The Advisory Services Times-Dispatch is a quarterly online newsletter for ULI’s premier outreach program. Established in 1947, the Advisory Services program has conducted over 600 panels around the world. This installment of our newsletter includes links to more information about the last few panels completed by ULI Advisory Services and a summary of an upcoming initiative regarding Healthy Communities. This issue also includes a focus on Charlie Long, recipient of the 2012 Robert O’Donnell Award for outstanding contribution by a ULI member to the success of ULI’s Advisory Services Program.
Enjoy and as always, I look forward to your feedback.
ULI Advisory Services
2013 Upcoming Panels: ULI Advisory Services Undertakes a Series of Panels Concentrating on the Design of Healthy Communities
The Colorado Health Foundation hired ULI Advisory Services to complete three (3) Advisory Service Panels focused on the principles of design and its impact on human health and well-being. The panels will look at three communities with different typologies: urban, suburban, and rural. It is clear that not all communities operate the same way and the opportunity to apply the panel process focused on the same assignment for three different types of community is very exciting.
The physical design of a community is one of many factors that leads to its sustainabilty and economically feasibility. The real estate and land use professions have much to offer in this regard; but we have also much to learn from other professionals with expertise in medicine, nutrition, psychology, sociology and engineering. The primary focuses will be on what principles and practices can be most useful for each typology and how the different professions involved in community building can better integrate their findings.
Regarding the upcoming panels, ULI Fellow Ed McMahon said, “The Urban Land Institute is excited about bringing the expertise of its members to Colorado. Colorado is already the nation’s healthiest state, but any community can be designed to encourage physical activity, reduce injury and improve environmental and social well-being. We are privileged to play a role in helping to keep Coloradoans healthy.”
The panels are scheduled to begin in late Spring 2013. We are actively seeking members who are interested in serving on these panels. If you are interested please contact Tom Eitler or Annie Finkenbinder-Best.
Panel Focus: Niagara Falls, New York – Strategies for Reimagining the Rainbow Centre Mall and the Downtown Development District
Chaired by former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, an Advisory Services Panel was conducted in Niagara Falls, NY, September 23-28, 2012. Niagara Falls, New York, is a city of 50,000 people located on the Niagara River at the United States/Canada border. The city is world famous for its proximity to the Niagara Falls waterfalls. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was a center for both tourism, because of the falls, and manufacturing, with its readily available electric power. As distinguished from the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario (population 82,000), Niagara Falls, New York, has been losing population since the mid-1950s as industry and corporate headquarters have abandoned the city. The Rainbow Bridge, a steel-arch bridge across the Niagara River, is an international border crossing connecting the United States with Canada. Built in 1941, its terminus on the U.S. side discharges approximately 130,000 vehicles a month into the downtown area. In the late 1960s, the city embarked upon an urban renewal initiative that demolished vast swaths of the city’s downtown urban fabric. Although the Niagara region and the Niagara Falls State Park continue to attract visitors, downtown Niagara Falls has struggled with the effects of urban renewal.
The Rainbow Centre Mall
Built as part of public/private partnership (i.e., a 75-year leasehold) between the city and the Cordish Company
of Baltimore, Maryland, the Rainbow Centre Mall, an approximately 287,000-square-foot indoor shopping mall,
was developed in 1982 as a component of a city-owned parking structure. The mall operated as a retail location until 2000, when the loss of its anchor retailers prompted the Cordish Company to close most of the mall. In 2010, the Cordish Company donated its development rights in the building to the Niagara County Community College Foundation to allow the southern portion of the mall space, roughly 87,000 square feet, to be repurposed by the college as the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. The Culinary Institute includes food service and instructional facilities to accommodate up to 1,000 students (its inaugural class consists of 350 students). Other uses include a small business development center (with a test kitchen and sales area for local food products); a “community kitchen” (for local- and tourist-oriented day classes); and a series of street-level retail uses, such as a bakery, a deli, a sit-down restaurant, and a college-format Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Since the completion of the Culinary Institute, roughly 200,000 square feet in the former mall remains as raw-space, fully cleared of its former interior finishes with all environmental issues remediated or abated. USAN asked this Advisory Services panel to consider a series of questions to determine appropriate uses for the remainder of the former Rainbow Centre Mall.
The panel focused on several physical, institutional, and organization improvements that can help USAN and the city move forward with a redevelopment strategy for the Rainbow Centre Mall. These recommendations include the following:
- Redeveloping and re-tenanting the mall, using one or a combination of three design options. The preferred option was to create a central pedestrian linkage through the mall and create plazas and open space that improve the street presentation accessibility to the interior of the old mall.
- Understanding and matching the current market potential and psychographic profile of the Niagara Falls area (including Canada) for the repurposed space;
- Initiating redevelopment and re-tenanting for key locations around the mall site on Old Falls Street;
Improving coordination among state and local agencies;
- Undertaking short-term actions, such as improved facades, better wayfinding, recladding of the parking ramp, enforcement of signage controls, and establishment of an ambassador program; and
- Implementing a request for qualifications (RFQ) process.
Chair of the panel, Glenda Hood, said, “our ULI panel offered 3 workable design concepts with recommendations for a variety of uses which meet both resident and visitor market demands for the former Rainbow Centre Mall site. We also suggest strategies to realize the potential for the surrounding area of influence, the Falls Street retail area, to further complement the downtown Niagara Falls district. Recognizing that the keys to success are collaborations and partnerships, our panel encourages leadership from all levels, public and private, to rethink and fix the process so that decisions can be made efficiently and effectively. “It was the panel’s observation that the impact of the culinary institute has been a uniformly positive for the city, USAN and the Niagara County Community College. In addition to providing an excellent use of high bay space and a better concentration of young people in the downtown, the collateral development (restaurants, book store, cafes) are precisely the type that will identify the site as a hub of activity and encourage the resurgence that the area needs.
For more information see the panel’s presentation.
Panel members for Niagara Falls:
Hon. Glenda Hood
Panel Focus: University of California, Merced
In September, the University of California, Merced invited a ULI panel to make recommendations solving infrastructure and development challenges. This was ULI’s second visit to the University – in 2002, a panel was brought to Merced to comment on the original campus master plan. UC Merced is the University of California system’s newest campus, and has a commitment to serve as the rural and agricultural San Joaquin Valley region’s premier research university, and to grow their enrollment of both undergraduate and graduate students. UC Merced has also taken a careful and thoughtful approach to the planning, development, and delivery of an environmentally sustainable built environment. The level of quality, combined with energy efficiency, net-zero commitments, and green building certifications, make it one of the most sustainable campuses in the world. The panel was chaired by David Schueur, and specifically tasked with developing strategies for growth in a constrained fiscal reality.
What the panel found “on the ground” was a testament to the vision and determination of the University of California Regents, the campus leadership, faculty, staff, and students over the last ten years. The scale and quality of the campus were remarkable. The university has accomplished much in a relatively short time. The panel also discovered that, for a variety of largely external but also internal reasons, the campus was at a crossroads, challenged by market and institutional forces to grow, yet constrained in its capacity to deliver the necessary facilities to accommodate that growth.
After careful consideration of the questions posted by the University – (1) Are there alternative delivery options for new development on campus? (2) Are there innovative funding sources or strategies that could be used to grow the campus? (3) Should the 2009 Long Range Development Plan be revised to better address the current statewide economic conditions and (4) Is there an interim geographically distributed model that could be used to help the University meet its goals? — the panel developed a series of recommendations summarized below:
- Hire a real estate professional at the senior staff level who reports directly to the chancellor, or form a 501(c)(3) single-purpose entity whose sole purchase is delivering real estate, buildings, and infrastructure that fulfill the needs of UC Merced.
- Solve the problems of annexation into the city, future service needs, and potential traffic mitigation with the city of Merced, Merced County, and key surrounding landowners by reaching revised agreements that reflect the current conditions of the campus and its projected growth. This step is likely to be the linchpin in the entire development process and must be tackled and resolved quickly and efficiently.
- As a prelude to any real estate decisions, develop a strategic plan that outlines the future direction of the university’s academic mission, heightens the university’s strengths, and differentiates the university within the marketplace.
- Revisit all the planning studies done to date and identify specific projects that use the existing infrastructure or that require minimal infrastructure investment for their delivery. This is likely to necessitate swapping uses within the LRDP to target the “low-hanging fruit.”
- Match and seek out appropriate funding and delivery mechanisms for the chosen projects. This step includes implementing an active fundraising campaign, targeting new industrial partners, and creating public/private partnerships (PPPs).
- Does this decision support the UC Merced brand, serve as a catalyst for private or university development, and increase the value of the university’s existing or future assets? Can the requirements of this project be delivered using less space, less land, and lower costs in a cheaper and faster way? What is the best (fastest and most cost-effective) method to deliver this program?
- Use the most appropriate strategies in the toolkit to design and build high-quality, sustainable buildings using the best method and construction type in the quickest time frame possible. Test decisions, delivery mechanism, and relationships throughout the process. Use the process as a way for the university to learn which strategies fit best and work for each product type and programmatic need. Change if needed on the next project.
UC Merced faces many challenges as it emerges as a research institution for the 21st century. However, the opportunity to act as a model for sustainable and innovative campus development and expansion presents itself in the wake of fiscal crisis. Through strategic planning and investments, the university will be able to meet its goals and continue to serve as a leader in the region.
Spotlight: Charles A. Long, 2012 Robert O’Donnell Award
Charles A. Long (Charlie) of Berkeley, California is this year’s O’Donnell Award winner. This annual award serves as an ongoing remembrance of Bob O’Donnell, a stalwart contributor to the success of ULI; acknowledges the time, effort and commitment that a particular ULI member has given to the Advisory Services Program; and enhances the importance of Advisory Services as an outreach program of the Institute.
In additional to all the work Charlie does for his district council and the national organization, he has been integral in ULI’s Education Program serving as an instructor for many of our most successful classes for the real estate community. He has participated in 11 Advisory Service Panels and numerous Project Analysis Sessions. He has chaired some of our most important panels including the Southwest Center Mall in Dallas Texas; Ada County in Idaho; and Salem, Oregon. His understanding of real estate development and real estate finance is superb. He knows how to organize the panelists by their areas of expertise, ensures that the panels stay on track and he is flawless in his presentations and outward representation to the public. He also has a real affinity for presenting candid recommendations. He is one of the few panel chairs who has also served as a sponsor for a panel, while serving as a City Manager. This insight into the sponsor’s role has served the panel process particularly well in the implementation section our reports.
Regarding Advisory Service Panels Charlie says, “I work with great people who become good friends and professional colleagues. I get to do worthwhile things I am proud of, and I expand my mind by dealing with complex and difficult problems. Professionally and personally, it has given me experiences I treasure.”