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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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’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?”

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”

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”

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”

One Neighborhood at a Time: The Incremental Development Alliance

In the Town of Riverdale, Betty Cooper is taking a walk through her neighborhood. She notices the dilapidated structures and blight that plague the area, and thinks to herself, “someone should do something about this.” Is Betty just a disgruntled citizen…or a developer in the making?

The Incremental Development Alliance (IDA) is a not-for-profit alliance of real estate development practitioners, private sector partners, and grassroots groups who train citizens like Betty to become small developers, helping to support neighborhood revitalization and assist city champions with coordinating development across the country. IDA began in 2015 as a collaboration between small developers John Anderson and Monte Anderson (no relation), who believe that small-scale, incremental development is a key approach to economic development. Continue reading “One Neighborhood at a Time: The Incremental Development Alliance”

4% LIHTC Use in North Carolina’s Triangle Region

A Brief Introduction to the 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Development of low-income housing in the United States continues to be a challenge for local governments, affordable housing developers, and policy advocates. Institutional, market, and financing obstacles are all barriers to increasing the supply of affordable housing. Since the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) have helped finance 2.6 million low-cost housing units. The LIHTC program seeks to address the financial barriers by incentivizing private investment in the affordable housing market. Despite lower vacancy and debt service common in affordable housing deals, lower rents often result in a project that are not feasible for private developers, resulting in a funding gap. Developers of low-income housing units, therefore, must gain access to various sources of gap financing such as low-income housing tax credits.

The LIHTC program offers two tax credits types: the 4% and the 9%. The 9% credits, limited by federal law and distributed on a per capita basis to states, amount to a larger benefit for the tax credit developer, usually accounting for 70% of total project costs. However, use of the 9% credits prohibit the developer from using additional federal subsidy programs and a competitive application process allocates limited credits to a few successful bids. The 4% credits, on the other hand, leave open the opportunity for developers to take advantage of additional federal subsidies and are accessible through a noncompetitive application, but cover a smaller portion of the total project costs (usually nearing 30%). The additional funding sources eligible for 4% LIHTC projects help to close this larger funding gap. Continue reading “4% LIHTC Use in North Carolina’s Triangle Region”

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

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 provides an overview of PACE programs and their history in North Carolina.  A subsequent post will examine the benefits and drawbacks of PACE financing in more detail.

PACE Overview

PACE Programs allow state and local governments to facilitate or directly fund fixed energy efficiency or renewable energy installations. These projects are often unattractive because they require high up-front investments that only payoff over time. PACE programs overcome this problem by allowing property owners to make improvements without paying any upfront cash. Local governments can structure PACE financing so it has little or no impact on their balance sheet. PACE programs can also be combined with other clean energy incentives. Continue reading “Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs in North Carolina: Part I”

An Innovation District in Downtown Durham: Will It Mean Gentrification? Not Necessarily…

On March 16, 2017, Longfellow Real Estate Partners, in partnership with Duke University and Measurement Inc., broke ground on the first phase of new construction on the Durham Innovation District, or Durham.ID, in downtown. Durham.ID describes itself as “1.7M square feet of possibility nestled among lab rats, hipster, locavores, artists, pre-revenue-work-all-night start-up junkies, and a few thousand rabid Bulls and Blue Devils Fans.” Tenants, including Duke University and Duke Clinical Research Institute, will be housed in two seven-story office buildings located at the corner of Morris and Hunt streets, with access to a 1,200-vehicle, eight-story parking deck. Continue reading “An Innovation District in Downtown Durham: Will It Mean Gentrification? Not Necessarily…”

Renewables: Beyond Traditional Small Scale Applications (Part II)

Solar Roadway

The first CED post in this series explored non-traditional uses of renewable energy that went beyond traditional on-roof and on-ground arrays. Those included solar canopies, roofs, and shingles, whose value-add is the possibility of producing a space that can be used for more than power generation. But not all options are about creating additional space. In some cases, the best option is to add solar generation capabilities to existing spaces in the least intrusive way. How do you generate clean energy at a park without unsightly modifications? Where do you install solar panels on a modern skyscraper? What if you want to modernize an existing structure? For each of this questions, the answer lies in new solar technology capable of adding solar generation capabilities to a wide array of spaces. Continue reading “Renewables: Beyond Traditional Small Scale Applications (Part II)”

5 ways to make your building healthier: Fitwel, Part 2 of 2

A recent CED blog post introduced Fitwel – a new certification system focused on occupant health and wellness in buildings – and began to explore what a ‘healthy’ building looks like. This post continues the discussion, highlighting five examples of features that the Fitwel system recognizes. The purpose of this post is to give readers a better sense of:

  1. what Fitwel certification looks like in practice; and
  2. what specific things owners and tenants can do to make their office buildings healthier places to work.

Continue reading “5 ways to make your building healthier: Fitwel, Part 2 of 2”

The Value of Greenways

In an increasingly digital world, the economic fortunes of a community can be dependent on a quality of life it provides to residents. Investments in greenway systems — trails lined with trees, vegetation, or other natural features — are a way that some local governments choose to enhance quality of life by providing recreational opportunities and leveraging underutilized amenities. Greenways often following a natural feature such as a river or disused railroad bed.

Boston’s Emerald Necklace, constructed in the 1880’s is usually recognized as the first major U.S. greenway, and connects 1,100 acres of parks through seven miles of trail. More recent examples include New York City’s High Line or Atlanta’s BeltLine. Many North Carolina communities, large and small, have made public investments in greenways. Kinston, for example, recently completed the first phase of its downtown Arts Riverwalk and Durham has over 30 miles of greenways and trails within its City limits. As communities build or expand greenways, they should understand and consider the value of these trails can bring. Continue reading “The Value of Greenways”

Renewables: Beyond Traditional Small Scale Applications

When people think about renewable energy for their homes and businesses, the first option that comes to mind is building a traditional solar panel array. Whether on their roof or on the ground, these systems provide clean solar energy and are eligible for different incentive programs. Nevertheless, that is not the only option available. In an industry that has seen rapid innovation and an overall drop in prices, companies have been quick in exploiting more ways in which to create value. This post, the first in a 2-part series, will explore new innovations in solar canopies, roofs, and even shingles. Continue reading “Renewables: Beyond Traditional Small Scale Applications”

A Closer Look at Multifamily Construction Types

A recent blog post examined the benefits of wood-framed construction. However, in the few months that have lapsed between that article and this post, The Metropolitan, a 241-unit apartment building under development in Raleigh inexplicably caught fire and subsequently burned to the ground, causing severe damage to several adjacent buildings in the process. Due to the hard work and heroism of The Raleigh Fire Department, thankfully no loss of life occurred. However, the fact that this was the largest fire in the City of Raleigh for nearly a century has North Carolina residents wondering if wood-framed construction is really safe. So today, the CED blog will try to answer this question by examining different construction materials and the tradeoffs associated with each. Continue reading “A Closer Look at Multifamily Construction Types”

Boosting LIHTC: Difficult Development Areas & Qualified Census Tracts

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program was designed to encourage the private development of affordable rental housing in the United States. (If you are new to LIHTC, check out the CED blog’s primer on low-income housing tax credits before proceeding.)   But even with the dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability, affordable rental development is constrained in some areas by high costs or concentrations of low-income households.

To incentivize private developers into these “hard-to-serve” areas, the U.S. Congress mandates that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designate special zones that can receive higher credit allocations.  Projects situated in a Difficult Development Area or Qualified Census Tract qualify for a 30% boost in the LIHTC eligible basis, a significant increase in equity for a project. The eligible basis includes development costs that are subject to depreciation such as new construction, rehabilitation, and building acquisition and excludes costs such as land acquisition. Continue reading “Boosting LIHTC: Difficult Development Areas & Qualified Census Tracts”

The Challenges of Movie Theater Redevelopment

In the age of video-on-demand and digital projection, many movie theaters across the world have found themselves stuck in the past, struggling to adapt to the advancements in technology and consumer reference. With the costs associated with transitioning theaters into fully functioning digital cinemas often surpassing the $100,000 mark, it has been estimated that up to 1 in 5 of the theaters in the USA will end up permanently closing their doors. Theaters that at one time were prized jewels of their communities, will cease to operate, leaving behind dark, strange, and empty voids, not only in the fabric of the community, but also physically in the empty building space left behind. Previous posts on the CED blog (links here and here) have explored how historic theaters can be redeveloped in line with their original use through a public-private partnership — a movie theater or a performing arts space. This post will explore other uses for historic theaters. Continue reading “The Challenges of Movie Theater Redevelopment”

Fitwel, a Health Promoting Building Certification – Part 1 of 2

Rating systems have helped make buildings more energy efficient over the last two decades, but they overlooked something important: the well-being of the people inside those buildings. ‘Health and wellness’ is an emerging concept that strives to change that, by redirecting the focus to building occupants. Continue reading “Fitwel, a Health Promoting Building Certification – Part 1 of 2”

Healthy Corner Store Initiatives

There are a variety of policy tools being deployed to deal with so-called food deserts—neighborhoods that lack full-service grocery stores and have higher incidence of diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. From offering financial incentives to encourage the construction of new grocery stores to promoting and incentivizing visits to local farmers’ markets, these policies attempt to make it easier for residents, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, to access fresh produce and other nutrient-dense food.

The North Carolina General Assembly is currently considering one such policy, aimed at increasing people’s access to fresh, healthy foods. House Bill 387, The Corner Store Initiative, was introduced to the House in March 2017, and is currently in committee. There is also a similar bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 498, The Healthy Food Small Retailer Program. H.B. 387 is designed to assist small food retail outlets—stores that are 5,000 square feet and smaller—in their capacity to offer fresh foods to customers living in food desert neighborhoods. As this blog has previously covered, this is not the state’s first consideration of policy measures to improve food access across the state, but it is one of the most current. Continue reading “Healthy Corner Store Initiatives”

How a Mezzanine Loan Can Reduce Equity Requirements, Boost Returns, and Attract Investment to a Redevelopment Project

The Parker Building is a two-story, 8,000-SF brick building in downtown Milliganton, NC. The building is subdivided into two small retail tenant spaces, but for the most part it is an empty shell. Despite having been mostly vacant for the last several decades, the building is in good shape.  A recent roof repair and functional heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning have kept the building from falling into disrepair. Continue reading “How a Mezzanine Loan Can Reduce Equity Requirements, Boost Returns, and Attract Investment to a Redevelopment Project”

What is the “Greenest” Building? Making a Case for Building Reuse and Historic Preservation

Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, NC: Gold LEED certified & Historic Preservation

Carl Elefante, AIA, LEED AP, a prominent proponent of sustainable historic preservation, states, “The greenest building is the one that has already been built.”  Elefante’s declaration revolutionized the commonly-accepted theory that newer is better, both for society and for the environment. Elefante meant to dissuade public and private sectors from new construction and development, and to revalue existing and irreplaceable building stock. The preservation of historic structures has proven to be an effective tool towards economic, environmental, and social sustainability. However, the green movement, as it exists currently, stresses new construction rather than the preservation of existing resources, leading to implied preferences towards the touted sustainability of “green design.”  Continue reading “What is the “Greenest” Building? Making a Case for Building Reuse and Historic Preservation”

Policy, Sports, and Economic Impact

With the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend now behind us, it seems relevant to reflect on the impact state policy can have on economic and real estate development in cities and towns. NBA All-Star Weekend, an event held annually to highlight the skills and abilities of the best and most exciting players in the league, brings in an average of $117.2 million dollars of economic impact over the course of three days.

As a result of the in-pouring of money the event brings, hosting it is highly sought after; competition between cities is fierce, with many footing the bill for major arena and infrastructure improvements to entice the committee’s selection. The 2015 selection for the 2017 location was no different. After agreeing to $40 million worth of improvements to their arena ($33.5 million of public investment) Charlotte, NC was selected. If Charlotte could achieve the average economic impact of the event, the investment into the arena would deliver a 293% return on investment. Continue reading “Policy, Sports, and Economic Impact”

A Little Slice of Heaven: A Primer on Air Rights in Development

Common law holds that once person owns a piece of land “it is theirs all the way to Heaven.” In a modern development environment, however, the transfer of air rights—fee simple title to a three dimensional space located at a precisely defined location—between owners is becoming increasingly common. Today we will take a brief look into the uses of air rights in development and how they are transferred.

While air rights in New York and Chicago have made headlines for years, air rights also play an important role in economic development in North Carolina. In particular, as communities of all sizes see value in creating a mix of uses in their downtown environments developers have sought to maximize value and lower risk through increasingly complex vertical ownership structures. Continue reading “A Little Slice of Heaven: A Primer on Air Rights in Development”

What’s Old is New Again: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

adusThe granny cottage, in-law suite, or guest apartment, among its various names, might seem like a quaint relic of the past. But proponents are touting the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) as the new frontier of housing development in an era of rising demand for diverse housing stock.

Ranging in size, but averaging roughly 550 square feet, ADUs are large enough to be self-contained (equipped with bathroom, kitchen, etc.), but small enough to remain subordinate to the main house.  An ADU can be attached to the main dwelling with a separate exterior entrance or detached on a residential lot that is separate from the main dwelling—but either way smaller than the main unit; by  definition, an “accessory” to the home. (The Accessory Dwellings website includes a breadth of information on designs, costs and local permitting.)  Continue reading “What’s Old is New Again: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)”

The State of Technology in North Carolina

techThe North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA) recently published the 2017 State of the Technology Industry Report providing interested stakeholders an in-depth review of North Carolina’s technology industry. The following blog post will provide a snapshot of the report that is available for download on NCTA’s site here.

The tech sector has been remarkably robust of late and has been a boon for the North Carolina economy. Not only was the average salary per tech worker $110,000 in 2015, it was almost twice the average salary for all industries in NC. The tech industry is estimated to make up approximately 20 percent of North Carolina’s economy in terms of employees, earnings, and sales. Another staggering figure to wrap your mind around is for every job created in the technology industry, another two jobs are supported across all industries are supported in NC, at least according to the North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA). The short- and long-term trends for North Carolina highlight the tremendous opportunity and growth that North Carolina has in store if the trends continue. Continue reading “The State of Technology in North Carolina”

Solar Power Heating Up in Commercial Real Estate

solarThe cost of installing solar panels has been in steady decline since 2010, and the residential market for solar panel installations on home roofs is experiencing rapid growth. With growing demand and several policy incentives for solar installations, incorporating solar power into real estate development projects can be an attractive option for investors. Continue reading “Solar Power Heating Up in Commercial Real Estate”

One City, Two Public Markets: Case Studies of Success and Failure in Portland, Maine

640px-pike-place-marketPublic Markets are often used as a tool in downtown revitalization. They are attractive uses for vacant building with large footprints and bring high value and high-demand local food options to consumers, drive foot traffic, and catalyze new development. In the last 20 years, Portland, Maine, has seen two models of Public Markets try to bring the energy and options of Public Markets. The Portland Public Market set an innovative model of philanthropic foundation leadership, but failed to find success in its large-format, appearance-first space. In contrast, the Portland Public Market House is a successful model that brought vendor ownership and management and location choice to overcome building layout and financing challenges. Continue reading “One City, Two Public Markets: Case Studies of Success and Failure in Portland, Maine”

Biophilic Design, Part III: Cities

bioBiophilic design offers solutions in the face of a world that is quickly urbanizing and taxing our health, our wallets, and our environment. Compared with more rural settings, urban environments make people more stressed, do greater harm to the environment, and cost their taxpayers more money. There are costs to city life. Urban environments – with their steel, concrete and crowded spaces – are, quite literally, unnatural. Yet that’s where the world is headed and we need answers on how to best exist in these spaces.

As discussed in the first and second blogposts of this series, biophilic design is the idea of bringing aspects of nature indoors and it offers numerous benefits to a building’s occupants. It boosts worker productivity, decreases the length of hospital stays, improves student test scores, and increases residential property values, to name just a few. Continue reading “Biophilic Design, Part III: Cities”

Does affordable housing negatively impact nearby property values?

affordable_housing_damson_way_suckley_2008_-_geograph-org-uk_-_813412Despite public perceptions of affordable housing negatively impacting nearby property values, there is evidence to suggest that the impact is minimal if at all. Trulia, an online residential real estate site, recently conducted a study indicating that low-income housing tax credit (read more on LIHTC here) projects have no impact on the value of nearby properties. According to Trulia’s study, there was no significant effect from 1996 to 2006 on home values located near a LIHTC project. Trulia studied 20 markets across the country and of the 20, there was a negative impact in only 2 cities, Boston and Cambridge. There was drop of near $20 per square foot in housing prices; however, this was explained by quick bursts in the construction of affordable housing. In Denver, there was actually an $7 per square foot increase in value.

Based on available literature, negative perceptions of affordable housing potentially outweigh research suggesting that affordable housing does not negatively impact property values. This blog post will dive into some of these academic studies to better understand the monetary and social facets of affordable housing and its impact. Continue reading “Does affordable housing negatively impact nearby property values?”

Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas

nrsaThe Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) designation was established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1995. The intent of the program is to address economic development and housing needs within economically disadvantaged communities. To achieve NRSA status, a municipality must file an application in conjunction with their Consolidated Plan as part of the overarching Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. In order to be approved, the proposed NRSA must be a contiguous area primarily zoned for residential use. Additionally, the application must be produced in collaboration with community stakeholders and must include a thorough assessment of the existing economic conditions and detail steps that will be undertaken to improve the vitality of the community. Continue reading “Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas”

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