Economic analysis in support of urban and regional planning

Urban renewal plans, master plans, city-wide plans, and urban transit and land use initiatives all require some form of economic market analysis to be most effective. Dan leverages his expertise in economic, demographic and real estate data with on-the-ground conditions and issues, to form realistic but forward-looking assessments of economic development opportunities and industry-specific strategies in support of planning initiatives. His extensive experience in transportation and economic development merges seamlessly with land use planning teams for downtown area plans, transit-oriented development planning, waterfront plans, and city/regional plans.

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Rebuilding Renewal and Transformative TOD: Gateway Cities in Massachusetts

Working collaboratively with MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, Hodge Economic Consulting authored a research report analyzing Gateway Cities in Massachusetts. read more

He examined state investment in Gateway Cities, assessed real estate development trends compared to Boston, and outlined ideas to enhance transformative development. He authored case studies of Worcester’s CitySquare and New York state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative to showcase examples of catalytic investment that are leading to significant private sector investment. The report found that while Massachusetts is investing disproportionately in Gateway Cities, these investments are: a) dominated by education spending; b) there are few examples of larger-scale investments that can logically be connected to generating transformative development; and c) the state does not (yet) track investment or evaluate impact. Despite an infusion of programs and focus on the state’s small to medium sized cities, the real estate development trends point to a widening gap with Boston, with building permits and property values still below pre-recession levels. The report recommends a mix of higher state investment levels, stronger alignment of investment with targeted redevelopment strategies, and an increase in transparency and accountability. In a follow-up study, Hodge was selected by MassINC to be the project manager of a major new research project titled Stimulating Transformative TOD in Gateway Cities, with focus on Lynn, Worcester, Springfield and Fitchburg. He is studying the opportunities to catalyze TOD in Gateway Cities, the policies necessary to achieve transformative development, and the positive spillover effects that can have on transit ridership, land use, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). Outside the Boston urban core, examples of investment in walkable neighborhoods with strong transit service is much less common. While the state possesses a diverse mix of passenger rail services and a large number of traditional downtowns in Gateway Cities, policies to support TOD in these locations have not been a priority for the Commonwealth, and little attention has been spent developing TOD models that respond to this context. A transformative TOD policy tailored to the dynamics of these markets has the potential to stimulate investment and revitalization, yielding economic, environmental, and fiscal benefits.

Market Analysis of Redevelopment Options for Brockton CSX Rail Site and Fairgrounds

For Metro South Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Hodge led a study to conduct a market analysis and strategic planning of the large (35 acre) site in downtown Brockton that lies along the rail corridor (with MBTA commuter rail service). read more

Previous studies for CSX (the landowner) focused on evaluating this site in terms of residential and retail uses. The study focused on if and how this site could be used and developed for freight-related purposes (e.g., rail yard facility, warehousing, manufacturing, etc.) or other redevelopment options (mixed use, solar farm, industrial park). The market analysis recognized that this site is a rare, strategic asset in terms of size and location and presents a relatively unique opportunity for freight rail-related uses and private sector property tax revenue. The study evaluated the strengths and weaknesses related to traffic and environmental conditions and identified a range of redevelopment options. The study analyzed Massachusetts freight rail yard facilities and rail corridors, taking into account the recent changes for CSX given the double-stack clearance project with enhanced intermodal and bulk terminals in Worcester and Westborough. Hodge Economic Consulting also conducted a similar kind of feasibility analysis of redevelopment options for the Brockton Fairgrounds. That site (65 acres among multiple parcels) was planned to be the home of a casino resort but the plan was rejected by the Mass Gaming Commission. Consequently, the Metro South Chamber commissioned Hodge to analyze site conditions and ownership, traffic and transit characteristics, surrounding uses (mostly retail and residential), and market viability to develop a set of potential re-use options. A key finding was that the site could potentially be transformed into a smaller scale business/industrial park, with (or without) residential and retail uses.

Worcester Urban Revitalization Plan – Economic Development Analysis

For the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, as part of a team led by the BSC Group, Mr. Hodge completed an economic development assessment for the Urban Revitalization Plan in downtown Worcester. read more

He compiled economic, demographic and real estate market data for Worcester and interviewed numerous private and public sector development experts to assess the downtown area’s challenges and opportunities to develop a set of near-term and long-term economic strategies. Key issues and challenges in downtown Worcester identified in Dan’s work included: a) market rents that don’t support new construction or speculative investment; b) lingering public safety concerns, especially surrounding the Worcester Common; c) first floor vacancies and low-value retail uses; d) many sub-standard, low-quality buildings in the downtown core; and e) weak perceptions of walkability and unrealized transit markets. Worcester, like every city, has its challenges and obstacles, but its list of assets is strong and the potential opportunities to redevelop the downtown into a more vibrant focal point for positive economic activity is enticing. Suggested near-term strategies focused on: 1) implementing the acquisition of prioritized sites and buildings in the study area; 2) upgrading the public safety and police presence; 3) enhancing innovative “gap financing” and small business financing; and 4) surveying the new influx of residents and workers to downtown (including CitySquare) about their desired retail, service and entertainment options. Longer-term strategies included: a) initiate planning for stronger transit options to connect colleges and key activity nodes to downtown; b) methodically add more “reasons to be downtown” to connect CitySquare to the Hanover Theater; and c) develop coordinated strategies to retain more college students in Worcester.

New Bedford Waterfront Land Use Plan – Offshore Wind Industry Assessment

As part of a team led by Sasaki Associates for the city of New Bedford (MA), Dan is playing a lead role on the economic development analysis for the New Bedford Waterfront Land Use Planning more

In particular, Dan led the research and strategic assessment of the offshore wind energy industry in terms of global, U.S., and local market opportunities. New Bedford has a diverse, multi-use waterfront and was designated by the state as the key port for offshore wind farm logistics (and received $100 million in investment at the Marine Commerce Terminal). Dan’s work, while at UMass, focused on a deeper understanding of the offshore wind industry, which is just beginning in the U.S. but fairly mature in Europe, and he presented findings on sub-sector industry opportunities for New Bedford, land use requirements, and key competitiveness issues.

Kansas City Downtown Area Plan – Economic Development Market Analysis

For the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Dan Hodge (with BNIM) led the market and housing analysis components of the greater downtown area plan. read more

The plan is an ambitious, large-scale planning effort encompassing multiple city neighborhoods with a wide range of uses. It includes the central business district which has recently attracted new private investment in a range of hotel, cultural, and entertainment facilities. Dan led a few central components of this plan:

  • Market Analysis – The market analysis included a detailed mixed-use real estate assessment by neighborhood, along with interviews of local development experts and industry trend analysis to identify the range of economic development opportunities for the plan. Hodge assessed land use, real estate, economic, demographic, and qualitative analysis to examine the potential for office, residential, and retail development.
  • Housing Analysis – a housing market analysis for the plan included an inventory of residential properties, home values, ownership rates, etc.
  • Labor Force Analysis – Dan studied the Kansas City workforce in terms of jobs by industry and occupation, jobs by establishment, and jobs on a residential basis. For example, the downtown area has a significantly higher number of commuters into the city to work during the day than residents, which has implications for retail services and infrastructure needs.

Economic Development Strategy for Rebuild Springfield Plan

As part of a high-profile tornado recovery master plan for Springfield, MA, Dan led the economic development strategy as part of a team led by Concordia Planning and BNIM. read more

This work included an overview of the economic market conditions in Springfield, interviews with public and private sector development experts, neighborhood-specific economic strategies, and coordination with regional and state development policies and strategies. Dan was the lead author of the three economic strategies recommended in the citywide plan: 1) Enhancing Springfield’s role as the economic heart of the Pioneer Valley; 2) Providing creative incentives and policies to encourage economic development and entrepreneurship; and 3) Expanding workforce development and educational partnerships to provide all residents opportunities to contribute to the Springfield economy. A key recommendation was to complete a number high priority projects in the City, with emphasis on the downtown area, including the Union Station Intermodal (bus, rail) Center and related transit-oriented development planning.

Economic Development Strategies for the Nashville Long-Term Recovery Plan

As part of the Nashville Long-Term Recovery Plan, Dan led the analysis and strategic planning for economic development. read more

This fast-paced planning effort examined the impacts of the 2010 Nashville area flood, supported strategies and programs to help businesses and residents recover, as well as longer term strategies to re-build and revitalize Nashville and Davidson County. Dan was the leader for the economic development element of the planning initiative, coordinating closely with the broader multi-disciplinary team and a working group of key economic development stakeholders such as the Mayor’s office of economic development, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Nashville Downtown Partnership. Specific work tasks for this assignment included:

  • Conducting numerous in-person and phone interviews with a range of economic development stakeholders;
  • Compiling and summarizing existing data and reports as it relates to economic development strategies, target industries, transit-oriented development (TOD) opportunities, and investment projects;
  • Facilitating weekly Working Group meetings of economic development leaders to obtain input regarding economic development goals, performance measures and targets, projects, strategies, funding resources, and target industries; and
  • Developing, documenting and refining economic development strategies and priority projects for the Long Term Recovery Plan.

Providence Streetcar Transit-Oriented Development Market Analysis

Dan, as part of the HDR team working with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), led the transit-oriented development (TOD) market analysis for the proposed Providence streetcar project. read more

The focus of this project was the economic and real estate development assessment of a streetcar project to connect core urban areas of Providence: major universities (Brown, RISD, Johnson & Wales); hospitals and medical facilities, Downcity, the Amtrak station, and the Jewelry District. The Jewelry District is an urban neighborhood near downtown that is being prioritized for re-development opportunities. Dan and his team evaluated the economic development potential across different uses (residential, office, retail, industrial) by applying a combination of:

  • Detailed land use data by use with vacant parcels identified;
  • Real estate market data on vacancies and historical absorption rates;
  • In-depth interviews with public and private sector development experts;
  • Case study findings from other streetcar projects nationally; and
  • Risk analysis techniques to capture the likely range of effects recognizing that future development estimates inherently include some uncertainty.

The results of the analysis included market estimates of development potential for the entire study area by use based on square feet of development, likely property value premiums, housing units, and estimates of net new jobs and population. The TOD market assessment was a critical input to the city’s financing strategy for the project which includes plans for tax increment financing (TIF) to link value capture to revenue generation for transportation investment.

Portland (ME) Regional Transit and Land Use Vision

As part of a team, Dan Hodge (while at HDR) helped the Portland, ME metropolitan planning organization (PACTS) develop a transit and land use vision for the region called “Moving Greater Portland Towards a Transit-Focused Region”. read more

Like many areas, the Portland region has experienced faster growth in outlying communities, leading to sprawl, longer commutes, and costly infrastructure needs. Unlike many areas, the region has multiple vibrant urban downtowns and town centers, highlighted by Portland’s relatively compact, active, and desirable mix of residential, commercial, and tourist uses near the waterfront. And some areas, like South Portland, have implemented tax increment financing (TIF) and land use development guidelines tied to transit-served corridors. Dan helped evaluate what transit-oriented development means in the Portland region in terms of transit modes (bus, Amtrak, possibly streetcar), locations, corridors, and land use development potential. Specific work tasks led by Dan included:

  • Conducted in-person and phone interviews with a range of economic development and real estate developer stakeholders to understand development trends and opportunities to strengthen the linkages between transit, land use, and the real estate market;
  • Reviewed economic and demographic trends in the Portland area, including municipal population growth over the past decade and identification of industry concentrations and strengths;
  • Participated in multiple meetings and workshops with PACTS, the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG), city planners, and interested stakeholders to understand key issues and opportunities, develop guiding principles, and outline a vision to enhance transit and land use in the region; and
  • Wrote sections of the final report covering the economic benefits of transit, the benefits and cost savings of TOD, potential financing opportunities, and an overview of key assets, issues, and opportunities in Portland.

Economic Market Analysis for Union Depot Redevelopment and Master Plan in Duluth

Duluth’s historic Union Depot rail station is owned by St. Louis County and is currently occupied by a variety of tenants, including museums and other not-for-profit organizations. read more

Plans to restore passenger rail service to Duluth offered an opportunity to rethink uses at the Depot and in the surrounding area. As part of a team, Dan led the economic development market analysis, including:

  • Current market condition assessment. To determine the existing market condition of the Depot and surrounding area, the study collected property valuation, land use, population and employment data, as well as data on historical and projected employment and population trends, and real estate.
  • Potential future market capacity for preferred uses in the Depot and master plan study area. Dan conducted stakeholder interviews with development experts in Duluth to assess the “real world” context for development opportunities and to gather relevant data on specific development opportunities. Dan assessed market capacity relative to market demand given the existing market conditions and proposed passenger rail improvements.
  • Economic development impacts. Dan helped develop a risk-based model to estimate the economic development potential in the master plan area. Measurements in terms of space by type of use (e.g., commercial, residential), jobs and people, and property value were estimated using this model. Strategies for maximizing new economic growth were developed, along with joint marketing opportunities to promote rail ridership.