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Park the Car in Harvard Yard…and Take a Walk in the Developer’s Shoes


This past summer, I dusted off my trusty notebook and pen and headed north to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a two-day course in Real Estate Development Fundamentals.  Administered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design’s Executive Education Program, this course was designed for those of us who are involved at various points along the way during the real estate development process.

As planners and designers, it is very easy to see the world as if we are at the center of it; after all, we pride ourselves on seeing the big picture!  This course was enlightening because it helped me understand how planning and design fits in to an even bigger picture of real estate development, including the role of the real estate developer.  Here are a couple of key takeaways from the course.

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Image courtesy of VirtualWolf, used with permission under the Creative Commons license.

La Cima San Marcos Helps Create One of the Largest Urban Preserves in the U.S.

With property situated in the picturesque Texas Hill Country just 5 minutes west of I-35 and San Marcos, developers of the La Cima master planned community have worked with Hays County to create a 700-acre perpetual habitat conservation preserve. This addition brings the total acreage of contiguous parkland in this area to over 1,800 acres, making it one of the largest urban preserves and trail systems in the nation.  Officials from the County, City of San Marcos, and the La Cima Development Group celebrated the creation of the preserve at a ceremony last month.

San Marcos has been named the fastest growing city in the country for the past 3 years in a row.  “This preserve allows us to strike the right balance between important conservation and environmental goals and our economic development goals,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley said. 

Hays County created a Regional Habitat Conservation Plan (RHCP) in July 2013 to allow the County to work directly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to obtain fast tracked certification and mitigation credits for Endangered Species Act compliance, rather than going through the historically lengthy process with the Federal Government.  This easier process has allowed the County and real estate developments to save a significant amount of time and money.  The La Cima 700-acre preserve is the first property in the County’s RHCP.  County officials say the conservation bank credits from the RHCP will enable them to create a perpetual fund that will last at least three decades, allowing for the purchase of additional preserve lands in the future.

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Transforming Ordinary Places Into Extraordinary Spaces: RVi Houston Takes On PARK(ing) Day


PARK(ing) Day is a global event where citizens, artists and activists come together to transform the everyday metered parking space into a “PARK(ing)” space – a temporary public place. The event began in 2005 when Rebar (a local San Francisco art and design studio) decided to make an inventive yet powerful statement to public officials regarding the lack of public use places in urban areas. Rather than taking to the streets with picket signs and megaphones, Rebar opted to make the most of their inner city metered parking “lease” by transforming the space into a public park. Lush, green sod was spread across the urban area parking space accompanied by a bench and several other traditional park elements. Once the meter ran out the sod was rolled up and the parking space returned to its original under-utilized state. Citizens took notice of the studio’s peaceful protest and today this annual event is celebrated around the world.

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