Q&A KURT BEIL
Mr Kurt Beil Senior Vice President, Environment, Arcadis. Can you tell us about Arcadis’ Urban Land Restoration Index? Simply put, the Urban Land Restoration Index (ULRI) ranks the relative development potential from restoring and redeploying environmentally impaired industrial properties across 27 U.S. cities. It was birthed from our heightened awareness of the broad trend of urbanization and a migration back to city centers – an observation relevant across all four Arcadis business lines: Environment, Water, Infrastructure, and Buildings/Architecture. This finely tuned attentiveness is linked to a collective focus on delivering “developable” land and sustaining natural capital. Furthermore, we serve a wide spectrum of clients, ranging from private sector clients like Fortune 500 companies, to investors and developers, as well as public sector clients such as municipalities, city governments, and city planners – all of whom have a vested interested in maximizing the value of under-performing properties. Through the Index’s development, we focused on the alignment and convergence of these interests by key stakeholders of city leaders, land holders, and developers. We developed the concept for the ULRI in order to highlight the challenges and identify the opportunities to effectively transform urban industrial land (e.g., brownfield and greyfield properties) into sustainable places that once again deliver value and productive use for all parties. What is unique about the ULRI is the connectivity across these three key stakeholders and the consideration of the cost of cleanup as a primary factor. We also integrated economic conditions, real estate value, factors that lead to a city’s “dynamism”, as well as a unique and important perspective on the cost of cleanup tied to local factors in each individual market. How are you defining dynamism? We measure a city’s dynamism by its attractiveness, growth potential, real estate performance, resilience, and business environment. 2 | SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MAGAZINE
What do these factors have to do with remediation sites? They are extremely important in driving competitive advantages for cities and shine a light on those that are most attractive to investors seeking redevelopment opportunities. When you combine dynamism with the cost of cleanup, you get a unique parameter we call the “sweet spot”. The cost of remediation in and of itself is not unique. However, when coupled with a number of factors that affect a city’s dynamism, the resulting sweet spot quickly identifies markets where divestment and development of industrial property can yield highly valuable results. Our Index finds that sweet spot cities for residential development, for example, include Denver, New York, and even fast-growing, mid-tier cities like Charlotte, with its booming financial services sector, and Nashville, with its jobs-led recovery, as well as ever-changing landscapes like Detroit where new investment into regeneration is emerging. As noted by the term, dynamism is not a static factor, but one that evolves with time. Thus, the ULRI presents a snapshot in time that we revisit as conditions across the country evolve. What hinders a city’s redevelopment of industrial sites? In a word: Time. Since we mostly work with private land owners, developers, and public development agencies, we’ve learned that surplus real estate assets are not being reintroduced to the marketplace in a timely manner. For example, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) estimates that brownfield sites in the city remain dormant for an average of 18 years. For a variety of reasons the transfer of ownership of these land parcels, which are frequently the catalyst for economic opportunity and community redevelopment, is delayed. We believe the ULRI highlights market opportunities that recognize the potential value of these sites; it can hasten the reintroduction of these assets by accelerating their productive use.
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