Suburban TOD Feasibility Analysis and Design

Ford, Paul
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Suburban communities are very common in America. The private yard, house, and car are part of the American dream. Our vast network of roads and affordable fuel has allowed a pattern of development that is sustained by driving cars. Times have changed, however, with traffic, fuel prices, and global warming trends threatening. We understand the problems associated with sprawling suburban communities, but how can we change something as permanent as land use? Mass transit is a potential solution. If people live within walking distance train station, in a vibrant mixed-use community, they could rely less on automobiles. A “transit-oriented development” (TOD) refers to a mix of development within walking distance to a train or bus station. TOD currently has a lot of public support. It is clearly a good idea but is it feasible? Is there enough demand from the public and enough government support to promote TOD in the private sector? We are in the midst of a deep recession, and construction is at an all-time low. Can a developer be expected to take on the risk of an unproven type of Development? The goal of this project is to design and analyze the feasibility of a transit-oriented development at a suburban site. The site is within 3 minutes walking distance to a new MBTA commuter rail station that serves the greater Boston area. The one and a half acre parcel is within a commercial village overlay zone that was recently re-designed by the Town of Scituate for the new Greenbush train station. The research methods for this design project begin with background research on transit-oriented development and feasibility studies. It is followed by a site analysis including history, climate, culture, demographics, transportation, zoning and codes. Design standards for the building program are then researched. The research documentation involves gathering financial data for the cash flow feasibility studies. The real estate market is analyzed to determine income figures for rentals or sales and projected inflation over time. Costs are then researched to determine all expenses associated with construction at the project site. One case study is performed on a comparable TOD in an adjacent suburban town. I created an original design for the site that is based on this research. The design concepts that are described in this project are inspired by a desire to create a successful and feasible TOD for the project site. Finally, the financial data gathered in research documentation is used to create pro-forma cash flow statements that analyze the feasibility of my design. Three economic scenarios are used to analyze the design; all rentals, all sales and a mix of rentals and sales. The conclusion of the research is an analysis of the feasibility studies.
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