Showing the Way Forward with Transit-Oriented Development
How do you get new people to live in your town?
According to Skye Consulting's James Kennedy, you have to find an easy, enjoyable way for them to get there.
Kennedy is a strong advocate for the growth of TOD – Transit-Oriented Development – and its use in reshaping and revitalizing America's metro areas, large, small and in-between.
During his 20-year tenure as mayor of Rahway, New Jersey, Kennedy made TOD the shining centerpiece of the city's resurgence as an affordable, accessible place to work and live.
Kennedy believes that Rahway's success in new downtown redevelopment stems directly from the municipality's commitment to transit-oriented development.
"The centerpiece of our transformation was the $13 million renovation of the NJ TRANSIT Station on Milton Avenue," he says. "That was complemented by building a $1.5 million plaza directly adjacent to the station entrance that is used for numerous community-related civic events."
The redevelopment process was aided by Rahway's 2002 designation as a Transit Village, making the city eligible for grants and assistance under New Jersey's Transit Village Initiative.
Nearly all new developments in Rahway have capitalized on the central location of the train station in the downtown area. Within the ½-mile "transit village" area surrounding the station, no less than 15 major projects have been constructed or are in the planning and development phases.
Kennedy's consistent TOD approach transformed rundown, tax-exempt surface parking lots and underutilized properties into market-rate housing, cultural activities and active businesses – which, in turn, produced new tax revenue, brought new residents into the community and reestablished Rahway's downtown as a favorite destination place for residents and visitors.
As developers and investors noticed this particularly well-connected and compact municipality, new construction activity within the ½-mile radius surged to over $105 million from 1999 to 2003. While much of this investment was directed to commercial or municipal projects, the stage was set for residential expansion. Over 1,500 residential units are now in the production pipeline.
Rahway's transportation advantage has made it attractive to industries and businesses, the foremost being the pharmaceutical giant, Merck, which employs 4,500 individuals.
It's also given a big boost to the city’s lively Arts District that includes cultural venues and the arrival of unique retail businesses.
Notes Kennedy, "Smart growth for America’s communities begins with using the utilities, roads and transit facilities that already exist. Refurbish these assets and you’ve accomplished Step One in priming future economic development."