News 2017

City Summit | Annual Conference of the National League of Cities

Representatives from Valbridge attended the National League of Cities, City Summit conference in Charlotte, North Carolina in mid-November. Local leaders had the opportunity to come together and learn from experts and each other, with NLC University seminars centered on building technical and leadership skills. Also featured were Host City Mobile workshops around Charlotte that showcased real-world collaborative solutions to issues facing local government. There were an abundance of sessions spanning many topics relevant to conference attendees and their respective communities.

During this annual conference, local leaders worked with experts on topics including economic development, climate change, transportation and leadership development, aiding them with tools and resources designed to help in planning for the future of their cities and towns. Mayors, council members, and city staff also learned from hands-on workshops, various networking events with fellow city leaders and mobile tours of innovative projects completed by the City of Charlotte.

Projects completed by the City of Charlotte include the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Real-Time Crime Center featuring innovative technology solutions like automated license plate readers and electronic monitoring. Guests on this tour had the opportunity to meet with law enforcement officials and discuss the use of crime analysis and criminal intelligence as a factor in crime reduction. Another tour was on the LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE) light rail project. This project adds an additional 9.3 miles to the existing 9.6-mile Blue Line light rail system. This system has an average of more than 16,000 daily riders, proving the need for development on the BLE. Another notable project in the City of Charlotte is the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. This is a state-of-the-art facility in west Charlotte that provides resources and opportunities for individuals facing employment barriers. The City of Charlotte has partnered with Goodwill on Project PIECE, a job training and opportunity effort and the Safe Home Program, which assists senior citizens, handicapped citizens, and low-income families to improve their homes in the interest of health and safety.

Other projects completed by the City of Charlotte include a renovation of an enclosed mall into a mixed-use center with condos, restaurants, and offices, totaling almost one million square feet; a creative neighborhood improvement model that provides financial and technical support to create sustainable public and private partnerships, build neighborhood capacity, and support quality of life in low to moderate income neighborhoods; and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSWS). CMSWS has implemented some of the most innovative quality management programs in North Carolina and has been awarded national recognition for these efforts.

Other activities at the conference included an exposition hall with over 250 vendors on hand introducing new products, services and programs. Networking events provided the opportunity to meet and build relationships with other local leaders to exchange ideas. Constituency group events were open to all attendees and provided a great opportunity to find a niche within NLC and meet others with common backgrounds and interests. Member council meetings were also open to all attendees. These meetings brought together representatives from similar communities to share ideas about solutions to issues specific to their communities. Member councils included Small Cities Council, Large City Council, First Tier Suburbs Council, University Communities Council, and Military Communities Council.

NLC, in conjunction with ULI offered a workshop in city redevelopment at the conference. Given a set of development criteria- open space, retail, affordable housing, parking, and requirements for returns to the city and investors, several teams prepared and presented varying plans for redevelopment. The photo attached is the model plan that VPA’s Gary DeClark, Senior Managing Director of the Chicago Metro office and his group prepared during the workshop.

The critical primary goals for the 11.75-acre project were to a) remove blighted issues, b) generate tax revenues for the City, c) create skilled and professional entry employment, d) attract retail, e) create housing for mixed income groups, f) create affordable housing with 10% of the land use, g) preserve legally, h) preserve designated historic sites, i) maintain/create ample parking, and j) create open space with 10% of the land use.  Further, a target of 13.5% rate of return on investment over three years to attract investors was required.  The project was in the $130,000,000 range.

The assignment was one with many moving parts.  Although Gary’s group met the 13.5% return needs (we were at 13.9%), they were unable to meet the open space requirement.  Moreover, the highest returns were those generated by higher end condominium development.  Further, retail and particularly big box retail in the exercise were necessary for the overall economic viability of the project, but generated only marginal returns relatively, speaking.  The difficulty was finding the right balance of uses so that all factions of the local society could be represented.

Although the exercise was set up for a single day’s worth of analysis by the ULI representatives and hence some base assumptions were given (e.g., the City Council would approve the project submitted), the exercise was an eye-opener for all who participated.