The Opportunity Zones Program

In December 2017, Congress established a new community development program called “Opportunity Zones”. This blog post will provide an overview of the program, subject to change as it evolves. The Opportunity Zones program is based on the bipartisan “Investing in Opportunity Act” but was enacted as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the 2017 tax reform efforts. The concept was initially created in 2015 by the Economic Innovation Group, in order to address persistent poverty and unequal recovery.

The program offers an incentive to inspire long-term private investment in low-income urban and rural communities across the country by allowing investors to utilize their unrealized capital gains by reinvesting into Opportunity Funds. Opportunity Funds will be dedicated to investing in the identified Opportunity Zones; these zones will be designated by the Governors of every U.S state and territory. Governors have 120 days from December 22, 2017 (March 21, 2018) to identify up to 25% of the total number of low income census tracts in their respective state or territory as opportunity zones. (North Carolina has requested an extension.) For the most part, the Opportunity Zone census tracts align with the qualified census tracts defined in the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program. Nevertheless, the governors must still identify low-income communities to receive Opportunity Zone Investments since up to 25% of census tracts can be designated. Continue reading “The Opportunity Zones Program”

Ordinance Enforcement Basics

Community development activities may include public nuisance abatement or code enforcement of one kind or another.  It is therefore helpful for community and economic development professionals to know the steps that local governments may take to enforce their ordinances. This blog post describes the basic enforcement options available to cities and counties. Continue reading “Ordinance Enforcement Basics”

Checking In: The Impact of the Northside Neighborhood Initiative & Land Bank

The Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI) is a collaborative effort among Northside residents, the Jackson Center, Self-Help, UNC, the Towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as the area affordable housing agencies. Together, they work towards honoring the history of the Northside neighborhood while maintaining and strengthening its vibrant and diverse community fabric. Northside was highlighted in a previous blog post and how the initiative leveraged local anchor institutions to build their land bank model.  Continue reading “Checking In: The Impact of the Northside Neighborhood Initiative & Land Bank”

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves Lives, Money, and Property

In December 2017, the National Institute of Building Sciences published Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report. This report shows that acting to reduce the impacts of floods, hurricane surges, wind, earthquakes, and wildfires is a sound financial investment. Such action, often called mitigation, can result in significant savings of lives, money, and property. The Institute’s objective is to provide information to key decision-makers at federal, state, and local levels so they can develop more resilient communities that can better withstand natural disasters. This post summarizes the report’s findings.

Continue reading “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves Lives, Money, and Property”

What @sog_ced is reading online: February 2018

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

CED items:                                                         

News report on interest in use of social impact bonds – or “pay for success” – to address homelessness.

How Helsinki uses an interactive board game to build local government capacity and enthusiasm for citizen engagement:

The market has delivered an affordable housing solution: manufactured housing. Urban Institute asks why so few units are being made.  Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: February 2018”

Four Federal Water Infrastructure Funding Programs to Watch

The White House’s Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, which was released early this year, outlines the President’s proposed steps to encourage increased State, local, and private investment in infrastructure. And though you’ve probably heard a lot about it, chances are you haven’t had the time to read and reflect on the 55 page document. So what might the President’s plan mean for infrastructure in your community? While the plan outlines programs for infrastructure of all sectors, this post provides a quick overview of the 4 proposed programs with relevance to water infrastructure.

Continue reading “Four Federal Water Infrastructure Funding Programs to Watch”

Downtown Revitalization Achieved through Transit Development: Raleigh’s Union Station and the Warehouse District

In October 2017, travel, entertainment, and food website Thrillist ranked Raleigh’s Warehouse District among “12 neighborhoods across America that are about to get crazy popular.” Matt Meltzer wrote, “Next year, the $80 million Union Station opens up, turning the warehouse district into Raleigh’s transportation hub. As it becomes more accessible, look for even more creative spaces and businesses to open up, and more of the city’s transplants to end up here.”

Raleigh’s Warehouse District, with its six blocks of spacious red-brick buildings west of downtown, has historically served as an industrial zone due to its proximity to rail lines. Warehouses, factories, and depots fell into disrepair in the mid-1950s but were later repurposed for artists, designers, and performers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These spaces soon gave way to a diverse arts, restaurant, nightlife, and entrepreneurial district, now known for its craft beer establishments, Citrix headquarters, HQ Raleigh, Contemporary Art Museum, and public art space. The Warehouse District will soon see another facelift in the form of Raleigh’s Union Station, a multimodal facility which will accommodate inter-city and intra-state rail services, regional commuter rail, local and regional buses, bicycles, and other forms of transportation. Continue reading “Downtown Revitalization Achieved through Transit Development: Raleigh’s Union Station and the Warehouse District”

On Borrowed Ground: A Ground Lease Primer – Part 1

Imagine that you find the ideal land parcel to develop, but the owner does not want to sell – and desires to retain ownership in any future land appreciation. Or, you find the perfect development site that offers superior investment returns – but the land cost is prohibitively expensive, and makes your project infeasible.

In both scenarios, development is still possible by embracing a ground lease.

A ground lease is a lease for the land between a lessee, such as a developer, tenant, or asset manager, and the owner of the land. The owner, the lessor, provides rights to the lessee to develop his/her land while retaining ownership of the land. Meanwhile, the lessee retains ownership of the structures built upon the land. Both parties agree to the nature of development, land use, and the financial terms of the lease. Continue reading “On Borrowed Ground: A Ground Lease Primer – Part 1”

Revolving Loan Funds for Affordable Housing previous CED posts, the definition and benefits and disadvantages of a revolving loan fund structure have been described. For review purposes, a revolving loan fund is often defined as a replenishing source of capital or funding from which loans are made. Some of these same posts describe this financing tool is as way to provide a boost for small business owners in rural regions and provide an example of the revolving loan fund run by Kerr-Tar Council of Governments in Vance County. In addition to encouraging and supporting small businesses, revolving loan funds have been used to address and fund other charges facing local governments. One such charge? Affordable Housing. In places like Denver, Colorado, Santa Barbara, California and Arlington County, Virginia, revolving loan funds have served as a huge source of financing for affordable housing development. In North Carolina, local governments have ample authority to expend funds in support of affordable housing for low and moderate income persons; a revolving loan fund may be a useful framework to deploy funding. Continue reading “Revolving Loan Funds for Affordable Housing”

What @sog_ced is reading online: January 2018

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

News & Observer update on Rocky Mount Mills, a multimillion dollar historic redevelopment anchored by a craft brewery incubator:

Report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) finds that North Carolina leads all states in industry support of university research (12.1%), generating economic development benefits: reports on High Point, North Carolina’s taxable bonds to construct a publicly-owned minor league baseball stadium in a bid to attract private investment to revitalize downtown:

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research evaluates the connection between teacher retention and affordable housing.

Will the North Carolina General Assembly modify the county “Development Tier” designations at the heart of many State funding formulas?

Other CED items:                                           

HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) delays the fair housing rule until 2020 and will stop reviewing fair housing plans to address racial segregation. HUD says local governments need more time to adjust to the rule:

The New York Times’ The Upshot argues that NIMBY has evolved into “Not In My Neighborhood” as owners and even renters try to control variables that they perceive (rightly or wrongly) affect their property values. 

Small grocer locates in low-income food deserts throughout the country, including South Carolina, backed by a group of military veterans on a mission to bring affordable full-service grocery stores to underserved low-income areas.  Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: January 2018”

The Importance of “Good” Data

The Development Finance Initiative’s Community Revitalization Fellows represent students from a variety of graduate programs: City and Regional Planning, Business, Public Administration, Information and Library Science, Applied Geography, and Public Health. In addition to working as DFI Fellows, these students have something else in common: their respective graduate programs all require that they take at least one course focused on statistics and data analysis. No exceptions.

Why is this requirement so important? Because decision making in the modern world is based on data. Statistical analysis offers the most objective, informed way to analyze a situation and project the impact of different courses of action.

Continue reading “The Importance of “Good” Data”

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program

It is no secret that the struggle to preserve affordable housing and increase economic growth is more challenging than ever. Subsidies are growing smaller and building costs are increasing, making affordable housing more difficult to develop. However, a federal program known as the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Bond Guarantee Program (BGP) is making it possible for CDFIs across the nation to invest in the distressed communities of the United States.

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program was created by the U.S. Treasury’s CDFI Fund through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. The program was designed to provide long-term, low-cost capital for community revitalization and economic growth. Through this program, federally certified Qualifed Issuers (CDFIs or approved designees) are eligible to apply to the CDFI Fund for the authorization to issue bonds worth a minimum of $100 million total. These bonds are guaranteed 100% by the U.S. Treasury, up to $1 billion per year. The proceeds from these bonds can be used to extend credit for community development purposes or to refinance existing obligations. Continue reading “The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program”

Lessons for CED from Europe: Housing, Job, Food, or Fuel Poverty…All Roads Lead to a Social Inclusion Model

For the past five months I served as a visiting scholar to the University of Ghent in Belgium.   The link between food insecurity, a particular focus on my work in North Carolina, and larger overall economic insecurity issues has been getting increased focus across a number of European countries. Belgium is much smaller in geographic size, but has nearly the same population as North Carolina, and similar overall poverty rates.  It has Continue reading “Lessons for CED from Europe: Housing, Job, Food, or Fuel Poverty…All Roads Lead to a Social Inclusion Model”

The Olmstead Decision: Compliance and Action in North Carolina

The 1999 Olmstead v. LC decision, also known as the Olmstead Decision or simply Olmstead, marked one the most important civil rights cases for people with disabilities in the United States. Underpinned by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Olmstead Decision brought forth a framework that would oblige states to provide support services to disabled Americans in the community as opposed to in institutional settings. This blog post will provide an overview of Olmstead and its significance in North Carolina, including its history, challenges with compliance, and opportunities to provide integrated transitional housing. Continue reading “The Olmstead Decision: Compliance and Action in North Carolina”

Hidden in Plain Sight

Mobile homes are a vital but generally unloved part of North Carolina’s affordable housing stock. They come to public attention in times of extreme weather, particularly high winds and floods. Their condition and location make them especially vulnerable to damage, and often their occupants – the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor – are least able to cope with the consequences. This blog looks at some of the challenges and opportunities for improving conditions and expanding affordable and safe housing for low-income North Carolinians, particularly in our more rural counties.


Continue reading “Hidden in Plain Sight”

Self-Driving Cars and the Changing Real Estate Market

In a world where technology seems to be advancing exponentially, very few advancements will manage to have the effect on real estate that the evolving transportation industry will. We have already seen how a shift towards walkability and the introduction of ride hailing services, such as Lyft and Uber, have impacted parking requirements, and introduced new programmatic elements to multifamily buildings across the country. But what happens when the cars can drive themselves?

As conversation in the automotive industry orbits around the premises of electric, self-driving cars, we are often fed stories about the amazing ways the technology will change our lives. For example, consider the claims of decreases in vehicular accidents and traffic, increases in vehicle travel speeds (the result of cars “talking” to one another), and gains in productive time. However, very few examine the effects these changes will have on physical real estate. Continue reading “Self-Driving Cars and the Changing Real Estate Market”

What @sog_ced is reading online: December 2017

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

In 2018, new “development tier” designations go into effect for North Carolina counties. Forsyth, Lenoir, Perquimans are now in a more distressed tier. Beaufort, Caldwell, Granville all improve their rankings. 

NC Center for Public Policy Research post applies the “legacy city” framework to North Carolina cities and provides good analysis.

Other CED items:                                           

The New York Times reports that more density in neighborhoods with primarily single family homes may help provide more housing options but the neighbors don’t always agree.

Overview of how the U.S. workforce has changed in the past decade since the Great Recession:

Pew Charitable Trusts explains why parking garages may go extinct and how cities and developers are thinking about parking for the future. 

Suburban office parks, now considered obsolete, are being reimagined by developers.

Wall Street Journal report on the decline of bank branches and lending in rural areas: Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: December 2017”

From Gas Station to Gastro Pub: The Potential of Gas Station Redevelopment

Geer St. Garden, Photos by Gary Kuber

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, more than 50,000 gas stations have closed their doors since 1991, which accounts for nearly 25% of the 200,000 gas stations nationwide. With the advent of hybrid cars and a greater penchant for transit, gas stations are on the decline, with busy street corners being replaced by boarded-up stations and vacant pumps. Per the New York Times, many of these abandoned gas stations serve as entryways to business districts; thus, the redevelopment potential of these properties can be attractive to developers. Underutilized gas stations present a unique opportunity for towns and developers alike, particularly if they are at desirable intersections. However, these gas stations also present unique challenges, such as environmental remediation and small lot size, that must be planned for and managed appropriately.

In the past, the CED blog has explored the basics of brownfields programs in North Carolina, how they are administered and implemented, their role in revitalizing communities, and flexible opportunities in North Carolina’s Brownfield’s Program. Brownfield redevelopment is certainly a complicated process, but there are a variety of federal, state, and private funding mechanisms that make these projects more feasible. Previous brownfield projects in North Carolina have centered around historic manufacturing and mill sites, but gas stations could well be the new frontier of downtown redevelopment and revitalization. Continue reading “From Gas Station to Gastro Pub: The Potential of Gas Station Redevelopment”

Local Government Owners of Historic Property Asked to Convey Property by End of 2017: What Public Officials Should Know

Federal tax reform is likely to be enacted before the end of the year. While the final form of the bill has not been determined, it is nearly certain that federal historic preservation tax credits—an important financing mechanism for preservation of historic properties—will be significantly affected. In fact, most observers anticipate that the value of the tax credits will be diminished by tax reform, thereby making historic preservation projects more difficult to finance and complete. For that reason, some real estate developers have asked local government owners of historic properties to convey those properties to new ownership before the end of the 2017 tax year (December 31, 2017) in order to “grandfather” those projects under the older, more favorable rules. This post briefly describes how federal tax reform could affect historic rehabilitation projects and offers some guidance for North Carolina public officials who wish to respond (on a very tight deadline) to a request to transfer historic properties owned by local governments. Continue reading “Local Government Owners of Historic Property Asked to Convey Property by End of 2017: What Public Officials Should Know”

What Barn Raising Looks Like in Petaluma, California

My last post argued that we should think of the role of local government in communities more in terms of “barn raising” than the more transactional metaphor of a vending machine. This idea was put forth in the great book Community and the Politics of Place by former Missoula, Montana mayor Daniel Kemmis, and later picked up in a popular article written by Frank Benest, former city manager of Palo Alto, California. The crux of the notion is the need for communities to move away from an “us” and “them” relationship between citizens and community organizations on the one hand, and local government on the other, and rather think of local government as a key community institution that is both part of and an extension of the community.

Continue reading “What Barn Raising Looks Like in Petaluma, California”

How Asheville Revitalized its Downtown: Part II

Asheville, North Carolina is increasingly lauded for its mountain views, restaurants, craft beer, and art scene.  It seems like Asheville is always on a “best” list – most recently, it was touted as the number one best place to visit in the US in 2017 by Lonely Planet. But just what factors explain this downtown renaissance and revitalization Asheville is current experiencing? And who shapes downtown Asheville, and what can we learn about urban governance and downtown revitalization from their success? A previous blog post explored the former question, and this blog post will examine the latter. Continue reading “How Asheville Revitalized its Downtown: Part II”

Our Shared Fate, Part 2

The ongoing debate about the deepening divide between rural and urban America and how this plays out in North Carolina was the topic of a previous blog post, Our Shared Fate. This post discusses some ideas about how the divide can be bridged.

The Triangle J Council of Governments held its regional summit in September 2017 on A Future Together: Connecting Our Urban and Rural Communities. The Triangle region faces challenges of rapid growth and the associated issues of land use, urbanization, and transportation. The framing for the rural-urban discussion is how to ensure that the benefits of increasing prosperity are fairly distributed. Continue reading “Our Shared Fate, Part 2”

What @sog_ced is reading online: November 2017

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

Raleigh and Charlotte are among the top 5 cities in United States with the fastest-growing incomes, according to a new study:

370 acres added to now 1900-acre Greensboro-Randolph County Megasite: 

CBS news reports that 10,000 evictions have been filed in Durham, North Carolina since 2016.

Other CED items:

Impact investing post describes distinctions between mission-related investments (MRI) & program-related investments (PRI):

Report looks at evictions and rental insecurity – found 1 in 5 renters recently struggled to pay rent.

Carsey School reports that concentrated poverty increased in both rural and urban areas since 2000s, reversal from 1990s.  Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: November 2017”

Local Government Financial Resilience and Preparation Before a Natural Disaster

This year’s U.S. Atlantic hurricane season is officially the most expensive ever, amounting to $202.6 billion in damages across the Atlantic basin. This record-breaking hurricane season brought some of the most catastrophic storms in recent memory. As Hurricane Katrina reshaped New Orleans in 2005, the destruction induced by Harvey, Irma, and Maria will have lasting consequences for cities and towns in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The devastation is likely to be even more long-lasting for many of the hardest hit small islands across the Caribbean. And hurricanes are not the only natural disasters with a hefty price tag; drought, freezing temperatures, severe storms, wildfires, and winter storms cause billions of dollars in damages every year.

As a result of rapid urbanization, climate change, and increases in population and material wealth continue to mount, municipalities are becoming extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, making it necessary for local governments to become more resilient to catastrophes. Natural disaster resiliency often focuses on the built environment and hazard mitigation, but what about weathering the storm from a financial perspective? The following tips can help a local government be financially resilient in the face of a natural disaster: Continue reading “Local Government Financial Resilience and Preparation Before a Natural Disaster”

Tick Tock! The Clock Is Now Running for Zoning Enforcement

Jimmy lives on a large lot in a residential area of town.  Back in January 2013, he started a small auto repair shop in the garage behind his house.  You can hardly see the shop from the road because of the house and topography, but Jimmy did post a small sign near his mailbox to direct folks around to “Jimmy’s Auto Repair.” The town’s zoning enforcement officer saw the sign in September 2013.  The zoning ordinance prohibits auto repair in residential districts, so the officer sent a letter to seek compliance. Because of limited staff, many other zoning matters, and the lack of complaints about Jimmy’s operation, the zoning officer has not pursued enforcement any further.  This year a new neighbor moved in next door, saw and heard the auto repair shop, and called the town to complain.  Can the town now enforce the zoning ordinance against Jimmy’s commercial business in this residential area?  The law on this is changing.

A new law sets specific statutes of limitation for land use enforcement litigation.  This blog explores the new limitations and practical considerations for moving forward.  The new law may spark local governments to initiate additional zoning enforcement actions over the next year (in anticipation of the law’s 2018 effective date) and to take a more proactive stance on zoning enforcement generally.

Continue reading “Tick Tock! The Clock Is Now Running for Zoning Enforcement”

Where and How? – The TRF Model for Community Investment

Of the many challenges in community revitalization, determining how to allocate limited funds is often at the top of the list. Should the dollars be split evenly by focusing on the very worst neighborhoods? Or should there be a form of targeting or some sort of custom-tailored solution? If the latter, how is the solution designed?

In 2001, the Reinvestment Fund designed a market value analysis system to help this investment decision making process. The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) is a Philadelphia based community development financial institution that brings together individual investors, banks, government officials, private foundations and faith-based and community organizations to invest in communities.

The market value analysis or MVA is a data-based tool designed by TRF to inform community revitalization and manage neighborhood change. Using spatial and statistical analysis, it identifies and characterizes local conditions throughout a specific locality and creates a typology or index of residential real estate markets. In Philadelphia for example, the MVA categorizes block groups as “regional choice/high value”, “steady”, “transitional”, or “distressed”. Continue reading “Where and How? – The TRF Model for Community Investment”

Leveraging Revenues from New Development: Critical Infrastructure Assessment Authority in 2017

Critical infrastructure assessments are charges levied against property (usually new development) to reimburse a local government for the costs incurred for certain public infrastructure projects that directly benefit the property. In other states this tool offers an alternative to imposing impact fees on new development (that is often preferred by developers) to compensate the local government for the impact of that new development. In North Carolina, local governments do not have authority under general law to impose impact fees (with the limited exception of system development fees for water and sewer infrastructure). Nonetheless, critical infrastructure assessments are among the many tools that counties and municipalities in this state have to fund public infrastructure projects that benefit private development. Like project development financing authority (aka tax increment financing or TIF), the critical infrastructure assessment authority allows a local government to leverage new growth to pay for public infrastructure improvements that are necessitated by and/or benefit the new growth. And it does so without putting all the financial risk on the developer and without directly affecting the local unit’s general fund. For these reasons, it is a potentially attractive tool to both local government officials and developers. That said, of all the methods available to local governments to fund public capital outlay, a critical infrastructure assessment is among the most complex and most costly. Because of that, it is not be the right tool for every circumstance.

I have blogged about the general contours of a local government’s critical infrastructure assessment authority here, and here. During the past few legislative sessions, the General Assembly has both extended the sunset date (now to July 1, 2020), and made a few (mainly clarifying) amendments to the law. This post reviews the general structure of, and process for levying, these assessments, and for funding and undertaking the underlying project(s), as the law has been amended in recent years. Continue reading “Leveraging Revenues from New Development: Critical Infrastructure Assessment Authority in 2017”

In Vino, Veritable Impact on Tourism

Vines at Linville Falls Winery; Source: High Country Press

As of now, the fires that burned in Northern California’s wine region earlier this month are nearly 100% contained. It has been a dramatic, devastating scene in perhaps the most iconic region for grape-growing and wine-drinking outside of Tuscany or Bordeaux, and the impacts are, and will continue to be, far-reaching. In the wake of the fires lie flattened businesses, torched earth, and the shaken but resurging livelihoods of hundreds of wine growers and vineyard owners. Continue reading “In Vino, Veritable Impact on Tourism”

Equity with a Twist: The Low Income Investment Fund’s Social Capital Tool

The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) dedicated to providing innovative capital solutions that create a bridge between private capital markets and low income neighborhoods. The organization strives to create pathways for investors in projects that have high social value, but may not have access to traditional banking services.

In its latest venture to connect low income communities to private capital, LIIF, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co., created Equity with a Twist (EQT) in February 2016. EQT is a social capital product that provides flexible, low-cost financing to support and incentivize solutions to poverty in low income neighborhoods. It is advertised as providing high social return and modest financial return to its investors, and projects are geared towards mixed-income housing to provide families with affordable homes, K-12 education, and early childhood education. Continue reading “Equity with a Twist: The Low Income Investment Fund’s Social Capital Tool”

What @sog_ced is reading online: October 2017

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

Charlotte, like other North Carolina cities, is using city-owned property to develop affordable housing: 

WRAL’s analysis of One North Carolina Fund and JDIG business recruitment economic development incentives. 

Other CED items:

New working paper provides a comprehensive review of inclusionary housing programs and policies – 1,379 total – across the US aimed at creating more affordable housing:

Do larger cities adapt better than small metros to economic disruption from automation and trade? 

NY Times article highlights creative adaptive reuse projects in northeast US, including a converted prison:

Low-income Americans aren’t moving to high-opportunity areas as often as in the past. Are housing costs one reason?

Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: October 2017”

Multiplex in Morganton: The Mimosa Theatre

At the corner of Union and Green in Morganton’s historic downtown sits the Marquee Cinemas Mimosa 7 multiplex movie theater. You would be hard-pressed to find a 7-screen first-run downtown movie theater in this day and age in a North Carolina town with a population of about 16,000. You would also be hard-pressed to find a location more distinctly “Downtown Morganton” than the Mimosa. A historic theater combined with new construction, the Mimosa is right around the corner from the Historic Burke County Courthouse, down the street from the Burke County Register of Deeds and a stone’s throw away from The Morganton Main Street Department, a community and economic development organization that was instrumental to the theater’s survival.

Movie theaters are some of the most unique and iconic historic buildings in city downtowns. North Carolina is home to many such historic movie theaters, and the CED has featured some of these examples and the challenges inherent in redeveloping and reusing historic theaters in past posts (Don Gibson Theater, Redeveloping Historic Downtown Theaters, The Challenges of Movie Theater Redevelopment). The Mimosa Theater in Morganton was no exception with respect to design and history – featuring a vintage Art Deco exterior and interior seating capacity for 600, it initially began operating as a movie theater in the 1940s, with Carmike Cinemas serving as its final operator prior to closing its doors in the late-90s. Continue reading “Multiplex in Morganton: The Mimosa Theatre”

Catawba County’s Innovative Water Service Partnership Model

It seems like almost everyone, including regulators and utility organizations, recognize the benefits and need for expanded partnerships and collaboration in the water and wastewater sector. Small towns are finding it difficult to meet their growing infrastructure and regulatory needs and are talking with each other and their larger neighbors about different regional service models. Partnerships are not limited to small systems; the cost of new water and wastewater supply is so great, that even large, financially healthy systems are increasingly working together to share costs and partner on  large facilities. Most of these partnerships involve two or more utilities working together, but in at least one North Carolina county, one of the key partners in many of the region’s recent water partnerships is a local government (Catawba County) that is not a direct utility service provider.  For more than 20 years, Catawba County has assisted many of the municipalities in the County install Continue reading “Catawba County’s Innovative Water Service Partnership Model”

How Asheville Revitalized its Downtown: Part I

Asheville, North Carolina – “New Age Mecca,” “San Francisco of the East,” “Land of the Sky,” “New Freak Capital,” and “America’s Happiest City.” These are just some of the nicknames that Asheville enjoys, due to its more recent prominence in the social, economic, and political domains of North Carolina and larger southeast region. It is difficult to ignore this meteoric rise to fame, particularly for those who enjoy majestic mountain views, craft beer, vegetarian eats, and homegrown arts and crafts. But just what factors explain this downtown renaissance and revitalization Asheville is current experiencing? Who shapes downtown Asheville, and what can we learn about urban governance and downtown revitalization from their success? This blog post will explore the former question, and a subsequent blog post will examine the latter.

Elizabeth Strom and Robert Kerstein explore Asheville’s revitalization in the 2017 edition of Urban Affairs Review. In their article, titled “The Homegrown Downtown: Redevelopment in Asheville, North Carolina,” Strom and Kerstein attempt to pinpoint just what exactly went right in the “successful transformation of Asheville’s downtown from desolate to vibrant.” With emphasis placed on the post-1980 period, this article illustrates how successful redevelopment coalitions have shaped the downtown, and how these “social-entrepreneurial” coalitions could be replicated in downtowns similarly rooted in an architecturally-significant historic built environment and an economy reliant on independent business. Strom and Kerstein argue that Asheville’s “social-entrepreneurial” activity in the business, creative, and philanthropic sectors offers insights into the larger concepts of downtown revitalization, urban governance, and city development policy. Continue reading “How Asheville Revitalized its Downtown: Part I”

Lessons for CED from Europe: Inclusive Communities and a New City-Run Food Pantry

The photo was eerily familiar to anyone interested in CED.  The headline from the New York Times article on September 20, just days before the German national election, read, “Merkel Says Germans ‘Never Had It Better.’ But Many Feel Left Behind.”  The accompanying photo by Gordon Welters, shown here, features Continue reading “Lessons for CED from Europe: Inclusive Communities and a New City-Run Food Pantry”

Electric Buses Debut in North Carolina

The days of public buses pulling away from a bus stop with the loud growl of a diesel engine and a cloud of black smoke could become a thing of the past.  The company Proterra makes fully electric buses, and North Carolina will soon see four of these buses hit their streets.  The governing board for Raleigh Durham International Airport has agreed to purchase four of Proterra’s Catalyst E2 fully-electric buses, four charging stations, and the required infrastructure and training at a cost of $3.4 million.  The cost was offset by a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).   Continue reading “Electric Buses Debut in North Carolina”

Economic Development Organizations Receive Top Honors for 2017

A perpetual interest in the field of economic development is identifying “best practices” and benchmarking the “state-of-the art” with respect to promising tools, strategies, and programs.  One source for this type of information is the Excellence in Economic Development Awards competition administered by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) over the past several years.  The IEDC awards competition recognizes success, innovation, creativity, quality, and community impact in the work of economic development organizations.

Organizations submit entries to be considered for awards in various categories including promotional materials, internet and new media, programs, and partnerships.  Judges apply specific criteria in reviewing the submissions to select gold, silver, and bronze level winners for each category based on the size of the population served.

IEDC announced the 2017 award recipients in September at its Annual Conference in Toronto.  Two North Carolina organizations were recognized this year.  Electricities of North Carolina, Inc. is the silver winner in the General Purpose Print Promotion category (population greater than 500,000) for its NC Public Power Calendar.  The calendar uses journalistic photos and short stories to highlight distinctive businesses, destinations, and community leaders in the Electricities service area.  The Town of Fuquay-Varina is the silver winner in the Video/Multimedia Promotion category (population 25,000-200,000) for its State of the Town Address video, which communicates the town’s economic development and community achievements.

The Program Awards category includes multi-year programming, business retention and expansion, entrepreneurship, neighborhood development, human capital, sustainable and green development, and real estate redevelopment/reuse.  The numerous award winners in this category constitute a database that is worth mining for examples of best practice and promising strategy.  A few of the notable 2017 winners include:

  • Charleston (SC) Regional Development Alliance – Opportunity Next: Building a Globally Competitive Economy for Charleston
  • York County, VA – Home-Based Business Assistance Program
  • Howard County (MD) Economic Development Authority – Ellicott City Flash Flood Response and Recovery
  • City of Norfolk, VA – Norfolk-Works Waterside Week Hiring Event
  • Prince William County, VA – Prince William Science Accelerator
  • Paducah (KY) Economic Development – Historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant Redevelopment
  • Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership – Farmers Exchange Building Redevelopment

Courting Locally: The Economic Gardening Strategy

It is a story as old as time. The process can be exhausting in the pursuit of “the one”, and the search can go long and far. While that old story typically refers to love, the same can be said for the relationship between places and economic development. Cities across the country have continually pursued big businesses meant to stimulate their economies and increase wealth. This courtship of large companies typically means offering incentives such as tax breaks and subsidies, which can present challenges in ensuring cities are getting fair deals. But what if “the one” was right before their eyes? What if communities could grow their economies from within? Continue reading “Courting Locally: The Economic Gardening Strategy”

What @sog_ced is reading online: September 2017

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

North Carolina Department of Commerce report: “Mecklenburg and Wake Counties accounted for 41% of the state’s net 2016 population increase”

UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative helps Durham County weigh options and engage community stakeholders:

Other CED items:

Bloomberg News offers detailed look at state historic preservation. tax credits and recommendations from report on Missouri’s tax credit program:

Four data-driven approaches to address vacant and abandoned properties:

Case studies in how communities can unlock the value of federal property:

Summary of recent academic articles on the impact of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) on lending to low and medium income groups:

In op-ed, former Delaware governor proposes 100% tax on corporate revenue from government incentives, hopes to end “giveaways”: Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: September 2017”

What’s the deal with modular construction?

AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown

In May of this year, Marriott International announced that it would ramp up the use of modular construction in its hotels. Marriott said they anticipated signing on at least 50 hotels in 2017 alone that would be primarily modular, citing that this type of construction would enable them to generate returns for their partners faster, decrease waste, and employ a steady and reliable skilled labor force. In fact, one of these 50 properties is in Chapel Hill; the new AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown. The four-story above-ground structure (with two levels of parking beneath) will boast 123 guest rooms, all built using modular construction. Continue reading “What’s the deal with modular construction?”

Legal and Business Reasons Why Downtown Development Programs Should Involve Secured Loans—Not Grants

Dr. Blaine Beeper is a retired hospital administrator who was recently elected to council in the Town of Bushwood. Dr. Beeper thinks he has figured out how to jumpstart revitalization of Bushwood’s historic downtown. He proposes for the Town to offer annual cash grants to any owner who redevelops a commercial property within the downtown. Dr. Beeper reasons that redeveloped properties will carry a higher tax assessed value, and the additional tax revenue can be “granted back” to the owners in the form of cash grants for five years, calculated as some percentage of the additional property taxes received by the Town.  When Dr. Beeper floats this idea, he runs into resistance from the Town Attorney and the Economic Development Director, each for different reasons. The Town Attorney raises serious concerns about the legality of such a program, while the Economic Development Director says it doesn’t make good business sense and a loan program would better address owners’ financing needs. This post explains the legal and business reasons why Dr. Beeper’s proposed grant program should be scrapped in favor of a loan program. Continue reading “Legal and Business Reasons Why Downtown Development Programs Should Involve Secured Loans—Not Grants”

Federal Housing Finance Options for Mixed-Use Development

Federal housing finance policies and programs exist to provide financing for the acquisition and construction of homes and boost investment in the housing industry. While a variety of housing loan products exist, a report released by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) in February 2016 highlighted the unintended consequences of housing finance policies at that time. One of the consequences highlighted was the structure of federal loan programs that did not support mixed-use, multi-family developments, effectively limiting the access of these properties to financing options. In areas where two and three story buildings with the potential to support residential spaces above commercial storefronts exist, this type of access could be crucial to revitalization and diversification of neighborhoods. Continue reading “Federal Housing Finance Options for Mixed-Use Development”

Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs in North Carolina: Part II

There are several ways for state and local leaders to promote investments in their communities and reduce utility costs for residents. One tool that has been often overlooked in North Carolina are Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. This post examines the benefits and drawbacks of commercial and residential PACE programs. A previous blog post outlined the PACE program in general and its history in North Carolina.

All PACE assessments follow the general structure outlined in the first blog post on this issue. This framework allows property owners to install energy efficiency (EE) or renewable energy (RE) upgrades with little or no up-front costs. Continue reading “Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs in North Carolina: Part II”

Property Buy-Outs: A Good Option for Local Governments and Homeowners?

The devastating impact of flooding is once more in the public spotlight following the unprecedented rainfall from Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Nearer to home, residents in Princeville, Fair Bluff, Seven Springs, Windsor, Kinston and Lumberton NC are planning how to build stronger and safer after Hurricane Matthew last October. These two major events are only the latest in a long string of natural disasters that have wreaked havoc in our communities in recent years. Giving greater attention to finding ways of reducing the toll in lives and property has become more urgent. One significant effort is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This program helps communities implement mitigation measures and supports cost-effective post-disaster initiatives that eliminate or reduce long-term risks, and in so doing reduces reliance on Federal funding in future disasters. These efforts can include preparing hazard mitigation plans, elevating homes above potential flood levels, and structural retrofitting of homes to make them more resistant to floods, earthquakes and wind. One measure promoted in the program is funding to help communities purchase and demolish flood-prone property. Between 1993 and 2011, FEMA spent over $2 billion on acquiring some 20,000 homes (1), but in spite of its popularity, little research has been done on what happens to the land and the people after the buy-out process.

Continue reading “Property Buy-Outs: A Good Option for Local Governments and Homeowners?”

What @sog_ced is reading online: August 2017

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

Report attempts to quantify economic impact of military force reductions at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. 

Automotive News on the four auto plant mega sites available in North Carolina.

Review of history of state investments in Global Transpark near Kinston, North Carolina:

Post describes different streams of revenue (to landowners, local government) from wind turbine project in northeast North Carolina. 

Design team shows how to add 52 acres to historic Princeville, North Carolina, outside of flood zone.

Other CED items:

Affordable housing developer’s perspective on the challenges of serving extremely low income households in rural areas.

Report on suburban office parks, like the Research Triangle Park, reimagined as mixed-use environments by adding residential and retail.

Interesting series of community development infographics created by the Federal Reserve Bank for use by practitioners: 

New study on the clustering of craft breweries in post-industrial neighborhoods: Continue reading “What @sog_ced is reading online: August 2017”

The Missing Middle: An Affordable Housing Solution?

Throughout the United States, the cost of housing is rising faster than incomes. While there are many discussions taking place around this issue, an important one is how the types of housing being developed can have an impact on affordability, particularly in areas where demand is high – namely, walkable places with transit service.

According to proponents, the “Missing Middle” is part of the solution to meeting the demand for housing that is affordable. Missing Middle housing is composed of a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types that are compatible in scale to single-family homes. Continue reading “The Missing Middle: An Affordable Housing Solution?”

The Grasshoppers’ Stadium is a Homerun for Downtown Greensboro

When the Greensboro Grasshoppers threw out their first pitch at their new stadium on April 3, 2005, it was still uncertain what the impact of the stadium would be on the greater downtown.  The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greater Greensboro took a leap of faith in building the $22.5 million stadium in hopes of spurring economic growth in a part of downtown that had been stagnant for decades.  The Foundation decided to fund the stadium’s construction after a bond referendum did not look promising and other partnerships for the project fell through.  Continue reading “The Grasshoppers’ Stadium is a Homerun for Downtown Greensboro”

System Development Fees are the New Impact Fees

As detailed here, in 2016, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that municipalities (and by analogy counties) lack the statutory authority to impose certain upfront charges for water and sewer services. Upfront charges are charges imposed on new or existing development before a property parcel is actually connected (or under contract to connect) to a local government’s water or sewer system. Local government utilities across the state impose a wide variety of upfront charges, some that are assessed only on developers as a condition of securing development approvals, and others that are imposed on both new and existing property owners. The purposes of these fees range from reimbursing the utility for past investments, to reserving capacity, to covering the costs of extending infrastructure, to establishing a reserve for future maintenance or expansion of the system. In Quality Built Homes Inc. v. Town of Carthage, No. 315PA15, ___ N.C. ____ (Aug. 19, 2016), the supreme court invalidated certain types of upfront charges. Questions remained, however, as to whether government utilities have authority to impose other types of upfront charges pursuant to their general rate-making authority. As detailed in this post, local government utilities were left to make difficult decisions about who to charge, when to charge, and how to calculate the amount of the charge.

A new law, the Public Water and Sewer System Development Fee Act, S.L. 2017-138, clarifies a local government utility’s authority to assess upfront charges for water and sewer. The new law grants local government utilities specific authority to assess one type of upfront charge—a system development fee—albeit with significant limitations. It also preserves the authority of local government utilities to impose certain other upfront fees. At the same time, however, it prohibits local government utilities from assessing many of the types of fees that have become routine in recent years. Local government utility providers will need to act soon to bring their fee schedules into compliance.

This post sets out the basic contours of the new law. It discusses who must comply, who can be assessed and when, what the processes are for calculating and adopting the fee schedule, and how a local unit must administer the fee proceeds. It also lists the other types of allowable water and sewer charges. Finally, it identifies a few drafting quirks that may cause some implementation issues. The Generally Assembly has specified that the new law’s provisions be narrowly construed by the courts. To that end, local officials should carefully follow the statutory requirements and proceed cautiously when interpreting any statutory ambiguities. (Future posts will flesh out the details for the calculation requirements and deal with potential liability issues for past fees that were assessed unlawfully.) Continue reading “System Development Fees are the New Impact Fees”

The Electric Grid of the Future

The energy landscape is changing. More and more, renewable energy plays a larger role on how we generate and consume power. Fundamental differences between traditional power generation technology and renewable sources requires an overhaul of the entire energy industry, from infrastructure to business models, creating the electric grid of the future. Three of the biggest differences, which this blog post will explore, are: variability, decentralization, and digitalization. Continue reading “The Electric Grid of the Future”