Transit Oriented Development is shaping Connecticut’s Towns & Cities

posted by Nicholas Vitti October 29, 2015

Everybody wants to live downtown! Transit Oriented Development or “TOD” is a land use concept that is picking up steam (pun intended) not only with planning and zoning professionals, but also among buyers, renters, builders, developers, and municipal, state and national leaders. In its essence, TOD is a straightforward methodology: the creation of compact, walkable, livable, mixed-use communities centered around high quality transit systems. In this vein, transit oriented development promotes the redevelopment of underutilized properties (many of which have historical, industrial uses) within walking distance of public transportation. TOD incorporates and embraces other new-age planning concepts such as “new urbanism” and “smart growth”.

Transit Oriented Development has long been championed within cities and major urban areas, but real estate market trends have made it an attractive planning tool for smaller towns too. Buyers and renters want smaller, denser, more affordable, no maintenance or less maintenance, energy efficient homes and/or rentals, with easy access to public transit and the town center.

Recent residential development in Stamford and Norwalk is centered on this trend.

Demand has been extraordinary for rental housing surrounded by retail and restaurants, in close proximity to rail lines. Stamford is using federal funds to develop an urban transitway that will improve traffic flow in the vicinity of the train station, encouraging more downtown residential projects. Norwalk is pursuing similar development, using its rail corridor as a hub for major mixed use projects.

Grants are supporting cities and towns building their “Main Street”

In 2014 the State of Connecticut recognized this trend by awarding grants to eleven Connecticut municipalities to support planning projects that embrace transit oriented development. Cities like New Haven and Bridgeport received grants, but so did smaller towns like Berlin, Bethel, Enfield, Milford, Wallingford and West Hartford.  TOD trends are impacting real estate markets throughout Connecticut regardless of size, so central planning concepts are becoming part the evolutionary vision of smaller communities.

The Bethel grant is being used to support development around its train station, which is located a short distance from Greenwood Avenue, Bethel’s “Main Street”.  Bethel has hired a planning firm to explore transit oriented development that will reflect the town’s character as a quaint, historic village community with a picturesque downtown. The plan has generated mixed emotions among residents many of whom are afraid that such development will have a detrimental effect on Bethel’s charming ambiance.  Bethel’s development plan will likely serve as a model for other small Connecticut towns that adapt to the continuing trend of centralized development.

If you have questions about Planning and Zoning trends and how they may impact your future real estate strategies, call Cacace, Tusch & Santagata. We can help.

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