by Dean Audet, PE, Senior Vice President | Business Line Leader
I recently co-presented with one of our clients on the use of using green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) as a feature to attract people and businesses to neighborhoods at the 2019 National American Public Works Association conference . The subject of this presentation was the Pine Street GSI project that is being constructed in the transit-oriented development (TOD) district being planned around the new commuter rail station and RIPTA bus hub in the City of Pawtucket, RI. Pine Street will be one of the gateways into the District from Main Street.
Today, this 160-acre, TOD district is mostly made up of underutilized properties. It is more than 90% impervious, with many areas classified as pervious really consisting of previously paved areas where the pavement has been broken up. A recent tree count found less than 70 trees in the District, or less than 1 tree for every 2 acres.
The goal of this project is to create a welcoming gateway to the people that will be accessing this new, regional transportation infrastructure and begin adding green elements to this neighborhood. GSI is a great opportunity to accomplish this as it incorporates green elements into the neighborhood while also managing stormwater, reducing or eliminating the need for traditional infrastructure.
A concept of this plan is shown above.
We are creating two parklets at the entrance and at the end of the gateway constructed with GSI to provide green space for neighborhood residents with stormwater planters connecting the parklets and providing separation for a multi-modal path to the train station. These green spaces will add space for current and future neighborhood residents to sit outside and add tree cover that will help to mitigate heat.
I think that it is pretty much common sense that people are happier living in an environment with green elements as compared to a sea of asphalt. A substantial amount of research has been done also documenting the value of green space in economic development.
Survey respondents from all regions of the United States favored trees in business districts, and this preference was further reflected in positive district perceptions, patronage behavior, and product pricing. 
This study investigates the effect of trees and landscaping on office rental rates, based on a comparison of 85 office buildings that comprise 270 individual and unique leases in the Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., metropolitan area. The individual analysis of the variables showed a strong positive effect for those buildings with good landscaping aesthetics and building shade provided by trees. 
The presence of larger trees in yards and as street trees can add from 3% to 15% to home values throughout neighborhoods and local businesses see an increase in sales and customer satisfaction with a rise in canopy coverage. 
Using GSI to improve neighborhood livability and promote economic development can be an attractive proposition to local political leaders. Combined with state and federal grants that are generally available in Southern New England, incorporating GSI into projects becomes an even more cost-effective proposition for communities.
About the Author:
Dean Audet, PE leads our Water Environment and Natural Resources Practice Team. Throughout his career, he has completed a wide range of civil and environmental engineering projects, working with multiple technical disciplines. These projects have included stormwater management, watershed management, wastewater, solid waste, site remediation, environmental compliance, and land development. Dean’s principal strength has been managing large and complex multidisciplinary projects, where his range of technical experience is very valuable.
 Wolf, K.L., “Business District Streetscapes, Trees, and Consumer Response,” Journal of Forestry, 2005.
 Laverne, R.J. and K. Wison-Geideman, “The Influence of Trees and Landscaping on Rental Rates at Office Buildings,” Journal of Arboriculture, 2003.
 Wolf, K.L., “Community Economics – A Literature Review. In: Green Cities: Good Health,” College of the Environment, University of Washington, 2010.