In 2002, Richard Pace, president of Cumberland Development LLC., found a building in an old area of Cleveland near 71st Street and Euclid Avenue, which he saw potential to develop.
The building — known as the Baker Electric Building — had great architecture and a lot of potential, however, Pace looked at the surrounding neighborhood and knew the area wasn’t ready for investment yet, so he instead undertook a development in the suburbs.
In 2006, he went back to look at the old building again, but this time the city and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority were in the midst of building its new bus rapid transit line along the Euclid corridor.
“When I saw it under construction and that an investment was being made into the Euclid corridor, I decided it was time for me to make an investment,” he said. “Once I saw an investment was being made in the area I felt it was going to be a good investment for me.”
Pace was right. Within three years of his investment being made and the BRT line opening, he saw the 50,000 square feet of space within the Baker building leased out to biomedical startups and a competing investor was able to lease out 250,000 square feet of space nearby.
And Cleveland has since become a model to show other cities that BRT lines can start economic booms in old parts of town.
Bus Rapid Growth
Kenneth Sislak, associate vice president, senior project manager, transportation for Aecom, cites the Euclid Avenue project in Cleveland as the true measure of the impact BRT can have on development. The area had fallen on hard times in the past 30 years and the line was seen as a potential tool to not only lower travel times, but to be used as an economic tool.
More than $4.3 billion in development took place along the line since, including more than $80 million in renovations to Playhouse Square and another $50 million in renovations to the theater itself.
“I can’t say enough about the transformation of the Cleveland State Campus,” he said. “They’re building market rate apartment buildings along the corridor and old commercial buildings are being converted into high-end residential lofts with great views of Lake Erie. It has been very transformational and it spills off all the way down the corridor.”
Sislak said part of the line goes into East Cleveland, which has been a highly economically depressed area for years. However, the BRT line has even spurred development there.
A recent study performed by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Realtors Association also showed BRT lines also were beneficial in stabilizing home prices during the most recent recession. According to the study, along BRT transit zones in Boston there was a 317 percent change in average residential sale prices at just one station area and along the corridor. Condos saw an average price increase within the transit shed with single family homes and townhouses held their value better than areas not along transit sheds. The entire rapid transit shed did 227 percent better in retaining value than the region as a whole between 2006 and 2011, with homes along the BRT shed having the best access to transit and jobs, and having the most walkable neighborhoods.
David Sampson, national practice leader, bus operations and strategic planning for Aecom, said the Silver Line in Boston has seen $571 million in investment along its corridor since 2008 and its tax base has grown 250 percent compared to 150 percent citywide.
Growth Depends on Investment
Paul Skoutelas, market leader and director for transit and rail practice at Parsons Brinckerhoff, said BRT is becoming a more popular option for cities of all sizes in order to meet transit needs and a rapid transit system can take many shapes. While higher-end systems will include their own lanes and modified stops, some are simply upgraded vehicles.