MEDIA RELEASE July 5, 2011 MEDIA CONTACT: Candace Brasseur USCB Public Information Director 843-208-8030 firstname.lastname@example.org
From Red Fields to Green Fields on Hilton Head Island Washington, DC- Dr. John Salazar, USCB Hospitality Management Professor, and Jayme Lopko, Senior Planner for the Town of Hilton Head, recently returned from presenting research at the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium as part of Red Fields to Green Fields, a National Research Program, sponsored by The Speedwell Foundation, and led by the Georgia Tech Research Institute in partnership with the City Parks Alliance. The project’s current mission is, “evaluating the potential impacts of converting financially and/or physically distressed commercial real estate to green space and parks, including the benefit of creating jobs to rebuild our cities’ infrastructure systems.” This project was born as a result of the numerous low interest loans doled out to commercial developers from 2001-2007. And unfortunately, when the economy took a downturn, trillions of dollars were backstopped. As many believe the Federal Government was responsible for this situation, it was agreed upon that perhaps they should also establish solutions for banks to free up money which would help cities, who were especially burned by the real estate crisis, obtain low interest loans to partially develop dilapidated properties into green space. With the support of 14 universities and numerous non-profit, municipal, state, and federal agencies, studies are being conducted in 11 U.S. cities including Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Wilmington, and Hilton Head Island. Attendees at this national meeting were surprised to learn that even small coastal towns, like Hilton Head Island, are not immune to the ebb and flow of urban areas impacted by the economy.
“Coastal towns throughout the country have been hit hard during this economic crisis; these towns, from Galveston to Biloxi to Sarasota and Providence are commercial real estate and job centers. Hilton Head Island provides a snapshot of what is occurring, and how infrastructure investments can help revitalize these critical economies”, remarked Kevin Caravati, Program Manager from the Georgia Tech Research Institute. John Salazar, Ph.D., discussed quantitative research statistics on area visitors, quality of life in the Lowcountry, declining visitor trends, and aging infrastructure via commercial and residential appraisals. “Hilton Head Island maintains a steady population growth and retained the largest portion of county residents over the past decade, but if properties continue to decline in value and sell below their market value, the quality of life for its residents and visitors will diminish.” The Redfields to Greenfields research is making strides on Capitol Hill. Congressman Robert Brady (PA) will soon introduce a Resolution underscoring the importance of a multidimensional and nonpartisan effort to reduce the number of redfields and bring balance back to our real estate market. “Since the concept of a ‘redfield property’ isn’t commonly understood, this resolution will illustrate the various forms of redfields in our communities, why immediate action is necessary, and expresses a clear commitment to comprehensive policy solutions,” explained Bianca Lacey, Legislative Aide to Congressman Brady. The research could also be used by Senators Hutchison (TX) and Kerry (MA) to specifically support the “BUILD” Act, which would encourage public-private partnerships through low interest loans which would be used to turn failing commercial space into public parks. The theory then holds that once the economy bounces back, land can be properly developed around these parks, which in the meantime will serve to increase property values. If the BUILD Act passes, many projects presented by the cities included in this current research phase will be ready to move forward, serving as pilot projects for the Red Fields to Green Fields program. The development of these projects in Hilton Head Island was made possible through local collaboration with The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, The Town of Hilton Head Island, and USCB. So, what would the end result be of investing nearly $300 million in the Town of Hilton Head Island to convert Red Fields to Green Fields? The supply of non-performing commercial real estate would be reduced, and park and pathway connectivity would be increased throughout the island. According to the report, Red Fields to Green Fields could “help reverse declining property values in a way that would catalyze private investment, increase development potential and anchor redevelopment with quality public space.” ABOUT RED FIELDS TO GREEN FIELDS http://rftgf.org/joomla/. ABOUT THE BUILD ACT
ABOUT USCB Located in the heart of the Carolina Sea Islands, the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) is a senior institution of the University of South Carolina system serving the southeast coast of Georgia and South Carolina. USCB has been the fastest growing baccalaureate institution in the USC system since becoming a four year university in 2002.The university has two campuses which serve a diverse student body of more than 1750 students. The Historic Beaufort campus, located on Beaufort’s downtown waterfront, houses an innovative baccalaureate studio arts program in close proximity to Beaufort’s many art galleries. The Hilton Head Gateway campus in Bluffton, S.C., offers cutting-edge Computational Science and Nursing laboratories and is the home to Sand Shark athletics. USCB offers students an exceptional place to learn and live in an environment focused on growth, preservation and opportunity. For more information about the University of South Carolina Beaufort, please visit www.uscb.edu online or call the university’s Office of Public Information at 843-2088030.