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Transit Oriented Design is the Future

By: Bob Tiscareno

President and Founder, Tiscareno Associates

Since launching Tiscareno Associates in 2002, I have watched a number of forces transform the greater Seattle area—forces which have touched nearly every aspect of the built environments we create.

One of the most important trends is multifamily and mixed-use near transit. The reason is clear: building housing near mass transit is the sustainable thing to do. When I launched Tiscareno Associates in 2002, construction on Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail was still a year out. Kent Station, a mixed-use project at one of Sound Transit’s major terminals, became our client and one of the first TOD projects in the area.

Since then, as we began to specialize in multi-family/mixed-use developments, our client list has traced the rise of TOD in the region. Riverpark, Milehouse, the Triangle, Redmond Square, and the Spark—just to name our projects in Redmond—joined a critical mass of multifamily housing developments clustering near transit hubs across the region.

Fast-forward to today, and those developments are proving that mixed-use TOD can be sound investments. Even if the projects are finished before the transit systems are, as has been the case with those projects near the coming Link Light Rail station in Redmond (projected 2025), phaseable development offering parking until transit gets going has proven workable.

With each new TOD project we take on, the incremental adjustments we’ve learned to make along the way have maximized TOD efficiencies, bringing about lower and lower parking ratios with every project. Our most recent Redmond projects Redmond Square and the Spark offer our lowest parking ratios yet.

Pay attention to the ground-floor experience

Because TOD seeks to dial up public engagement with built environments, the architect’s increasing task is designing with pedestrians top-of-mind. One way we do that is with woonerfs, the Dutch concept of pedestrian-priority streets, which can bring a human scale to large multi-use developments and dial up street-level engagement.

Woonerfs show up in an increasing number of our TOD projects—including the pedestrian-only woonerfs we ran right through the middle of Redmond Square and The Line, a mixed-use multifamily TOD in Shoreline. These woonerfs not only create fertile retail and restaurant environments, they bring the foot traffic that translates to eyes-on-the-street security and the sense of community so essential for residential settings.

But retail isn’t the only ground-floor presence that can engage pedestrians. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that retail comes…and goes. In recent years we’ve learned that multi-family projects offering ground-floor live/work units—spaces with both commercial space and living quarters—can also activate pedestrian environments. Two of our Redmond projects, Milehouse and the Triangle, offer live/work units used by small businesses from wedding planners to accountant’s offices and more. The market appears to love these live/works, and we’re including them in more and more of our projects.

It’s all about respecting the community

Whether in a city or at the edge of a wilderness, a new development is only as successful as the respect it embodies for the community it joins.

For some projects, like The Beam in the heart of Little Saigon in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District (CID), it means developing an historic site with deep respect for its cultural heritage. After several neighborhood meetings and layers of review, the Beam became a multi-use multifamily development whose apartments and retail reflect design that’s culturally appropriate for Little Saigon, boasting a unique “marketplace” passageway supporting the small mom ‘n’ pop shops the CID was built on.


About the Author

Bob Tiscareno, AIA, NCARB
Bob Tiscareno, AIA, NCARB

Bob Tiscareno’s mixed-use expertise, design vision for growing cities, and nearly 30 years’ experience working on urban projects have shaped communities throughout the greater Seattle area, including Mill Creek, Kent, Redmond, Lynnwood and Shoreline.

Bob’s talent for creative spatial problem-solving and his ability to deliver a broad vision at human scale has won recognition from many organizations, including NAIOP, American Institute of Architects, and Gold Nugget Awards.

Thousands of people a day commute easily through invigorating transit-oriented developments including130th St. Station in Seattle and soon Redmond Square which is situated near the Redmond Station. A multitude of transit-oriented master plans deftly integrate business, retail, and housing, a locale’s natural environs, pedestrian engagement, and a phased approach to a client’s long-term goals.

Bob has been published in the Puget Sound Business Journal, Daily Journal of Commerce, Multi-family Executive Magazine, and many other real estate media.

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