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  • 27 Sep 2021 1:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer

    For Mari Cate Conlon, one of the Partnership’s newest board members, involvement in the organization commenced six years ago, and in vital volunteerism role. 

    Conlon, a licensed New York geologist with Haley & Aldrich, a current annual sponsor of the Brownfield Partnership with more than 700 environmental and engineering consultants, began her relationship with the Partnership by volunteering in 2015 to be part of the Big Apple Brownfield Awards (BABA) nomination committee, where she collaborated under the leadership of current Partnership treasurer, Michele Rogers (Blue World Construction), to help select the gold standard of NYC brownfield redevelopments. That involvement was just the tip of the iceberg as the relationship’s trajectory has been upward and onward ever since. Conlon has since co-chaired the most recent four BABAs and was elected a Partnership board member in the fall of 2020. 

    The BABA experience afforded Conlon a front row seat to sorting through excellence that underpins NYC brownfield redevelopment. The relationship with the Partnership has now evolved to where Conlon envisions big things for the organization as she eases into her board seat.

    “I am very thankful to be involved with the Partnership—everyone on the board is unique. It is a strong and special group. I am looking to help out in any way I can,” she says.

    Let us count the ways…

    Conlon, who received her master’s from Boston College in geology and  previously worked as an environmental geologist with other organizations prior to H&A, is getting ready to tackle two major initiatives: Bolstering the Partnership’s social media presence and recruiting a new breed of members for the future—all in an effort to make the organization more diversified. 

    Conlon is  helping the Partnership recruit a broad-based cross-section of NYC’s finest industry participants. On diversifying membership, Conlon says “we are eager to bring in new categories of members. We know that we have a strong presence of consultants, attorneys, developers, and more. Now we want to bring in more not-for-profits, architects and others. And, to recruit this new members means leveraging our social media platforms to find them.”

    Started With BABA

    Conlon, who was born on Long Island and grew up in Connecticut and currently resides in northern N.J., says one takeaway from the BABA selection experience was having to “review all the applications and then try to boil down the details to select winners—and there were a lot of worthy candidates so it wasn’t easy,” she says.

    Conlon says that working with Michele Rogers has produced a nice synergy, as “Michele has great people skills and can build a consensus [from the nominating committee.]” Conlon says she has her eye on candidate-projects that focus on championing green, open space, particularly where it was lacking in a specific community.”

    Advocating for more affordable housing conversions is at the top of Conlon’s wish list as well, plus the conversion of brownfields into so-called “healthfields,” defined as establishing a greater number of health care centers in communities that need it most.

    In taking a lead role in beefing up the Partnership’s social media platforms, Conlon plans to places an emphasis on LinkedIn and Twitter, as they offer the best bang for the buck. Cultivating a more robust LinkedIn presence allows for more precise recruitment of environmental and engineering professionals, including younger talent. “ LinkedIn enables us to post about our events, such as the BABAs. LinkedIn is a solid social media platform that allows us to fan out, appeal and reach many people, and then spread the news about what is occurring in the NYC brownfield industry,” says Conlon.

    This outreach would include scouting for and reaching students who might have a vested interest in the industry—plus “we also want to reach out to local officials by activating Twitter, to enlighten them about our industry and the developments at the local levels.”

    She calls the social media initiative “a group effort, and will get ideas for posts from my fellow board members.”

    Professional Goals Aplenty

    With Conlon’s day job at Haley & Aldrich, one of her more fervent quests is staying current on changes to environmental standards and guidance.   She spoke of the PFAS guidance that “affects all our project teams: for me it’s helpful to get updates in real time, and on a consultant end about how those changes are implemented, the interactions with regulators—all while having a back and forth about staying on top of the industry.” 

    Of course, this industry has been significantly affected by Covid, starting with construction shutdowns occurring last year, which impacted “some of our projects, hindered them moving forward and they stalled out for a couple of months, while waiting for the ban to lift,” says Conlon, who has been a Project Manager at H&A since Nov 2018. It is in this role that she provides consulting services in environmental investigation, site remediation and engineering control design as well as expertise in navigating clients through city, state and federal regulatory programs.

    “Currently, I think a lot of projects have rebounded to move full steam ahead, as we see an uptick. We’re hoping to avoid government restrictions that could potentially be imposed.  In addition, to foster communications and operational efficiency at H&A throughout the pandemic, we made efforts to stay connected with our staff, and recently we’ve been slowly returning to the office

    Professionally, Conlon helps clients identify the best remedies for sites with environmental impacts. “I have extensive experience providing due diligence Ph I and Ph II assessments and guiding developers through city and state environmental regulatory programs.”

    Running concurrent to this capability, Conlon, on the not-for-profit level, is eager to help the Partnership identify its own “best remedies” as it moves the needle forward on fostering NYC brownfield excellence. 

    The Partnership is thrilled to have her on the board.

  • 22 Jul 2021 2:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    David J. Freeman: A "Bridge Builder" Whose Vision Came to Fruition 

    By Steve Dwyer 

    About 15 years ago, we saw the birth of a concept whose time had come: The launch of a New York City-based non-profit organization to advocate for best practices and to serve as a clearinghouse of information regarding brownfield development in New York City.  

    The germ of the vision started with a basic yet essential task of fostering information sharing around brownfields redevelopment occurring in the City. The vision evolved to become many things to many practitioners—including serving as a mechanism to enhance dialogue between public and private entities…and erase the systemic barriers that often undermine results. 

    Any vision starts with visionaries, and two of them were Dr. Daniel Walsh and David J. Freeman, the latter recently named the 2021 recipient of New York City Brownfield Partnership’s Distinguished Service Award. (Dr. Walsh was the recipient in a prior year).

    The Award promotes excellence in brownfield redevelopment each year by honoring an individual who has made a significant impact on this industry in New York City and beyond.

    Freeman, a Director in the Environmental Group of Gibbons P.C., is a founding NYCBP Board member and has been responsible for much of the organization’s structure and success.

    Serving as NYCBP Board President during a critical period of the organization’s existence, Freeman helped pave the way for the Partnership’s current success, as he lent his voice to multiple committees and chaired the Legislative/Policy Committee, which has maintained a close and interactive watch over the New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program. 

    Freeman has more than 35 years of experience representing buyers, sellers, and developers of contaminated properties, as well as both plaintiffs and defendants in Superfund and other litigation regarding the cleanup of hazardous waste sites. He is a frequent author and speaker on environmental law topics and is the recipient of a 2012 Burton Award as “an outstanding law firm author.”

    He was involved with the formation of the New York State Bar Association Environmental & Energy Law Section’s Future of Federal Environmental Policy Task Force—and his extensive professional and pro bono activities include service far and wide. In fact, from a pro bono service standpoint, Freeman put his stamp on it within the Partnership’s portfolio by establishing the Partnership’s Pro Bono Referral and Pro Bone Counseling services. 

    These days, he continues to serve the NYCBP as an Emeritus Board Member and participant in the Redevelopment Roundtables, and remains active in advising on regulatory policy.

    “Those of us who work with David at Gibbons are delighted he is being recognized for his career-long achievements in the areas of environmental law and brownfield redevelopment in New York City,” said Camille V. Otero, Chair of the firm’s Environmental Group. “His invaluable contributions to our New York based environmental practice and clients further demonstrate his commitment to excellence.”

    In a recent phone conversation, Freeman recalled the inception of the Partnership, and how the organization took shape in a challenging environment. “[Dr.] Dan Walsh recognized who was active on the city and state levels. I think there was a shared sense that the City needed to better capitalize on the [New York state brownfield program, established in 2003] and adapt it to fit City needs. There was a great deal of need for change: Promoting excellence in brownfield redevelopment by honoring successful brownfield projects, supporting education and training of industry professionals, workers and students, and also fostering collaborative relationships among developers, property owners, government agencies and community groups.” 

    Read on for a recent conversation with David Freeman on various aspects of the Partnership and its evolutionary upward trajectory over the past 15 years. 

    Q: Talk about the inception of the Partnership and how it came to be—the start of a major movement? 

    A: I want to be modest about my role. I was there from the start, but much credit must go to Dan Walsh, who had a very keen vision—identifying the organization to be a ‘bridge’ that links the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) to the private sector. There was a great need for change regarding brownfield redevelopment. While I don’t want to diminish my role, it’s essential to credit to Dan in establishing this link between the private side and the OER.  The common thread that defines the Partnership’s charter purpose is establishing common ground [among stakeholders] for the remediation of contaminated properties, and return them to productive use. 

    Q: What were some other—let’s call them—ancillary value-added components of the Partnership’s service portfolio?  

    A: We were bent on offering pro bono services, and this vision dovetailed to include the formulation of the internship program, scholarships and much more. Pro bono work, internships and scholarships demonstrated that the Partnership could serve as an ‘ambassador’ within the context of brownfields. We strived to be more community-minded and continue to cultivate effective, results-driven working relationships between the private and public sectors—both have interests that are aligned but certainly not identical. 

    Q: It seems like the Partnership had—and has—a great deal of bandwidth in what it can provide to brownfield stakeholders: has it been top of mind to stay keep focused on keeping the organization’s identity and purpose consistent? 

    A: The important thing to remember is that [brownfield] deals are being executed independently of the Partnership—the organization never ‘does deals,’ but is instrumental in providing tools and information. We spread knowledge and branched out—we became active with the New York State Bar Association and began to discuss the kinds of amendments to the law that could facilitate the development aspects, integrating the Governor’s office, State DEC and City into the mix. Dan Walsh was very anxious to get OER up and running, to make it an independent entity. Eventually the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) was established with a memorandum of understanding between OER and DEC that the OER would function independently. This memorandum was critical to getting work done. 

    Q: What were some niche brownfield development areas in which the Partnership stepped in to facilitate, to champion? 

    A: Advocating for the renewal of disadvantaged communities is one. These communities lack leverage to effect change and achieve results on their own. It’s vital we educate and offer outreach so communities can get involved and be empowered. We started to play an important role in helping educate constituencies about the BCP functionality and how it benefits them—and this does not happen automatically. I also want to shine a light on the role of the BABA awards: the Big Apple Brownfield Awards.  It has  been an essential vehicle serving as a ‘recognition platform’ for outstanding brownfield redevelopment programs. 

    Q: Can you talk about the evolution of the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) initiative and how it matured over time to become more impactful? 

    A: Pertaining to neighborhood revitalization and outreach to communities, roundtables helped fuel the BOA. You have to remember that the BOA once existed on paper only; thus we had to be aggressive to push the State legislature to more concretely reward [communities]. The BOA was a part of a compromise when the Brownfield Cleanup Act was ratified. Over time, BOA moved from being a less active component to one that’s become far more important to the BCP’s mandate. 

    And one trend we’ve seen is a sharp focus on disadvantaged communities over the past couple years. One specific niche example has been advocating for communities of color who have been negatively affected by pollution in their backyards. This sparked a movement that was not just environmental, but encompassed economic and social justice elements, to effect change. It changed how real estate is developed in the City.  

    Q: What is one major task on the Partnership’s front burner in 2021?

    A: We have a big hurdle in 2022 as the State brownfield tax credit provisions need to be extended by the State legislature by end of 2022. However, while it might seem like there’s time, there is much work to be done well in advance of that date [to ensure its renewal]. The intention is to not put money back into developer’s pockets, but to make the tax credit provision an agent of change for disadvantaged communities, to reap economic, environmental and social benefits. There’s a compelling need to target where tax credit distribution need is greatest. The clock is ticking. 

    Q: What’s ahead to continue to make inroads and effect change with the Partnership?  

    A: We must continue as an information resource. There are a host of complicated topics and multiple jurisdictions [OER, DEC, Dept. of Buildings, etc.] to engage with on many issues. We are eager to bring developers to the table—new ones who have interest in sustainable development. That’s very high on the list. I see it as vital to bring people together on issues where they don’t—or won’t—magically come together [to discuss]. There are contentious issues to smooth over and establish a dialogue. 

    People listen to the Partnership because we are the ones in the trenches…and have established credibility as an organization that objectively represents multiple constituencies in the brownfield community.

  • 14 Jul 2021 1:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    After facing rejection three times, CCNY Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor secures coveted job training grant

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Dogged determination paid off handsomely this spring for Angelo Lampousis and his team at The City College of New York (CCNY). 

    The Ph.D., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences lecturer at CCNY and fried of the New York City Brownfield Partnership (NYCBP), was thrilled to learn that his department had been one of three New York City entities (among 18 applying organizations) to receive a coveted grant for environmental job training—handed out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CCNY’s will be able to train up to 60 participants from the South Bronx starting this fall. 

    Job training and workforce development are an important part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance economic opportunities and address environmental justice issues in underserved communities.

    In addition to grants awarded to CCNY, grants were allotted to St. Nick’s Alliance of Brooklyn, another friend and  member of the NYCBP,  and The HOPE Program Inc. of Brooklyn and the Bronx. All three awardees received an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant (EWDJT) of or close to $200,000 for programs to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.

    “We applied for this grant three times, and the fourth time we secured the funding,” says Lampousis, before departing for Athens, Greece for a working vacation. “This [being denied grant] is typical as far as I know—you might fail but it provides time to improve your narrative and state your case. Mainly, you have to have resilience to keep trying. And we did improve our grant writing skills, honed them to make it more compelling—and we took advantage of review programs with folks in New York and other states who assist those who are seeking grants after failing.”

    The grant money has a two-prong purpose: It assists non-CCNY-students who need to complete continuing education (CE) in order to find work within the engineering and environmental fields—and have chosen CCNY to complete the CE course work that might consist of a couple days of either training or re-training. Grant money benefits CCNY engineering and environmental students who are dedicated to establishing a career in brownfield remediation. 

    The NYCBP can play a role in the job training grant, because after the first two years of student class work, students must then progress to real-world job placement. That’s where the NYCBP and its public- and private-sector members enter the picture, says Lampousis. “The NYCBP   will try to facilitate student job placement through member companies. I see their contribution and role as significant during this third-year cycle,” says Lampousis.  Several member companies have successfully hired job training graduates over the years.  

    Transformative Impact 

    EPA’s brownfields job training grant program enables organizations to transform the lives of New Yorkers by providing individuals the opportunity “to gain meaningful long-term employment and a livable wage in an environmental field,” said Walter Mugdan, acting EPA Regional Administrator. “These three grantees do critical work to bring good paying jobs to communities across New York City that also help make them safer and healthier places to live and work.”

    Rather than filling local jobs with contractors from distant cities, the organizations offer residents of communities historically affected by pollution, economic disinvestment and contaminated brownfields properties an opportunity to gain the skills and certifications needed to secure local environmental work in their communities.

    “South Bronx residents will be able to get the CE credits now and then start working. The local income will go up. Plus, people don’t have to pay for the CE courses, which is typically not free [elsewhere]. It can cost $800 if they do it on their own. We can offer far more CE courses—and do it for those who only need perhaps one or two days of training to move forward with their environmental or engineering job pursuit,” he says. 

    The EPA job training grant will also help Lampousis in his effort to deliver and enhance his geosciences and engineering course, which consists of 14-week semesters—all done to prepare students to enter the workforce in these two fields, preferably as brownfield practitioners.

    After having to offer the courses, “Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments,” in a remote environment due to COVID-19, Lampousis is eager to return to a live classroom setting at CCNY this fall. 

    Debuting in 2011, the courses were provided a bump in 2020 with a host of professional guest lecturers—many of them NYCBP Board  members and staff. They were eager to volunteer their time and provide students with a snapshot and real-world advice about what it takes to be a brownfield professional. The course is typically held on Saturdays (10 am to 12 30 pm). 

    The course encompasses the entire process of environmental due diligence related to commercial real estate transactions and site characterization that ultimately leads to remedial evaluation and mitigation required for redevelopment of former industrial properties impacted with typical brownfield contaminants. 

    EPA Job Training Grant Program Mark 23 Years 

    Since 1998, EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) grant program has awarded more than 335 grants. With these grants, 18,541 individuals have been trained and 13,751 have been placed in careers related to land remediation and environmental health and safety, with an average hourly wage of over $14.

    CCNY’s three-year $200,000 grant is designed to create a skilled workforce in communities where brownfields assessment and cleanup activities are taking place.

    Training will cover the first two years, with job placement the primary focus of the third year—and BCONE’s will have a role in furthering that cause. Graduates will earn certification in various environmental fields, including:

    •    Hazardous waste operations and emergency response; 

    •    Environmental sampling and analysis; and 

    •    Other environmental health and safety training.

    Although it targets South Bronx residents, interested individuals from the five boroughs are welcome to apply for the program. Participants should be able to commit to attend the entire training. There is no age limit.

  • 3 Jun 2021 12:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The NYC Brownfield Partnership is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Big Apple Brownfield Awards. Click here to download the pdf file with all the details on the winning projects.




  • 20 Apr 2021 2:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Solar Power World

    Amphenol Aerospace Operations, a division of Amphenol Corporation, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of interconnect products, providing the military, commercial aerospace and industrial markets with the cabling and connectors they need to operate. Located in Sidney, New York, the firm has a large presence in Delaware County, directly supporting more than 1,000 jobs in the Southern Tier region. In fall 2018, Amphenol Aerospace announced it would create a solar farm on top of a previous factory site. The resulting 6.3-MW project lowered Amphenol’s dependence on the local energy grid and turned a damaged site back into productive property.

    The Amphenol land was a Department of Environmental Conservation–listed brownfield and had been a manufacturing site for 80 years. The manufacturing plant had also suffered significant damage during two major flooding events within the past decade. The flooding and environmental concerns made for a complex project, but it was one that EnterSolar was excited to take on as commercial project developer and EPC.

    For the entire article, see

    https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2021/04/case-study-multi-faceted-solar-technologies-bring-complex-brownfield-site-to-life-in-new-york/

  • 11 Feb 2021 1:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Much like with the Great Recession of 2008, the Covid crisis has caused many brownfield projects to stall. As a result, BCP projects that received their Certificate of Completion (COCs) in 2010-11 are at risk of losing the right to claim the tangible property tax credit since the ten year period to put the property into service has or is fast expiring.

    In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed executive budget for Fiscal Year 2022 would provide an extra two years for owners of certain brownfield projects that received COCs between March 20, 2010 through January 1, 2012 to claim the qualified tangible property tax credit. In other words, projects whose ten-year would expire between  March 20, 2020 and December 31, 202 will now have an additional two years to complete their project and claim their tax credits.

    The text appears in Part AA of Section VII (Transportation, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation).

    Discussions continue about extending the 12/31/2022 and 03/26/2026 tax credit sunsets.

    The post In response to Covid Crisis, Governor Proposes to Extend Brownfield Tax Credits for Some Sites appeared first on Schnapf LLC.

  • 19 Jan 2021 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Thomas J. Prohaska, Buffalo News (NY) 

    For years, contaminated sites in Niagara County have been, in effect, exempt from property taxes, because the county wouldn't foreclose on them if the taxes went unpaid.

    The reason was that taking title to a brownfield or other polluted site – or even one thought to be contaminated – would make the county liable for the costs of cleaning up the site.

    Now the county says it has struck an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation under which the county can foreclose on as many as 86 contaminated or possibly contaminated sites without being stuck with the remediation cost.

    For the entire article, see

    https://buffalonews.com/news/local/dec-may-allow-niagara-county-to-foreclose-on-contaminated-sites-without-paying-to-clean-them/article_27896b2a-438e-11eb-81bb-43de6d24ce37.html

  • 14 Jan 2021 2:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The New York City Brownfield Partnership is happy to announce we are accepting applications for the 2021 Big Apple Brownfield Awards! Winners will be notified in the Spring and we are hoping to recognize the outstanding projects at an in person awards event in the Fall of 2021.

    The Big Apple Brownfield Awards were created by the New York City Brownfield Partnership to highlight the most remarkable brownfield projects in New York City and the success of practitioners in the City’s brownfield industry each year. Please review the newly developed award categories for this year’s nominations here “2021 BABA Nomination Guildelines."

    The awards continue to celebrate and bring public attention to the most successful brownfield redevelopment projects, such as those that have used innovative remediation techniques, engaged the community positively, and demonstrated ingenuity in sustainability and green construction.

    The NYC Brownfield Partnership is now accepting applications for these prestigious industry awards. To submit an application, go here:

    https://form.jotform.com/210135813679154

    All applications are due by Friday, February 19, 2021. No late submissions will be accepted.

    In order to be eligible for the 2021 Big Apple Brownfield Award, the project must:

    1. Be located within the five boroughs of New York City;
    2. Have been impacted by an environmental contamination issue;
    3. Have participated in an environmental remediation regulatory program; and
    4. Have received final regulatory signoff by December 31, 2020. Examples of final regulatory signoff include: Notice of Satisfaction, Notice of Completion, Certificate of Completion, Declaration of Covenant Not to Sue, or “No Further Action” letter.
  • 29 Dec 2020 9:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Steve Dwyer 

    Brownfield stakeholders have learned to leverage the unique characteristics of brownfield properties contaminated with petroleum—such as former gas stations, auto body shops, industrial facilities—and convert them into beneficial new uses.

    Many of these characteristics, including property size, location and prior use, give petroleum brownfields special appeal and flexibility. Just one attractive use of petroleum brownfields is considering them an interim reuses while planning for a permanent, long-term reuse.

    Historically, the footprint of these sites has proven attractive through its flexibility in being considered across several practical end uses. That’s because most occupy relatively small parcels of land that are typically located along major roadways or intersections in neighborhoods. Small properties can be used for neighborhood amenities, including pocket parks (small urban parks frequently created on a single parcel), restaurants, senior housing, community centers, and more. 

    Properties can also be combined with other parcels to enable larger projects redevelopment strategy. Most of these redevelopment projects achieved success by:

    • Developing a strong vision for reuse;
    • Engaging the community to explore a property’s reuse potential;
    • Understanding and applying available financial and technical assistance resources; and
    • Building strong partnerships among the project team, community members and regulatory agencies throughout the entire life of the project.

    Of the estimated 450,000 brownfield sites in the U.S., approximately one-half are thought to be impacted by petroleum, much of it from leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) at former gas stations. These sites blight the surrounding neighborhoods and threaten human health and the environment as petroleum contaminates groundwater.

    Petroleum brownfields, such as old abandoned gas stations, are being cleaned up and reused to the benefit of communities across the country. EPA’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) and Brownfields Program jointly focus on the cleanup and reuse of petroleum-contaminated sites. The Brownfields Program awards brownfields grants for the assessment and cleanup of petroleum brownfields (e.g., those determined to be relatively low-risk priority).

    There was a time when a former retail fueling site would be re-imagined as the same reuse for future—tanks were in the ground and developers could not see doing the heavy lifting, including potential litigation, to convert them to non-fuel end use. A former fueling station was bound to become a future one as well. These times have changed with the advent of innovative cleanup practices helping change minds. 

    Take New York City: Dating back to 2017, NYC gas stations, targeted as development sites, saw 30 fueling stations disappear, which left only 50 open to the public in Manhattan—a number that is dwindling as bids for land grow, according to The New York Times. Numbers have not been updated but that number is sure to be even lower three years later. 

    Brooklyn also experienced the dwindling of retail fueling stations. In a 2017 report, the borough noted that a growing number of retail gas stations were anticipated to be lost in the coming two to three years, including fuel stops in Bushwick, Clinton Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay and Sunset Park.

  • 19 Oct 2020 10:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you missed the first Coronavirus Experiences webinar,  held jointly by BCONE and the NYCBP in September and entitled Back to the Burbs? Back to the Office?, please sign up for the 2nd part of the series being held on October 23, 2020 from 10am to 12:00 p, entitled Is Your Building Safe?  This webinar series will continue into 2021 to cover the growing number of topics of interest to our professions.

    The speakers at the September and October webinars have created a list of recent articles on the topics (included below).  Feel free to contribute to the list:  if you’ve written a recent article on the topic or if you’ve read something of interest, send the link to sboyle@geiconsultants.com and we’ll keep growing the Reading List. 

    https://www.crainsnewyork.com/residential-real-estate/looking-big-return-your-home-try-east-new-york-study-says 

    A CrowdRx expert in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems did not find a single arraignment court in the city that was safe to be in, the report states : https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ny-nyc-courthouses-crowdrx-report-unsafe-conditions-coronavirus-20201001-avpvzs435jd6xkxiuvq4z5cii4-story.html  Never heard of CrowdRx. They might become one of our potential speakers. 

    And check out piece on what some landlords are doing to make their buildings safe: https://www.nreionline.com/office/three-office-landlords-discuss-technologies-they-ve-implemented-protect-tenants-covid-19 

    Excerpt: “Silverstein Properties has also upgraded its ventilation systems in offices to MER-15 or 16, which is similar to what hospitals use to prevent the spread of infection and refers to the number of times recirculating air is filtered. The system also adds in fresh air from outdoors. Kerret says that an even higher ventilation standard, MER-16 or 18, has been adapted for elevators, making them safe for more than a few people at a time, as long as everyone is wearing a mask. According to the CDC, to become infected with the coronavirus, it takes time for exposure to 1,000 airborn particles. Elevators at Silverstein’s WTC properties travel at 1,600 feet per minute, so with MER-16 to 18 ventilation—similar to ventilation in operating rooms—mask-wearing passengers are unlikely to become infected as they will reach their floors within about a minute.”

    KBS has “deployed technology to help tenants make a seamless, safe transition back to the office as government mandates are lifted. This includes UV light, which kills viruses and bacteria, in HVAC systems and on surfaces in common areas, as well as touchless amenities and devices in shared spaces and high-traffic areas.”

    https://www.us.jll.com/en/trends-and-insights/workplace/landlords-race-to-improve-air-quality-in-buildings

    https://www.propmodo.com/what-building-operators-need-to-know-about-covid-19-and-air-filtration/

    https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/four-considerations-architects-will-need-to-make-when-designing-post-covid-homes

    https://nyrej.com/architects-and-engineers-help-schools-envision-safe-designs-for-covid-era

    https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/9/28/21492252/cross-bronx-expressway-covid-19-environmental-justice-nyc

    Home Sales Surge In Brooklyn: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/realestate/brooklyn-real-estate-sales.html

    Vermont Covid Transplants: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/26/us/coronavirus-vermont-transplants.html

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-16/the-truth-about-american-migration-during-covid

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/26/escape-country-covid-exodus-britain-cities-pandemic-urban-green-space

    FINANCE & INVESTMENT

    Converting Malls Into Distribution Centers

    Addressing the challenges of commercial property conversions.

    Sep 21, 2020

    Sponsored by Frank P. Crivello

    Simon Property Group, Inc., the largest shopping mall operator in the United States, has entered into talks with Amazon about converting unused shopping mall space into distribution centers (DCs), according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal. With the retail sector expected to lose up to 25,000 stores in 2020, the Amazon news is only one small part of larger discussion about converting unused commercial spaces into much-needed industrial real estate. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused retail stores and offices to shut their doors, an e-commerce boom has left the U.S. logistics sector scrambling for access to additional distribution and cold storage space.

    On the surface, converting malls into DCs and warehouses seems like a great idea. Malls are conveniently located near population centers and tend to have spacious ceilings that should be well-suited to racking and material handling systems. As with any commercial property conversion, however, turning shopping mall units into DCs will not happen without overcoming some challenges.

    Zoning

    Shopping malls aren’t usually zoned for industrial use. Industrial facilities are loud and bring in a significant amount of heavy truck traffic. Zoning restrictions will vary widely at the state and local level depending on the mall’s geographic location. Convincing a planning board or city council to modify the land use permissions for a large commercial area such as a shopping mall may not be easy—especially if that mall is surrounded by residential properties. For some areas, the promise of jobs and economic stimulation may be enough to sway the decision-makers, but it’s likely that many areas will not be willing to rezone.

    Sharing

    While multi-tenant logistics facilities are nothing new, it’s rare for a distribution center to share a facility with retail tenants. The discussions between Amazon and Simon Property Group seem to be focused on occupying abandoned J.C. Penney and Sears stores. If the rest of the mall remains occupied by dozens or more retailers, new processes and planning will be required to mitigate the risk of negative business impacts.

    Here are some examples of potential problems that property owners would need to account for:

    •         A steady flow of large delivery vehicles and semi-trucks might make commercial shoppers nervous and deter them from visiting other stores in the mall complex.

    •         An industrial facility may have dozens or hundreds of employees on a single shift. Retailers in the mall would want owners to ensure those workers don’t monopolize preferential parking, while the DC tenant may prefer their employees to park close by.

    •         While mall security focuses on loss prevention and customer safety, security at a distribution center has different needs.

    While none of these issues are necessarily deal-breakers, it’s important that commercial property owners, existing retail tenants, and new industrial tenants address concerns up front to establish good business relationships.

    Renovations

    Though any new retail tenant in a mall would need to renovate the space to some degree, the level of renovation required to convert a former clothing retailer or electronics store into a functional distribution center would be more extreme. For example, concrete floors in retail stores may only be 3” to 4” thick while a warehouse may need to be 6” or more.  Parking lots and driveways also have the same potential issue; asphalt for a retail parking lot is not as thick as needed for constant heavy truck access. There may also be limitations to the type of equipment the industrial operator would be able to use. For example, installing conveyors or other permanent material handling systems may not be feasible. Fortunately, recent advances in picking robotics and wearable technologies might make it possible to implement automation without permanent installations. If the mall only has a single loading dock area for all tenants to share, a distribution center would likely monopolize that area with its stream of inbound and outbound shipments, so additional docks would need to be added.

    Benefits

    While there are certainly challenges, operating a DC out of a mall does have some benefits:

    •         The employees from the distribution center are likely to shop at stores in the mall on breaks and before and after work, which will be a boon to struggling businesses.

    •         Most malls are conveniently located within minutes of major highways and already have large, accessible parking lots. This should facilitate easy access for inbound and outbound truck drivers.

    •         If the mall has lost some of its large anchor tenants, it’s likely that the community will benefit from the jobs provided by a distribution center.

    About Phoenix Investors

    Founded by Frank P. Crivello in 1994, Phoenix Investors and its affiliates (collectively “Phoenix”) are a leader in the acquisition, development, renovation, and repositioning of industrial facilities throughout the United States. Utilizing a disciplined investment approach and successful partnerships with institutional capital sources, corporations, and public stakeholders, Phoenix has developed a proven track record of generating superior risk-adjusted returns, while providing cost-efficient lease rates for its growing portfolio of national tenants. Its efforts inspire and drive the transformation and reinvigoration of the economic engines in the communities it serves, currently encompassing over 30 million square feet. Phoenix continues to be defined by thoughtful relationships, sophisticated investment tools, cost-efficient solutions, and a reputation for success.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/realestate/brooklyn-real-estate-sales.html?referringSource=articleShare

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/renters-flock-to-suburbia-upending-decadelong-urbanization-trend-11602581401

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/realestate/new-york-city-real-estate-return.html

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/09/nyregion/nyc-moving-coronavirus.html

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w27930

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/12/climate/home-sales-florida.html?action=click&amp;module=News&amp;pgtype=Homepage

    From Peter Meyer, Ph.D. U of Louisville:

    The U.S. housing market, which has been a bright spot in the pandemic-battered economy, is running out of fuel.

    With buyers eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, the inventory of homes to buy is scarce. That’s driving up prices and threatening to derail the boom by pushing homeownership out of reach for many Americans.

    For homebuilders, the huge demand for housing is an opportunity to crank up construction and solve the inventory crisis. Instead, some are deliberately slowing things down as they grapple with supply shortages, surging lumber costs and intense competition for labor and land.

    “It’s smart business,” said Gene Myers, chief executive of Thrive Home Builders in Denver. “But that means continued shortages and higher prices.”

    After the Covid-19 lockdowns in March brought sky-high unemployment, most builders expected a crash. What they got was a brief pause followed by a crush of buyers armed with the lowest interest rates on record and a burning desire for more space in the suburbs.

    Inventory shortage

    There was pent-up demand for housing when the pandemic hit, after a decade when builders mostly focused on the higher end of the market, constructing fewer, more expensive homes. Recently, they’d shifted focus to cheaper properties for the massive millennial generation now aging into homeownership.

    But with higher costs eating into profit margins, builders might once again chase the wealthy who want bigger homes with large yards and home offices. That comes as the inventory shortage has gotten even more acute.

    The supply of existing homes, shrinking for years, is at an all-time low. At August’s sales pace, it would take a little more than three months to run out of new homes for sale, the lowest level on record, according to government data dating back to 1963. That’s down from almost six months in February.

    Sales of existing homes jumped 10.5% in August compared with a year earlier, outpacing new home sales for the first time since 2015, according to Redfin. That came as fewer new homes were listed for sale.

    New home construction this year will hold steady at just under 900,000, about the same pace as in 2019, according to a projection by the National Association of Home Builders. For 2021, the industry group forecasts that starts will increase slightly but will be held back by the cost and availability of building materials.

    Lumber spike

    The trouble for builders is that vacant land takes about two years to be developed, a process slowed by local government regulations. Meanwhile, lumber prices are expected to add $16,000 to the cost of a typical house, according to the NAHB.

    They’ve risen because producers idled saw mills in the U.S. and Canada in March and still face timber shortages resulting from a beetle infestation and wildfires, said Joshua Zaret, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

    Homebuilders aren’t the only ones bidding up the price of wood. Quarantined families have been especially busy remodeling during the pandemic. This summer’s hurricanes and wildfires will also add to demand once the insurance checks start coming in.

    Slowing sales

    Builders can keep raising prices to stay ahead of costs, to a point, said John Burns, an Irvine-based real estate consultant. But some are raising them by as much as 2% a month, he said.

    “If that went on for two or three years, we’d be very concerned about affordability,” Burns said. “Every time prices go up, it’s great for homeowners and bad for the renter who aspires to be a homeowner.”

    Stocks of homebuilders have climbed in recent months as orders for new homes surge. The looming issue is that the demand for housing is outstripping supply at a time when construction has gotten more expensive.

    Lennar, the biggest builder by revenue, said it’s intentionally limiting sales to homes already under construction to avoid buying lumber at today’s high prices. The company says it’s trying to be patient, betting it can continue to hike prices to help offset the higher costs.

    “Sales could have been stronger with a singular focus on volume,” Stuart Miller, the company’s chairman, said on an Sept. 15 earnings call. “It is challenging at best to materially ramp production in this labor-constrained market, and it’s even more challenging to replace entitled land.”

    Wood shortage

    Alan Gerbus, a second-generation Cincinnati custom builder, is already in the hole on a house before he’s even started. He submitted a contract to his buyer in late June for an $800,000 house but his costs just for wood products jumped $25,000 by the time it was signed 40 days later.

    “The lumber supplier said he can’t honor that price,” Gerbus said. “I’m praying for the lumber prices to start falling by the time I’m ready for delivery.”

    Even if builders wanted to plow ahead, it’s hard to get wood these days. Robert Pool, co-owner of Main Street Lumber, a family business in Denison, Texas, that sells products to builders, said he had to turn down some new customers early in the lumber supply crisis because he wanted to be sure he’d have wood for his existing customers.

    Pool’s price for oriented strand board, widely used for roofs and siding, more than doubled to $24 a sheet in March, he said.

    “It hurts when you have to tell somebody no,” he said.

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