African American Real Estate Pros Favor Transit-Oriented Developments
African American Real Estate Pros Favor Transit-Oriented Developments

BALTIMORE—The African American Real Estate Professionals of Maryland (AAPREP) met in Baltimore on April 2 to discuss current commercial real estate development trends. 

High on everyone’s agenda is Transit-Oriented Development or TOD. 

TODs are high-density urban communities that mix commercial office, retail, and residential property and locates them within one-third of a mile from a public transit station. 

A TOD is “designed to increase the location efficiency of the development by offering a transit point offering connections to a wide transportation system, with access via walking or bicycle. In addition, the [TOD] is typically defined as a mixed-use project offering a range of housing, dining, workplace and shopping choices as well as entertainment amenities,” according to Metro Centre at Owings Mill.

In the United States, transit oriented developments are a relatively new concept. However, some commercial real estate insiders anticipate them to be wave of the future with people in the U.S. coming to rely less on cars. 

Metro Centre at Owings Mill is a newly planned TOD that will support commercial office, retail, residential units, educational facilities, and hotels and restaurants, etc. The concept is to provide a transportation system that makes people to be less reliant on cars. By creating high-density living using more public transit, less pollution arises, and living is healthier and more efficient.

“These neighborhoods are walkable, higher density, and have a mix of uses as well as access to jobs and amenities such as transit,” says the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT)

“Transit-Oriented Development represents the future of how consumers and businesspeople will interact with and utilize real estate, and Metro Centre at Owings Mills has been designed to serve as a national role model for this new development trend,” stated Howard Brown, Chairman of David S. Brown Enterprises, Ltd in a statement on the Metro at Owings Mill’s website. 

TODs are often seen in European cities, where walkable cities with shops and parks are centered around train stations. A report from the Rutgers University Policy institute dated the TOD concept back to the late 1800s when Ebeneezer Howard, author of Garden Cities of To-morrow, promoted the concept of the ‘satellite village’ that centered around a train station, while low density, agricultural land lie in the periphery. 

Del T. Adams, Assistant Director, Development Services, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) would like to see the TODs developed in Maryland become more inclusive of working, low income people. He said at the meeting:

“TODs that are being done in Maryland are more on the high end. If you look at the Owings Mills project which opened its first building last week, our signature TOD, these apartments start at $1,800 a month. They are not work force housing or affordable housing. If you go to someplace like LA, which I visited recently, they have a completely different philosophy. Their philosophy [asks] who really uses the system … LA is now building TODs centered around work force housing and affordable housing. I think there is a great opportunity here in Maryland.”

Adams stated that developers are already looking at the properties that surround the train stations for the new proposed 14.1 mile red line in Baltimore which according to the project website would connect the areas Woodlawn, Edmondson Village, West Baltimore, downtown Baltimore, Harbor East, Fell’s Point, Canton and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus. 

“The next ten years is critical for monetizing public housing assets” said Stacey Spann, executive director of housing opportunities commission of Montgomery County. “If you want to do something for yourself, figure out how to work with housing authorities,” continued Spann. 

In addition to examining TODS and current development projects in Maryland and the District of Columbia, the AAPREP meeting panel also discussed affordable housing development and the intellectual and financial capital needed to conduct business with local and federal governments to fully utilize complex public and private financing. 

Besides Adams, also on the panel were Kevin Johnson, founder of the Commercial Group, awarded Prime Contractor of the Year in 2011 by the Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Association; Freddie Lewis Archer, founder of Lewis Real Estate Services; and Maurice Walker, managing partner of Birch Advisors, an advisory, brokerage and investment management firm located in Bowie Maryland.

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