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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Toronto: crafting a livable city amidst staggering population shifts and growth

The Lambda Alpha International Simcoe Chapter hosted the Fall 2016 Toronto Land Economics Weekend (LEW) attracting a global contingency eager to learn about Toronto's history, challenges and accomplishments. With limited time, the LEW tours and presentations focused on downtown Toronto redevelopment plans-in-process designed to craft a livable city for the increasing population.

Lambda Alpha International (LAI) is an honorary society for the advancement of land economics. LAI provides a forum for the study and advancement of land economics where the "winnowing and sifting" of ideas takes place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. 

LAI operates through a network of chapters. A LAI Chapter provides a variety of programs and forums for its members to share information critical to understanding important land-use issues. The IMPACT Blog article, Lambda Alpha International Atlanta Chapter: growing membership, influence and impact, introduces LAI along with its designated purposes.

Twice per year chapters sponsor "Weekend Experiences" giving members an opportunity to meet and learn about land economic issues in cities throughout the world. Open to LAI members and their guests, the LEWs address wider international, national and regional issues and include project tours within the host city.

With prime downtown location, the Le Germain Hotel Toronto on Mercer Street was a perfect host hotel for the Toronto LEW. The boutique hotel staff was committed to creating a lovely guest experience. Sustainability was core to the hotel's operations with in-room recycling bins, shower amenities in pump bottles, and educational material on minimizing the guest footprint during their stay.

Ann King & Tim Youmans
@ reception
On Thursday, September 22 LAI Board & Executive Meetings were held throughout the day. Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore represented the LAI Atlanta Chapter as well as her new position on the International Public Relations & Communications Committee.

An evening President's Reception hosted at the TD Bank Tower in McCarthy Tetrault's 53rd Floor offices officially opened the Toronto LEW program. Good friends from across the globe were happy to reunite over a delicious buffet and open bar. For first-time LEW attendees, the reception was an excellent welcome to the festivities.

The Toronto LEW format included educational LEW Talks in the morning followed by late morning and afternoon tours. Co-LEW Chair Russell Mathew moderated the Friday morning LEW Talks along with his Results of our experiment opening presentation. Coupled with Urban Strategies Partner Joe Berridge's Toronto: an accidental metropolis subsequent presentation, Russell set the stage for the underlying LEW theme: crafting a livable city amidst staggering population shifts and growth.

Between the two presentations, the following Toronto facts emerged:
Toronto Skyline 
  • Sixth-most populous metropolitan area in North America (NA) and growing faster than any other NA city.
  • More than 100,000 annual population growth since mid-1980s.
  • Long history of immigrants and refugees with shifting demographics since 1980's; destination for 47.5% of Canada's immigrants.
  • Economy diversifying yet still very industrial.
  • Canada's centre of banking and business activity.
  • English Canada's media and arts capital.
  • 2016 PWC Cities of Opportunities report ranks Toronto in top tier along with London, Paris and Singapore.
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport is the fastest growing large airport in the world.
  • Best library system in the world.
  • One of the best public school systems in the world.
Population Growth & Shifts
With an average of 100,000 new residents annually since the 1980's, Toronto is growing at a staggering rate. The current Toronto 2.5 million population is on target to reach an estimated 3.1 million by 2031; the metro area current 8.6 population is estimated to reach 15 million by 2031.

In addition to the growth, Toronto's population profile is shifting. The 2011 CMA Immigration stats reveal a shift in the immigration population from mainly European and the Americas to Asian origin. 

Toronto's Chinatown
Though only 24.8% of the total immigrant population, Asian country origin is 47% of the recent immigrants. An interesting validation is comparison of the phone book listings for Smith | Brown and Lee | Wong from 1940 to 2010. Almost non-existent in the 1940 phone book, Lee | Wong listings skyrocketed in the 1970's and by 2010 surpassed Smith | Brown as the predominant listed last names.

Along with the growing, shifting population, Toronto housing preferences are changing, strongly driven by in town millennial residents. According to NBLA Partner Mark Conway's What’s driving the Toronto Condominium Market? LEW Talk, millennials are choosing to live downtown and embrace the urban lifestyle. 

Per Mark, millennials say NO to: traffic, sterile, commute, car-oriented and isolated. ... and YES to: transit, walkable, eclectic, inclusive and low maintenance.

Thus, millennials are one of the strong drivers for the in town condominium market. An additional influence is the high cost of new detached housing. Since 2004, Toronto condominium average prices rose from under Can$300,000 to around Can$500,000. During the same time frame, new detached homes average prices rose from under Can$600,000 to around Can$2,000,000.

Local coffee shop in the
eclectic Kensington Market
The office market is following the young talent settling into downtown urban condominiums. Global corporations are consolidating their offices into the downtown market. Coca-Cola, Cisco, Corus, Deloitte, Google and Telus recently consolidated their Toronto corporate offices within the downtown business district.

Recent and ongoing transit investments influence the condominium and office building location.

Housing for a Growing Population
Although downtown Toronto has a solid condominium market, there is a shortage of affordable apartments for working class residents and recent immigrants. Toronto is facing the affordable rental market dilemma with a direct approach to provide housing for lower income residents.

Thorncliffe Park
concrete slab tower
After lunch on the first LEW tour day the group boarded buses for a visit to Thorncliffe Park within the City of Toronto limits. Built in the 1960's on a former racetrack, Thorncliffe is a cluster of high rise cement slab apartment buildings. Originally planned for 12,500 residents, Thorncliffe Park has a current population of 30,000, predominately recent Muslim immigrants from South Asia. The neighborhood is well served by 24-hour public transportation.

Privately owned (only one Thorncliffe building is publicly owned), the rental buildings fell into disrepair over the years due to a 1972 change in income taxes and the 1975 provincial rent control. For 40 years, building owners neglected maintenance and private rental construction nosedived.

With the 1980's federal high-immigration policy and gentrification of inner city dwellings, tower cluster apartments were affordable housing for recent immigrants. Tower renewal is underway in Thorncliffe and other cluster communities to repair and upgrade buildings. In addition, tower renewal addresses the shifting resident demographics to make better use of common area space as well as access to commercial businesses and schools.

Grame Stewart, Ahmed Hussein
& Doug Sanders
The Thorncliffe Park bus tour was augmented by three excellent experts on the neighborhood: Graeme Stewart of ERA Architects, Ahmed Hussein of the Thorncliffe Park Neighbourhood Office, and Doug Saunders (author of Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World

On the second full tour day, the LEW group was treated to peameal bacon sandwiches & an array of doughnuts - both local Toronto favorites - for lunch at Regent Park. Following lunch,Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) Senior Development Manager Kelly Skeith introduced the group to Regent Park, a TCHC initiative via a formal presentation followed by a walking tour.

Owned by the City of Toronto, TCHC is responsible for 58,600 units in 2,200 buildings where 50% of the buildings are designated for 50+ years old residents. The TCHC budget is Can$2.6 billion to repair existing buildings. 

The Regent Park master plan is grounded in diversity. Buildings: townhouses, mid-rise & high-rise; Housing: subsidized intertwined with market rate units; Residents: immigrants, refugees, and Canadian citizens. Common grounds are filled with a large playground, a community garden, open space and a City of Toronto public indoor pool.

Regent Park residences
view from across common area
A long-term plan, Regent Park plans include increasing the prior to revitalization population of 7,500 to 12,500 residents over a 15 - 20 year time frame. The plan consists of building renovation as well as new construction. Regent Park is an excellent example of collaboration among government, development and community partners.

In addition to housing, Regent Park focuses on community development through a social development plan, community-based art, youth engagement and heritage commemoration. The neighborhood walking tours were led by community volunteers who gave the resident perspective to the Regent Park revitalization.

In her LEW Talk Growth in livable future presentation, City of Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat addressed Toronto's growing pains and the challenges facing downtown. In TOcore - Planning Toronto's Downtown six challenges are detailed: 1> balanced growth & infrastructure, 2> demographically inclusive communities, 3> local mobility & regional connectivity, 4> resilient water and energy systems, 5> healthy office, institutional & retail sectors, and 6> abundant quality parks & public spaces.

Union Station under
Downtown transportation intertwines within at least 50% of the challenges, either directly or indirectly. Toronto's plans to take public transportation underground ties into challenge #1 (building balanced infrastructure), #3 (mobility & connectivity) and #5 (connecting employees | customers with offices & retail).

Bloor-Yorkville BIA Executive Director Briar De Lange's Bloor Street Transformation Project LEW Talk gave an excellent overview of the aggressive, successful project. By moving the public transit lines underground, Bloor Street was transformed into a well planned, pedestrian friendly area complete with sidewalk floral decor and ample benches.  ... and Bloor Street's Mink Mile status was reclaimed!

Jennifer ended her presentation with slides on Rail Deck Park, a planned 21-acre park in the heart of Downtown by decking over the rail corridor. Thus, challenge #6 (parks & public spaces) is also addressed via a transportation-related project.

Beyond one of the best public school systems in the world, Toronto boasts three major universities: York University, University of Toronto and Ryerson University (RU). On the second tour day, former RU Executive Lead Elisabeth Stroback and RU Director, Capital Projects & Real Estate Nic Del Salaberry co-presented The university is expanding LEW Talk.

Since the 1990's RU nearly doubled their 21,000 student population to the current 40,000 student status. Along with the growth, RU stepped up its public profile and physical presence. With a commitment to a single, downtown campus, RU released a new 2016 Master Plan, including the following statement:
Ryerson University thrives on change. As Ryerson is interwoven with established and emerging communities, continually evolving retail hubs, modern civic spaces and historic streets, it is both a partner and a leader in realizing positive change in downtown Toronto. This institution is porous, overlapped and inseparable from the evolution of its neighbours and partners.
Within the above powerful statement, the Master Plan includes three distinctive goals:

Goal #1: Urban Intensification - the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex (completion 2018) combines student housing, academic uses, retail and pedestrian connections. Result: transformation of an underutilized lot into a vertical campus.

Skyline Award presentation
to Ryerson University
Goal #2: People First: Pedestrianization of the urban environment - a student-driven initiative successfully closed a segment of Gould Street to vehicle traffic, creating a natural relationship with the active ground floor of the Image Arts Building and Ryerson Image Centre. The area is perfect for the Gould Street Farmers Market and other pedestrian-oriented activities. RU intends to proceed with further efforts on Gould Street and other public realm key areas.

Goal #3: Commitment to Design Excellence - inherent within the design commitment are projects that raise the standard of what a public institution can be. The RU Student Learning Centre design prioritized student needs while openly engaging with its surroundings and earned a host of international awards. The Images Arts Building outside lighting features and the Image Centre exterior photo exhibits are reminders of the inspiration within university life both inside and outside of buildings. Repurposing the historic Maple Leaf Gardens into the mixed-use Mattamy Athletic Centre demonstrated a sensitivity to cultural history and underscored the RU connection to the surrounding community.

With minimal campus housing due to limited land, RU contracted with a developer to build a 600-bed student residence. Once complete in summer 2018, RU will provide the student administration and residence life services for a fee. Innovative partnerships solve urban campus challenges and set RU apart as an industry leader.

At the evening LAI Awards Dinner, Nic accepted the prestigious LAI Skyline Award on behalf of Ryerson University. The award recognizes noteworthy and commendable instances of the practical application of the principles of land economics in the preservation, development or utilization of our land resources. Nominated by the Simcoe Chapter, the LAI International Awards Committee evaluates and approves Skyline Award recipients.

Toronto Islands @ sunset
A core attribute of a livable city, culture is a driver for attracting an educated, professional citizen base with disposable income. In addition, cultural events bring tourists, including metro area residents, to the downtown district for entertainment, dining and simple enjoyment.

Toronto is blessed with an array of cultural flavors ranging from The Blue Jays to the St. Lawrence Market to the eclectic Kensington Market area to The Toronto Islands & the Lake Ontario shoreline. In addition, Toronto is home to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - per Time (2007): the most influential film festival, period.

In 2010, the TIFF Bell Lightbox (TBL) - a 42-story mixed-use complex located in the Entertainment District - opened as TIFF's permanent home. The Reitman Family (director & producer Ivan Reitman directed the original Ghostbusters movie) donated the land. Most of the additional funding came from a joint venture with Daniels Corporation to develop Festival Tower, a 373-unit condominium project above TBL.

LEW group in TIFF cinema
during tour
After the first day LEW Talks, the group walked around the corner from the hotel for a TBL tour. Impressive, the TBL opens into a five-story atrium and houses five cinemas, TIFF's administrative offices, a film reference library, and galleries. TIFF's commitment to sound integrity is astounding. In the cinemas, the design was crafted to maintain the original sound designated by the director as well as prevent exterior sound contamination. When an individual views a film at TIFF, no sound adjustment is permitted from the original soundtrack.

The first tour day ended at the Aga Khan Museum, located in the Toronto suburbs. When Ismaili Muslims were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972, their spiritual leader the Aga Khan appealed to the Canadian government for help. In the first wave, about 6,000 refuges arrived and established a strong Ismaili community. In 2002, the Aga Khan assembled property to build the Museum, the accompanying contemporary Persian gardens, and the adjacent Ismaili Centre.

Ismaili Centre in evening
Per the website, the Aga Kahn Museum mission is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage. Through education, research, and collaboration, the Museum will foster dialogue and promote tolerance and mutual understanding among people.

In alignment with its mission, the Museum is home to a diverse Permanent Collection of more than 1,000 objects. An ever-changing roster of exhibitions and innovative programs including music and dance performances, theatre, lectures, workshops, and film screenings are presented at the Museum.

Following privately guided Museum and grounds tours, the LEW group was treated to a delightful dinner at Diwan Restaurant on the Museum ground floor.  As the evening progressed, the Ismaili Centre lit up as the Sun set creating a Divine view while dining.

LEW Co-Chair Leslie Yager moderated the second day LEW Talks with speaker introductions via clever, fun rhymes and set the perfect tone for the day! 

City of Toronto Urban Design Manager James Parakh's POPS culture LEW Talk presentation left the group in awe of Toronto's commitment to crafting a livable city. POPS - Privately Owned Publicly-Accessible Space, creative place making to enhance urban life - are integral to a downtown filled with public green space available for residents, the downtown work force, and tourists. 

Maintained by the private sector, over 100 POPS are currently mapped in Toronto. POPS are designed to complement existing and planned publicly owned parks, open spaces and natural areas.

What are POPS? Per James:
  • Places of retreat, relaxation, respite.
  • Places for social gathering & interaction.
  • Places to engage in civic life.
  • Places to view public art.
Public art within
Brookfield Place complex
Toronto is committed to creating an aesthetic downtown filled with green space and public art. The Toronto Official Plan includes the Percent for Public Art Program where 1% of capital project costs on private development projects go towards public art. Per the website:
The governing principle for the Percent for Public Art Program is that art is a public benefit to be enjoyed and experienced by residents and visitors throughout the city. The privately-owned art is intended to make buildings and open spaces more attractive and interesting and to improve the quality of the public realm. The Program requires that the artwork must be clearly visible at all times from publicly accessible areas. Alternatively, City Planning may seek public art contributions to be directed to City-owned public lands. 
Included in the cultural experience is the preserving of historical structures along with integrating history within contemporary development. Toronto is an excellent example of recognizing historical value within their current city planning and downtown development. 

After the second day LEW Talks, the group was treated to a meandering downtown walking tour hosted by local LAI Simcoe Chapter members. The tour included under renovation Union Station, The Royal York hotel, the Brookfield Place & Santiago Calatrava's stunning parabolic Galleria, and ended at the iconic St. Lawrence Market. Buses awaited the group at the St. Lawrence Market for the day's remaining tours.

The final second day tour destination was Corktown Common (CC), 2013 LAI Skyline Award recipient. Opened in 2013 as a part of Waterfront Toronto's revitalization, the 18-acre CC serves diverse purposes including flood protection for 500 acres of Toronto's eastern downtown, brownfield reclamation from prior industrial uses, and public green space including a pavilion and fountain.

Wetlands @ Corktown Common
Dedicated to sustainability, the pavilion and fountain electricity is solar powered. Storm water reclamation is used for irrigation. Wetlands and other park areas are designed to return CC to its ecological heritage.

While at CC, Derek Goring with First Gulf educated the LEW group on East Harbour, Canada's largest current commercial project. First Gulf is East Harbour's developer. 

Livable Cities
With impeccable timing, the LAI Global Chapter hosted an October 2016 WHAT MAKES OUR CITIES LIVABLE? A global view of what can be learned from the urban experience webinar presented by Ascent Director of Design and Planning Allen Folks. Although the webinar was Asian city-focused, it was inspiring to witness how Toronto aligns within Allen's prescription for a livable city.

Downtown Toronto: mix of
historic & contemporary buildings
In fact, The Economist lists Toronto as the fourth most livable city in 2016, only behind Melbourne, Vienna and Vancouver.

Toronto's growing global population, supported by efforts to welcome and integrate immigrants into the local culture, and substantial investments in affordable, urban housing complement Allen's livable city criteria. The focus on public transportation, a defined downtown plan, and ample public accessible green space and artwork are important ingredients for a livable city. Corktown Common's multifaceted purpose is a perfect example of the sustainability component in Allen's presentation.

Awards Dinner & Farewell
Consistent with protocol, the Toronto LEW closed with an Awards Dinner hosted at the CN Tower Horizons Restaurant; the sunset over the Lake Ontario was magnificent!

LAI International Fellow Ian Lord
with LAI Fellows
After a fabulous reception, LAI Simcoe Chapter President Bronwyn Krog gave welcoming remarks. Next LAI President Steven Gragg bestowed the high honor of International Fellow upon LAI Past President, Strategic Plan Chair & Council of Presidents Chair Ian Lord of the Simcoe Chapter. An International Fellow is an active member whose efforts significantly advanced the purposes, organization, or growth of LAI. 

Ian's family attended the Awards Dinner and his lovely wife Lori fastened the prestigious Fellow pin on Ian's lapel. Each of the International Fellows in attendance congratulated Ian at the podium with a friendly roast filled with compliments.

After dinner, LAI Awards Committee Chair Jim Fawcett (International Fellow & Past President) facilitated the Skyline Award to Ryerson University and International 2016 Member of the Year to Cheryl Soon of the Aloha Chapter. Cheryl serves as LAI Secretary.

The Honorable David Crombie received the 2015 Urban Affairs Award. At the Awards Dinner LAI First Vice-President Robert McBride presented Mr. Crombie with the physical award accompanied by a long list of impressive accolades.

Honorable David Crombie with
his 2015 Urban Affairs Award
From his six-year tenure as Toronto Mayor in the 1970's to his numerous prominent federal appointments in the international arena to his vital role in the formation of Toronto Waterfront to his 2015 appointment by the Premier of Ontario to lead a panel to look at the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, the Niagara Escarpment Plan, and the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan, Mr. Crombie's urban affairs contributions are astounding. Isak Nes accompanied his grandfather Mr. Crombie to the Awards Dinner.

The final formal "business" was an appreciative farewell to the Toronto Fall LEW along with a hearty welcome to the Philadelphia Spring LEW, scheduled for April 27 - 29, 2017.

Congratulations to LEW Co-Chairs Russell Mathew | Leslie Yager and the entire LEW Committee for orchestrating an excellent, well planned visit to Toronto. Beyond educational, the tours were an opportunity to witness Toronto's success at crafting a livable city amidst staggering population growth and shifts.

LAI President Steven Gragg &
LAI First VP Robert McBride
Though Toronto may be an "accidental metropolis,"crafting a livable city is no accident; it requires commitment, planning and investment by the government, private enterprise and community towards common goals. Kudos to Toronto leadership for bringing visions to reality!
The Ei FB album, Toronto Land Economics Weekend, is a pictorial recount of the LEW, along with a section on Holly's self-guided walking tour. Unless otherwise noted photographs were courtesy of Holly.

LEW Talk PPT presentations are available for viewing on LEW Scribe Reports page. Note the page is available to LAI members only.

In addition to well orchestrated tours of a city's economic drivers, complete with in-depth, on-site education, LEWs are excellent venues to meet new global friends and spend time with long-term colleagues.... and the Philadelphia Spring 2017 LEW is a mere six months away!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ei Welcomes New Strategic Allies

The Ei Strategic Ally program is integral to the Elemental Impact business model. Within the program, respected institutions, non-profits, trade associations and business organizations contribute industry expertise and connections to Ei initiatives.

Often Strategic Ally executives serve on the Ei Advisory Council and share their expertise during initiative development and implementation. If applicable, an in-kind membership is part of the Strategic Ally program parameters.

Over the past months, Ei welcomed two new Strategic Allies to the prominent program: Second Helpings, Atlanta and Recycle Across America.

Second Helpings, Atlanta (SHA)

Launched in 2004 as a Temple Sinai social action project by congregant Guenther Hecht, SHA evolved into a respected Atlanta-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization. SHA collects donated excess food from farmers markets, restaurants and event venues for delivery to metro Atlanta area agencies supporting food insecure citizens.

Since inception, SHA collected in excess of 5.4 million pounds of quality, nutritious food for donation - enough food to provide a meal for everyone attending 63 packed games at the Georgia Dome (over 4.5 million meals). SHA collects from 60 Food Donors and delivers to 31 Partner Agencies.

In May 2015 SHA committed to escalate impact and hired Joe Labriola as the first SHA Executive Director. A retired marketing executive with 30+ years experience at IBM, Joe is perfect to propel SHA into new realms of impact with his impressive business acumen and strategic focus. SHA is on track to rescue & distribute 1.3 million pounds of food in 2016, a 54% increase over 2015.

Myron & Elizabeth during
interview marathon
The Ei | SHA strong relationship began in 2009 when Ei Founder Holly Elmore served as the Green Foodservice Alliance Founder and Executive Director. SHA Food Donor Coordinator, Myron Smith contacted Holly after reading the Atlanta Journal & Constitution She's a green bean-counter; Sustainability for the food service industry article featuring Holly and the Zero Waste Zones. A close friendship developed as Holly introduced Myron to her in-depth foodservice connections.

When renowned author Elizabeth Royte visited Atlanta for a whirlwind two-day interview marathon hosted by Holly, Myron was top on the list for time with Elizabeth. In her November 2012 Martha Stewart Whole Living article Spoil Alert, Elizabeth features Myron: ... lurks along the edges of the Dunwoody farmers' market, the palest and gentlest vulture you've ever seen. Smith has his eye on bunches of collards and zucchini that might not sell by the market's closing.

The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction, chronicles the empowering interview marathon; the ZWA Blog article Atlanta Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight highlights the impressive Spoil Alert article.

When Ei joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) in 2014, Holly introduced Myron to Kim Charick, EPA Region 4 FRC co-lead. Over the past two years, SHA worked closely with the EPA on increasing food donations within the metro Atlanta area.

Once Joe settled into his new SHA role, Holly orchestrated an introductory luncheon with Kim and Boyd Leake, City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability senior policy advisor. Shortly after the instrumental luncheon, SHA joined the Ei Strategic Ally program.

Boyd, Kim & Joe @ lunch
Under Joes' leadership, SHA is positioned for growth with the following five focus areas:
  1. Harden core business processes.
  2. Increase levels of awareness and support of SHA.
  3. Expand the SHA community.
  4. Build out a scalable technology platform.
  5. Develop & implement an expansion plan.
Ei is excited to expand important work with SHA as both organizations segue into evolved dimensions of impact.

Recycle Across America (RAA)

RAA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to expediting environmental progress by creating the world's first and only society-wide standardized labeling system for recycling bins. The intent is to make it easier for people to begin to recycle right, wherever they might be. 

With over 20 years of experience in marketing, communications and branding services for Fortune 500 companies as well as small to mid-sized companies, Michelle "Mitch" Hedlund founded RAA in 2010. RAA promotes standardized recycling labels as a major step in alleviating consumer confusion, a leading cause of contamination in public and corporate facilities.

Additionally, RAA helps people understand the importance of recycling right, with the introduction of the first celebrity-led solution-driven PSA campaign -- called "Let's recycle right!" a.k.a. "Let's".

Ei and RAA first connected at the 2015 National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC) hosted by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council and the City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation. In her keynote plenary presentation, Mitch used a series of standard protocol, including "Stop Signs," created to alleviate confusion while promoting public safety. The "Stop Sign" was once a novelty that flowed into an accepted standard; RAA is committed to evolving consistent recycling bin signage into common practice. Per Mitch, 
"We all rely on standardizations everyday that make it easier for society to function safely and efficiently. It's time to apply the same logic to recycling if we want people to start doing it properly and for it to become economically viable. "
The ZWA Blog article, Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey, showcases the 2015 NZWBC plenary sessions along with a feature on Mitch's empowering presentation.

Ei Environmental Advisor and Atlanta Recycles (AR) Co-Founder, Laura Turner Seydel invited Mitch to keynote at the August 2016 AR meeting. While in Atlanta, Mitch scheduled a series of instrumental meetings including the Atlanta Airport (the busiest airport in the world!), City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability, Coca-Cola and lunch with Holly. Building upon tremendous synergies, it was natural for RAA to join the Ei Strategic Ally Program.

With rampant contamination in single-stream recycling systems, especially curbside & in public domain where the consumer disposes of material, RAA's standard labeling system adoption is escalating at a promising fast pace. The following details recent RAA accomplishments:
Mitch speaking at the NZWBC
  • To date, RAA donated nearly 500,000 labels to K-12 public schools with a goal to donate 1,000,000 by 2017.
  • Orlando Public Schools reported an increase in recycling of 90% and saved a reported $369,000 net in landfill hauling fees in one year as a direct result of implementing standardized labels in their district.
  • Standardized labels are displayed at National Parks beginning in 2016, with Denali, Yosemite and Grand Teton in the first rollout. The labels are compliments of a new partnership with Subaru and the National Parks Zero Landfill Initiative.
  • Rhode Island recently became the first state to fully adopt the standardized label solution.
  • The Minnesota State Fair, the largest state fair in the country, implemented the standardized labels on their bins
Recent adopters of the standardized labels include:
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Orlando International Airport
  • City of Winter Park
  • City of Atlanta
  • Whole Foods throughout the North Atlantic, Florida, Mid Atlantic and most recently the Midwest and NYC regions
The RAA standard recycling bin labeling system complements Ei Strategic Ally GreenBlue Institute's How2Recycle standard packaging label. How2Recycle labels clarify actual recyclability of packaging components and clearly communicate recycling instructions to the public.The RAA labels instruct consumers on which bin to place the packaging.

With Ei's strong commitment to contaminant-free recycling streams - the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template tagline is Contamination is a Mistake, the Ei | RAA partnership is monumental from an educational, practical and effective standpoint.

Welcome Second Helpings - Atlanta and Recycle Across America to the Ei Strategic Ally! The Ei Team is enthusiastic to continue work-in-progress and embark on new adventures.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Memphis: an amazing city redefining itself

The Lambda Alpha International Memphis Chapter hosted the Spring 2016 Land Economics Weekend (LEW) April 21 - 23 attracting a global contingency eager to learn about Memphis' history, challenges and accomplishments. With limited time, the LEW tours and presentations focused on the music industry, major redevelopment and, of course, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Lambda Alpha International (LAI) is an honorary society for the advancement of land economics. LAI provides a forum for the study and advancement of land economics where the "winnowing and sifting" of ideas takes place in an atmosphere of mutual respect. LAI operates through a network of chapters. A LAI Chapter provides a variety of programs and forums for its members to share information critical to understanding important land-use issues. The IMPACT Blog article, Lambda Alpha International Atlanta Chapter: growing membership, influence and impact, introduces LAI along with its designated purposes.

Twice per year chapters sponsor "Weekend Experiences" giving members an opportunity to meet and learn about land economic issues in cities throughout the world. Open to LAI members and their guests, the LEWs address wider international, national and regional issues and include project tours within the host city.

Long known as the "South's Grand Hotel," The Peabody - home to the March of the Peabody Ducks - was the perfect choice for the Memphis LEW host hotel. Peabody history dates back to 1869 when the original Peabody Hotel opened on the corner of Main & Monroe. Immediately, the hotel became the social and business hub of Memphis. In 1925 a newer, grander Peabody was built at its present location on Union Street.

Consistent with the LEW's redevelopment theme of Memphis historical landmarks, The Peabody reinvented itself numerous times to reflect changing society dynamics. Another consistent LEW theme: wealthy Memphis citizens invest their personal funds, experience and resources to preserve | redevelop prominent city iconic structures, often with complex funding scenarios.

In 1977 The Peabody owner Jack Belz embarked on his journey to rebuild the decayed hotel back to grandeur status. The renovation took four years and $25 million to complete, more than twice the original estimate and four times the original cost. Jack's investment was beyond The Peabody - Jack envisioned the prominent hotel serving as a foundation to bring economic vitality back to downtown Memphis. On September 1, 1981 The Peabody grand reopening inaugurated a new era in Memphis history.

The Memphis LEW program began on Thursday, April 21 with Board & Executive Meetings throughout the day. An evening LEW Welcome Reception was hosted across the street from The Peabody at AutoZone Park. Memphis Redbirds General Manager Craig Unger educated the group on recent park renovations along with its impact on downtown redevelopment.

On Friday the first tour day began with a breakfast program at The Peabody. Deputy Director for the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning & Development John Zeanah presented on the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan, a 25 year plan to create 500 miles of greenway trails and 200 miles of bicycle paths across three states. It was empowering to witness local governments collaborate on public green space.

First on the tour agenda was the incredibly impressive St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Before entering the amazing facility, St. Jude staff educated the group on Danny Thomas' promise to St. Jude Thaddeus: Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine. ... and the magnificent hospital is Danny's shrine to St. Jude!

Flags in St. Jude atrium
represent staff home countries
Danny Thomas envisioned a hospital that would treat children regardless of race, color, creed or their family's ability to pay. A facility where research would shine light into the darkness.

Funding for St. Jude comes mainly from the corporate community via their sponsorship program, individual donations, fundraisers and events. Minimal to no government funds are included in the financial equation. It was intriguing to see corporate sponsorship at work in the hospital system. Two examples are the Kay Jewelers' Kay Cafe, where healthy eating is top priority, and the Target House for long-term patient lodging.

Although located in Memphis, St. Jude has global impact from employee diversity to patients arriving from around the world. In the main atrium, a multitude of flags hang from upper floors to honor the home countries of their diverse staff.

the "blue phones" that serve as
interpreters between staff & parents
When an interpreter is not available, foreign parents may communicate with medical staff via the blue duel-handset phones. Equipped with a telephonic interpreting service, the phones serve as an interpreter within news feed time in a myriad of languages.

Since St. Jude's opening on February 4, 1962, the survival rate for childhood cancer increased from less than 20% in 1962 to more than 80% today.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a jewel to Memphis. Beyond the tremendous medical and humanitarian impact, St. Jude has far reaching economic benefits, both tangible & intangible, to the Memphis metro area.

view of Crosstown w/ area earmarked
 for a community garden in foreground
Next on the tour agenda was the Crosstown Sears Tower, originally opened on August 8, 1927 as the Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog order plant and store. On opening day, the store welcomed nearly 30,000 shoppers and employed 1,000 local residents. The original 53,000 square feet facility expanded to a total of 1.5 million square feet by 1965 via five separate additions.

Due to shifting demographics and population depletion in the city's urban core, Sears closed the Crosstown retail store in 1983. The distribution center closed in 1993, leaving the iconic complex dormant nearly two decades. In 2010, Crosstown Arts, a 501(c)3 non-profit, was formed to facilitate the redevelopment of the Sears Crosstown building using arts and culture as a catalyst for change.

With an unwavering commitment to ground the Crosstown Arts' vision into a viable project, Crosstown Concourse emerged from a complex financial platform. Thirty different financial sources comprised the platform, including non-profit loans ($12.5 mil), government grants ($6.25 mil), investor capital ($31.7 mil), bank loans ($80.5 mil), and a city loan ($8.15 mil). It took tenacity, perseverance and in-depth expertise to orchestrate the financial package closing in December 2013.

Jordan Peters poses w/ the spiral
staircase leading the main atrium. 
Designed with intention as a vertical urban village, Crosstown Concourse's heartbeat centers on Arts, Education and Healthcare. The founding pioneer tenants mirror the heartbeat: A Step Ahead Foundation, Church Health Center, Christian Brothers University, City Leadership, Crosstown Arts, Crosstown Back Institute, The Excel Center, G4S, The Kitchen Next DoorMethodist Le Bonheur HealthcareMemphis Teacher ResidencyThe Poplar Foundation, The Pyramid Peak Foundation, Southern College of Optometry, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Teacher Town.

Deconstruction began in 2014 with a 2017 opening anticipated. In 1927 it took six months to build the Sears center yet three years is slated for the deconstruction and renovation! 

During the deconstruction, great care is taken to reuse | recycle building material:
  • 10+ million pounds of metal was recycled to date, including iron from 2000 salvaged radiators.
  • 400,000 lbs of concrete and rebar was removed and repurposed back into the building.
Due to local tax incentives the Concourse project received, the Crosstown development team was obliged to award 20% of overall construction spending to minority and women-owned local businesses. The development team upped that figure to an internal goal of 25%. Ultimately a total of 29% of all construction dollars goes directly to minority and women-owned firms—nearly $38 million in total. 

loading dock area staged for a
cool farmers market
As a vertical urban village, Crosstown is comprised of a mixture of office space, dwellings (condominiums & apartments), entertainment, retail, dining and open space for community events. Within the grounds, an area is earmarked for a community garden. The Sears loading dock is staged for a cool farmers market operated by a prominent local grocer. Bound for success, the Crosstown apartments are nearly 50% leased by office tenants. 

After the exhilarating walking tour of the Crosstown Concourse, the LEW group enjoyed a lovely lunch at Layfayette's Music Room. For the lunch program, Bob Loeb with Loeb Properties educated the group on the Overton Square redevelopment.

A LEW group shot 
Following lunch, the LEW group was treated to a Stax Museum of American Soul Music visit, consisting of a Stax introduction, an 18-minute film on Stax Records, and a tour of the impressive museum.The musical odysseys of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Booker T & the MGs and numerous others were launched at Stax Studios.

The final Day One LEW tour was at the historic Tennessee Brewery. Though in a dilapidated state since its 1954 closing, the Brewery is prime for redevelopment as the anchor for a Brewery District. Billy Orgel purchased the property in 2014 with plans for redevelopment. It was intriguing to wander the Brewery main buildings and feel the energy from its once vibrant days.

Back at The Peabody, International LAI President Steve Gragg was Duckmaster at the 5:00 p.m. March of the Peabody Ducks. LEW participants were on their own for dinner at the multitude of vibrant downtown restaurants. Many enjoyed a nighttime visit to the famous Beale Street, voted America's Most Iconic Street by a 2013 USA Today poll and is the Official Home of the Blues.

Sunset on the Mississippi River
Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore joined new friends at the legendary Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, famous for racks of smoked ribs & sausages dusted with dry rub. Convenient, Rendezvous is nestled down an alley across the street from The Peabody.

For the adventuresome, the LEW tour bus departed at 9:30 p.m. for the impressive FedEx Hub Tour, returning to hotel at 2:00 a.m. In the morning, the tour participants were unanimous the sleep deprivation was well worth the FedEX insider view. It is mind boggling how the overnight packages are handled for an on-time morning delivery at their varied national destinations.

The Day Two LEW began with a substantial "grab 'n go" breakfast before boarding the Musical Driving Tour buses. Many cities by the water have entertaining "duckie" tours that educate on interesting local history & high points. Memphis has a musical bus tour where the guide sings as part of the education. The tour guide was great, a Ph.D candidate in Music History and a Memphis native!

Musical Bus Tour Guide
Beyond entertaining, the guide educated on many little known, interesting facts. For instance, many of the Stax Studio popular recordings were written at The Lorraine Motel swimming pool. With no air conditioning at the studio, the musicians enjoyed plenty of cold beer by the pool while the creative lyric juices flowed for later recordings. The motel was one of the few Memphis destinations where whites and blacks were permitted to socialize together. 

The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on April 4, 1968 and now is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Twice the bus stopped for an in-depth site experience: 

1> Graceland, The Home of Elvis Presley - with over 20 million visitors, Graceland was voted as USA Today's #1 Iconic American Attraction in 2013 and is a significant economic driver for Memphis. LAI Memphis Chapter member Greg Marcom of The Reaves Firm educated the group on Graceland development plans in-progress. The main new amenity is The Guest House at Graceland, a 450 room luxury hotel with a 464 seat theatre for screenings and live performances. The grand opening weekend is slated for October 27 - 30, 2016.

2> Sun Studio - opened on January 3, 1950 by Sam Phillips, Sun Studio is the "birthplace of rock 'n roll." Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison are a few of the legends who launched their careers at Sun Studio. Recording sessions remain available in the original studio.

Terrace @ The River Inn
The musical tour ended as the bus arrived at the Terrace at The River Inn where the group enjoyed an excellent lunch. Located on Mud Island in Harbor Town, the Terrace boasts panoramic views of the magnificent Mississippi River. Harbor Town is a charismatic planned neighborhood filled with nature trails, ponds, and walking trails that elegantly connect the town’s houses and businesses.

Mud Island River Park is a family destination on the southern portion of the island. Within the park, the Mississippi River Museum showcases 10,000 years of history in the Lower Mississippi River Valley via 18 galleries. Another educational attraction is The Riverwalk, an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River flowing from its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois 954 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico. Designed using Corps of Engineers survey and navigational charts, the model empties into an acre size Gulf of Mexico.

In the afternoon, the LEW offered three optional tours: 1> Graceland, 2> National Civil Rights Museum and 3> Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid.

Originally owned jointly by the City of Memphis and Shelby County, The Pyramid opened as a 20,142-seat arena located in downtown Memphis at the banks of the Mississippi River. Former home court for the University of Memphis men's basketball program and the Memphis Grizzlies,The Pyramid proved inadequate for a National Basketball Association (NBA) arena. Upgrades to NBA standards made it more practical to build a new arena. As a result, the $250 million FedExForum was built and opened in 2004. ... and The Pyramid went dark.

On April 29, 2015 The Pyramid's lights were turned back on as Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid. A long-term investment, the City and Bass ProShops negotiated for 5 years before executing the 55 year lease supported by a $30 million city investment. Sales tax from the surrounding area businesses funded the city investment. America's tallest free-standing elevator transports visitors 28 floors to The Lookout at The Pyramid for a spectacular dining experience.

SUCCESS: as of December 18, 2015, more than two million people visited the Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid since the April 2015 opening!

Consistent with protocol, the Memphis LEW closed with a cocktail reception | dinner program complete with awards presentations. The sunset over the Mississippi River was magnificent from the rooftop terrace adjacent to The Peabody Skyway Lounge, host to the LEW dinner.

Among the local and global awards, the City of Memphis received the International Skyline Award for the Bass Pro Pyramid Redevelopment Project. The formal honor copy:
Kemp Conrad  accepts the prestigious
award on behalf of the City of Memphis 
Recognizing successful redevelopment of a landmark feature in the City of Memphis, the Bass Pro Pyramid Redevelopment Project is adaptive reuse at its best, using iconic structure in a new and unique manner through innovative teamwork between city leadership and officials, an imaginative tenant and its designer.
The final formal "business" was an appreciative farewell to the Memphis Spring LEW along with a hearty welcome to the Toronto Fall LEW, scheduled for September 22 - 24, 2016

During the tours a common theme emerged: a city rising from the rumbles of challenging economic times, especially in the downtown district. At the foundation of recent redevelopments, there was a strong Memphis revitalization commitment among prominent individuals. 

Since the visions did not always align with "traditional business sense," creative collaboration among local government, non-profits, financial institutions, the business community and, importantly, Memphis citizens was the magical recipe for ultimate success.

Another interesting anecdote is common ground with Atlanta, the 2014 Spring LEW host city. Memphis and Atlanta are "phoenix cities," who rose as vibrant metropolitan centers from ashes: Atlanta rose from literal ashes after General Sherman's March to the Sea in 1964; Memphis is rising from the ashes of urban blight and challenging economic times.

One of the Atlanta LEW features was Ponce City Market (PCM), a previous Sears, Roebuck & Company retail store, warehouse and regional offices, located a couple miles from the downtown business district. As with the Memphis Sears Crosstown, PCM was in the midst of renovation to a mixed-use development with residential units, commercial office space, a food hall and local | national retail anchors during the Atlanta LEW; PCM officially opened in August, 2014.

The King Center visit
during the Atlanta LEW
Martin Luther King, Jr. is another Atlanta | Memphis connection: King was born in Atlanta and called the city his home into adulthood; King was assassinated in Memphis. The King Center was integral to the Atlanta LEW tour agenda. In Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum was included in the musical tour educational program and an optional Day Two afternoon tour.

... and more than once the Memphis LEW group was told "at one time Memphis was bigger than Atlanta!"

The IMPACT Blog article, Atlanta Welcomes Global Land Economics Group, chronicles the impressive Spring 2014 Atlanta LEW.

The Ei FB album, Memphis Land Economics Weekend, is a pictorial recap of the Memphis LEW including a section on Holly's self-guided Memphis walking tour.

In addition to well orchestrated tours of a city's economic drivers, complete with in-depth, on-site education, LEWs are excellent venues to meet new global friends and spend time with long-term colleagues.... and the Toronto Fall 2016 LEW is a mere six months away!