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  • 17 Mar 2021 11:55 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dr. Robert Blauvelt (top, right) guest lectured on the topic of Phase II sampling methodologies on February 20. Dr. Blauvelt is a geologist with more than 30 years of experience in the investigation, remediation and redevelopment of industrial and commercial properties. Over the course of his career, he has assisted clients in complex, multi-site due diligence assessments, regulatory compliance audits and litigation/expert witness services. This remedial and redevelopment (brownfield) work has been done within the context of a variety of regulatory programs including CERCLA (RI/FS), RCRA (RFI/CMS), NJDEP (SRP), NYSDEC DERR, MA MCP and OEPA VAP. Dr. Blauvelt also has led cleanup projects involving in situ and ex situ management of soil impacted with petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents. His remediation experience runs the gamut from the development of enhanced bioremediation/natural attenuation to providing technical support in the design and installation of multi-level air sparge, soil vapor extraction and treatment systems. Dr. Blauvelt has a M.S. and B.S. in Geology from Rutgers University, as well as a Ph.D. from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

    Ms. Sandra Gaurin (right, bottom) guest lectured on the topic of Phase II data evaluation on March 6. She is Director of Client Services, Risk Management and has more than 20 years of experience simultaneously managing multiple projects with a focus on loss control services and environmental claims support. Her responsibilities with Gallagher Bassett Technical Services Division include the coordination of teams of experts to provide technical support for complex environmental issues and claims. Ms. Gaurin has been involved in expert witness report preparation in support of litigation for nationwide insurance carriers, and also coordinates and performs risk management and due diligence support to nationwide real estate investors, including local office staff coordination, budget and deadline management as well as interface with clients. Ms. Gaurin has also managed projects for commercial/industrial as well as municipal/state clients involving site investigation and remediation activities such as underground storage tank removal, impacted soil excavation and disposal, groundwater and soil vapor investigation and remediation, and in-situ bioremediation treatment.

    She also maintains reporting compliance for industrial/warehousing facilities, including Tier II reporting, hazardous waste reporting, homeland security assessments, SPCC, and SWPP. Ms. Gaurin earned a Master of Science from the Industrial Biology School, France and a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University Paris 6. She is a LEED Accredited Professional and holds many certification and licenses, including Environmental Risk Management (ERM) License, 40-hour OSHA HAZWOPER, 30-hour OSHA Construction Safety Training, and EPA Hazardous Waste Management Training.

  • 17 Mar 2021 11:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Angelo Lampousis, in The Assessor (Twitter: @lampousis)

    EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) has its own unique history in New York State. On March 20th, 2021, we expect to welcome representatives of successful EWDJT grantees, including Ms Raphaella Savaides, training coordinator at The Fortune Society, Mr. Paul McFadden, manager of workforce development for the City of Rochester, and Ms Angela M. Iocolano, Sr. Director, Quality & Evaluation, PathStone Corporation, Rochester, NY. Michael Senew will represent the Hazardous Materials Training and Research Institute (HMTRI).

    The panel will be moderated by Ms Schenine Mitchell, Brownfields Program Coordinator, Land Chemicals and Redevelopment Division, Land and Redevelopment Programs Branch, Brownfields Section, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2. The context for the EWDJT panel at CCNY is the course Phase II environmental site assessments (EAS 33400) offered this year in conjunction with the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE). The “assessors” of the future, our own CCNY students enrolled in this course, will get the opportunity to interface again with BCONE members as well as the general public, since this is an open event. For information on how to access the event please contact Maria Cogliando at

  • 11 Mar 2021 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UCONN judge harbors ‘a lot of hope for the next generation of brownfield professionals’ 

    By Steve Dwyer, Maria Coler, and Beverly Entin 

    The future of brownfield reclamation and development appears to be in good shape. Each year, the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast’s (BCONE) Charlie Bartsch Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to the best and brightest students working toward obtaining degrees in brownfield related disciplines.

    In December 2020, two of the six teams from the University of Connecticut (UCONN) presented extraordinary presentations and won scholarships totaling $4,000 (8 recipients at $500/scholarship). The first team, which developed an United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Community Wide Brownfields Assessment Grant, included Logan Williams, Chadwick Schroeder and Calvin Palmer. The second winning team prepared an USEPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant and included Kamila Zygadlo, Ciarra Mckenzie, Ava Michelangelo, Mary Pizzuto and Max Starke.

    Fatima Nagui of Brooklyn, NY attends the City College of New York (CCNY) and was the recipient of the Bartsch award. The Bartsch award was established in recognition of Charlie Bartsch, the dynamic, talented and well-loved brownfields industry practitioner—and advocate—who left us all too soon in 2017.

    Scholarship Projects

    During the 2020 fall semester, UCONN students were assigned to several Connecticut towns to prepare grant applications and assist the local private-public partnership in establishing a vision for brownfield urban redevelopment. The USEPA brownfield grant application is an arduous process. It consists of a 50-page document that must be actionable and practical to implement, says scholarship judge Mark Lewis of the Connecticut  Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) and a member of BCONE’s Board of Directors, adding that USEPA wants grant applications to be so compelling that they could make anyone judging them “cry” due to their power and influence.

    The students at UCONN who participated in the program were part of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering’s Connecticut Brownfield Initiative program. The program was overseen by Dr. Nefeli Bompoti  and Dr. Marisa Chrysochoou.

    Team Williams-Schroeder-Palmer worked with the town of Stratford to develop a proposal for an USEPA Community Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant. The team of students “identified several brownfield sites in the town in need of environmental site investigation,” says Dr. Bompoti. “The students conducted analysis of the community’s needs based on demographic indicators and financial data. They also developed a proposed plan and budget to conduct the environmental assessment activities.”

    Team Zygadlo-Mckenzie-Michelangelo-Pizzuto-Starke worked with St. Luke’s Development Corp., a non-profit located in New Haven, to develop an USEPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant. The team reviewed technical documents, including previous site investigations and remedial plans to develop the proposal narrative.

    The Winning Scholarship Teams

    All six teams from UCONN worked hard over the course of the Fall semester and made solid presentations. According to Mark Lewis, “All six presentations were uniformly excellent.” When not volunteering as a judge, Mark Lewis works as the Brownfield Coordinator for the CTDEEP and is a longtime member of  BCONE’s Board. Lewis, along with fellow judges Don Friday and Sarah Trombetta were impressed by the presentations, which were conducted via Zoom conferencing. Each presentation took about 20 minutes.

    “They all did a great job putting together grant applications [that were tied to the Connecticut towns in which student teams were assigned to work]. These were undergraduate students who had the poise to give excellent presentations,” says Lewis. 

    Having to present their projects remotely due to COVID-19 made the presentations even more impressive, says Lewis. “The winning teams were able to deal with [any technical issues] without missing a beat. In any field, to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is hard. But the winning teams demonstrated to me their ability to convey what they know in an understandable way.”

    Lewis says he, Friday and Trombetta “went away with a lot of hope for the next generation of brownfield professionals who are coming up to take our place.” 

    CCNY Bartsch Awardee

    Bartsch Award Winner Fatima Nagui participated in the Phase I course at CCNY. She enjoyed the technical reporting methods that provide great insight into the contamination that exists within various properties. Angelo Lampousis, Ph.D. is a lecturer and undergraduate advisor for Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at CCNY as well as a BCONE Board member. Lampousis lauded Nagui’s work and professionalism. “It was the commute between home and elementary school that Fatima would ask her Dad about the brackish-looking Gowanus Canal that they passed by daily. Her Dad was surprised that she was aware of the history of the Gowanus Canal and the city’s lack of action that had allowed for such a toxic body of water to exist,” says Lampousis.

    Professor Lampousis believes that it was that commute to and from school that “served as an inspiration for Fatima’s interest in environmental conservation, and later, environmental engineering. Environmental conservation does its part in educating people about the impacts of society on the environment; however, she likes to take a more practical approach.”

    “Fatima plans to work hard by studying the problems that exist today and learning how to create solutions,” Professor Lampousis says. “She is committing herself towards a career in environmental engineering where she believes she will be able to engineer new and innovative techniques and solutions to resolve the harmful impact that humanity has had on the planet."

    Scholarship Funding Mechanism 

    Maria Coler, chair of the BCONE Scholarship Committee believes that brownfields are “the building blocks of green cities.” Coler, a Licensed Site Remediation Professional and CEO and founder of Hydrotechnology Consultants Inc., located in Jersey City, N.J., joined the scholarship committee in 2020. 

    Similar to professionals like Mark Lewis, Coler feels the urgency to “seed the next generation of brownfield practitioners across various disciplines, from ecology to geology. We need to acquaint students with the industry and why it’s an important part of building a sustainable world,” she says. 

    Coler did not personally know Charlie Bartsch, but has learned from his colleagues the extent to which he spearheaded the brownfield industry and promoted brownfields as a mechanism to achieve urban renewal and environmental justice.  Coler is motivated by the degree to which Charlie was loved and admired and strives to organize fundraising events that would be near and dear to his heart.

    To that end and in his honor, she formed BCONE’s hiking and book clubs and organizes tastings and cultural outings.

    Coler says that as an entrepreneur she must keep in focus the “why” of what she does—and she strives to “ground new practitioners with the same foundational purpose.”  Reminding those of their purpose is the aim of the book club--to raise the consciousness of a generation of practitioners by learning about iconic environmentalists and activists.  The book club has tackled Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (documenting the adverse environmental effects of indiscriminate pesticide use) and Richard S. Newman’s “Love Canal-A Toxic History From Colonial Times to the Present (a story about heroic citizen activists in Niagara Falls, NY). Next on the list is Dan Fagin’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Tom’s River.” 

    Coler says that that these iconic books reveal the “arc of history and how scientists and citizen activists were able to move the needle forward [on progress]. I don’t want to just give money to students, I also want to get them really excited about why becoming a practitioner is a rewarding—and important—career.”

    Students Had Vision 

    Mark Lewis says that he was amazed that “all the students [involved in the scholarship program] seemed to understand what the towns they were assigned to needed. The students had empathy with residents of their assigned town and really began to care for the towns. They shared the town’s vision for success and economic redevelopment.” 

    During the Spring of 2021, it will be revealed if the grant applications prepared by BCONE’s scholarship winners are selected by USEPA for grant funding. 

    Students spent significant time with local mayors and First Selectmen, and many didn’t know a lot about the local communities they were assigned to at the start of their project. “The students learn over the course of the semester what these towns face, and this allows them to distill it all down into a compelling grant application. The students also face the additional challenge of presenting their grant application to the scholarship committee” says Lewis.    

    The BCONE Charlie Bartsch Memorial Scholarship Program has, in the past, served as a bellwether for USEPA’s grant selection—ultimately seeing the agency selecting the same communities to secure grant funding as the teams that were awarded BCONE scholarships. 

    In essence, this validates the power of the BCONE scholarship program and our impressive Scholarship and Bartsch award winners. 

  • 17 Feb 2021 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Maria Cogliando, The Assessor

    Colleen Kokas, Executive Vice President at Commercial Development Company, delivered the first guest lecture on the history of brownfields on February 6, 2021, to 25 graduate and undergraduate CUNY students who are enrolled in EAS 33400 (a course on Phase II environmental site assessments).

    Colleen has over 30 years of experience in the remediation of contaminated sites, including project management, cleanup negotiations, funding, liability protection, cost recovery, brownfield redevelopment and sustainability. Before joining Environmental Liability Transfer, the largest purchaser of brownfield sites in North America, Colleen worked at NJ Department of Environmental Protection, where she managed a variety of programs.

    Most notably, Colleen managed the Site Remediation’s financial incentive programs and its brownfield redevelopment program. She was subsequently selected to help establish NJDEP’s Sustainability and Green Energy Office advancing policies that would allow for the installation of solar energy on brownfields and other contaminated sites.

    Colleen also served as NJDEP’s representative on the board of the NJ Economic Development Authority, and as Director of Water Resources Coordination overseeing the critical path necessary for the issuance of water-related permits.

    Currently, Colleen serves as Executive Vice President at ELT, where she works closely with government agencies, property owners, and environmental attorneys to create new business opportunities in contaminated property acquisition. Colleen is a co-founder of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, and was the first person chosen for its prestigious Brownfield Person of the Year award.

    She has recently authored several articles on the redevelopment of contaminated sites; these writings focus on the acquisition and redevelopment of Superfund sites, interagency cooperation, and the transformation of power plants into hubs to support offshore wind. Colleen received a B.S. in Geology and master’s degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University. Colleen is a co-founder and board member of the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of brownfields, and to connecting and educating professionals in the brownfield community. She also serves on the NJ Business and Industry Association Energy and Environmental Policy Committee.

    In 2020, Colleen was appointed by the USEPA Administrator to serve on its Environmental Finance Advisory Board. Colleen also served as USEPA Region 2 representative to the Brownfield Task Force under the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Organization (ASTSWMO), a national advisory committee to USEPA focused on improving waste programs. Additionally, Colleen served on the National Brownfield Association Advisory Board, where she provided a state government perspective on legislative, regulatory, and technical advancements for brownfields on the national level.

  • 17 Feb 2021 11:16 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Maria Cogliando, The Assessor

    The first joint event between the City College of New York (CCNY) and the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast (BCONE) was a ”Hot Topics” session held on April 23, 2019. It was moderated by Sue Boyle of GEI Consultants, who serves as the executive director of BCONE, the New York City Brownfield Partnership (NYCBP), and the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals Association (LSRPA). Topics covered included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the use of fill at redevelopment sites and its movement within the region, opportunity zones, and updates on other brownfield incentives offered in the northeastern U.S.

    Since that first interaction, BCONE continued the collaboration by offering guest lectures for the Phase I (fall 2020) and Phase II (spring 2021) Environmental Site Assessment courses. The first two speakers presented virtually on February 6, 2021, on the history of brownfields to a class of 25 CCNY students. Students will also be automatically enrolled at no additional cost in the 40-hour OSHA HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard) certification program, which applies to employees who are engaged in clean-up operations that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

  • 12 Feb 2021 1:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CT BCONE hosted the Annual Post-Holiday Networking event on January 28,2021. It was a virtual event sponsored by Alpha Analytical to celebrate the New Year and raise money for the Charlie Bartsch Brownfield Scholarship Fund.

    Prior to the event, cocktail kits from the Hartford Flavor Company were sent out to registrants containing all the ingredients to make two different cocktails. During the presentation, Lelaneia Dubay, creator of the unique liquors used in the cocktails, showed everyone how to craft the drinks to enjoy in the comforts of our own home. The group enjoyed making the signature “Miss Cranberry” Prosecco drink as well as the unique Tikki Tikki Chai drink, perfect for the wintery months. The kit provided enough ingredients for two drinks, so it was encouraged to invite another person.

    Not only were the drinks delicious, but the well-attended event eliminated geographical distance and made for a wonderful opportunity to see some familiar faces, and chat about news in the industry. In past years, this fundraising event provided members the opportunity to enjoy beverages and good company, while contributing to the Scholarship Fund. Although it looked a little different this year, the virtual alternative held true to tradition and was a fun, lighthearted event that raised $600 for the scholarship fund.

    Thanks so much to all who attended our Virtual Cocktail Experience as well as the Hartford Flavor Company and Alpha Analytical for their support!

    Lelaneia Dubay showing us how to mix our drinks.

  • 02 Dec 2020 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BCONE raises scholarship funds pre-Thanksgiving with a tutored hard cider tasting

    Fifteen folks from CT, NC, NJ, NY, PA, TN and WV joined the pre-Thanksgiving virtual cider tasting Zoom organized by BCONE’s Maria Coler and led by Adam Goddu of Eden Specialty Ciders of VT. We toasted (with Eden Dry Heritage Cider Brut Nature) the power of regionalism—BCONE’s strength—and the power of the internet to create exciting virtual experiences. Maria started the event with the wonderful video that she and her team assembled on Charlie Bartsch, the namesake of BCONE’s scholarship fund. Those assembled had a very generous tasting kit to sample while listening to Adam tell us about the over 50 varieties of apples that fall into 4 broad categories: sharps, sweets, bittersharps and bittersweets. We also learned about the making of ice cider while sampling it.

    All BCONE members and friends can enjoy the beverages and assist the scholarship fund by going to they will donate 10% of every order and take $5 off shipping if you order between now and December 31, 2020, using BCONE10 as the special code. BCONE will also offer a special prize to supplement the order of the first member who correctly identifies the nation-of-origin of the original apple. Send your answer to and tell us what you ordered!

    Many thanks to Maria Coler, the chair of BCONE’s scholarship committee. She keeps creating innovative and fun ways to fund scholarships for students in CT, NJ, NY, and PA. Watch for the book club notice, notices of upcoming hikes, and future food and beverage tastings to broaden your horizons, meet new people from the northeastern US, all while you assist with an excellent cause.

  • 02 Dec 2020 3:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    James D. Snook, BCONE Board Member, summarizes it for you.


    • Olivia Glenn: NJDEP Deputy Commissioner, Environmental Justice and Equity
    • Kim Gaddy: Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action
    • Catherine M. Ward: Co-Chair, Environmental, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP

    NJSWEP, LSRPA, and BCONE presented a webinar and virtual panel discussion attended by over 60 people.  It included expert insights from three noteworthy women in environmental justice.  NJDEP’s Olivia Glenn began the webinar with insights into the department’s regulatory changes that will impact different aspects of environmental justice.  The S232 Environmental Justice Law (EJ Law) adopted by New Jersey in June 2020 requires NJDEP to evaluate environmental and public health stressors of certain facilities on overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications.  The EJ Law is the nation’s strongest measure to protect overburdened communities from pollutants; it may become a template for environmental justice laws throughout the USA. 

    Olivia Glenn explained that New Jersey’s 2020 Global Warming Response Act was written to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from their 2006 levels by 2050.  A triple bottom line is the goal, where protection of vulnerable communities against the effects of climate change will reach toward one aspect of environmental justice.  

    Kim Gaddy of Clean Water Action explained how she created an organization in Newark’s South Ward to establish an approach against environmental degradation. She provided insights into how to engage and support the residents as active participants.  She explained how the EJ Law should help to provide more equal protection for vulnerable residents from hazards through greater transparency by providing an opportunity to deny permit that do not consider environmental justice.  

    Catherine Ward provided an in-depth evaluation of the EJ Law in regards to its potential affect on the regulated community.  She explained the impact of zoning in a strong home rule state, which NJ is.  Industry location in compliance with local zoning and many communities’ discouragement of  affordable housing through their zoning ordinances created many of the problems that the EJ law has to tackle.  How does the state-wide  EJ law work with the framework of each municipality’s  current zoning regulations? There will some initial unpredictability of applying the minimum standards of the law to different situations.  The regulated community and some other stakeholders prefer as much  predictability as possible.  Catherine explained that sustainability is a guiding principle, in efforts to provide a clear goal for application of the EJ Law. Sustainability can be applied by progressive companies that can apply economic vitality with healthy communities and a resilient environment.  

  • 03 Nov 2020 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The latest edition of Commerce Magazine includes a special environmental report that features BCONE's President, Rick Shoyer. The topic of the report identified how COVID-19 has changed protocols, but the work and projects continue across the Garden State.

    You can read the article at the following link:

  • 16 Oct 2020 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you missed the first Coronavirus Experiences webinar,  held jointly by BCONE and the NYCBP in September and entitled Back to the Burbs? Back to the Office?, please sign up for the 2nd part of the series being held on October 23, 2020 from 10am to 12:00 p, entitled Is Your Building Safe? This webinar series will continue into 2021 to cover the growing number of topics of interest to our professions.

    The speakers at the September and October webinars have created a list of recent articles on the topics.  The Reading List is below.  Feel free to contribute to the list. If you’ve written a recent article on the topic or if you’ve read something of interest, send the link to and we’ll keep growing the Reading List.

    A CrowdRx expert in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems did not find a single arraignment court in the city that was safe to be in, the report states:  Never heard of CrowdRx. They might become one of our potential speakers? 

    And check out this piece on what some landlords are doing to make their buildings safe: 

    Excerpt: “Silverstein Properties has also upgraded its ventilation systems in offices to MER-15 or 16, which is similar to what hospitals use to prevent the spread of infection and refers to the number of times recirculating air is filtered. The system also adds in fresh air from outdoors. Kerret says that an even higher ventilation standard, MER-16 or 18, has been adapted for elevators, making them safe for more than a few people at a time, as long as everyone is wearing a mask. According to the CDC, to become infected with the coronavirus, it takes time for exposure to 1,000 airborn particles. Elevators at Silverstein’s WTC properties travel at 1,600 feet per minute, so with MER-16 to 18 ventilation—similar to ventilation in operating rooms—mask-wearing passengers are unlikely to become infected as they will reach their floors within about a minute.”

    KBS has “deployed technology to help tenants make a seamless, safe transition back to the office as government mandates are lifted. This includes UV light, which kills viruses and bacteria, in HVAC systems and on surfaces in common areas, as well as touchless amenities and devices in shared spaces and high-traffic areas.”

    Home Sales Surge In Brooklyn:

    Vermont COVID Transplants:

    Finance and Investment

    Converting Malls Into Distribution Centers

    Addressing the challenges of commercial property conversions.

    Sep 21, 2020

    Sponsored by Frank P. Crivello

    Simon Property Group, Inc., the largest shopping mall operator in the United States, has entered into talks with Amazon about converting unused shopping mall space into distribution centers (DCs), according to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal. With the retail sector expected to lose up to 25,000 stores in 2020, the Amazon news is only one small part of larger discussion about converting unused commercial spaces into much-needed industrial real estate. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused retail stores and offices to shut their doors, an e-commerce boom has left the U.S. logistics sector scrambling for access to additional distribution and cold storage space.

    On the surface, converting malls into DCs and warehouses seems like a great idea. Malls are conveniently located near population centers and tend to have spacious ceilings that should be well-suited to racking and material handling systems. As with any commercial property conversion, however, turning shopping mall units into DCs will not happen without overcoming some challenges.


    Shopping malls aren’t usually zoned for industrial use. Industrial facilities are loud and bring in a significant amount of heavy truck traffic. Zoning restrictions will vary widely at the state and local level depending on the mall’s geographic location. Convincing a planning board or city council to modify the land use permissions for a large commercial area such as a shopping mall may not be easy—especially if that mall is surrounded by residential properties. For some areas, the promise of jobs and economic stimulation may be enough to sway the decision-makers, but it’s likely that many areas will not be willing to rezone.


    While multi-tenant logistics facilities are nothing new, it’s rare for a distribution center to share a facility with retail tenants. The discussions between Amazon and Simon Property Group seem to be focused on occupying abandoned J.C. Penney and Sears stores. If the rest of the mall remains occupied by dozens or more retailers, new processes and planning will be required to mitigate the risk of negative business impacts.

    Here are some examples of potential problems that property owners would need to account for:

    • A steady flow of large delivery vehicles and semi-trucks might make commercial shoppers nervous and deter them from visiting other stores in the mall complex.
    • An industrial facility may have dozens or hundreds of employees on a single shift. Retailers in the mall would want owners to ensure those workers don’t monopolize preferential parking, while the DC tenant may prefer their employees to park close by.
    • While mall security focuses on loss prevention and customer safety, security at a distribution center has different needs.

    While none of these issues are necessarily deal-breakers, it’s important that commercial property owners, existing retail tenants, and new industrial tenants address concerns up front to establish good business relationships.


    Though any new retail tenant in a mall would need to renovate the space to some degree, the level of renovation required to convert a former clothing retailer or electronics store into a functional distribution center would be more extreme. For example, concrete floors in retail stores may only be 3” to 4” thick while a warehouse may need to be 6” or more.  Parking lots and driveways also have the same potential issue; asphalt for a retail parking lot is not as thick as needed for constant heavy truck access. There may also be limitations to the type of equipment the industrial operator would be able to use. For example, installing conveyors or other permanent material handling systems may not be feasible. Fortunately, recent advances in picking robotics and wearable technologies might make it possible to implement automation without permanent installations. If the mall only has a single loading dock area for all tenants to share, a distribution center would likely monopolize that area with its stream of inbound and outbound shipments, so additional docks would need to be added.


    While there are certainly challenges, operating a DC out of a mall does have some benefits:

    • The employees from the distribution center are likely to shop at stores in the mall on breaks and before and after work, which will be a boon to struggling businesses.
    • Most malls are conveniently located within minutes of major highways and already have large, accessible parking lots. This should facilitate easy access for inbound and outbound truck drivers.
    • If the mall has lost some of its large anchor tenants, it’s likely that the community will benefit from the jobs provided by a distribution center.

    About Phoenix Investors

    Founded by Frank P. Crivello in 1994, Phoenix Investors and its affiliates (collectively “Phoenix”) are a leader in the acquisition, development, renovation, and repositioning of industrial facilities throughout the United States. Utilizing a disciplined investment approach and successful partnerships with institutional capital sources, corporations, and public stakeholders, Phoenix has developed a proven track record of generating superior risk-adjusted returns, while providing cost-efficient lease rates for its growing portfolio of national tenants. Its efforts inspire and drive the transformation and reinvigoration of the economic engines in the communities it serves, currently encompassing over 30 million square feet. Phoenix continues to be defined by thoughtful relationships, sophisticated investment tools, cost-efficient solutions, and a reputation for success. 

    From Peter Meyer, Ph.D. U of Louisville:

    The U.S. housing market, which has been a bright spot in the pandemic-battered economy, is running out of fuel.

    With buyers eager to take advantage of low mortgage rates, the inventory of homes to buy is scarce. That’s driving up prices and threatening to derail the boom by pushing homeownership out of reach for many Americans.

    For homebuilders, the huge demand for housing is an opportunity to crank up construction and solve the inventory crisis. Instead, some are deliberately slowing things down as they grapple with supply shortages, surging lumber costs and intense competition for labor and land.

    “It’s smart business,” said Gene Myers, chief executive of Thrive Home Builders in Denver. “But that means continued shortages and higher prices.”

    After the Covid-19 lockdowns in March brought sky-high unemployment, most builders expected a crash. What they got was a brief pause followed by a crush of buyers armed with the lowest interest rates on record and a burning desire for more space in the suburbs.

    Inventory shortage

    There was pent-up demand for housing when the pandemic hit, after a decade when builders mostly focused on the higher end of the market, constructing fewer, more expensive homes. Recently, they’d shifted focus to cheaper properties for the massive millennial generation now aging into homeownership.

    But with higher costs eating into profit margins, builders might once again chase the wealthy who want bigger homes with large yards and home offices. That comes as the inventory shortage has gotten even more acute.

    The supply of existing homes, shrinking for years, is at an all-time low. At August’s sales pace, it would take a little more than three months to run out of new homes for sale, the lowest level on record, according to government data dating back to 1963. That’s down from almost six months in February.

    Sales of existing homes jumped 10.5% in August compared with a year earlier, outpacing new home sales for the first time since 2015, according to Redfin. That came as fewer new homes were listed for sale.

    New home construction this year will hold steady at just under 900,000, about the same pace as in 2019, according to a projection by the National Association of Home Builders. For 2021, the industry group forecasts that starts will increase slightly but will be held back by the cost and availability of building materials.

    Lumber spike

    The trouble for builders is that vacant land takes about two years to be developed, a process slowed by local government regulations. Meanwhile, lumber prices are expected to add $16,000 to the cost of a typical house, according to the NAHB.

    They’ve risen because producers idled saw mills in the U.S. and Canada in March and still face timber shortages resulting from a beetle infestation and wildfires, said Joshua Zaret, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

    Homebuilders aren’t the only ones bidding up the price of wood. Quarantined families have been especially busy remodeling during the pandemic. This summer’s hurricanes and wildfires will also add to demand once the insurance checks start coming in.

    Slowing sales

    Builders can keep raising prices to stay ahead of costs, to a point, said John Burns, an Irvine-based real estate consultant. But some are raising them by as much as 2% a month, he said.

    “If that went on for two or three years, we’d be very concerned about affordability,” Burns said. “Every time prices go up, it’s great for homeowners and bad for the renter who aspires to be a homeowner.”

    Stocks of homebuilders have climbed in recent months as orders for new homes surge. The looming issue is that the demand for housing is outstripping supply at a time when construction has gotten more expensive.

    Lennar, the biggest builder by revenue, said it’s intentionally limiting sales to homes already under construction to avoid buying lumber at today’s high prices. The company says it’s trying to be patient, betting it can continue to hike prices to help offset the higher costs.

    “Sales could have been stronger with a singular focus on volume,” Stuart Miller, the company’s chairman, said on an Sept. 15 earnings call. “It is challenging at best to materially ramp production in this labor-constrained market, and it’s even more challenging to replace entitled land.”

    Wood shortage

    Alan Gerbus, a second-generation Cincinnati custom builder, is already in the hole on a house before he’s even started. He submitted a contract to his buyer in late June for an $800,000 house but his costs just for wood products jumped $25,000 by the time it was signed 40 days later.

    “The lumber supplier said he can’t honor that price,” Gerbus said. “I’m praying for the lumber prices to start falling by the time I’m ready for delivery.”

    Even if builders wanted to plow ahead, it’s hard to get wood these days. Robert Pool, co-owner of Main Street Lumber, a family business in Denison, Texas, that sells products to builders, said he had to turn down some new customers early in the lumber supply crisis because he wanted to be sure he’d have wood for his existing customers.

    Pool’s price for oriented strand board, widely used for roofs and siding, more than doubled to $24 a sheet in March, he said.

    “It hurts when you have to tell somebody no,” he said.

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