New Approach from ACi Yields Major Dividends
The term “public-private partnership” (P3) is to many a new addition to the contemporary lexicon, but the concept is as old as civilization itself.
Nearly every enduring example of mankind’s historic efforts to create gathering places or solve monumental problems by combining engineering and aesthetics is an illustration of this ageless principle. From the majestic temples of ancient Greece to the Forum, Colosseum, roads and aqueducts of Rome; skipping two millennia, we see iconic structures like the Golden Gate or the Brooklyn Bridge, right up to modern airports, highways and universities. All are examples of the link between public need and private ingenuity.
When a project is vast in its scope and far reaching in its impact, the public’s voice must be heard and the culture and contribution of all stakeholders has to be factored into achieving the end product. Today, with the national move towards a more localized approach, the traditional methods the public sector takes to attain maximum value, both economically and in social/cultural impact for their communities, is changing.
ACi co-founder and managing partner Larry Adams sees a new model emerging that adds more purpose to the value equation that drives these projects. This model is a dynamic combination of what a community wants and needs, along with what will attract investors who can help finance it. “P3 is moving into a new dimension of unlocking value in the post-recession economy, where communities cultivate and grow their existing local assets by quantifying and connecting purpose-driven economics with the private sector,” he explained.
New Approach for a New Economy
Coupled with growing urbanization (by 2030, 120 million more people will be living in U.S. mega-regions), a phenomenon driven by connectivity, diversity, cultural amenities and jobs will be an equivalent desire for a more meaningful and quality sense of place. These factors combined with economic challenges at the federal level are producing a shift. More responsibility and opportunity for city leaders is within reach for new public-private cooperation and a thriving new economic development model that is local in purpose and design.
Their success speaks for itself as ACi has delivered, in the last three years, over $150 million in high-quality ad valorem value. These projects have transformed undeveloped or underdeveloped properties, which were in danger of becoming just another parking lot or another “commoditized anywhere USA” development, into distinctive destinations that provide layers of experiences, environments and civic identity, as well as being a vital economic stimulant.
Their approach, which they have dubbed ACi-UP, is a process cities are using to help take what Adams describes as “the brain damage” out of the development equation for the private sector. “ACi-UP looks first at how a city’s assets – their people, history, location and industries – can create a new gravity and utilize these key drivers of market differentiation. These are the elements that make their community who they are,” he explained. Adding, “There’s an old saying, ‘After you’ve tried everything else, be yourself.’”
Transforming vs. Transacting Community Futures
Transformation occurs when either creating the new or remaking the old. Savannah, Ga. is an enduring example of creating something new, as the first and oldest planned city in the United States. Oglethorpe’s vision of an ideal 18th century maritime hub is an ideal place today, with beautiful park spaces and well-designed commercial and residential areas that attract thousands every year. Winter Park is another definitive example of blending a pedestrian-friendly urban design with a transportation hub, which will now include SunRail running through the community’s heart.
The cities of Lake Mary, Casselberry and Longwood have turned to ACi to attract significant private investment that combined a viable economic model, while also creating magnetic gathering places for their residences and visitors.
Flexible Codes are the New Path to Success
Lake Mary combined out-of-the-box thinking with a shared public-private investment model, created by ACi, to capture quality live-work-shop developers around the new Lake Mary SunRail Station. Starting with city leadership, the first obstacle to new placemaking development was solved when the city threw out their existing planning/zoning codes which ignored new demographics, density and market drivers. This yielded innovative investment and development solutions including shared parking structures, stormwater, reduced apartment unit sizes and reduced parking ratios. These were the tipping points for financing more than $35 million of private new taxable developments underway, including Station House (EPOCH Properties) and Station Pointe (Developers Chris and Dana Mahnken).
Magic in the Muck
In Casselberry, it was a U.S. 17-92 city-owned 25-acre site, next to their municipal buildings and a beautiful lakefront concert park, that remained a non-developed site for years due to unusual site complexities. The problem? The soil that once made the area the fern capital of the nation, what we would call “muck,” made this site unbuildable without a huge capital investment. Even with that investment, what would be on it? Another parking lot or a regional destination? ACi worked with city leaders, staff, citizens, market underwriters, architects, engineers and the city to transform the muck into an amenity that turned that liability into a marquee waterside public realm, around which will wrap a combination of proposed new waterside restaurants (Casto Lifestyle Properties) paired with new urban residential living (Integra Development).
More than a Parking Lot
In Longwood, working closely with city and county leaders along with FDOT, ACi transformed the architecture of the station into a historic city landmark and relocated a large asphalt parking lot to create a new $27 million development (Wendover Housing Partners) where people will live and walk to transit by an existing corner pub, organic style retail and health care facilities. This is the public sector, linking with private resources, in a partnership that is driven by community-uniting purposes.
Adams believes, “In today’s new economy, it isn’t enough to simply put something up. It must be market driven, hyper-local, and purposeful to the community’s unique brand and assets. These new variables are what is making big ideas happen using ACi-UP strategy for P4 – Public-Private Partnership + Purpose.”