Local Community Development Corporations

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Triad production trails RTP, Charlotte

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011, 3:23pm EST

GMP is the total output of goods and services within a given metropolitan area for the year. The latest statistics are from 2009 but are expressed in 2005 dollars to control for inflation.

According to the data, the GMP of Greensboro/High Point fell by 6.07 percent from 2008 to 2009, to $28.65 billion. The GMP of Winston-Salem fell by 5.7 percent, to $18.65 billion.

Charlotte, which has the largest GMP in the state, saw its output fall by 4.42 percent to $101.29 billion. Raleigh/Cary's GMP fell by 3.23 percent to $47.63 billion, and Durham/Chapel Hill saw a fall of 1.48 percent to $32.33 billion.

Nationally, four-fifths of the nation's 100 largest markets saw their economies contract in 2009. Detroit saw the most dramatic decline, losing 9 percent of its GMP in 2009.

Oklahoma was the biggest gainer, expanding its GMP by 14.5 percent in that year.

Read more: Triad production trails RTP, Charlotte | The Business Journal

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Abandoned houses near ballpark slated for demolition

Abandoned houses near ballpark slated for demolition

Credit: Cassandra Sherrill/Journal

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Winston-Salem city officials are demanding that 14 empty homes owned by the development company behind BB&T Ballpark be demolished within the next three months.

The houses, on Peters Creek Parkway, Park Circle and First Street, across from the city's baseballstadium, have been boarded up and abandoned since before the stadium was finished.

The Winston-Salem City Council voted unanimously Monday night to order the buildings torn down.

Nearby residents have complained that the houses attract rats and the homeless. Commuters and city advocates have complained that the houses are an eyesore at one of the main entrances to downtownWinston-Salem.

The stadium's baseball team, the Class-A Winston-Salem Dash, contacted the city Jan. 18 and told city officials that it was soliciting bids for demolition.

Team president Geoff Lassiter said in early January that the team was seeking permits to have the homes demolished. Lassiter said then that it would be 30 to 60 days before the homes were torn down.

Lassiter has said the team would use the land for temporary parking.

The team is a farm club for the Chicago White Sox. Lassiter said this year that the houses would be torn down before the start of this season. The first game, an exhibition against the White Sox, is scheduled for March 30. The team's Class-A season begins April 8.

In other news, the council agreed to discuss changing the city's rules about the percentage of minority- or women-owned businesses that must participate in city-bid projects.

That percentage currently changes depending on the job and the number of minority- or women-owned businesses able to perform the work. Councilman James Taylor, who represents the city's Southeast Ward, suggested Monday night that the city change that fluctuating number to a minimum of 10 percent participation per job by minority- and women-owned businesses.

The council agreed to discuss the suggestion further this year.


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Blue Cross invests $16 million in research park renovation

Blue Cross invests $16 million in research park renovation

Credit: Cassandra Sherrill/Journal

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. is testing the waters of a state tax credit aimed at breathing life into formermanufacturing plants, with an investment of up to $16 million toward renovating a tobacco warehouse donated to Piedmont Triad Research Park.

The insurer's investment over three years, announced Monday, represents 18 percent of the projected $87 million cost of renovating Building 91 at Fifth Street and Patterson Avenue. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.donated the building to the research park.

The renovation project was announced with great fanfare in June by park officials and the developer,Wexford Science and Technology LLC of Baltimore.

Wexford will own the property and will lease the building to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, which owns the research park.

It is the insurer's first major investment in the tax-credit program, spokeswoman Stephanie Skordassaid.

Brad Wilson, the insurer's president and chief executive, said, "Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has a 77-year tradition of investing in the health of North Carolinians. We are pleased to continue that tradition with this investment, which creates new medical-research labs from historic tobacco warehouses.

"You could say we're preserving the past while creating a new future for this part of the Triad."

Skordas said Blue Cross doesn't plan to move any operations into the building. The company has more than 600 employees in a customer-service and claims-administration operation at Madison Park in northwestWinston-Salem.

Renovation of the building, which has been renamed Wake Forest BioTech Place, is expected to be completed by year's end.

Officials at Wake Forest Baptist, which is landlocked on its main campus, have longed for years for expansion space for its research departments.

The building will offer 242,000 square feet of space for laboratories, offices and other uses, primarily for operations that Wake Forest University Health Sciences is transferring from its Hawthorne campus. About 350 employees will work in the new space — a 38 percent increase in the park's work force to 1,275.

Wake Forest Baptist plans to occupy 85 percent of the space. There are plans for laboratories for startup companies and retail that could include a cafe and a financial-services company, Dan Cramer, a regional executive for Wexford, said in June.

To qualify for the tax credit, the building must have been used as a manufacturing facility, a warehouse for selling agricultural products, or a public or private utility. It must be certified as a historic structure, and it must have been at least 80 percent vacant for at least two years when eligibility is certified.

The state mill rehabilitation tax credit would be paid to Wexford, which would pass it to Blue Cross, Skordassaid.

It is unclear, however, how much of a tax credit Blue Cross would receive.

According to the N.C. General Statutes, there is an overall 30 percent state tax credit for rehabbing of income-producing historic structures in a tier 3 county such as Forsyth. The project also likely qualifies for 20 percent federal investment tax credit.

"We expect to receive a market-based return on our investment," Skordas said.

The amount of tax credits will depend on the project costs, Skourdas said. Investors receive returns from the federal and state incentives and from leasing the space, she said.

Cramer said the tax credits could "take the $87 million project down to, say, $55 million to the tenant. We could not, and they could not, do this project without these historic tax credits."

Doug Edgeton, the president of the park, said the tax credit "is a very effective tool for sustainable redevelopment and provides tremendous benefits to the local economy.

"It enhances the financing of the project and preserves a historic building."

Lisa Davanzo, a spokeswoman for Wake Forest Baptist, said the health-care system hopes to leverage the tax-credit program in the future.

Mike Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said Blue Cross is making the investment in part to enhance its reputation as a "good corporate citizen in North Carolina."

"There can be good long-run returns in carefully selected commercial real-estate investments," Walden said. "So the move could accomplish both objectives."

The city and Forsyth County agreed to split the $6.2 million cost of infrastructure upgrades. Mayor Allen Joines said a key was the Wake Forest subsidiary agreeing to pay taxes on the building.

Both Edgeton and Cramer expressed confidence that the project could be the first of many involving the groups.


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