Ten projects around the world embody the synergy of public/private partnerships.
City and state governments are strapped for cash; real estate developers still lack ready sources of capital. Joining forces is one route to jump-start development and try to initiate economic turnarounds.
The following ten projects, all fully or substantially completed in the past five years, illustrate a range of creative approaches to public/private partnerships. In many cases, the public sector benefits from the construction or refurbishment of community amenities such as parks, libraries, or recreation facilities. These perks also add value to the private sector components, raising home prices and enhancing foot traffic for retail, entertainment, and dining uses. In other cases, the private sector partner not only builds but also operates essential buildings such as justice or transit structures in exchange for housing or commercial development rights. Several of these projects involved construction of affordable and mixed income housing. In one instance, a partnership enabled the construction of military housing with a Main Street—style neighborhood center—a first for the military. (The ten projects are listed alphabetically, not in any rank order.)
1. Calgary Courts Centre
With its court buildings strained to capacity, Calgary decided to consolidate multiple court facilities into one. The government of Alberta entered into a partnership with a private consortium led by GWL Realty Advisors of Calgary; the government provided funding for the US$285 million project, while the consortium took on responsibility for designing, building, and operating the facility.
Completed in 2007, the structure consists of two towers, 20 and 24 stories high, connected by a 26-story glazed atrium. This high-density strategy allowed half the site to be set aside for a public park for city residents. Wide public sidewalks, benches, and glazing at street level respond to the pedestrian-oriented nature of the downtown site. Extensive glazing throughout—even the atrium’s elevators are glass—is meant to embody the transparency of justice, while also letting in plenty of natural light. Local firms Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd., the architect of record, and design architect NORR Ltd. designed the facility.
2. Cargo, Millbay
After the Titanic sank, the Millbay docks in Plymouth received surviving crewmembers. More recently, economic changes sank the docks’ fortunes. Close to the city center, the site offered excellent water views, but regeneration required a significant investment. The Homes and Communities Agency, the U.K. housing and regeneration agency, entered into a partnership with Manchester-based English Cities Fund, which includes Muse Developments of Manchester as the private sector partner. About $32 million of public sector investment and $61 million of private sector investment have been committed to the scheme.
The approved master plan calls for up to 1,232 homes and retail, leisure, and commercial space. Bristol-based Ferguson Mann Architects designed the first development, Cargo, as a city block of four four- to seven-story buildings organized around a landscaped courtyard. Completed in 2009, Cargo includes 134 housing units in one- and two-bedroom apartments and a row of four-bedroom townhouses built over underground parking. Ground-floor commercial space faces the street. Regeneration work continues at Millbay, including infrastructure development for future phases and restoration of the historic Inner Basin as a working marina.
3. Gateway Quarter
The inner-city Cincinnati neighborhood known as Over-the-Rhine—so named by the German immigrants who lived there in the 19th century—suffered from residents’ flight to the suburbs in the 1960s, becoming increasingly poverty stricken and riddled with dilapidated and vacant buildings. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), a private nonprofit corporation, initiated efforts to turn around the neighborhood by redeveloping the Gateway Quarter area. Working with city and state governments and private developers, 3CDC has renovated Fountain Park, completed about 100 residential units, and added substantial commercial space.
City Home, designed by local firm Schickel Design Company for the partnership of Over-the-Rhine Community Housing and Eber Development, also local, is one example of the residential projects completed to date. Phase I was completed in 2009, with 11 units in a mix of new townhouses and renovated historic townhouses. A second phase is under construction, adding 11 more units in new townhouses and a renovated historic building, as well as commercial space. Five of the residences are affordable to those earning 60 percent of the area median income.
4. Herryford Village at Fort Belvoir
Fairfax County, Virginia
Herryford Village at Fort Belvoir brings Main Street–style mixed-use development to military housing. The U.S. Department of the Army partnered with Clark Realty Builders of Arlington, Virginia, and Seattle-based management services company Pinnacle to provide and operate more than 2,000 homes in the historic fort through a combination of demolition, replacement, renovation, and new construction.
Of the 15 villages planned, Herryford Village, the first, was completed in 2005 along new urbanist lines. Designed by Torti Gallas and Partners of Silver Spring, Maryland, it consists of 171 single-and multifamily units. Alley-loaded garages, porches close to the sidewalk, extensive open space and pedestrian paths, and preservation of existing trees are intended to encourage a sense of community among residents. The Energy Star–certified housing is larger than typical for military residences and provides private backyards with patios. Along the development’s main street, three-story live/work buildings consist of two-story townhouses above street-level commercial space. Three similar neighborhood centers have since been built as part of Fort Belvoir, with one more to come.
5. Houston Pavilions
On three downtown blocks once covered by parking lots, the mixed-use center Houston Pavilions opened in 2008. Close to a light-rail stop and organized around a central courtyard, it has 350,000 square feet (32,500 sq m) of shops, entertainment venues, and restaurants, as well as 203,000 square feet (18,900 sq m) of office space in a nine-story building. Sky bridges provide connections across city streets. Despite the soft market, the office tower is fully leased, and the restaurant and entertainment uses continue to expand: Lucky Strike Lanes and Lounge opened at the end of 2009, joining existing anchors House of Blues, XXI Forever, and Books-a-Million, and this past January, four more upscale restaurants opened.
The project received financial assistance from the city and county in the form of cash and tax incentives provided by expanding the area tax increment reinvestment zone. The Dallas office of HOK and local design consultant Laguarda Low Architects designed the facility for Houston Pavilions LP, a partnership of William Denton, president and CEO of Entertainment Development Group in Agoura Hills, California, and Geoffrey Jones, CEO of Texas Real Estate Fund Inc. in Houston.
6. Midtown Crossing
In 2002, Omaha officials, residents, and representatives from local businesses and neighborhood associations formed a public/private partnership called Destination Midtown to explore ways to revitalize the 3.6-square-mile (9.3-sq-km) Midtown area. The organization recommended mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development that included retail space and housing. One of the businesses involved, Mutual of Omaha, decided to redevelop its east campus—several vacant buildings and underused parking lots adjacent to its Midtown headquarters—in accordance with the study’s principles. Mutual brought in the local office of ECI Investment Advisors to serve as developer.
Midtown Crossing had its grand opening in May. Designed by local firm Holland Basham Architects and Cope Linder Architects of Philadelphia, the 1 million-square-foot (93,000-sq-m) mixed-use complex includes retail space, 296 condominiums, 196 apartments, and structured parking, as well as new streets and infrastructure. An expanded and rehabilitated public park plays host to outdoor markets and concerts. A grocery store is scheduled to open at Midtown Crossing this summer.
7. Rockville Town Square
Bulldozers razed Rockville’s original downtown some 50 years ago as part of urban renewal efforts. After the nearby Rockville Mall failed in the 1990s, the city government looked to the private sector to help revitalize the downtown, partnering with local company Federal Realty Investment Trust as retail developer and Bethesda, Maryland–based Ross Development & Investment and Danac Corporation as housing developers.
In 2006, Rockville Town Square opened on a 12.5-acre (5-ha) site that previously housed a shopping center, gas station, and parking lot. Two blocks from the Rockville Metro station, the 180,000-square-foot (16,700-sq-m) mixed-use center, designed by WDG Architecture of Washington, D.C., includes restaurants, shops, 644 condominium units, and three parking structures. A central square holds events throughout the week. The city also developed a new 100,000-square-foot (9,300sq-m) public library and a community facility that houses a nonprofit visual arts center providing classes, exhibitions, professional development, and community outreach.
8. Southern Cross Station
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station is the result of one of Victoria’s largest public/private partnerships. The Victoria government contracted with the Civic Nexus Consortium, financed and led by ABN Amro of Amsterdam, to design, build, finance, and operate the station. In return, the consortium gained commercial development rights to the precinct. At the end of the 30-year contract, the government will take back ownership of the station.
Most recently known as Spencer Street Station, the site has had transit uses since the 1800s. Redevelopment was essential to meet the projected rise in the number of train and bus passengers passing through the facility—up to 35 million people by 2021. The station also occupies a key point between the city’s central business district and the revitalized Docklands.
Designed by the Melbourne offices of Grimshaw and Daryl Jackson Architects Pty Ltd., the expanded and renamed Southern Cross Station opened in 2006. Its large hall offers uninterrupted vistas to make wayfinding easy, with glazed facades providing views to the surrounding streets. The undulating wave-form roof is shaped to make use of prevailing winds, naturally ventilating the station. New shops and food outlets serve commuters and the public.
9. Talon at Eaglewind
Squamish, British Columbia
The district of Squamish may bill itself as the outdoor recreation capital of Canada, but it has also been working on revitalizing its downtown and waterfront areas with pedestrian-friendly, higher-density development. Solterra Group of Companies, based in Delta, British Columbia, purchased 25 acres (10 ha) from the district of Squamish to create a master-planned community of 435 homes in Squamish’s downtown. In lieu of cash for a percentage of the purchase agreement, Solterra agreed to provide amenities for community use, including constructing a seniors’ center operated by the district and setting aside 11 acres (4.5 ha) for a public park with recreation facilities and trails.
The first of four phases, Talon at Eaglewind, was completed in 2007 in tandem with the park. Designed by the Vancouver office of Merrick Architecture, the community includes 27 townhouses, 12 duplexes, a 24-unit carriage-home complex, a four-unit gateway building with commercial space, a tree-lined boulevard, and a village square. The second phase and half of the third phase have also been completed.
10. Visage and Swiss Cottage Cultural Centre, Swiss Cottage
To spark urban regeneration, the council of the London borough of Camden entered into a public/private partnership to redevelop a 1960s library and recreation center known as Swiss Cottage, located on borough-owned land. The London investment company Dawnay Day and Barratt Homes Ltd. of Coalville, Leicestershire, led the private sector team. Master planned by the London office of Terry Farrell and Partners, the new Swiss Cottage, opened in 2006, includes a new recreation center (designed by Terry Farrell and Partners), a refurbished library, a new park with water feature and recreation facilities, new affordable and market-rate housing, a new theater, a new community center, medical facilities, and a farmers’ market, all located near an underground station and bus routes.
Designed by local firm S&P Architects, the housing component, called Visage, is a 16-story glass apartment building with 131 market-rate apartments, as well as 42 apartments earmarked for council tenants and the formerly homeless. The partnership enabled the community facilities and affordable housing to be constructed without taxpayer money.