Interested in construction projects? Look to city leaders who are desperate for affordable housing projects!

City leaders have lots of priorities, but perhaps none more critical than affordable housing!

Teachers, medical personnel, public safety officers, first responders and others need to be able to live downtown, but because urban real estate is so expensive, it is almost impossible for them to find affordable housing. City leaders know they must change that reality.

Residents in cities that lack good public transportation have incredibly high transportation costs. The costs are so high there is a huge disincentive to moving to the city. Auto-intensive cities such as Austin, Orlando and Las Vegas have transportation costs that are prohibitive.  Because of that, it is almost impossible to hire people whose jobs require them to locate and find living accommodations downtown. City officials are continually reaching out to potential private-sector partners to help them remedy this serious problem.

There are all kinds of successful public-private partnerships (P3s) related to affordable housing projects. And, city leaders are taking long looks at P3s. The success of a Mountain View affordable housing public-private partnership in California has led other cities to pursue affordable housing programs using a variety of funding mechanisms—tax credits, low-interest loans, grants, incentives and the transfer of city-owned property to developers. And, recent voter-approved affordable housing bonds and taxes in places like Los Angeles, Calif., Greensboro, N.C., Boston, Mass. and Portland, Ore. will soon announce funding for construction of affordable housing units.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the state’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development have announced plans to redevelop the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. The five-acre site will soon offer affordable housing, recreational venues and retail space. Developers of the $300 million project plan to demolish the detention center and replace it with 740 units of affordable housing, a 52,000-square-foot public plaza, 49,000 square feet of industrial space, 48,000 square feet of community facility space and 21,000 square feet of retail space.

The city of Berkeley is experiencing homelessness and affordable housing crisis. As part of its “Step Up Housing” initiative, the city will issue a request for proposals (RFP) to select a developer to create up to 100 small residential units, AKA “micro units”, on small city-owned lots. These units will be made available to formerly homeless and other very low income residents.

In November 2016, voters in Ashville, N.C. approved $25 million in affordable housing bonds. $10 million is available to provide additional support for the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which makes low-interest loans to incentivize developers to build affordable housing. The remaining $15 million will be used to repurpose city-owned land for affordable housing. Currently, three sites have been proposed for study as options for developing affordable housing. The studies, which will utilize outside consultants, will include environmental assessments, appraisals, surveys and conceptual designs.

Just this month, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced a plan to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy and protect residents from future floods. Part of the $481 million plan includes proposed affordable housing projects, including the development of five acres of vacant city-owned lots on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. In addition to affordable housing units, the mixed-use development will include retail and community facilities.

The city of Detroit recently issued an RFP for developers interested in multi-family housing in the former Transfiguration School on the east side. The RFP is designed to attract developers capable of planning a mixed-income development that contains 15-25 residential units with 20 percent designated as affordable housing. Proposals are due on May 22, 2017.

Opportunities are not the problem. Construction firms interested in partnering with cities for affordable housing will find a huge abundance of opportunities. The problem, and perhaps the question, is this—which construction firms want to build this type of housing?  If these firms step up soon, the companies are likely to  find city leaders waiting with open arms.

Free wireless offered outside through public-private partnerships

Has this happened to you while driving? The radio in your vehicle is playing a song on a local radio station’s frequency and then suddenly the song starts fading in and out in the car speakers until it either goes to dead air or picks up another radio station.  You have traveled beyond the bandwidth of that frequency and have now found yourself singing the rest of the song a cappella style. Well, the same thing applies to the internet and Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi.

Your device can pick up a Wi-Fi signal that connects it to the internet, thru the air just like a high-frequency radio signal. Wi-Fi, like the frequency of a radio station, is regulated. Electronic components that make up a wireless network are based on one of the 802.11 standards that were set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Wi-Fi Alliance. The Wi-Fi Alliance trademarked the name Wi-Fi and promoted the technology. The technology is also referred to as WLAN, short for wireless local area network. The type of 802.11 protocol used indoors will deliver transmission ranges anywhere from 115 to 230 feet.

It is up to you to foot the bill for wireless technology in your home, but most indoor establishments pay to offer some type of free Wi-Fi for your convenience. But what happens when you go outside? Free Wi-Fi kiosks by CIVIQ Smartscapes have started popping up in cities like New York,  Miami, Portland, Ore., Chicago and San Antonio. The kiosk includes a dual 55-inch outdoor display, dual touch screen, Wi-Fi and USB quick charge capabilities. These kiosks are scattered throughout the city and provide a Wi-Fi range from 150 to 250 feet. The kiosks can also be customized to provide information about upcoming events, geographic points of interest other local information.

New York plans to have 7,500 kiosks by 2024. The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications oversees upkeep of the LinkNYC kiosks while CityBridge, a group of tech companies, assumes responsibility for installation of the kiosks in exchange for the advertising revenue generated by the project. The advertising shown on the kiosks means that the city offers the service with possibly no cost to the taxpayers. Since the law prohibits this type of arrangement in Texas, Bexar County is paying $280,122 for the six kiosks to be installed throughout San Antonio this summer.

For those traveling underground, the Wi-Fi signal can be very faint, but the city of New York found a way to deliver free wireless throughout their underground subway stations. Service underground went live at a few stations five years ago, but January officially marked the goal date of delivering the service at all stations. In addition to wireless, some stations now offer cellular service. These services presently are not offered on trains traveling between stations, but the city has promised that the service would be available when they roll out their next generation subway trains in 2020.

The company that provides the free service for the city agreed to spend $7 million on the Wi-Fi operation over five years and will advertise along the route to promote it. To access the Wi-Fi connection and enter the password, users have to start at a landing page which highlights local events, poses a poll question, provides the weather and allows the city to interact with the users.

If you feel like getting away from the city and might want to go climb a mountain, Mount Everest, would be your best option for Wi-Fi. Previously, a couple of the base camp services offered Wi-Fi at $5 an hour, but free wireless will be made available soon at the Lukla-Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp along Everest. The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) plans on using fibre-optic cables that can resist the extreme cold atop Everest.

The NTA will also introduce a system of wireless broadband transmitters to send microwave signals up and down the mountain in case extreme weather interferes with the fibre-optic cables. At 17,600 feet above sea level, the base camp will be the highest location on Earth with free Wi-Fi.

For those who would rather keep their feet firmly planted at the bottom of a mountain can head to one of several beaches and camping areas to get free wireless outside. Most of these outdoor venues have been offering the luxury of Wi-Fi for a few years. And believe it or not, you can even get free wireless service at a cemetery. At Oak Grove Cemetery in Paducah, Ky., visitors who want to perform genealogical research don’t have to wait until they get home to look up names on head stones. In 2016, Moscow, Russia equipped 133 cemeteries with wireless technology. Some of these cemeteries are the final resting place of well-known authors and leaders and the Wi-Fi allows visitors to learn more about those laid to rest.

Photo: by Karen Bryan 

Oklahoma P3 opens $17M interchange

An Oklahoma public-private partnership (P3/PPP) has opened a $17 million interchange on Interstate 40 in El Reno, Okla. The P3, which includes the state department of transportation and an energy company, began building the Radio Road interchange about a year ago. The energy company paid the state’s part of the construction costs and secured right-of-way to add the interchange. The project included reconstruction and widening of the Radio Road Bridge over I-40 and adding new ramps.

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Massachusetts P3 repairs dam

The Van Horn Dam in Springfield, Mass. is undergoing $2 million in improvements. The dam was cited as a high hazard in 2007 after it was found to be structurally deficient and in poor condition. It was considered a threat to the Atwater Park neighborhood and Baystate Medical Center. The project is a public-private partnership (P3/PPP) between the city, state and an insurance and financial services company. The project is one of several the city of Springfield is undertaking as part of a national disaster resiliency program using funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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