Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Urban Regeneration: Reviving Buildings and Communities

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Urban Regeneration: Reviving Buildings and Communities

Article excerpt

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RECENT DECADES have witnessed the seemingly inevitable decline of many of America's older cities. Market pressures have eroded these cities' infrastructures and sapped their vitality. The decline sometimes appears irreversible. However, in a number of towns and cities across America, localized urban regeneration planning initiatives have succeeded in halting and even reversing this decay. As a result, urban centers have been revitalized, ensuring they can look forward with optimism to a much brighter future.

When implemented properly, urban renewal projects can bring tremendous benefits to cities suffering the effects of economic decline. Urban landscapes, blighted by ugly, unused buildings and suffering from terminal malaise, can be turned around with the right kind of vision and implementation. This can be a win-win for developers, who manage commercially viable projects, while facilitating the wider development of the local community.

Not all urban areas are suitable for development, so it is essential for developers to do the groundwork in terms of market analysis and deciding whether to knock a building down or adapt it. This due diligence can both reduce the risks and increase the chances of success. When done correctly, the outcome can be game changing, with lasting improvements in the economic and physical environment and substantial benefits for the community and the environment.

MARKET ANALYSIS

Market data is a great starting point because of the historic perspective it can offer about a proposition's commercial viability. Good analyses tend to look at three areas: customers, competitors and industry/regulatory environments. The first tries to identify who the customers are in an area and what they want to buy. Conducting surveys and analyzing data on their preferences and spending habits can provide this information. Competitor analysis will look at what other businesses are currently offering, and evaluates products, business sizes, sales, services and staffing. Analyzing the industry and regulatory environment considers the obligations and constraints that a business would have to operate under.

Speaking to customers (or potential customers), business owners and employers in a commercial district is often very informative. Even walking or driving around an area can give a feel for how a proposed development will fit in to the neighborhood.

RENOVATE, REPURPOSE OR MIXED-USE?

Vacant buildings can be brought to life in innovative and profitable ways. In most cases, a vacant building can be renovated, repurposed or converted to a mixed-use property.

Renovation is when a building is refurbished but its original function remains the same. This can work well if the building sits within an existing commercial space where there is already a market demand for that type of business. Essentially, the developer is seeking to do what was done before but to do it better.

Adaptive reuse means taking an existing property and repurposing it for an entirely different use. This can be popular for older buildings because of the tremendous character they can bestow on a business, which in turn can attract customers. Adaptive reuse works well when market analysis identifies a gap in the market or where the new use aligns with other businesses in the area. One example would be utilizing an old building as an event space in an area with lots of bars and clubs.

Mixed-use developments provide a platform for two separate activities in the same building. This can be a combination of retail, office, entertainment, residential or civic space. These projects can take more time to complete because of possible zoning changes that might be required e.g. Planned Unit Developments (PUD), overlay zones and "by right" zoning.

Whenever changes to an existing structure are made, a developer will require the assistance of professionals such as architects, landscape architects, suppliers, contractors and, for historic buildings, preservationists. …

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