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Archive for the ‘Edges and Overlays’ Category

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The second of Drachman Institute’s 3-part series of transit-related talks took place Friday, August 15th at the Drachman Center, 44 N. Stone Ave., Tucson.  The event started with definitions of  what TOD (Transit Oriented Development) means and how to support density & diversity.   The streetcar is a start, but sustainability of that success has to be larger network with the right development.  In a related post, Jarrett Walker & Associates calls this economic zone  our network map for high frequency transit routes.  The challenge will be reasons to invest.  Kelly Iitzen talked about demographic survey analysis.  Laura Jensen explained GIS mapping of  base demographic regions, zoning areas, bus routes and an array of other data overlays.   Jacob Bintliff from the San Fransisco Firm,  BAE Urban Economics put it together with recommendations for strategic investment planning. (more…)

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Infill..Transition-Stabilization Zones in Tucson’s Urban Core

A resurgence of development from 2008 to 2013, heavy in private student dormitories is now pushing a public dialogue about the impact on core residents.  More than 3,000 new beds in a mile radius of the downtown core coupled with the streetcar project could set the table for retail, services and entertainment sectors to be the next boom in Core Tucson.  How does single family fit into this picture?  At the behest of the Mayor & Council, a Planning Commission subcommittee will try and find out why the GIID’s (greater infill incentive district) biggest project made record profit, but is hurting the future of R1 and R2 zoning in a protected historic district.  The District on 5th is a 700-bed luxury dorm.  While the owners celebrated success, at least six nearby homeowners moved.   As the subcommittee hearings begin, there is an interest in something other than design standards; incentives.
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Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 9.42.45 AMA 3rd city-neighborhoods meeting at the Community Resource Campus on May 6th, 2013 ended on a low note.  Neighborhood leaders grilled staff with questions intended to bolster their voice in the planning process.   These meetings originated with Pro Neighborhood’s final 2012 funded project; a year-long symposium of process exploration hosted by Jefferson Park NHA.  View their White Paper.    Q@A was directed to staff comprising four topics; neighborhood input, neighborhood support, transparency and new student housing projects.  The sticking point was “neighborhood input”.  Staff sounded stuck in a familiar box and neighborhood leaders wanted ideas.  So, as the inquiry moves forward later in the Summer, the focus will be on how to push staff outside the proverbial box. 

Two more things to think about are Plan Tucson and a new impact fee program.  Plan Tucson is completing it’s public process.  Read chapter 4, planning implementation.  It mandates new specific plan updates of area and neighborhood plans.  The assistant city manager has used the term “village plans”.  These can consolidate neighborhood plans.  Its a good thing only if neighborhood leaders are deep in the process.

Look for a new impact fee program.  Regarding SB1525, the City must re-write their  impact fee program allocation to be more specific to benefit districts with tighter use criteria.  There is a chance that may work for neighborhoods, but it is another process that needs neighborhood advocacy.   A smarter impact fee structure coupled with a proactive investment strategy is another possibility in planning that could deal with transitions in high impact areas between mega dorms and neighborhoods.

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Main GateLast May 2012, the Main Gate Urban Overlay District (UOD) saw its first major building permit, a 35 million dollar high-rise student housing project. That set the path for the Main Gate overlay district and painted a disappointing picture of what a UOD looks like to neighborhood sustainability.  Overlays aren’t new.  Tucson has been using zoning overlays as planning tools for decades.  An original overlay, the Historic Preservation Zone is well liked.  The newest one, the Main Gate Urban Overlay District became an icon to mistrust in public process.  City planners passed a UOD fast track enabling ordinance in 2010.  Its reasons were mixed.  Infill conditions for a 63 million dollar federal streetcar grant was one.  Other reasons are downtown infill, a needed warehouse district, a desire to add density along arterial edges and the fallout of the deepest real estate recession since 1929.  Click here to view the rest of the article.

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Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.39.36 PMStephen Paul and Demion Clinco, featured in Wednesday’s Star call for a design approach to the onslaught on Tucson’s historic core in the feature, Design Guidelines Needed to Protect Character of Tucson’s Historical Core.  The image embed of The Junction @ Iron Horse is not what they are calling for, but like other new housing projects with modern curb appeal, it is context insensitive.   These projects give us taxes, but unfortunately they promote divestment in homeowner occupancy.  The post real estate crash era inspired a lot of business incentives, but nothing for neighborhoods.  Guidelines are easy and necessary but can they turn things around those of us who want to live here?  How about  sustainable  planning with incentives to help insure owner occupancy is a safe investment.  How about something in return for the lucrative zoning incentives we give to commercial ventures.  The Infill Incentive District alone allows as much as 25% more in zoning allowances than base zoning such as in The District at 5thThe Main Gate Urban Overlay District offers as much as a 400% increase in heights.  These make money but are lost opportunities for neighborhoods. When zoning can’t be trusted, homeowners move.  That’s a price that has not been a factor in planning the core.  What if for every 20 million dollars in value added zoning opportunities we grant developers, a million of it has to be re-invested in neighborhoods.  If value compounding zoning incentives within the core totaled 500 million dollars from 2008 to 2018 that would be 25 million dollars in neighborhood reinvestment. How much additional investment in neighborhoods would that generate?  Since the crash we did incentivize roughly 20% of that but with no equation for trade off investing that directly benefit neighborhoods.  We know development will come, but how should we channel it in and around sensitive old neighborhoods that are worth keeping.

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IGT (Imagine a Greater Tucson) is a desire for greatness, but is it any more than just a wish?  Will it be Tucson’s voice?  Will it be a voice of planning reason as Tucson moves into its future?   For an update on the IGT results, view their website.  http://www.imaginegreatertucson.org/what-is-igt/  As the IGT project comes to completion, we can look back at over two years of community work.   Last May, 2012, at the College of Architecture, Urbanist and  Architect, Corky Poster brought up some good things in a defining keynote address.  He discussed alternative modes of transportation, surgically installed density sectors, form based building design, planned housing @ IGT densities and neighborhood respect…  Click here to read the rest of this article.  

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“Imagine Greater Tucson (IGT) released the results of its 2-year study, Looking Forward, A Vision for a Greater Tucson Region.   PlanTucson is winding up its citizen participation phase of the City’s writing of a new General Plan for the coming ten-year period.  I would expect that City staff will be looking at the IGT document as one source of data to consider.  One of IGT’s nine principles is Quality Neighborhoods.   On p. 19, eight values for them are listed.  The three I find most relevant to mid-town, and, therefore, most in need of specific clarification, are…” Ruth Beeker.    CLICK on Imagine Getting Compacted to read the rest of Ruth’s article.   Many believe that the IGT and Plan Tucson are generalized goals.  In the eyes of core neighborhood leaders, the correct vision has to emerge from their impacted communities. Pro Neighborhoods a long time Tucson  community foundation was victim of recent budget cuts.  It’s last funded project is a Neighborhood Symposium Project; presented by Jefferson Park Neighborhood.  It’s panel presentation is set for January 26th, 2013.  The focus is on neighborhoods and a strong voice of direction in their future.  The next planning meeting is on Monday, October 29th, 7pm, at the  International School of Tucson, 1701 E Seneca.

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