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  • Ten Tips for Preservationists Tackling Real Estate Development

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Development Council offer a unique training opportunity for preservation professionals, advocates and all those working on historic real estate projects. These high-level, intensive, week-long workshops, sponsored by the 1772 Foundation, look at the real estate development process including underwriting, appraisals, cash flow, depreciation, passive income/loss, syndication, tax credits and more. The curriculum is based on the National Development Council’s highly regarded real estate finance modules, but has been specifically tailored to address historic preservation projects. Part 1 and Part 2 programs are offered periodically in cities around the country. After the successful completion of both parts, the participant is certified as a Historic Real Estate Development Finance Professional.

Participants are chosen through a competitive application process, with preference given to National Trust Forum members. More than 77 preservationists have participated in the training programs since their start in 2012.

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Participants at the National Trust’s real estate training program in Knoxville tour the Emporium Center, the home of the Arts and Culture Alliance.

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We asked recent program graduates to share their thoughts about what it takes to be successful in real estate development.

  1. 1. Question all assumptions. Small changes in projected rents, rehab costs, or a myriad of other cost projections can have a substantial impact on the bottom line.

  2. 2. Know all the players and the extent of their negotiating power.

  3. 3. There is no “right” answer to structuring a deal—be creative and stay flexible.

  4. 4. Get second (or third) opinions on cost estimates and projections whenever possible to ensure that the need for gap funding is accurately projected.

  5. 5. State and local government can help to make a historic redevelopment project happen in other ways besides grant funding. Look into long-term leases for the project, tax abatement programs, below-market-rate loans.

  6. 6. It is important to pay attention to details since one hiccup can potentially derail a project.

  7. 7. There are many moving parts in large real estate deals, or even smaller ones, so it is really important to understand how each piece fits and also how each piece can impact all the others.

  8. 8. Successful redevelopment isn’t strictly about number-crunching until you show net income; it’s about understanding how different players benefit in the development process.

  9. 9. Quick thinking and creativity are needed when project wrinkles crop up.

  10. 10. Don’t give up, because there’s almost always a solution to be found if you invest the time and effort to search it out. [End Page 42]



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