space and sustainable growth.
The idea for it came about in 1999 as part of a master student’s thesis and has grown from there.
Here’s a breakdown of the Atlanta BeltLine, according to the project’s website:
- 1,300 acres of parks
- 22 miles of pedestrian-friendly rail transit
- 1,100 acres of brownfields remediated
- $10-$20 billion in economic development
- Historic preservation
- 48,000 one-year construction jobs
This project is being constructed in phases through 2030, and there are already trails, parks and housing that are open.
Discovery Green — Houston
The 12-acre park is located in the heart of downtown Houston. Originally the spot for a high-end residential neighborhood in the late 19th Century, it later was transformed into a large parking lot area.
To really transform this hardscape-heavy space, the city decided tear up the parking lot to create Discovery Green. The urban park has features like restaurants, dog runs, playgrounds, music stages, trails, gardens and more.
The city purchased the property in 2004 and opened it in 2008. It cost $57 million to acquire the land and $125 million to build, landscape and complete the project, according to Discovery Green’s site.
The park has created $625 million in downtown development, and an estimated $1 billion are in the pipeline for future hotels, offices and housing, the site adds.
Discovery Green has more than 1.2 million visitors annually to its more than 600 free events.
Civic SD — San Diego
The Civic San Diego (Civic SD) project is a revitalized urban neighborhood providing residents places to work, recreate and live.
For this project, they wanted to advance community goals through public improvements, provide affordable housing, foster health neighborhoods and stimulate job creation, according to the Civic SD’s site.
The city started talking about the project in 2012 after California passed the “Dissolution Act.” They created a mission to improve the social and economic well-being for local neighborhoods — and they did that with the Civic SD.
To also stimulate the economy, the city has added several projects to the Civic SD, including Horton Plaza, which was finished in 2015. Eventually, the city is also going to create the $230-million North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, with 28 acres of waterfront plazas and parks.
Something else cool that San Diego will be doing is installing cybernetically controlled street lighting using an intelligent light system that will control the LED lights.
Downtown Project — Las Vegas
Urban renewal probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you think about Las Vegas, but the Downtown Project is looking to change that.
The project states its goals are to make downtown Las Vegas a place of inspiration, entrepreneurial energy, creativity, innovation, upward mobility and discovery in a sustainable way.
Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is the force behind the Downtown Project. He was looking for a place to move his expanding company, and he decided on the old Las Vegas City Hall building. To create a place his employees would enjoy working and playing, he invested $350 million in 2012 to create the Downtown Project, according to The Atlantic.
The project has created 800 jobs and includes hangout hotspots, restaurants, grocery store, bookstore and the Downtown Container Park — which houses 39 businesses in shipping containers. One thing that really catches attention is a praying mantis statue that shoots flames from its antennae at night.
The River District — Portland
Created in 1998, the River District in Portland, Ore., spans more than 350 acres, according to the Portland Development Commission (PDC).
The site includes parks, new roads, affordable housing and other innovative projects that fit well with Portland’s style. The city worked to create a 24-hour city environment.
This substantial project included several different stages and additions, according to the PDC:
- Creating a 5-block, $350 million project for infrastructure and parking
- Converting the historic Meier & Frank block into The Nines Hotel/Macy’s
- Acquiring 4.5 acres of park space
- Constructing the Classical Chinese Garden
- Financing about 3,000 affordable housing units
And it looks like all of that hard work paid off: According to the Tax Supervising & Conservation Commission, The River District property is now worth more than $2.2 billion.
Incorporate Urban Renewal Into Your Commercial Property
It might not make sense to completely tear down and renovate your property like with these projects, but there are steps you can take to make it more attractive to tenants and visitors.
Having a more sustainable property is going to attract a wide range of people, especially millennials. You can also use some of the tactics of these urban renewal projects, like blending living, working and relaxing into one area — similar with what you’ll see at the developing SunTrust Park.
Renewing urban communities will drive the economy and property values, as well as driving traffic to these areas.
If you’re ready to update your property’s landscape, you need to turn to a company with experience and passion for what they do. HighGrove Partners offers a range of commercial landscape design/build services, and we follow the real estate and urban trends so you don’t have to.
Give HighGrove Partners a call at 678-298-0550 or use our simple contact form to set up a meeting with our Atlanta-based commercial landscape design team.
Check out our 2015 Commercial Property Trends Report below, which examines eight timely, important trends to help your commercial property become more attractive, more useful and more sustainable this year and for years to follow.Last modified: June 3, 2021