HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners; Grimshaw Architects; Alamo Architects; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; and Urban Green Council

Enhancing Commercial Vibrancy and Resiliency in the Sandy-Affected Region

The Problem

Our team focused on the resiliency challenges of key commercial corridors across the region. We explored solutions that fully integrate design and engineering of buildings and infrastructure with programs, financing tools, and management strategies.

Commercial property, including local retail and services, forms the critical backbone of a community, supporting it in everyday conditions and serving as a lifeline for supplies, information, and recovery efforts during storm conditions, including Sandy. There are 100 million square feet of retail in the 100-year floodplain (based on best available FEMA mapping) across the Sandy-affected region, representing $34 billion in annual sales and over 175,000 jobs, or 20% of employment within this zone. Small businesses predominate in these waterfront communities; they have great vitality, but lack the density of upland neighborhoods, may depend on seasonal activity from tourists and beachgoers, and lack capacity for collective action. We found these businesses impacted deeply by Sandy, with 74% of businesses closed for an average of 7 days, and numerous stories of businesses unable to reopen, despite small business recovery support programs from federal, state and local governments.

These facts compel us to create innovative protection and recovery solutions that are financeable and implementable.

 

The Team

HR&A Advisors is a leading real estate, economic development and sustainability consulting firm that works with public and private sector clients around the world to deliver successful economic development strategies. We are joined by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, an architecture and urban design firm with global experience in waterfront and commercial district design.

We assembled and worked closely with a team of leading creative and technical experts, including:

W Architecture, landscape and public realm designers

Grimshaw Architects, innovative building designers

Alamo Architects, Texas-based architects with national experience in flood-sensitive architecture

Langan Engineering, building, civil and marine engineers

The Urban Green Council, green building strategists

Hargreaves Associates, a renowned open space design firm

Together, our firms have created and implemented sustainable resiliency solutions, supported planning responses in the wake of Sandy, and possess a deep understanding of how climate change is impacting communities across the Sandy-affected area. HR&A professionals and Cooper, Robertson & Partners played leading roles in New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, and we are managing recovery and reconstruction planning for communities participating in the New York Rising program.

 

Research and Solutions

Our regional analysis considered commercial corridors from Annapolis to Hyannis. We engaged local business owners and stakeholders in communities representing barrier islands, mainland coastal communities, and dense urban districts – typologies that represent common problems and potential solutions.

While there are design strategies for protection of commercial buildings and corridors, many, such as elevation, flood gates and sandbags, hinder ground floor shopping. Many strategies are also challenging to finance and implement, especially for struggling small businesses.

Our work led to a framework for design solutions and strategies for implementation:

Design Strategies

●      Protect ground floor commercial spaces from flooding using individual or block-level protection measures;

●     Shift commercial activity by supporting new, sometimes denser, development on higher ground; support new kinds of retail space that can be removed during a storm or designed to flood;

●     Elevate businesses, particularly as new development occurs, providing innovative measures for access; help businesses below flood elevations to raise their inventory and key equipment;

●     Connect coastal commercial corridors to adjacent, dense areas, increasing proximity to economically resilient neighborhoods and critical transportation.

Implementation Strategies

●      Manage implementation by providing technical assistance to individual businesses, and encourage collective action through merchants’ associations and other organizations;

●     Finance individual or collective resiliency measures for businesses that could otherwise not support the investment needed for improvements, potentially tying financing to collective action;

●     Incentivize development of new kinds of commercial spaces in critical areas to make communities more economically resilient;

●     Regulate codes and building standards to incorporate strategies for resiliency, including allowing floodable ground floors with removable programming and requiring emergency preparedness.

The design opportunities illustrated below represent potential projects to increase resiliency in these impacted communities, with the potential to apply solutions to many other commercial corridors and districts across the region.

Download the boards and project research presented by HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners in 2013 here.

View the team’s latest project updates on their design opportunity page here.

Projects by HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners

Barrier Island: Beach 116th Street, Rockaways

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
New York

Beach 116th Street can become a resilient hub for local residents and a shopping, dining, and hospitality destination for visitors through projects including: temporary and permanent measures to protect merchandise and equipment in street-level businesses; rear lot expansions to provide additional elevated space during flooding; and new, elevated commercial development in and around the MTA train station at the level of the train platform.

Go to Design Proposal Summary

Coastal Commercial Resiliency Financing

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
Regional

The HR&A team is working with businesses, merchants associations, and local government in up to three vulnerable areas in New York City and on the New Jersey shore to create a replicable financial tool to enable implementation of temporary and long-term physical and operational interventions, protecting critical local businesses from future extreme weather events and climate change.

Go to Design Proposal Summary

Go to Updates

Dense Urban Edge: Red Hook, Brooklyn

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
New York

Red Hook can become a better-protected, more integrated community with more resilient commercial businesses and better connections through projects including: flood protection for existing stores and buildings along Van Brunt Street; an increase in commercial activity on higher ground on Columbia Street, connecting the neighborhood on the waterfront with Red Hook Houses and encouraging denser development along both corridors...

Go to Design Proposal Summary

Mainland Coastal: Asbury Park, New Jersey Shore

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
New Jersey

Protective solutions for this vibrant shorefront community and live music destination can also connect boardwalk activity to the town economy, providing year-round employment through projects including: reconfiguring the edge of Wesley Lake to provide habitat, recreation, and flood protection, while expanding mixed use development along this corridor to connect the boardwalk to downtown and Main Street activity...

Go to Design Proposal Summary

The Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project

HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York; Far Rockaway, Queens, New York; Asbury Park, New Jersey

The HR&A/Cooper Robertson team has created innovative concepts to enhance the resiliency and economic vitality of the Sandy-affected region’s coastal commercial corridors and the neighborhoods that surround them. Retail is the lifeblood of communities, providing jobs, critical goods and services, and neighborhood gathering places. Throughout the region, retailers and their inventory, primarily located on the ground floor and basement of buildings, are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts. We have seen how commercial ...

Go to Design Proposal Summary