Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Smart Growth a Changing Urban Landscape

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Smart Growth a Changing Urban Landscape

Article excerpt

Venture into any major city today and you may be in store for a surprise. Smack dab in the middle of the slew of sleek skyscrapers, cement parking garages and mega mall that define today's urban landscape exists a real community, one which is characterized by bucolic parks, town square retail centers, resident-friendly apartment and condominium developments, and entertainment areas.

A byproduct of smart growth initiatives, these new communities, which aim to make the best use of dwindling resources and buildable land, are making a major impact on cities throughout North America. From one end of the country to the other, real estate developers, builders, owners and managers are taking an active role in pursuing urban renewal objectives.

Encinitas, CA

Jay Kacirk, CPM[R], of Eugene Burger Management Corporation, AMO[R], in Encinitas, CA acknowledged that in San Diego, "smart growth has meant zoning in urban areas for higher density and attempting to form communities that are somewhat self contained. For example, we will locate new residential communities in close proximity to office and industrial areas, rather than continue to create more 'suburbs' where residents have to commute to work. The local freeway systems are strained beyond capacity at peak times, which is a driving force behind this trend."

Additionally, Kacirk says, new neighborhoods are designed with local shopping and recreational amenities near housing. In downtown areas, ways are being devised to replace older structures with housing that is safe and relatively affordable. Many neighborhoods in downtown San Diego are now desirable residential areas, but were previously blighted and avoided by prospective downtown residents.

Kacirk notes that today's smart multi-family communities include apartment complexes which are built with the capability to provide adequate telephone lines, DSL cable modem installations and similar technology, to allow residents full advantage of Internet and subscription television reception.

"These communities are built with equipment that allows residents to control security, lighting, appliances and so forth through computers and the Internet when offsite," he said. "Some communities have web sites with common area cameras that allow residents to get an 'online' view of the common area activities, current temperature and other relevant information."

Today's urban villages are shifting from the traditional layout of grid streets, rectangular lots and the fencing off of one's private property.

"We have a development in the Hillcrest area of San Diego," Kacirk points out, "where different styles of condominiums and apartments are built around commercial establishments including a grocery store, video shop, food court, and other shopping. The living areas are frequently located above commercial outlets, and the designs incorporate the flow of foot traffic and gathering areas that enhance interaction among residents."

He points out that San Diego has been busily digging up roads to install fiber-optic cables in older neighborhoods throughout the county. "Nearly all residents can now take advantage of the various offers for telephone and Internet service through cable lines, rather than having to rely on telephone line delivery as we have in the past," he said.

Another remarkable trend is occurring along the coastal cities of southern California. Many small condominium communities and some former hotel properties are being upgraded substantially and used for second homes. They are generally owned by people with homes outside of the area, and many are not rented to outsiders but are used only by the owners for a few weeks or months each year as vacation homes, Kacirk explained. "Sometimes the owners make them available to friends and guests," he said. "This has caused a scarcity in housing for permanent residents in some of these areas and prices have jumped dramatically. …

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