It struck us recently that commercial real estate’s buzz words and acronyms and secret handshakes can be both a curse and a blessing. The curse, of course, lands on industry outsiders and people new to the business; they are left wondering what the heck is going on. The blessing is that once you grasp the terms, meetings with city planners will make more sense and negotiations with contractors, suppliers and, yes, the city will go more smoothly and a little faster.
We thought we would take a minute to demystify some common real estate terms. These terms are not unique to Philadelphia or Pennsylvania, but they should help newcomers to development and planning move a little closer to the table.
First up is zoning. The word itself isn’t all that intimidating, but the process certainly can be. And running up against a zoning issue can delay or even kill a project.
Cities generally want to balance out how property is used. Officials do this by dividing the city into zones, districts where only certain types of development are allowed. Zoning can also impose requirements for amenities on a developer. Zoning is what keeps commercial developments along main roads and residential developments along secondary roads. Zoning is what puts a boulevard between the street and the sidewalk.
Which brings us to New Urbanism. New Urbanism is an approach to city planning that is, in truth, not all that new. The idea is to turn urban areas — inner cities, for example — into neighborhoods where residential and commercial spaces are close together. New Urbanism strives for communities that are pedestrian-friendly, easily accessible by transit, even bike-friendly. Motor vehicles are not banned, but access is carefully planned in order to reduce traffic, noise and pollution in high-density areas.
New Urbanists want to move away from office and industrial parks, where businesses are segregated from the community and their workers’ homes, and where all too often acres of land are devoted to parking lots. Shopping malls are frowned on, too, because they put too much distance between shoppers’ homes and where they shop.
The list is much longer, of course. In future posts we will tackle more. Please note, we do take requests.
Source: Voice of San Diego, “All That Urban Planning Jargon No One Understands, Translated,” Andrew Keatts, Jan. 3, 2014