How Developers Can Be Good Neighbors

August 16, 2019
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Photo: Unsplash/Mathyas Kurmann

The New York Times reports that developers across the country are working with neighborhoods to create a positive impact with their projects.

Fewer companies want to be just developers anymore, and for good reason. The word has become associated with neighborhood discord, fears of rising rents and hipster homogeny. Enter what has come to be known as the “impact” developer, a socially conscious builder navigating a difficult moment when both liberal and conservative groups can quash real estate plans, sometimes for the same reasons.

Whether because of conscience, brand awareness or something in between, an increasing number of market-rate developers are thinking critically about their role in gentrification and are embracing new business models — and often a new vocabulary, as well. In New York, Philadelphia and Washington, projects with civic-minded goals are emerging as the conversation on inequality turns again to housing.

“Real estate and social impact need to go hand in hand,” said Gregory Heller, the executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, a public agency. He supports a “triple-bottom-line” approach, a term commonly used in venture capital, that aims for environmental and social goals beyond the financial — not simply for altruistic reasons, but because it engenders trust from community residents, who can make or break a project.

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