Years ago, when we started down the road of our first green mixed-use development (one of only two or three LEED HUD projects in the nation), we felt pretty good about ourselves and spoke in the language of “giving back to the community.” Such hubris. What I realize now is that the community has given back to us in ways almost impossible to enumerate.
We convened and then became enveloped by a vast array of community stakeholders who have taught us, among other things, that our very viability as a business is inextricably linked to the community we’ve helped make more vibrant.
Oh, and by the way, the only real estate stuff really getting funded out there in any substantive way are projects that hit the Venn-diagram intersection of green, job creation, energy efficiency, and affordable housing. It’s a lesson not lost on the very largest companies around, as GE seeks to retool itself by tapping in to federal stimulus funds.
In the early days of the American republic, a company needed a charter to conduct its business. It was a charter limited both in scope and duration. A business could only continue on to the extent that its practices lent itself to the enhancement of the general polis. My company’s recent experiences in the green affordable housing arena is testament to the rightness of such a charter. It forces us to earn our stripes every day.
Perhaps… we real estate enterprises simply need to mothball our operations for a good long time. Alternatively, rather than wait around for the next wave of high-rollers to come knocking on our doors, we might consider rolling up our sleeves, addressing needs our social order is clamoring for, and make ourselves relevant for a change.