Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Economic Value of Form-Based Codes (Dispatch from CNU 20 – Pt. 4)

Dateline: 10:07 am May 14, 2012 Filed under:

A common misconception is form-based codes are used primarily to improve the look and aesthetic feel of places. The Friday session at CNU 20 entitled “Form-Based Economic Development on Main Street” was eye-opening as to just how compelling the argument is that form-based codes are also a tool to create economic value.

Scott Polikov, president of Gateway Planning, and Monte Anderson, a broker and developer in the Dallas area, presented a case study on a project they are working together on to revitalize an aging commercial corridor in Duncanville, Texas, a southern suburb of Dallas.

Over a decade ago, Monte Anderson began buying and repurposing buildings near the intersection of Center and Main, an aging strip in Duncanville. He started with two buildings, bringing in a pet groomer and a community outreach center. In 2004, Main Station was developed, a 22,000 square foot mixed-use building with 14 loft units above retail space that includes two restaurants and a spa. Additional projects include two lots no more than a quarter acre in size that will add nine more apartments and 4,000 square feet of retail space.

A key to these incremental urban infill projects is a form-based code that rebuilds the busy suburban arterial road in to a more urban street, with a Parisian-style slip lane, on-street parking and sidewalk. The form-based code also unites the appearance of future buildings in to a more cohesive whole.

The primary reason for using a form-based code is that it provides incremental value back and forth from property to property. Polikov explained that, whereas, conventional zoning is about buffers, the predictability between parcels is valuable, which provides potential investors and developers a measure of certainty conventional zoning cannot.

The proof is in the development that has already occurred. For example, the two most recent projects, albeit small, increased in value from $130,000 to $1.8 million. Retail rents have risen from $6 per square foot to $16, and market rate rents are $1.20 per square foot where no market rate units existed previously. This is value is leveraged by the form-based code, as the developer and lenders are assured of the form future projects around his/her buildings will take. It is important to note that the regional planning authority, NCTCOG, granted $1.5 million to the project, partially matched by the city of Duncanville. So whereas there are a lot of moving parts, the public sector is willing to be a partner as they see the additional value created by the process as well. A little up-front investment ought to leverage long-term added value.

This is as incremental as urbanism gets, but because it is united by a form-based code, it delivers both good urbanism and economic development. That is something cities ought to take note of.


1 Comment »

  1. […] code has already found success in helping to revitalize an aging commercial corridor in Duncanville, Texas. In this southern […]

    Pingback by Cracking the code to smart growth in Mesa, AZ | Smart Growth America — May 21, 2012 @ 11:00 am

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