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New UT Arlington research center to seek more effective ways to handle growth

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Friday, June 22, 2012

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office:817-272-7075, Cell:214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

The University of Texas at Arlington School of Architecture has established the Center for Metropolitan Density to seek new ways to accommodate urban and suburban growth.

Michael Buckley, a clinical professor in the UT Arlington School of Architecture, will direct the new center. He formerly directed the Master of Science in Real Estate Development Program at Columbia University in New York.

Michael Buckley

Michael Buckley

“We hope to define industry clusters that could be attracted to high-density development,” Buckley said. “Our goal is to determine business trends and hot clusters that can thrive in a high-density environment.”

With the population of North Texas projected to double to 12 million by 2050, the challenge for North Texas leaders will be to preserve a quality of life and a competitive business environment while engaging in sustainable development, Buckley said.

Don Gatzke, dean of the UT Arlington School of Architecture, said the center would become a resource for economic development and a research hub for studying alternative development methods.

Don Gatzke

Don Gatzke

“These concepts were critical in other areas of the country in the regeneration of older urban centers like Pittsburgh and Seattle, among others,” Gatzke said. “New York is a vibrant economic and cultural center primarily due to the density of activity. These concepts become increasingly relevant to North Texas each year as people locate to the urban centers to live, work and play.”

Buckley described high-density development as maximizing and diversifying uses. He said it could include ground-level retail, service and multi-family units, which have open-space amenities.

“High-density development also solves sprawl challenges, can increase tax revenue, create more valuable properties and form new constituencies for city policies,” Buckley said.

Gatzke said higher density – as distinguished from high density – is the key to energy, environmental, economic, cultural, and ultimately social stability.

“All the indicators improve with increases in the number of people per unit of area,” Gatzke said. “Higher density doesn’t necessarily imply urban core, high-rise development. University Park is one of the densest municipalities in the metro region, almost four times the average.”

The center also aims to offer opportunities for research through a series of white paper briefings, financial research on asset valuation and alternative development strategies. The center also will become an education conduit for stakeholders in the region by convening roundtables and symposiums on issues of urban density. Finally, the center will make its white papers and case studies available through a series of research journals.

As one of its first projects, the Center for Metropolitan Density analyzed opinions and preferences of a select test group affecting high-density development in the North Texas region.

The online survey tested personal preferences about urban and suburban lifestyles as well as the obstacles to effectively use increased density to accommodate rapid growth and slow down urban sprawl.

More than 600 targeted individuals from defined leadership positions, and separately, younger members of Dallas-Fort Worth professional organizations, such as The Real Estate Council, the Urban Land Institute, the International Association of Industrial and Office Parks and the American Institute of Architects, contributed to the survey. The survey was administrated via the Internet and results tallied by a confidential protocol.

“With many questions under different topics we addressed important issues such as education and the high-density workplace, solicited personal views of the future and established the need for more urban experimentation” Buckley said.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • 70 percent of participants agreed that higher-density development has advantages of accessibility, convenience, ease of maintenance and lifestyle enrichment.
  • 65 percent recognized disadvantages in loss of privacy and open space, though opinions were split on whether suburban residential has more value for the money.
  • 64 percent say that higher-density workplaces contribute to productivity, business innovation and career advancement.
  • A commanding 95 percent agreed that access to “reliable and results-oriented schools” was the primary driver for any location decision. The survey showed strong agreement on the need for urban schools to be on par with suburban.
  • 84 percent endorsed walkable, secure, close-to-work neighborhoods that offer amenities in education and retail choices.

Buckley said the survey showed remarkable agreement on advantages of density, in spite of challenges for family living.

“We are particularly impressed by respondents’ expressed desire for more imaginative design prototypes and product experimentation,” Buckley said. “The Center regards this as a mandate for new urban policies and products, and we look forward to creating compelling economic justification for higher density living, working, shopping and learning environments.”

The School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington offers professionally accredited and internationally recognized degrees in ArchitectureInterior Design and Landscape Architecture. Visit www.uta.edu/architecture/ to learn more.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of nearly 33,500 students in the heart of North Texas. For more information, visit www.uta.edu.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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