Not your dad’s aurora

November 30, 2016

We conclude our series from the ULI Fall Meeting with one more from Faculty member Pike Oliver…

During a session at the 2016 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Fall Meeting there was a session about the ULI Healthy Corridors project. It is an effort devoted to finding viable strategies for transforming unsafe, unattractive, and poorly connected commercial corridors into thriving places that further the goal of creating healthy and economically vibrant communities. Don Eernissee, economic development director for the City of Shoreline in our area, gave an overview of the Aurora Corridor Project, which transformed a retail strip into a business-friendly multimodal main street.

Shoreline was a bedroom community “with no heart and no town center,” he said, until the city embraced a three-mile north–south stretch of Highway 99 and invested in making it a main street. Over ten years, the city spent $140 million, or $4,400 per foot of frontage, on transit improvements such as safe crossings and sidewalks, business-access transit lanes, cohesive connections, protected bike lanes, stormwater management, and decorative lighting.

Walkers, bikers, and bus drivers love it, said Eernissee, as do retailers like Trader Joe’s. As a result of the improvements, the corridor saw a 56 percent reduction in accidents involving injuries. Ridership on the bus rapid transit (BRT) system shot up 50 percent along the corridor, which benefited from more frequent stops and a new “healthy, egalitarian, BRT lifestyle.” Improvements have led to “corridor living,” with development of 350 housing units replacing a single-story restaurant on a one-acre (0.4 ha) lot. A marketing campaign, “Not your Dad’s Aurora,” has helped change perceptions about the safety and attractiveness of the corridor within and beyond the community.