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Thread: Neighborhood revitalization; business districts/residential neighborhoods

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Neighborhood revitalization; business districts/residential neighborhoods

    So I'm working for a non-profit affordable housing developer in a mid-sized city and was hired to help develop a neighborhood revitalization program. Essentially they want to purchase, rehab, and resale dilapitated, renter ocupied housing to first time home buyers.

    I found out that the city is starting a neighborhood business district revitalization program based on the national trusts main street program.

    It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that we might both have better luck if we combine our efforts. I was curious if anyone had any similar experiences. Also, does anyone have any materials, anecdotal or otherwise which discuss the impact of improving a business district/main street on residential neighborhoods or vice versa? Words of wisdom, caveats?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Combined Efforts Makes Sense?!

    I am in a similar position, small town, only 5700 residents, numerous committees & groups, similar attendance, trying to get everyone to join together, less separate meetings, better attendance, combined efforts...Sounds like a good idea to me.

    I have been doing copious research on downtown revitalization (with historic preservation), have found lots of good infomation, all pointing to the positive benefits of revitalization for not only dt, but surrounding residential neighborhoods.

    Check out SMART GROWTH NETWORK, Planning Commissioner Journal and www.mainstreet.org. All have lots of valuable information and links to even more sites...I have personally gone through 2 reams of ppr and 2 sets of ink cart. downloading info.

    Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have been heavily involved in a few downtown revitalization efforts over the last many years. Housing is always a component. This can include conversion of upper floors, adaptive re-use (particularly schools), renovation work, and infill development. Most cities approach it similarly, with some design assistance, low-interest loans through CDBG or other sources, affordable and historic tax credits, TIF (not available in Washington), and other assistance. Some of the more umique projects I was involved in included conversion of a former high school to apartments, redevelopment of factories for condominiums and apartments, and assembly of several second floors to convert them to apartments.

    One of the most overlooked assets is city-owned land. People tend to simply forget about the lot or undeveloped right-of-way here or there, but these are potential development sites, or the additional land can be used to sweeten a redevelopment deal.

    Do not forget about amenities. If you want people to move into the neighborhood, then you will have to consider what assets might bring them there. The answer is not likely to be brick paver sidewalks. Parks or trails, great architecture, or a vibrant street life are more likely to do it, so carefully consider where you spend your (city) money.

    Parking. You need to have adequate parking. Let me say that again. You must have adequate parking. People own cars. They drive. They do not want to spend twenty minutes looking for a parking spot and then walk four blocks loaded down with groceries. If the housing unit is going to be owner-occupied, you will not sell it without a parking space, and preferably an indoor one.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  4. #4
         
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    We are using a 353 Redevelopment Corporation here to help the developer aquire the property and use tax abatement incentives. I am not sure if your state has anything similar but it has proven to be a useful tool around here.
    We are currently redeveloping and historic district. It started as a grassroots project, business owners and residents coming together to get something done. They have finally gotten the ear of the Council and the City and we have begun to pour money and time into the area. We have gotten most of the developers to acknowledge the others, perhaps not working totally together. It has just taken a lot of time and meetings and effort on behalf of everyone involved. The one element that really seemed to bring it together was a plan (Economic Development Plan with a one year strategic action plan) produced by an outside consultant. Once the people in the area had something to "grasp" it was much easier to organize the efforts. It is still in the works but it is finally starting to take off.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I live in a neighborhood that has a great little commercial district. It defines my neighborhood and is the main attraction. It is small, only on one street for one block (both sides of the street). The uses are low impact and really cater to the surrounding neighborhood. It is a mix of locally owned and national retailers & restaurants. You can go there to get a cup of coffee, buy a book, get a haircut for yourself and your pooch, and eat italian, middle eastern, and french food.

    I am a representative on my community council and we have had some problems, mainly with parking and large delivery trucks on small streets. One of the streets is only 25 feet wide and there is only room for one car to pass when there are cars parked on both sides of the street. The large trucks presented all kinds of problems, hitting parked cars, having to back up the street when they realized they couldn't get through, loading/unloading happening at 6 a.m., etc.

    The business owners and the neighborhood have a good relationship, so we held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the issues and find solutions. We got the city to install signs directing the public to the off street parking areas behind the building, the businesses agreed to use smaller trucks for deliveries, and in return the Community Council sponsors a block party every year that is highly successful and attracts people from all over the area. The whole area works better now and the commercial district has turned into a community gathering place.

    A strong link between the commercial uses and the residential uses is mandatory. 20 years ago the neighborhood, particularly the commercial area, was seen as blighted and an undesireable area to live. The City RDA provided low interest loans to businesses who were willing to invest in the area and it started the turnaround. Probably not quit what you are looking for, but since I have lived there the value of my real estate has doubled (5 years).

  6. #6
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    Rehab/Re-sale

    Quote Originally posted by planner?
    So I'm working for a non-profit affordable housing developer in a mid-sized city and was hired to help develop a neighborhood revitalization program. Essentially they want to purchase, rehab, and resale dilapitated, renter ocupied housing to first time home buyers.

    I found out that the city is starting a neighborhood business district revitalization program based on the national trusts main street program.

    It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that we might both have better luck if we combine our efforts. I was curious if anyone had any similar experiences. Also, does anyone have any materials, anecdotal or otherwise which discuss the impact of improving a business district/main street on residential neighborhoods or vice versa? Words of wisdom, caveats?

    Thanks!
    If you are asking about the rehab resale portion. Tax Credits (Low Income and Historic) won't work. I assume you are not in a PJ but, I don't really know what your definition of a "Mid-size" City is. HOME Funds are the easier and cleaner than CDBG but both can be used. It would be easier if you became a CHDO (the set aside is usually less competitive). There are several different ways to structure the program. If you give us a little more back ground about what you want to do and your City I bet someone here can help you.

    I too run a non profit CDC. We have three rehab/resale program two in PJs and one in a non-PJ. In one PJ we have an Elm Street program that feeds of the main street program. You are welcome to any information that I have. Mark@moseley.net

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wickedone42
    I am in a similar position, small town, only 5700 residents, numerous committees & groups, similar attendance, trying to get everyone to join together, less separate meetings, better attendance, combined efforts...Sounds like a good idea to me.

    I have been doing copious research on downtown revitalization (with historic preservation), have found lots of good infomation, all pointing to the positive benefits of revitalization for not only dt, but surrounding residential neighborhoods.
    Ditto on the similar situation deal. I'm working on a proposal to dedicate a 1/4 cent sales tax for 1 year to provide seed money for a revolving loan fund (RLF) targeted for small business funding with a emphasis on rehabbing downtown structures and the promotion of loft apartment development. A 1/4 cent sales tax would generate approximately $25,000 a month. The Community Foundation has expressed interest in providing a grant to the RLF and their is a CDBG Micro-Loan program. It is easily conceivable that we could establish a $500,000 loan pool in 1 year and start leveraging private financing to get some of these buildings worked on assist downtown businesses and get more residents downtown. We'll see what the Economic Development Council thinks about the idea on April 12th. The members I've talked to about it are supportive.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  8. #8
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    This is an interesting approach. I don't think anywhere around here would get a dedicated tax but one can wish. I am curious, what type of rents are you thinking you can get for commercial and residential that can support that much debt service?

    I would like to do a over/under project but I am very worried about funding for the under. The only way I got the numbers to work was with LIHTC apartments and then condoing out the commercial space to a separate LP. The problem seems to be the under LP can't support nearly enough debt service to make the project feasible. Granted I am in an area where it is difficult to attact established businesses.

    We did do something similar with a portion of a Tax credit deal. But the vacancies are killing us.




    Here is a pic of one of our over/unders. I didn't pick the purple.



  9. #9
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mark Moseley
    This is an interesting approach. I don't think anywhere around here would get a dedicated tax but one can wish. I am curious, what type of rents are you thinking you can get for commercial and residential that can support that much debt service?
    The RLF will serve as gap financing when the private market isn't able to risk the entire project costs. We haven't discussed the details of the interest rate on the RLF loan, but it is common to have it either fixed around 1% or 2% or is based on points under the prime. I'll be working with the local bankers to determine what is the most feasible given our local situation. I don't invision any single loan being greater than $25,000 to $40,000. Obviously the RLF loan pool will be replenished so it kinda acts like an economic development endowment. RLF's typically have the following parameters.

    Eligible Business Activities

    Working Capital;
    Buying and/or improving real estate;
    Inventory, machinery and equipment purchases; and
    State up expenses.

    Loan Limitations and Requirements

    Loan Size Range;
    Job Creation (Targeted Income Groups Ė LMI);
    Loan Ratios (RLF to Private Financing);
    Equity (Typically 10 to 20 Percent);
    Terms (Typically 10 year maximum);
    Interest Rate (Fixed or Based on Prime);
    Target Geographic Areas (Downtown, Blighted Areas);
    Relocation Limitations;
    Targeted Business Sectors;
    Participating Lenders;
    Refinancing of Existing Debt; and
    Deferred Payments.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    First off. . for some of you working on economic development you should check out the treasury's CDFI program. . .I've seen it spur (or provide matching funds for)some really good revolving loan funds.

    Back to my original quandry. . .

    To more clearly re-state my original question, the city government here has supported a neighborhood business district revitalization program based on the Historic Trusts main street program (which is really cool), my organization is interested in starting a housing acquistion, rehab and resale program with the goals of: 1) improving the housing stock 2) Increasing home ownership 3) Provinding more affrodable housing to low/moderate income people 4) To help spur the revitalziation of neighborhoods.

    So, the neighborhoods surounding some of the business districts the city wants to improve are in rough shape, and we would like to collaborate wiht the city. . .it just makes sense. So, I was curious if any research or anecdotal evidence of either main street programs spurring improvements to nearby residential districts or residential revitalization improving business districts. . .economic arguements are always the best when talking to the city

    The obvious research is centered around increasing residential development in DNTN's which doesn't really apply since we are doing rehab and not new construction. . .

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally posted by planner?
    So, the neighborhoods surounding some of the business districts the city wants to improve are in rough shape, and we would like to collaborate wiht the city. . .it just makes sense. So, I was curious if any research or anecdotal evidence of either main street programs spurring improvements to nearby residential districts or residential revitalization improving business districts. . .economic arguements are always the best when talking to the city

    The obvious research is centered around increasing residential development in DNTN's which doesn't really apply since we are doing rehab and not new construction. . .
    The State of PA started an Elm Street Program it's site is here.. http://www.inventpa.com/default.aspx?id=532

    It really doesn't provide significant capital. We used an existing Main Street program as well as a Weed and Seed Program as Leverage but of course those are completely different program so the arenít match. Our housing efforts have been very successful. In all fairness, we have a unique situation where our median income in the census tract is well below the MSAís median income so the people who buy or rent our units are actually increasing the wealth level in the tract. As a result, we get very little opposition. We have used most of the standard funding sources. LIHTCís Historic Tax Credits, HOME, CDBG. Our Housing Finance Agency has some interesting products which we hope to use to create new homes where 2 rows of homes were demolished.

    We target or LIHTC deals to remove vacant and abandoned building. We target Home Ownership in specific areas to help protect the values of the homes and making sale easier. This is key because we revolve our HOME funds. Every few years we get a boost with a State funded grant that increases our HOME funded projects.

    As far as arguments, that is tough since I donít know what condition the properties are in. But, I took over my organization 3 years ago and I have never pushed the benefits to renters or homeowners. I talk about returning vacant property to the tax roles. Returning property to its highest and best use. Creating a customer base for local businesses. If the property is still on the tax roles I talk about taking properties with deferred maintenance, low value, and at the end of itís useful life and returning it to the middle of the market and extending itís economic viability. These projects offer no capital return so private investors are unwilling to take them on at least to the level we do. Of course since we are not using local tax dollars and are using funds that can only be used for housing it is not a real tough sell once you get past the word HUD.

    There are oodles of groups doing rehab and resale programs. Take a look at google.
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&l...22&btnG=Search

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for helping me frame my arguements. . .We've got a pretty good idea about program desgin. . I research a number of different programs as well as looked a resources the enterprise foundation has available: http://www.enterprisefoundation.org/...lefam/sfpp.asp
    Unfortunately, most of the housing rehab programs are focused soley on producing housing and not neighborhood revitalization. . .

    We aren't so much interested in getting the city to provide tax money but rather to do things like geographically focus their existing owneroccupied home repair program in targeted neighborhoods to maximize the impact as opposed to dispersing their work across the entire city (which for 30 years has had no neigbrhood impact). . .

    Anyway, things have been on hold lately with grant deadlines due, and other projects however, I'm drafting a grant application for program development right now. . .

    Hopefully this will get things moving again. . .

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