The following appeared in the February 24, 2013 edition of Banker & Tradesman:
Cranes are once again dotting the landscape. Boston, Cambridge and the suburbs are bustling with new economic development opportunities featuring office, retail, residential, lab, and mixed use projects. Absorption rates are up and previously proposed developments are seeing new life. The commercial real estate industry in Massachusetts is alive and well. Through its government affairs efforts, NAIOP Massachusetts, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, worked diligently in 2012 to stimulate the industry’s recovery. Increasing predictability and eliminating red tape were top priorities.
As an example, NAIOP strongly supported the Jobs Bill, An Act Relative to Infrastructure Investment, Enhanced Competitiveness & Economic Growth in the Commonwealth, which was signed into law in August. The law included many of NAIOP’s top legislative priorities including an extension of the Permit Extension Act. Permits and approvals in effect at any time between August 15, 2008 and August 15, 2012 were extended by four years. This affected all properties: commercial, housing, business expansions, universities, hospitals, and infrastructure projects. The bill also made important improvements to District Improvement Financing and the Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-cubed) program. In addition, it created a new Local Infrastructure Development Program that provides developers and municipalities with a new tool for leveraging private funding to finance critical infrastructure projects. The bill was the result of a close collaborative effort by the House, Senate, the Governor’s economic team, and the business community.
Looking ahead, NAIOP is gearing up for an action packed year. The 2013 – 2014 legislative session kicked off in January and NAIOP filed numerous bills affecting the development, ownership, management, and financing of office, lab, industrial, multifamily, and retail space in Massachusetts.
A top priority for NAIOP is the extension of the Brownfields Tax Credit, which is set to expire this summer if no legislative action is taken. This tax credit is a proven success. It protects public health by providing an incentive to clean up contaminated land and redevelop formerly blighted sites into economically vibrant properties. However, developers need certainty and predictability – especially when making long-term investments. Without swift action by the Legislature to renew this tax credit, many new projects will not move forward.
NAIOP will continue to advocate for reform of the Facilities of Public Accommodation requirements under Chapter 91, the law governing waterfront development. Existing law requires virtually all of the ground floor of a waterfront building to be accessible by the public. This requirement results in countless vacant and underused spaces. NAIOP’s bill would create more flexibility for ground floor uses, while continuing to create public access to the waterfront.
NAIOP will also pursue legislation that would create a single, uniform statewide energy code. The bill would ensure Massachusetts remains a leader in energy efficiency while creating a level playing field for all communities. Building on that concept, NAIOP will also be focused on climate change preparedness. Given the impact of recent storms, the industry must be prepared for more frequent and severe weather events. Practical steps are needed to shield existing properties and infrastructure from irreparable damage. The Commonwealth’s economic survival is at stake.
On the regulatory front, NAIOP will continue to support the Patrick Administration’s massive, top-to-bottom regulatory review for all state agencies. NAIOP was part of the Business Regulatory Review Advisory Committee that recommended which regulations should be rescinded, modified, and or made more consistent with a national model or standard. Earlier this year, Governor Patrick announced that 446 sets of regulations had been reviewed, leading to 286 opportunities for reform. NAIOP looks forward to the continued implementation of this effort. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is expected to finalize and implement 21 regulatory reforms in the coming weeks. Also supported by NAIOP, the reforms will make a substantial improvement on the cost and time expended by the regulated community, without diminishing environmental protection.
While Massachusetts is doing well compared to the rest of the nation, the Commonwealth’s recovery is still fragile. In 2013, NAIOP will continue to urge legislators and regulators to do all they can to ensure Massachusetts retains its competitive advantage.