For multifamily developers in southeastern Pennsylvania, pursuing a transit-oriented development (TOD) project can reap big rewards. While developing a residential or mixed-use site near a regional rail line has its challenges, the benefits of a TOD could outweigh the costs associated with these hurdles and allow you to maximize your space and ROI.
Before you get overwhelmed with the challenges of limited space, pricey parking garages, and potentially contaminated soil from prior manufacturing uses, consider these three reasons to ride the Pennsylvania TOD train.
While TODs are a relatively new concept for southeastern Pennsylvania suburbs, some municipalities have already included language in their ordinances to encourage this type of project, and allow for 1.2 – 1.5 spaces per unit rather than the suburban norm of 2 spaces.
If your municipality doesn’t have such language, strategize with your consultants to either request a variance (an exception made by the municipality specifically for your project) or propose a text amendment to the municipality (allowing you to officially comply with the ordinance). Keep reading for examples of what that could look like.
With an average of 100-200 fewer parking spaces once you obtain parking relief, you can maximize density. Less money spent on infrastructure like a parking garage, and more money coming in – it’s a win/win!
When a development is proposed, PennDOT assesses the number of additional cars it will bring to the state roads surrounding the project. Referred to as “trips,” this number is generally limited, and developers are required to pay for roadway improvements if the project exceeds the limit. For TODs, however, PennDOT could assign “trip credits” by acknowledging fewer trips than your project actually generates, giving you back a percentage. This lessens your impact on local traffic, reducing the risk of adding roadway improvements to your scope.
The location of TODs attracts millennials and empty-nesters alike. In these areas, smaller apartments are also increasingly popular. With fewer two- and three-bedroom units in your building, you can increase the overall number of units. TODs often contain large amenity spaces with retail space on the ground floor, making it more attractive to future tenants and providing common areas to compensate for the smaller living units.
If you’re considering transit-oriented development, strategize with your consultants, including your engineer and land use attorney. They should perform due diligence to identify all possible zoning issues up front, provide local knowledge of the municipality, and insight into potential pushback you could receive.
Rendering: Wulff Architects
Equus acquired a seven-acre site beside the Lansdale regional rail station with plans to build a 181-unit apartment complex with 15,500 SF of ground floor retail.
While the borough adopted an ordinance to promote TODs, there was still an opportunity to pursue further parking reduction. Bohler worked closely with the architect to prepare concepts and yield plans so the developer could evaluate options. We showed the client how many units
they could gain. The traffic consultant prepared a parking demand analysis and presented it to the municipality, ultimately obtaining a variance to reduce the parking requirement.
The team saved the developer from having to construct over 100 spaces in the parking garage, saving money on infrastructure and allowing for more units to be added to the facility.
Rendering: Minno & Wasko Architects and Planners
Across the street from the Willow Grove regional rail line, this 275-unit transit-oriented project will include 25,000 SF of commercial space and a five-story parking garage.
After multiple lot consolidations, rezoning and the vacation of a paper street, the site was physically within the borders of the township’s Town Center District, which had an existing ordinance to promote TODs. Still faced with a lengthy list of non-compliant zoning issues, the project team
worked to propose a text amendment. After identifying potential zoning issues, Bohler provided the land use attorney with the technical information necessary to draft an amendment. Bohler attended several public hearings and provided expert testimony to get the amendment approved.
By demonstrating that shared parking and proximity to public transportation could reduce the overall parking requirement, the team successfully saved the client approximately 150 parking spaces increasing ROI with less infrastructure and more units.