ULI Washington News

ULI Washington 2015 Trends: From Eyesore to Eye Candy: When Aging Infrastructure Gets a Make Over Recap

Kassie Hilgert – President and CEO of ArtsQuest
Scott Kratz –Executive Director of The 11th Street Bridge Park
Jamie Hand –Director of Research Strategies for ArtPlace America 

ULI Washington had the opportunity to hear from three “geeks” involved in successful projects that create value from aging infrastructure and underutilized public space.  This panel explored the ways that arts and place-based investments are valuable public amenities. The moderator – Geoffrey Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America reminded everyone that the current trend in choosing where people want to live is majorly influenced by available neighborhood amenities and invited each panelist to offer their insight into what that means for their projects.

Eyesore.2Mr. Kratz, a “bridge geek” presented on the future 11th Street Bridge Park, which is a project in DC that is undergoing fundraising efforts to build a winning competition park design on existing bridge pylons spanning the Anacostia River in the next couple years.  Ms. Hilgert, a “German architecture geek” presented on the Bethlehem Steel Stacks which is a large-scale performing and visual arts campus featuring historic blast furnaces as its backdrop.  Ms. Hand, a “public/private partnership geek” presented on several projects, including a river redevelopment in Los Angeles (Play the LA River) and a stormwater detention reuse project in Fargo, ND that incorporate a public/private funding structures and which position arts and culture as a means to develop community.

Eyesore.3Real estate developers and community members are always wondering how investment in art and public spaces affect both the bottom line as well as create a fine neighborhood amenity and this panel described different ways of making this work for all parties involved.  The keys they said are to build trust in a community, ensure stewardship, create private sector involvement, use available opportunities, collaborate effectively and create authenticity.  The panelists mentioned that property values increase 5-40% from adjacent public park development.  During the recent recession as people were stuck in mortgages and were unable to move, place-based investment became an overarching theme.    The panelists mentioned that the relocation of Boeing to Chicago over Dallas was for the mere fact that employers valued the arts and culture infrastructure available in Chicago and Boeing found value in retaining their talented staff and listening to their preferences.  As with professional sport stadiums reviving downtowns, arts can have the same outcomes.

The US trend in land development is to use art and design to change eyesores, such as aging infrastructure, unused waterfront space or stormwater facilities, into viable social and economic development opportunities while heavily engaging the community along the way in order to sustain funding, create healthy communities, culture and authenticity.

Click here for an audio recording of the panel.

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