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TFM’s President submits the May Question of the Month in New England Real Estate Journal’s “Shopping Centers” section

New England Real Estate Journal selected TFM’s President and Chief Engineer, Robert Duval, PE to submit a civil engineering “Question of the Month” for the Shopping Centers section of the May 26 – June 1, 2017 issue. We invite you to read his article answering the question below, or link to this pdf TFMoran in NEREJ May 2017

 

NERE Journal – Shopping Centers – Question of the Month

How can a shopping center benefit from mixed-use developments? This healthy trend is here to stay.

written by Robert Duval, TFMoran, Inc.

The advantages of integrating new retail development into mixed-use centers can be substantial when compared with conventional shopping centers. Even such basic parameters as traffic volumes, parking demand, and stormwater flow can all be reduced by considering multiple uses in a single development plan.

The cost of offsite roadway improvements can be a major factor in retail projects, and accurate prediction of future traffic volumes is necessary to avoid unnecessarily burdening the project with overly-conservative improvements. In a mixed-use center, trip generation rates of individual uses can be discounted due to the expected interaction between these related uses: that is, there is some degree of sharing patrons among apartments, restaurants, offices, and retail uses, so the total traffic volume generated as a whole is less than the sum of the individual parts. In a well-integrated and balanced mixed-use center, these discounts can be on the order of 30% or more due to multi-purpose trips and enhanced pedestrian connectivity. The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program NCHRP 684 provide more specific guidance on how these traffic volumes can be reduced.

Parking demand can also be reduced by sharing parking inventory between compatible uses. To some extent, the reasoning is the same as the traffic reductions described above; but there are subtle differences: for example, an office employee who shops in an on-site retail store after work doesn’t really reduce parking demand, since their occupied parking space would otherwise be available to other store patrons during this peak retail period. However, since the peak period for apartments occurs after the office demand subsides, credit can be taken for sharing between these uses, and fewer total spaces can be provided than for two similar buildings as individual developments.

Reducing parking inventory can have many benefits. First, of course, is avoiding thousands of construction dollars for each unnecessary parking space – tens of thousands in a parking garage. Then there is the reduction in footprint required per square foot of leasable space; if the parking supply can be reduced by say, 150 spaces, at typical parking ratios that means the same amount of land can support another 30,000sf of leasable area, or conversely, the same amount of leasable area would need about one less acre of buildable land.

These are substantial benefits, but there are others too – as pavement area decreases, so too does the amount of stormwater infrastructure needed to capture, detain, and treat all that unnecessary pavement runoff. Recent projects have shown that the savings in stormwater management infrastructure in the range of 15% can be achieved. In redevelopment scenarios, these benefits can also be helpful in securing environmental permits.

More efficient parking layouts that combine multiple uses on a single parcel can also be achieved by avoiding the need for internal lot line setbacks. The same approach can apply to a combination of existing and proposed developments on contiguous parcels. By careful planning of pedestrian walkways and other measures to enhance connectivity (possibly with some relief from local zoning ordinances) multiple properties can be combined into a single development, resulting in greater land use density, and thus achieving the other benefits of less traffic, parking, pavement, construction costs, and excess stormwater infrastructure.

Ultimately, all these savings rely on good pedestrian connectivity. In a mixed-use setting, each building component must be connected by convenient, safe, and attractive pedestrian pathways to all other uses within a reasonable “walking distance”. In New England, this is often considered to be about a quarter-mile, but this can vary up or down depending on the quality of the walking environment. Therefore, it is important to integrate pleasant and easily traversable pedestrian routes into the development to achieve all these benefits.

Today, more and more community planners understand and support mixed-use development not only for a tool for the economic advantages outlined above, but also for a number of societal benefits too. Revitalizing city centers, particularly former manufacturing areas, making more efficient use of existing road and utility infrastructure, providing more employment opportunities, reducing the need for highway expansions, and reducing development pressure on alternative “greenfield” sites, to name a few.

Mixed-use development is here to stay, and we can expect this healthy trend to facilitate new retail and commercial development, but also to create a new sense of prosperity and vibrancy in our New England city and town centers.

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High-Profile May Issue Focus on Landscape Architecture & Civil Engineering

TFM’s president and chief engineer, Robert Duval, PE contributed to the annual High-Profile Landscape Architecture & Civil Engineering Focus issue this month.

We invite you to view the published article HP May 2017 Landscape Architecture & Civil Engineering

Or, you can read the text below:

Landscape Architecture & Civil Engineering

Integrated Development: Not Just a Trend, A Solution

by Robert E. Duval

One significant trend in land development projects these days is towards “mixed-use development”, that is, an integrated mixture of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial uses in close proximity. Recently seen primarily in large urban centers, the concept of mixed-use development is now moving into smaller cities and towns across New England.

The advantages of integrated development can be substantial. Among other benefits, traffic volumes, parking needs, and stormwater flows can all be reduced by taking advantage of the interaction between related uses. For example, apartments and offices located in close proximity will tend to reduce vehicle trips because some tenants will be employees of the office; thus, some of the vehicle trips usually expected become pedestrian trips. Likewise, parking inventory can also be reduced through shared parking. Using the same example, peak apartment parking demand falls outside of regular business hours, thus fewer total spaces can be provided for the same amount of development.

Studies have shown that mixed-use centers can reduce traffic volumes by a third or more, significantly reducing offsite traffic impacts and the high associated costs of mitigation. And onsite parking supplies can also be reduced by 10% or more. This reduces not only construction costs, but helps reduce other negative impacts as well; as pavement area decreases, less land can support more development, and the cost and extent of stormwater infrastructure to capture, detain, and treat all that unnecessary pavement goes away as well.

Also, where multiple properties can be combined into a single development, greater land use density can be achieved by avoiding internal lot line setbacks. This results in more efficient parking layouts and elimination of unnecessary pavement, further reducing needed land area, construction costs, and the burden of excess runoff on stormwater infrastructure.

Landscape Architecture plays a significant role in making mixed-use development work. First of all, each building must be placed so that it allows convenient, safe, and attractive pedestrian connections between all other major uses. It is generally taken that “walking distance” in New England is approximately 1400 feet or about a 7 minute walk. Obviously, this figure is dependent on age, health, purpose of walk, weather, and other imponderables, but it is also largely dependent on establishing a clear, direct path and an attractive walking environment. Therefore, it is important for the Landscape Architect to make pleasant and easily traversable pedestrian routes part of the earliest site planning exercises.

Of course, the concept of mixed-use development is not new – many of us remember when they were simply called “downtown”. However, as exclusionary zoning became common in the post-WWII years, it became more and more necessary for city and suburban residents alike to have to drive to the store, to school, to work, and so on. It did not take long for the congestion and inefficiencies of this type of travel to manifest. Up to the present day, the primary solution to these problems has been to “build your way out of it”; that is, by building ever-larger highways and parking lots.

Today, more community planners understand the benefits of mixed-use development and revitalizing city centers, particularly older, under-utilized manufacturing or commercial areas. This trend provides more employment opportunities within a city, makes more efficient use of existing road and utility infrastructure, reduces the need for constant expansion of highways, and reduces development pressure on nearby “greenfield” sites.

As more communities embrace mixed-use development in their zoning codes, we can expect this healthy trend to accelerate, returning a large measure of prosperity and vibrancy to New England cities and towns.

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TFM’s President writes for “Trends and Hot Topics” in High Profile’s March Issue

An article written by TFMoran’s president Robert Duval was published in the March issue of High Profile in the “Trends an Hot Topics” section. To view the pdf of the article click here HP Trends and Hot Topics March 2017 or you can read the text below.

 

HIGH PROFILE Trends and Hot Topics

New Trends in Commercial Land Development

by Robert Duval

Over the past few years, TFMoran has been tasked to design several large development projects with major retail and other commercial components based on the “mixed-use development” (MUD) model, rather than the more traditional “shopping center” or “office park” formats. The difference is significant. Mixed-use developments feature a blend of distinct functions, often including — besides office or retail — residential, institutional, cultural, and industrial components, that are physically and functionally integrated, along with effective pedestrian connections.

The key concept here is the combination of multiple functions that complement each other and are linked with effective pedestrian connections. From an engineering perspective, if the various functions are truly complementary and have effective pedestrian connections, you can expect to see substantial benefits for a MUD over conventional developments.

For example, traffic volumes developed by shopping centers or office parks are fairly well understood, and can be easily determined by calculations based on the total square footage of floor space. On the other hand, calculating traffic for mixed-use centers involves a second step that considers interaction between pairs of related uses — for example restaurants and cinemas, cinemas and apartments, apartments and offices, offices and restaurants, and so on, based on the concept that one vehicle trip may have multiple purposes, and these trips are shared among the various uses, rather than totaled up.

These multipurpose trips can often reduce total trip generation by a third or more, thus significantly reducing offsite traffic impacts and costs of mitigation. Similar analyses of parking demand will also show reductions in parking demand, often in the range of 5% to 10%. These parking reductions can reduce costs and increase efficiency beyond just the pavement savings; as impervious surface area decreases, so too does the cost and extent of stormwater infrastructure to capture, detain, and treat all that unnecessary pavement.

Also, by integrating multiple uses into a single property or adjacent properties, sites can be master-planned in a way that can ignore lot lines, thus greater land use density, by avoiding internal lot line setbacks, inefficient parking layouts, as well as unnecessary driveways and utility connections.

At the former Macy’s site in Bedford, TFMoran has designed a large mixed-use development that is preparing to start construction of a 350,000sf mixed-use retail, office, and entertainment development named “Market and Main.” Market and Main is designed to be a walkable, pedestrian-friendly place with a village green and pocket parks throughout. Proposed plans include a 600-seat deluxe cinema, an office building, a hotel, a premium entertainment venue, a variety of higher-end restaurants and retail, and a three-story parking garage.

The Market and Main development is located just south of the new Goffe Mill Plaza (former Wayfarer hotel), which contains a 40,000sf Whole Foods Market, two restaurants, and a bank, and is planning to develop additional retail space and up to 150 apartment units. The proximity of these two sites enabled TFMoran to design a more dense and efficient layout for both sites by taking advantage of the traffic, parking, and drainage benefits of mixed-use developments, providing safe pedestrian connections between the major uses.

Although in some communities, mixed-use developments may be prohibited by conventional, exclusionary zoning ordinances, the reception of mixed-use projects from planners and regulators is generally positive, as mixed-use development can provide increased tax revenue and employment opportunities with few negative impacts, and more efficient use of existing infrastructure.

As a result, many communities already allow for this type of development in their zoning codes, and others are working on it. As a result, we can expect mixed-use developments to become an important part of the revitalization of cities and towns throughout New Hampshire.

Robert E. Duval, PE, LEED AP, is president and chief engineer, TFMoran, Inc., Bedford, N.H.