CityLab Article: Why Speed Kills Cities

This great article shares many facts about why slowing streets down is so important in urban areas.

CityLab, Andrew Small, August 8, 2019 — via LinkedIn
Click here to read the whole article.

Here are some quotes from the article…

“A recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that rising speed limits in the United States have led to an additional estimated 37,000 deaths over the past 25 years. “We know that very small changes in speed can have big consequences for pedestrians,” says Jessica Cicchino, the vice president of research at IIHS. “A pedestrian struck at 25 miles per hour has 25 percent chance of being seriously injured—but that climbs to a 50 percent chance at 33 miles per hour.” Importantly, lower speed limits also reduce the number of crashes, as an IIHS study found last year in Boston after it lowered its default speed in 2017.”

“Speed kills in a more abstract sense, too. Building urban roads that can handle a large number of vehicles traveling at 35 miles per hour and up means making them wider, with fewer curves. High-speed highways and street-level limited-access urban thoroughfares famously do a host of bad things to those who live nearby or underneath these big hostile barriers. What’s less discussed is what they’re doing to the people inside the cars.”

“You move through a space and you dwell in a place,” Sennett told CityLab’s Ian Klaus last year. “It’s a distinction for me that has to do with speed and automobiles. When people start driving at a certain speed, they lose awareness of where they are. … Where this gets reflected in urbanism is the more we create spaces where people move fast, the less they understand about what those spaces are. At about 28 or 30 mph people, moving through an urban environment stop being in a place and are in space instead.”

“…simply dropping speed limits isn’t the answer; street design itself—not enforcement or signage—is the most powerful governor of driver behavior.”

“The time benefits one gets from boosting speeds in urban areas can end up being surprisingly modest: In downtown streets, the difference between a 25 mph commute and 45 mph commute is roughly an additional 48 seconds for every three-quarters of a mile traveled…”

“Billy Riggs, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco School of Management and a planner who consults on the future of transportation, says autonomous vehicles, and lower speeds, could allow cities to devote less room to cars by redesigning street infrastructure. “It’s speed and uncertainty that requires such wide roads for human-operated cars,” says Riggs. AV-optimized streets would require fewer signals and intersections—and fewer conflict points between different travel modes. “If city traffic travels slow enough, you could imagine a yielding pocket for vehicles to engage with smoother and operating on much less roadway. A gracious road for pedestrians and cyclists is promising as a feature for autonomous vehicles.””

“The most stubborn barrier to slowing down the city may be the psychological one: It involves changing user expectations for how roads are supposed to operate. Some states have what are called level of service standards, which require roads to carry a certain number of vehicles per hour, or they place restrictions on cities from lowering speed limits. Riggs says that means city leaders need to expend political capital to fight for those changes. “If you talk at any public meeting about slowing streets, you have citizens who are going to be asking if they going to be delayed. There’s going to be friction as we apportion our street in a way that facilitates the future of traveling.”

“There was no one paying attention in that seat,” he says. “There is a tendency to want to travel faster than we should, and in unsafe ways. Hopefully, we’re going to be able to engineer out that risky behavior.”

>>Read entire article.

Elkhart celebrates major milestone in River District Streetscape Project

ELKHART (July 25, 2019) – City officials, business leaders, and community members gathered this morning to celebrate the completion of improvements to East Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, a major milestone in the overall River District Streetscape Project in downtown Elkhart.

As part of the celebration, Mayor Tim Neese officially reopened Jackson Boulevard to vehicular traffic with a ribbon cutting ceremony that traded the traditional scissors for a red convertible.

“The City makes routine road repairs on a daily basis, but this infrastructure project was part of a larger vision for our community that put research into practice,” Neese said. “As we looked at peer cities that are successfully growing their economies, we had a decision to make: were we willing to make the strategic investments necessary to attract new business and new people or were we comfortable with the status quo? This administration was not comfortable with the status quo.”

When the approximately $5 million project began in March 2018, it marked the first step by the City to redevelop the area known as the River District. The streetscape project was part of a larger commitment by the City to provide the public infrastructure necessary to support future growth and development in the area through the creation of an urban, walkable city center.

The enhanced portion of Jackson Boulevard stretches approximately a half mile from Waterfall Drive to Johnson Street.

The new divided boulevard aims to encourage motorists to slow down, while the visually appealing design makes the area more welcoming to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. A similar reconstructed streetscape, from sidewalk to sidewalk, was also completed on Elkhart Avenue from Jackson Boulevard to Waterfall Drive.

Combined, these projects added 10,000 feet of new sidewalk, 28 bike racks, 28 benches, 98 street lights, 87 trees and an additional 6,300 plants. The project also included 200 new parallel parking spots, one mile of new water main, 3,000 feet of new storm sewer as well as buried electric, cable and communication lines.

Through increased connectivity and walkability, the project is designed to complement existing Main Street assets as well as the new, private investment taking place in the River District, including Lex530, Elkhart Health and Aquatics, Stonewater at the Riverwalk, and River Point West.

With construction completed along Jackson Boulevard and Elkhart Avenue, the City will now focus on smaller-scale streetscape projects along Junior Achievement Drive and Lexington Avenue. Both are anticipated to be completed by 2020.

“As we continue this multi-phase transformation, I am cognizant of the fact that motorists and businesses must make temporary adjustments, however, by activating this space and encouraging additional foot traffic in the area, I believe adjacent businesses will reap the long-term benefits.”

For more information, visit

>>View WSBT TV Coverage

>>WNDU Coverage

Small industrial city diversifies its economy with urbanism

Elkhart, Indiana, is implementing plans to attract young, talented, workers to start businesses and boost the economy.

Robert Steuteville is editor of Public Square: A CNU Journal and senior communications adviser for the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Elkhart, a city of 52,000 in north Indiana, is not a place that is well known nationally for its urban revival. Yet Elkhart adopted a plan for a $400 million, 90-acre “River District” across from downtown. The district offers a setting for substantial new urbanist development, including a thousand housing units, 170,000 square feet of retail space, 110,000 square feet of office space, and a hotel—all in a qualified Opportunity Zone. A project like this in a small city in a tiny metro area may seem implausible, but it is progressing rapidly. 

In June, the city broke ground on a $40 million mixed-use neighborhood center in the River District, including a grocery store and 172 apartments, enabled by a development loan approved by Elkhart Common Council earlier in the year. Construction is also underway or complete for an aquatic/fitness center and more apartments in mixed-use buildings. The first phase of district-wide streetscape improvements are complete. Planning for the project is by Speck & Associates and Stantec Urban Places.

Intended as a walkable main street, the district's primary thoroughfare was a four-lane arterial. A road diet reduced the number of lanes to three, and the city completed other street improvements. Mixed-use buildings are planned to line the thoroughfare.

Recognizing the vulnerability of an economy closely tied to Recreational Vehicle manufacturing, Elkhart set out to diversify. Public- and private-sector leaders agreed that a vibrant, walkable downtown neighborhood could attract knowledge workers, makers, artists, and entrepreneurs—key to pursuing economic diversity. With $30 million of public money, a new public/private partnership began to lure developers, a local supermarket, and other projects—including a civic aquatic/fitness center—to a peninsula adjacent to Elkhart’s historic downtown. Low-density strip malls, auto-repair businesses, and brownfield parcels defined the area, dubbed the River District.

Significant problems emerged as the first projects entered the pipeline—they were designed according to a conventional suburban model that threatened to undercut the goals of the plan. The city hired a new urbanist team to figure out how to establish a walkable urban character to the area. Here’s how the stumbling-block projects were redirected:

  • The parking for a new aquatic/fitness center was screened from view with new mixed-use buildings built to the sidewalk, framing a new main street leading to the center’s front door.

  • A shared-parking strategy allowed the elimination of an unnecessary parking garage slated to be built at the heart of the district. The City agreed to divert its $10 million budget to plazas, squares, and public parks in the district.

  • Supermarket parking was moved to the interior of a building-lined block, and the streetscape was reconfigured to turn the store’s main entrance to a public square lined by additional mixed-use buildings.

  • Proposed suburban-style riverside apartments were replaced with street-lining buildings, creating a riverfront drive that makes the river bank public and brings its value deep within the community

  • The front parking lot in a second apartment complex was re-assigned to serve as part of landscaped boulevard, without losing parking capacity within the project. The move turned drive-only suburbanism into walkable urbanism while giving ground-floor apartments individual entrances.

The site plan reorganized multiple disconnected projects using new urbanist principles.

New urbanist principles guided the plan in other ways:

  • With a river on three sides, the district had clear edges but no center or strong connection to downtown. The plan introduced a small urban plaza and hotel at the center to create a “heart” for the neighborhood and redesigned key walking routes to downtown to make them more prominent and pedestrian-friendly.

  • The district’s primary thoroughfare, intended as a walkable main street, looked and felt like a 4-lane regional arterial. The plan prescribed a 4-to-3-lane road diet, Phase 1 of which has been built.

  • A system of bikeways and multiuse paths tied the district more closely to other neighborhoods, creating an integrated hub within the regional bike network.

  • The plan brought an underused park to life by lining it with townhouses rather than parking lots and driveways.

The city’s fortunes have risen and fallen with the health of the RV industry. Diversification is needed, but attracting new industry is a strategy that has failed time and time again in rust-belt cities. Elkhart’s strategy is to create the kind of environment that will attract talented workers who can then start businesses or help them to thrive. The River District—which includes elements of suburban retrofit, brownfield reuse, and downtown-adjacent development—is the linchpin of that strategy.

>>Read full article.

Great Lakes Capital, Martin’s Super Markets break ground on $40 million River Point West neighborhood center in the River District

Great Lakes Capital, Martin’s Super Markets, Mayor Tim Neese, and community leaders break ground on $40 million River Point West neighborhood center in the River District

(Elkhart, Ind.) Ground was broken today for a $40 million mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Elkhart, bringing together the private, public and philanthropic sectors as part of an unprecedented partnership aimed at redeveloping the 105-acre River District.


Led by Great Lakes Capital, the River Point West development will consist of a new 42,000 square foot Martin’s Super Markets store, 6,000 square feet of additional ground floor retail, and 172 high-end apartments along the river.


The River Point West development is the third anchor project in the River District, which was commissioned by the City of Elkhart in 2017. It represents a combined $170 million in public-private investment, including Regional Cities funding, and would not have been possible without the leadership of Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission and the Elkhart Common Council.


“This type of development happens once in a generation, and we are proud to play a key role in downtown Elkhart’s resurgence,” said Brad Toothaker, managing partner of Great Lakes Capital. “Our neighborhood center will serve as a catalyst for growth and redevelopment that will have a ripple effect throughout the entire urban core.”


The new Martin’s Super Market will feature the first to offer grilled-to-order Pub Burgers in the Meat Department.  In addition, the Delicatessen will also feature a Smokehouse Signature BBQ station, the fourth store in the company to offer that customer favorite. The new store will continue to feature the company’s unique departments including Bake Shoppe, Service Meat Counter, Seafood Shoppe, Flower Market, Salad Bar and both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables in the Produce Department. Seating will be offered in the Side Door Deli , as well as a Starbucks Coffee, which will offer customers convenience and comfort for in-store menu offerings. Martin’s Groceries To Go online ordering program will be offered for both pick-up and delivery. 


“In 1990, we were proud to open the doors of our Jackson Street store, which at that time brought exciting and innovative features to the Elkhart downtown community,” said Amy McClellan, SVP, Martin’s Super Markets and Division VP, Retail, SpartanNash.  “Now we’re again on the threshold of a new major redevelopment project with the City of Elkhart, and we’re excited to again bring to this new store a great shopping experience our customers can count on.”


Demolition at the site has already begun, with construction expected to begin shortly after. The development will be completed in phases, with Martin’s and the first building of apartments expected to open spring 2020 and the balance of the development completed by spring 2021.


“Just two years after the City’s adoption of the River District Revitalization Plan, the River Point West Groundbreaking assures that nearly 50 percent of the River District will be under construction and complete in 2021,” Mayor Tim Neese said. “Not only has the plan included elements advocated by the public – including a local grocer – but the actions we have taken to date represent transformative progress we can all be proud of. As the City continues to enhance public infrastructure in this area and solicit additional private investment around confirmed, anchor projects, I am excited by the vibrant future that lies ahead for the City of Elkhart.”


About Great Lakes Capital

Great Lakes Capital is a real estate private equity firm uniquely positioned to add value to real estate investments through development, redevelopment and opportunistically investing across the real estate spectrum and throughout the capital structure. We concentrate on several core asset classes, including office, industrial, retail, medical office, multifamily and other similar conforming product types as well as mixed use projects. As a market leader in new development we actively address the needs of our tenant partners in addition to speculative development meeting needs the market has not yet reacted to. For more information, please visit:


Courtney Bearsch, City of Elkhart, (574) 294-5471 Ext. 1037
Lara Beck, (317) 727-0016

River District Zone 1 RFP Released

Click image to download file.

Click image to download file.

The City of Elkhart Redevelopment Commission has released the Request for Proposals for Zone 1 of the Elkhart River District Northwest Addition (Lots 2, 3 & 4).


Please click image to the right and download the RFP. It can also be accessed on the City’s website under the Redevelopment Commission page.


Per the timeline in the RFP, proposals are due Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 5:00 pm, with presentations at the regularly scheduled Redevelopment Commission meeting on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 4:00 pm.


Information on the Elkhart River District can be found under Section 10 of the RFP and at


Contact Person: 

Abby Wiles, AICP

Assistant Director

Community & Redevelopment

229 S 2nd Street

Elkhart, IN 46516

Office (574) 294-5471 X1061

River District Streetscape Project to continue along Jackson Boulevard

ELKHART (March 12, 2019) – The revitalization of the Elkhart River District will continue in 2019 with additional streetscape work along Jackson Boulevard. 

The extension of the Jackson Boulevard streetscape will mirror the work already completed to the west, including a new divided boulevard, on-street parallel parking, ADA compliant sidewalks, landscaping, street lights, as well as new and buried utilities.  

To accommodate these improvements, Jackson Boulevard, from Elkhart Avenue to Johnson Street is scheduled to be closed beginning Monday, March 18. This section is anticipated to reopen July 1. Motorists will be detoured around the closure via Johnson Street, Elkhart Avenue, and Junior Achievement Drive. Businesses in the area will remain open, and additional detour signs will be posted to help patrons access these establishments.    

Mayor Tim Neese’s intent of the River District Revitalization Project is to develop a vibrant urban space that complements existing Main Street assets and creates a destination where people want to live. The plan calls for the development of 1000+ housing units in the River District and surrounding area to meet current market demand. These additional units are supported by a housing market study completed by the renowned Zimmerman Volk and Associates. The streetscape project will enhance new, exciting investments and private development taking place in the area, including the Elkhart Health and Aquatics Center, Stonewater at the Riverwalk, and the mixed-use neighborhood center being developed by Great Lakes Capital, including a new Martin's Supermarket as their primary retail tenant. 

The transformation of the Elkhart River District will continue later this year with streetscape projects along Junior Achievement Drive and Lexington Avenue.


For more information, visit

Mixed-used neighborhood center becomes third anchor of Elkhart’s expanding River District

ELKHART (February 21, 2019) – The third and final anchor project spurring Elkhart’s River District revitalization has taken a major step forward.

 The Elkhart City Council has approved Mayor Tim Neese’s request for an economic development loan to support the $34 million mixed-used neighborhood center, which will transform the existing Easy Shopping Center South. Developer Great Lakes Capital has proposed to repurpose the site with a new Martin’s Supermarket complemented by 154 residential units that will connect Jackson Boulevard to the Elkhart River.

 “The foundation of the River District Revitalization Plan outlines three anchor projects, which include the Elkhart Health and Aquatics Center, the Flaherty & Collins housing development, and the Great Lakes Capital project,” Neese said. “Combined, these projects represent $135 million in total investment and help to create the type of urban, walkable environment needed to grow and sustain our population.”

 To facilitate the revitalization of this site, councilmembers approved two separate loans, totaling just over $8 million. This includes public financing of approximately $4.6 million, which will be repaid at a three percent interest rate using solely the property tax revenues generated by the new development. The City will also act as a local investor, contributing an approximately $3.8 million direct loan, which will be repaid by the developer at a four percent interest rate.

 Construction is anticipated to occur in two to three phases and take approximately 18 months to complete. The first phase, beginning this spring, will allow Martin’s Super Market to relocate closer to Jackson Boulevard in a new building with a modern store format, similar to its other successful stores.

 “During the initial planning process, several things became clear,” Neese said. “Specifically, the public wanted to maintain a local grocer downtown. More generally, they wanted to see more than plans; they wanted to see results. To have all three projects confirmed and under construction only two years after the River District Revitalization Plan was formally adopted by the City is progress we can all be proud of.”

 The 154 residential units will be completed in two phases, following the completion of the super market. These units will join the Flaherty & Collins development as one of only two large scale market rate apartment investments in the City’s downtown in nearly three decades.

 The complex will offer a variety of units from one bedroom studios to two bedroom apartments. Units will range from 700 to 1,500 square feet. Rental rates will range from $900 to $2,000 per month, with the average unit being 830 square feet renting for $1,080 per month.

 Mayor Tim Neese’s vision of the River District Revitalization Project is to develop a vibrant urban space that complements existing Main Street assets and creates a destination where people want to live. The plan calls for the development of 1000+ housing units in the River District and surrounding downtown area to meet current market potential. These additional units are supported by a housing market study completed by the renowned Zimmerman Volk and Associates.

For more information, visit


Note to the press: Attached and below is an up-to-date rendering of the proposed town green, framed by the new mixed-used neighborhood center.