In order to provide outdoor amenities to urban tenants, developers and architects are making good use of previously under-utilized rooftop space. Rooftops make excellent amenity spaces because of their unique views and luxurious atmosphere. While they positively affect the city by reducing carbon dioxide and lowering urban heat island temperatures, private rooftops have less of an impact on the public realm than their urban companion: streetscape amenities.
Streetscape amenities can be defined as features in the public right of way that encourage civic and economic activity on the street. They provide opportunities for various modes of travel and enhance the identity of a community. Because streetscape amenities benefit both the general public as well as each private development they adjoin, it falls on both the city and private property owner to work together to create quality streetscape amenities.
The high cost of land in dense urban areas means new developments must maximize the amount of land used for the building. This leads to larger buildings and parking structures leaving minimal outdoor space at ground level. This limited available space is typically only in the public right of way where many public services are competing with the desired streetscape amenities.
In a complex urban environment, achieving a streetscape with a large number of high quality amenities can be a challenge. As a developer, you’ll find it beneficial to have a landscape architect or urban designer on your team that is not only knowledgable about the process, but also has a great working relationship with the city where your project is located.
Regional considerations will vary, but the following are the essential steps most firms will have to take when working toward streetscape amenities in any city.
Step One: Ownership Buy-In
It is critically important to get buy-in for streetscape amenities from the people or person who is in the decision-making role for the development. The process of getting streetscape amenities approved is an investment of time and money. That’s why it’s so important that ownership understands the cost and benefit of the proposed streetscape amenities. The earlier you can get ownership buy-in the better because approvals can delay the project a couple of months if they aren’t handled early on.
Often a project will need an encroachment permit for any architecture that overhangs or protrudes past the property line. It works best if the streetscape encroachments can be part of the same permit application. This helps keep everything on the right timeline so streetscape amenities don’t slow down the process for the whole project.
Step Two: Initial City Approvals
There’s a lot going on in the public right of way. For that reason, it takes many people from the city to sign off on streetscape amenity encroachments.
Rather than attending a permit application meeting banking on everything turning out just right, set up an informal meeting to run through the design in advance. By getting your proposed improvements on the radar of each city official that will sign the permit (see below), you can address their concerns early. It will be much easier to get the permit application through when you have resolved all of the potential conflicts in advance.
Make sure your design team is involved at this stage and leading the charge. If they are active participants in the process, you will save time and effort in coordination and plan updates.
Step Three: Permit Application
Once you have ownership buy-in and have consulted with city officials, it’s time to fill out the permit application. Then each of the city departments will need to sign the application either individually or in an upcoming meeting. The following are some examples of who may need to sign off on your streetscape amenity encroachments:
- Planning Department – Planning may have rules governing outdoor dining areas, furnishings, restaurant patios, etc.
- Public Utilities – There will certainly be requirements for streetscape amenities in relation to public utility lines. For example, no fixed structures are permitted within 10 feet of any gas or sewer line. Public Utilities may also review street light locations as well.
Once your permit application is signed, you can take it to Real Estate Services and obtain a lease!
Successful Streetscape Amenities
The challenge of working through the right of way encroachment permit process keeps many streets from reaching their full potential. Don’t let your property’s street frontage be lacking in public amenities just because they take extra planning to make happen. When you properly plan ahead, the streetscape amenities you want for your new development will be there.