Building a Real Estate Program: An Update

Will O’Keefe, Communication & Programs Coordinator

As an organization, we are continually looking for better ways to assist Minnesotans who want to ensure that the historic resources in our communities are protected and appreciated. We believe that one way we can achieve these goals is through the creation of a real estate program. Over the last few years we have been doing research to better understand the opportunities, challenges and tools required to succeed by looking to other preservation organizations that have used real estate as a tool for preservation. Last summer, we brought Myrick Howard, President of Preservation North Carolina, to consult with our staff and members, and to conduct a seminar for legal and financial professionals. In the drafting stage of our Strategic Plan we made sure to include development of a real estate program as part of our three year plan.

As with all programs in the development phase, our organization needed to transition from research to discussing feasibility. With that in mind, we reached out to foundations to see if any would be willing to fund the creation of a real estate program. This winter, we received word that we were awarded a grant from the 1772 Foundation to fund a feasibility study for the development of our real estate program.

We are happy to report that the feasibility study was recently completed by Candace Campbell of CDC Associates and Margaret Lund of Co-Opera, Inc. The goal of the report was to determine the viability of such a program, as well as where and how we might best develop this initiative. The process included interviewing a wide variety of participants within the world of preservation and real estate development, as well as identifying of a number of historic buildings that might fit our criteria and developing a few case studies to look at specific examples.

The words, “real estate program”, tend to bring about many different opinions and ideas regarding what type of work our organization would be taking on. While nothing is official, our working vision has been developed around a similar model to that of Preservation North Carolina – one of the premier preservation organizations and the go-to source for advice on how to build a preservation-focused real estate program. At this time, when we talk about the program we are looking at a few things that might be included: purchase options, gifts of real estate, and intervention funds. We believe that when coupled with our other programs, increasing our involvement with real estate would allow us to be more effective at saving Minnesota’s historic resources.

We would like to provide our members with some of the findings from the feasibility study that will help guide us as we give further consideration to developing this program. You will find a short synopsis of the findings and recommendations below.

Our consultants found:

External Factors

  • There is an ample supply of “at risk” properties with market potential throughout Minnesota.
  • There are sufficient resources are now available through Legacy Funds and the State Historic Tax Credit.

 

Internal Organizational Factors

  • We will need to employ dedicated staff with specific skills to implement a focused approach.
  • We will need a strong, long term vision and commitment from the Board of Directors and Real Estate Committee.
  • We will need the ability to leverage support of volunteers and partnerships with other organizations.
  • Those active in preservation in Minnesota must acknowledge that PAM is the only entity positioned to successfully carry out this program, and that the time to launch it is now.

 

Our consultants made the following recommendations:

  • This is a developmental program – the program offerings will need to grow over time alongside the capabilities of PAM’s experience, track record, expertise and resources.
  • A successful real estate program will require focus, dedicated staff, financial resources and staff authority to act without a lengthy review process.
  • Once PAM implements a fully staffed real estate division, it can sustainably address the market of historic properties using intervention funds, purchase options, and gifts of real estate as a means to build future assets while accomplishing the mission of preserving Minnesota’s historic properties.

 

We will take these findings and recommendations back to our Board of Directors and Real Estate Committee to determine our next steps. Looking ahead, we see a bright future for this program and the ways in which we may be able to better interact with historic properties.

 

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