Wednesday, December 30, 2015

American Fault Line

By J. Mac Holladay, Founder and CEO

On December 9th, I was fortunate to attend a powerful presentation in Charleston, South Carolina featuring Ken Burns and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The title was American Fault Line: Race and the American Ideal. These two icons previewed the new documentaries they are currently working on and participated in a roundtable discussion. The sold out event was held in the beautifully restored Galliard Center in support of the International African American Museum. Ironically, the date of the event was forty years to the day since the first election of Joseph P. Riley, Jr as Mayor of Charleston. After many many great projects, the Museum project is Mayor's Riley's final gift to his community.

As I listened to the two men speak, I thought about the reality that over 40% of all the slaves brought to the United States came to one single wharf in Charleston. That exact location is that place that the Museum will be built. Unlike anything ever envisioned, the Museum will tell the story of those forced to come here as slaves all those years ago. It will tell their story, not only of all they did to build magnificent buildings across the nation as artisans, but the songs and poetry they wrote and how they survived the awful treatment they endured not for decades but for generations. The Museum will chart all that their descendants have done as professionals, elected officials, community and religious leaders as a key part of American history. As Dr. Gates said, "we must take it all in, that is the value of history." The Museum will create a new inclusive American history curriculum for elementary school students and offer continuing education for all who visit.

As many events in 2015 have shown us, racism is not dead. From the over reaction of a North Charleston policeman shooting an unarmed man in the back to the horrible murder of nine people attending a Bible study class at Mother Emmanuel AME Church across the street from the Galliard, we have seen a strange twist in our recent history. Many more negative events have cascaded across the nation all year long. In 2008, many of us had hoped that the election of Barrack Obama as President would change the past. In fact, the reverse has happened. There has been a real increase in blatant racist activities since his second election. As one young African American farmer in Arkansas stated in Paul Theroux’s new book, Deep South, “The Klan don’t wear sheets. They are sitting behind the desks in the banks.” Today, there are 42 million African Americans in the "middle class" and yet 38% of black children live in poverty. Prejudice has consequences every day.

We have only one history in America, it includes all of us. As Mark Twain said, "travel is the enemy of prejudice." So we must share the culture and facts that make us who we are. We must make sure that our children and our grandchildren know all the history of our country. Celebrating black history should not be isolated to a single month, it should be every day, every week, and every month as their history is ours and part of who we all are.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


By Mike Gaymon, Senior Advisor

The Christian Recorder in March of 1862 published that a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church presented the adage of "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me" for the first time in print. 

Most of us will never have sticks and stones thrown at us as was done during this time of our nation's history. It was a different time for sure but today we live in much different times as well.  But we will all experience words that are powerful, sharp and can be as beneficial as they are destructive.
Our team at Market Street focuses on using words (with lots of numbers) to tell a story of the past, the present, and glimpses of what the future may hold for cities, counties and states.  These words while always as accurate as possible can be well received or sometimes not welcomed.  After all, most communities don't want to hear the bad news about their previous decisions or future paths unless major changes are made.  Most want to hear about the successes and the great achievements that worked well.

However, in my opinion, one of the foundation blocks of MSS that has never been compromised is "telling it like it is....the good, the bad, the ugly."  Leaders need to be confronted with the reality of where they actually are and probably will be going in community and economic development.  The future workforce will reap the results of the current leadership facing the reality of their decisions.

Words, followed by a committed leadership to execute them into actions, will determine what the future community will become. They will challenge, empower and help to create a vision for the future.  It may be just words but they can be transforming.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Big Issue at Year-End 2015

By Jim Vaughan, Senior Fellow 

Last year, in December, I posted a blog entitled, Nuggets of wisdom, interest, and of possible value in which I included quotes gleaned from my electronic clippings file that I thought might be of interest to economic developers and city builders. 

I planned a similar wrap-up for this year. Except that one item seemed to overshadow all the others. 

The Paris Climate Accord. 

This agreement is so important that economic developers and city builders must both understand the key elements of the global deal and help develop local plans to support our national climate goals. Going forward, Market Street Services will help our clients develop strategies to capitalize on the new reality of an economy in the post carbon era. 

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This is not my first post on this subject. I have written three blogs on climate change (Sorry Candidates, Climate Change Is Not a Hoax; Can We Still Do Big Things; and Climate Change: It’s No Laughing Matter) each making the case for action. Today’s post celebrates action. 

Here’s how I see it:

1. There is consensus to act. 196 countries approved the historic climate agreement
“The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

2. The agreement provides a broad foundation for meaningful progress
"Anyone who suggests this is a success or a failure is only speaking based on ideology, not reality. Only 10 to 20 years from now, when we look at the implementation of all this, will we really know."Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program

3. New technology has changed the rules
“Many people still seem to believe that renewable energy is hippie-dippy stuff, not a serious part of our future. The reality is that costs of solar and wind power are close to competitive with fossil fuels even without special incentives. (So) the cost of sharp emission reductions will be much less than even optimists used to assume.”Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Dec. 14, 2015

4. Businesses are preparing for opportunity
Chief executives of blue-chip companies like Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, HP and Unilever all expressed support for an ambitious deal. BP, the British oil giant, called the Paris agreement a “landmark climate change deal” and pledged to be “a part of the solution.”Clifford Krauss and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times

“We have the technologies, we have the business incentive, and we have the responsibility. Now all we need is the commitment.”Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens

5. The climate accord provides confidence for investors
“Investors … will now have the confidence to do much more to address the risks arising from high carbon assets and to seek opportunities linked to the low carbon transition already transforming the world’s energy system and infrastructure.”Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Changer

6. This is big, but it’s just a start
“Make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis." President Barack Obama

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On behalf of everyone at Market Street, here’s to a prosperous 2016! We look forward to following your successes in the New Year, and encourage you to follow us on Twitter for the latest thought-provoking community and economic development quotes, news, best practices, and innovations.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quality of Place and the Future of Parking

By Matt DeVeau, Project Manager

In the past few months, this blog has featured a couple of brief ruminations on how automation might drastically re-shape labor markets. It’s a fascinating topic with enormous implications for community and economic development. But despite the enormity of “the future of work” question, I think there are many more ways in which technological advancements might impact our field in some way.

I’m a city planning nerd at heart, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the physical spaces we occupy and the investments and policies that shape them. And I’m increasingly of the belief that technologically driven shifts in consumer behavior may soon lead to fundamental changes in our built environment. Given the importance of “quality of place” in areas such as talent attraction and retention, I thought I’d share one of these thoughts here. This isn’t going to be an amorphous ode to “disruption” or a far-out hypothetical. Instead, let’s start with a trend that is already well underway: ridesharing. 

I think we can by now skip the full “what is Uber?” explainer, but let’s at least pause to illustrate the general concept: you want to go somewhere, you open an app in your smartphone, summon a vehicle to your current location, plug the address of your destination into the app, and off you go. Needless to say, this type of service could not have existed prior to the widespread availability of smartphones and GPS, but once the technological conditions were right, the concept took off. Less than seven years since its founding, Uber has reached a valuation of $62.5 billion, bigger than General Motors. 

To me, the popularity of Uber and other ridesharing services is simple: they are affordable and convenient. So much so, in fact, that individuals in some markets might plausibly forgo car ownership altogether without adding costs or sacrificing much in the way of the freedom and independence available through vehicle ownership. I’ve done a few back-of-the-envelope calculations for Atlanta, and it was a close call depending on how I tweaked assumptions about things like commute distance, desire/ability to use other transportation modes on occasion, etc.

And that’s all with humans doing the driving. As we’ve discussed in this space previously, autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles are well into the testing and deployment stages. It may be quite some time before they are capable of reliably navigating complex and unpredictable surface streets as opposed to relatively simple and predictable travel along freeways. But any advancement in autonomous vehicle technology would serve to make ridesharing more viable.

So what does this all have to do with urban form? Parking. If your primary mode of transportation is a car, think about all the places you park throughout a day – your residence, your job, a store, a park, your place of worship, etc. That’s a lot of storage space, and it adds up. According to one recent estimate, 14 percent of the total land area in Los Angeles County was devoted to parking

But if ridesharing continues to advance as it has – and especially if significant headway is made on the autonomous vehicle front – then we could easily see many individuals (primarily but not exclusively in larger urban markets) drop car ownership in favor of “renting” on-demand rides. In this scenario, vehicles won’t sit idle while their owner is working, sleeping, shopping, or eating – they’ll simply move on to the next fare. And in this case, we won’t need nearly as much parking.

The planning and design implications of such a future are too weighty to get into here. And it’s not practical on any level – technological, political, etc. – to suggest an immediate wholesale change in our mindset. (Seriously, if you’ve never been to a commercial or multifamily residential rezoning hearing, stop by some time and see what issue dominates the conversation.) But the way we price and regulate parking has always been kind of a mess and this in turn has driven up development costs, chewed up land that could be economically productive with another use, and generally led to a built environment that is not made for humans. 

In the overall context of thinking about quality of place, communities should think about how attitudes towards things like parking might change in the coming years. Are existing regulations flexible enough for a future where demand for parking may fall and should we let market forces determine the answer to that question? (Imagine that.) Does it make long-term sense to direct public investments toward things like parking decks in the name of spurring private development in the short-run? Should communities begin to think about redevelopment strategies and frameworks should there prove to be a future excess supply of parking? These are all questions that I think are worthy of asking in a changing world.