Back to the Burbs? Back to the Office? Geographic and Other Shifts from Our Coronavirus Experiences
On September 23, 2020 the NYCBP and BCONE jointly offered a timely and exciting panel discussion on geographic and other shifts related to COVID’s impact on brownfield redevelopment. Panelists included Charles Howland, Esq. of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, Larry Schnapf, Esq. of Schnapf LLC. Peter Coy, the Economics Editor for Bloomberg Businessweek, and Peter B. Meyer, Professor Emeritus of Urban Policy and Economics, U. of Louisville. The event was moderated by Ezgi Karayel of vEKtor Consultaints; Ms. Karayel is the Vice President of the NYCBP Board and her firm was an event sponsor for the panel along with Alpha Analytical.
The panelists provided the audience of over 40 people from the Bos-Wash corridor with their insights on the changing allure of urban vs. suburban vs. rural areas for workers, investment, redevelopment, and residential preferences. Attendees included all the sectors that make for successful brownfield projects: environmental consultants, technology providers, attorneys, state and local government officials, academics, developers, economists, lenders, and environmental organizations. Topics included the potential to convert underutilized malls (sometimes called greyfields) into various uses, including distribution centers; the impact on the ever-present need for affordable housing; office building obsolescence; conversion of a closed refinery into a distribution center and the reaction of the environmental justice organizations in the surrounding neighborhood; what type of neighborhoods people want; impacts on worker productivity as they continue to work from home; and whether offices are mechanically ready to sufficiently ventilate the spaces to prevent or minimize COVID. The panelists traded links to the growing body of articles and surveys exploring all of these topics; the Partnership and BCONE staff are attempting to compile a reading list based on those links.
The event concluded with agreement that the conversations will continue for BCONE and the NYC Brownfield Partnership because no one can predict at this point in time how the mix of brownfield project end-uses will change, what uses will win or lose, whether tax credits will be needed to finance the improved HVAC needs of office space as workers return, and other important topics. All who attended agreed that the perspectives from a broader group of speakers, such as laborers, the environmental justice community, and mechanical engineers, are needed for upcoming discussions. NYCBP and BCONE are excited to start planning an event series for 2021.
The September23rd event and the sessions being planned for 2021 exemplify BCONE’s and the NYC Brownfield Partnership’s synergy: because these changes are impacting the entirety of metropolitan areas across the country, the exchange of information from multiple states and from New York City and its suburbs allows us to recognize the importance of real estate markets that cross state and municipal borders and practitioners who work in many different types of locations.
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