The Community and Economic Development program at the School of Government provides public officials with training, research, and assistance that support local efforts to create jobs and wealth, expand the tax base, and maintain vibrant communities. We deploy the resources of the University to support the development goals of communities in North Carolina.

Maintenance of vacant or neglected commercial buildings: options for NC local governments

The downtown buildings in the Town of Old Well have “good bones.” The structures lining the four downtown blocks of Main Street are solid brick and reflect their historic character, harkening back to a time when downtown was thriving with retail on the ground floor and residential units on the second floor. The very center of downtown is in fairly good shape, and some committed merchants have established a pocket of commercial activity there. However, even that central area is pocked with a handful of underutilized and neglected retail buildings. The downtown blocks immediately outside of the center, where vacant buildings outnumber those with active uses, are not inviting to pedestrians.

Residents and downtown merchants have complained to Town officials about the privately-owned vacant buildings within and surrounding the center of downtown. Some of the vacant structures are in fair condition but are used for storage; peering through the wide display windows reveals piles of boxes, dusty floors, litter, or worse. Some display windows are papered over to conceal the interior. While a handful of vacant buildings appear to be in good condition, others look visibly worse than those with active uses. Can Town officials enact any regulations to govern the appearance and general maintenance of these commercial buildings? Yes, they can. Read More…

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. Read More…

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. Read More…

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.  Read More…

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.

Read More…

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. http://reut.rs/2seaxz1

How Helsinki uses an interactive board game to build local government capacity and enthusiasm for citizen engagement: http://bit.ly/2FeGh9X

The market has delivered an affordable housing solution: manufactured housing. Urban Institute asks why so few units are being made. http://urbn.is/2FyTMl8  Read More…

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.

Read More…

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. Read More…

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. Read More…