Commercial real estate is one of the largest industries in the country, and the impact it can have on economies is measured in billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. However, CRE can have both positive and negative impacts on communities, and it is critical for real estate investors and stakeholders to take a strong approach in mitigating and eliminating the difficulties that can stem from the growth of commercial real estate.
I sat down with Todd Mitchell, Director of Property Management with Bridge Commercial Real Estate, to discuss the community impact of CRE, and how those in the industry can positively affect their communities.
“Let me start here, by acknowledging, society is and has been for a long time, really based on NIMBYism. (Not in My Backyard) We are from the word go, [as Commercial Real Estate Professionals] working to overcome negative perceptions when the news of a new Commercial Real Estate Project pops up in their neighborhood.” Mitchell explained.
“The first thing that comes to everybody’s mind is “Oh my Goodness, traffic is going to be awful, and you are going to impact my neighborhood.”
“I am very mindful of a cool little business district in Birmingham called Five Point South and the local community’s response, when a Chick Fil A was proposed. This is a business district that already has a lot of restaurants in it, places of worship, residences, a high school and is situated near University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) campus and yet the local community did not allow them to put in a drive-through.”
“It is a Chick Fil A without a drive-through!” Laughed Mitchell. “Which may be the most ironic thing I had ever heard. And it was because the community, during the development process felt, you are going to drive so much more traffic in an area that already has traffic that they, literally, restricted the restaurant’s ability to have a drive-through.”
So how are Commercial Real Estate Professionals supposed to get ahead of these negative connotations associated with a new development. How do we create buy-in?
Mitchell was able to shed light on this important question.
“I think it is incumbent on real estate professionals to really understand in some detail, the full array of everything that is going to impact the community on a positive side, not only understand it, but to convey it in a proactive manner. We always have the low hanging fruit up our sleeves that we talk about and maybe we talk about it too much. We convey things like how we are going to generate jobs both construction and permanent for whatever is here afterwards.”
“Anybody can and will do that, but one of the things I always encourage Property Managers to consider and think about in their conversations is our impact to the tax digest. To the extent that we successfully manage and operate our buildings we execute our business plans that the owners have, we are generating a fair amount of tax revenue.” Mitchell added.
“Now on a much smaller basis, what can an individual property team do? An individual property team, and I am not referring to just the Property Manager and Engineer, but partners like Rubbermaid, the security company, the janitorial company, the parking vendor. On an individual basis, I think it is important for the property teams to understand where their property is located and what is around them and make an effort to understand any local history of that local community and be thoughtful of what impact you could have.”
“It might not always be dramatic. It may be a local elementary school that does some fun fall fest, being a part of that, bring a case of water, work a booth, whatever, have conversations with the local school administration and figure it out. There is so much need out there and so much opportunity to build relationships in the community where we earn a living. You just have to be open to figuring out what makes sense.”
“Property management teams are exceptional problem solvers. We have leaders that who will lend their thoughts, strengths and ideas and resources to it. And then you just go do it. And that is something we are good at.”
CRE is continuing to grow in leaps and bounds, and the positive community impact a property can have in a community can be measured in thousands of jobs and billions of dollars. As CRE professionals, we must be mindful of how we can impact our communities, and how we can grow them.
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