Florida’s resilience continues to be a growing practical and financial priority. Some 80 percent of Florida’s 22 million residents live within 10 miles (16.1 km) of the coast. The stakes from climate related catastrophes are high. Topping the list of costliest storms to hit Florida, in 2022 dollars, is Ian, at $84 billion, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As existing buildings age and population growth across the state invites continued losses, new sustainable solutions are needed.
Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida is a new town expected to have over 50,000 people at buildout. It’s known globally as being “the nation’s first solar-powered town” and showcases around 800 impressive acres of solar panels. The master-planned community is best known however for withstanding hours of sustained winds over 100 miles per hour (161 kph) when Hurricane Ian made landfall in September 2022. With homes and other buildings left mostly unscathed, residents were able to remain home after the storm, and the community welcomed storm refugees to its shelters.
Today many eyes are fixed on this sustainable new town including myself and Amanda Staerker, one of the project’s early contributors in the land design. Together, we toured Babcock Ranch and have shared with you some of the site visit insights.
The main contributors to this success of Babcock include new construction to Florida Green Build Certification standards, underground utilities, native landscaping, and a land plan that minimizes intrusion into the natural systems.
In a recent ULI article, Building for Resilience: How Newer Construction Homes Fared in Florida’s Hurricane Season, the CEO of Babcock Ranch, Syd Kitson, stated,
“Storm safety was absolutely at the top of our list…How could we convince people they could shelter in place? We knew if we did it right from the beginning, we could prove they could.”
Babcock has taught us that we can design for sustainable living by promoting walkability, alternative modes of transportation, and by embracing technologies that allow us to reduce energy. It has taught us that we need to work with nature and to re-introduce back into our built environments the ecology that provides a natural protection.
We had the opportunity yesterday to get together with the ULI Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). The event was called “Developing your Entrepreneurial Leadership.” It was held at Stantec’s office in downtown Miami. The half day ULI event included three parts: Panel Discussion, Case Study, and Speed Networking Roundtables. Lisa Neumayer, Chair of ULI WLI, kicked off the forum with a warm welcome and special thanks to Stantec, the main sponsor.
The panel discussion included three accomplished entrepreneurs: Arden Karson of Karson and Companies, Adriana Jaegerman of Stantec, and Jay Massirman of Rivergate Companies. It was moderated by Adam Greenfader Chairman of AG&T. The discussion included questions on education, creating boundaries between personal life and work, dealing with failure, opportunities to champion women entrepreneurs, mentorship, and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.
The live case study featured an interactive question and answer session with Amanda Staerker who shared her vision of transitioning from landscape architecture to the development of boutique Caribbean hospitality projects. The ULI team reviewed her business plan and collaborated in better defining her vision with several helpful suggestions for the expansion plan.
The day’s events concluded with a speed networking forum where all the panelist and participants had the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas, and share contact information.
Special thanks to Sydney Ramirez, Senior Director at ULI SE Florida/Caribbean and the whole team at ULI.
The Symposium was kicked-off by Scott McLaren, President ULI SE Florida / Caribbean. Scott spoke about the longstanding relationship and collaboration between ULI and the Puerto Rico Builders Association. He highlighted the work on the ULI National Advisory Services Panel on social, economic, and physical resilience in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. https://seflorida.uli.org/toa-baja-puerto-rico-panel/
Scott Maclaren finished his remarks by recognizing Vanessa de Mari, the new President of the Puerto Rico Builders Association and the first women president in the organization’s 70 year history. The Symposium was dedicated to this historic accomplishment. In attendance were some of Puerto Rico’s top government leaders. This included the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico, Manuel Laboy, COR3 Executive Director, Maretzie Diaz, Deputy Director PR Housing Department CDBG-DR, Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and in attendance, the Secretary of Housing of Puerto Rico, William Rodríguez Rodríguez. The keynote address by the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico’s highlighted the island’s economic accomplishments, the end of Puerto Rico’s population exodus, and the conclusion of the bankruptcy which was officially announced the day of the Symposium.
In the private sector, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, CEO, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon discussed some of progress of the island’s rebuilding after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. The reconstruction of the island was a constant theme throughout the day with specific examples of over 900 started projects.
The first panel, “Why Puerto Rico: Stories of Success, was a testament to the resiliency of the development community. Moderated by Andrew Carlson, SVP Country Manager, of JLL the discussion highlighted the historic growth of the island’s hospitality sector with the construction and/or renovation of over 3,000 new room keys from El Conquistador, Grand Reserve (formerly known as Coco Beach), Sheraton, AC , and many others. The panel included Federico Sanchez, President & CEO, Interlink Group.
Dan Kodsi, CEO, Royal Palm Companies, Rafael E. Rojo, President & CEO, VRM Companies. Also in attendance was Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico who highlighted the island’s impressive tourism growth (ADR and occupancy rates) during the Covid 19 pandemic and new expansion of tourism throughout all U.S. feeder markets.
As Puerto Rico seeks to build back its tourism and other industries, the financial sector will invariably play a major role. One of the goals of the Puerto Rico Symposium was to facilitate the conversation of growth in both traditional banking as well as new Fintech, IFEs, and other debt/equity players. Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, explained the ease of regulations and process for new financial institutions as Puerto Rico shares many of the same regulations of the U.S. states on the mainland. Ms. Zequeira also mentioned that International Financial Entities (IFE) can now participate in special opportunity projects.
Michael McDonnell, Executive Vice President, First Bank, that recently re-opened its construction division, was bullish on the island’s economic prospects and announced that the Puerto Rico will achieve positive economic growth (GDP) this year– something it has not done in over a decade. Banesco USA announced the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will invest more than $8.7 billion through ECIP in institutions across the country – Banesco USA is the only bank recipient located in Florida or Puerto Rico.
Over the last few years, we have all hear about the 80 billion dollars of relief aid that has been allocated to Puerto Rico and is coming. In the “Myth versus Reality panel: Federal Funding Opportunities on The Island,” moderator Ella Woger Nieves of Invest Puerto Rico helped lift-up the proverbial transparency veil. Manuel Laboy, the COR3 Executive Director spoke with detailed facts of the funding by agency with FEMA authorizing 5 billion for temporary work, 21 Billion for 9,000 permanent projects and 800 that are currently under construction today. He also discussed the next wave of over 900 projects that are currently under engineering and design. Much of this work will be channeled through CDBG-DR and the PR Housing Department. Maretzie Diaz, the Deputy Director PR Housing Department, explained the process for companies wanting to participate in the island’s rebuilding of housing and infrastructure. Mahdu Beriwal, Owner/founder of EIM provided first-hand knowledge of the rebuilding work in Puerto Rico.
Keynote Speaker Pamela Pautenade, Ex. Deputy Secretary of HUD, was also on hand to share her experiences about the collaboration with the Puerto Rico Builders Association during the 2017 hurricanes crisis. In a moving conversation with Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Mrs. Pautenade explained the dedication of the island’s public and private sectors and dispelled any rumors about misuse of relief funds.
Puerto Rico, like much of the Caribbean is in the process of bouncing back from the Covid 19 pandemic. Adam Greenfader, who chairs the ULI Caribbean Council had a high level sit down conversation with keynote Speaker Andrew Farkas, CEO Island Capital Group. The conversation was focused on social equity and specifically what role the financial sector has in supporting the region with a particular focus on sustainability, ESG, and helping economic migrants return back to their island homes.
In the last few years Puerto Rico has become known as blockchain capital of the world. While thousands of tech savvy individuals have moved to the island to take advantage of federal tax incentives they have inadvertently created a new economic driver for the Puerto Rico.
In our “Fintech & Financial Innovation panel in Puerto Rico, Moderator Nathan Whigham, Founder & President, EN Capital discussed the growth of this huge industry. Rodrick Miller, CEO, Invest Puerto Rico, explained what his group is doing to change the paradigm in Puerto Rico from selling tax incentives to focusing on the island’s quality of labor, education system, and proficiency in bio science and other innovations. Stephen Inglis, CEO, Importal explained his new portal to monetize tax credits and Yael Tamar, CEO & Co-founder, SolidBlock explained how her company is integrating real estate and blockchain.
After a marathon day of conversation it was amazing to see the room still full for our last panel “Growth Industries and Tax Incentives” moderated by Carla Campos and an all-star team including Jorge Ruiz Montilla, McConnel Valdez, Francisco Luis, of Kevane Grant Thornton and Rogelio “Roy” Carrasquillo, of the Carrasquillo Law Group. In this panel, specific programs like the Tourism Tax Incentive were explained in detail and there was robust conversation regarding how these incentives have created new jobs in manufacturing, life sciences, construction, and agro-science.
On behalf of all of us at the Puerto Rico Builders Association and The Urban Land Institute SE Florida/ Caribbean, thank you to all of the people and sponsors that made The Puerto Rico Symposium possible. We are all hopeful that together both the public and private sector can create long lasting sustainable economic growth.
For more information about investing in Puerto Rico visit our web site or contact us.
ULI partnered with Heitman, a global real estate investment management firm, to assess the potential impacts of climate change on the long-term viability of real estate assets. Derived from a series of interviews with leading institutional investors, investment managers, investment consultants and others, the report provides members with an inside look at how real estate investors are factoring climate risk into their investment decision-making and management processes.
ULI publishes this updated report amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. For many, it may feel as if the priority of addressing climate change is dissipating as we face the immediate challenge of COVID-19. Although it is still too early to draw conclusions about the long-term implications of COVID-19 for our cities and the real estate industry, such a wide-scale humanitarian crisis throws the connections between environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and our economies into sharper focus.
However, just as the coronavirus has exposed many weaknesses, it has also shown us that we have the ability to adapt and change our behaviors quickly and radically.
Globally, most major economic hubs are in coastal, river delta, or other high-risk areas. These locations present many advantages, relating to connectivity, trade, quality of life and placemaking. These cities house more than half the global population, with much higher percentages of residents in some regions. About 80 percent of U.S. residents live in cities, for example, 39 percent of the European Union population lives in metro areas with 1 million or more inhabitants.
In 2020 (as of October 7), there have been 16 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 11 severe storm events, 3 tropical cyclone events, and 1 wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 188 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2019 annual average is 6.6 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2015–2019) is 13.8 events (CPI-adjusted).
Many of the most economically powerful coastal cities face significant climate risk. However, these cities offer some of the most attractive investment environments, meaning that the risk is worth the return. “We have a dilemma that some of the most attractive markets are also markets that are affected more by weather-related risks,” noted one real estate investment manager. However, a few investors indicated that they are beginning to suspend acquisitions or take steps to reduce their real estate footprint in city markets where they harbor climate-risk concerns. The phases after a big disaster, according to one interviewee, were to see the market buoyed up by subsidies and insurance, followed by rebuilding and speculative demand. This short-term “sugar high” of disaster support, insurance claims, and opportunistic investment likely masks underlying negative and fiscal impacts that could be exacerbated by future climate-related events (or other shocks).
The research found a number of misleading correlations, such as flooding having a positive impact on cash solvency and fiscal health, and hurricanes increasing budget solvency. However, the current model of contingencies will not be sustainable with the expected increase in the frequency and intensity of climate change impacts, as well as slow-moving stresses such as sea-level rise, which further exaggerate the effect of peak events. In other words, a weather-related event has not yet adequately “shocked” the system of contingencies as to break it. However, the COVID-19 crisis may prove to be the ultimate shock to the system that breaks it. What happens when that “extreme event” is no longer a geographically or temporally discrete event?
“There are three big mechanisms through which costs are likely to increase going forward: one is insurance, [and] the second area is . . . tax rates and the third is cost of financing as banks start to cost the added risk.
Most interviewees also expressed overall uncertainty about future insurance prices and the likely market impacts of shifting insurance policy. In an extreme scenario, some investors envisioned a future in which properties could not qualify for insurance at all and therefore became ineligible for loans. The annual insurance pricing structure can underpredict risk for longer hold periods, as well as for the underpinning infrastructure. The approach also assumes the long-term availability of underwriting capabilities, in terms of the affordability and availability of products. If sites are unable to obtain insurance, they will not be eligible for loans, leading to major potential valuation consequences.
Long-term focus: In lay terms, catastrophe models simulate “thousands of versions of next year,” not “thousands of successive years.”
All agreed that valuation is currently lagging behind recognition of climate risk and anticipate this changing in the near future. Valuation does not incorporate climate risks because it is “backward-looking”. Models typically do not allow a user to modify future climate conditions, and there are no established best practices to apply insights from climate science to catastrophic hazard risk modeling. Valuation has become more urgent for investors considering longer time horizons. Some investors have also informally discussed properties having “expiration dates” after which they may no longer be safe or suitable for residential or business use without extensive investment in surrounding infrastructure.
Anticipating steep declines in building value because of climate impacts runs counter to how buildings are currently valued. In the current model, value is derived from the residual value of the land and structure, plus discounted cash flows over time that drive net present value and cap rates. However, if dramatic changes lead the value of the structure and land to approach zero, cap rates would change significantly, with a steep decrease in value after purchase, and would need to be offset with increased cash flow and profitability to maintain net present value.
Several discussed efforts to design risk mitigation strategies for vulnerable assets and price these costs into deals. Some also spoke about resilient design as presenting opportunities to differentiate assets and enhance value. For example, one interviewee said they were exploring opportunities to create a “resilience zone” for entire neighborhoods.
Parametric insurance, where insurance payouts are linked to when predefined event parameters such as extreme weather events are met or exceeded, is an emerging option. Industry leaders note that parametric insurance may become more widespread, but it is not an appropriate solution for all scenarios. The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) is one example of a regional fund. #heitman
AG&T is committed to being part of the climate solution. AG&T joined over a thousand leaders from local governments, businesses, universities, and other institutions across the country as part of the “America Is All In” joint statement. To learn more click here.
As the world struggles to return back to normal from the Covid19 pandemic, environmental concerns continues to loom as an area of great concern for world and the Caribbean region in particular. What strategies have institutional capital, developers, reinsurance companies and owners in the Caribbean pursued to protect their properties from climate-related risks? Do these resilience investments make business sense as a development objective? What has the capital market response been? And how have developers and property owners measured their success?
Jan Raes, ABN AMRO Global Sustainability Advisor
Esteban Biondi, ATM Associate Principal
Koen Waterstudio NL, Co-founder
Adam Greenfader, AG&T, Managing Partner
Topics to Include:
1. What is the capital doing about investing in resilient projects?
2. How are developers integrating resiliency practices into their projects?
3. The $ of Resiliency – Beyond the ULI Heitman Report
4. Aquatic Architecture: is it just a matter of Time?
The ULI Webinar has an incredible array of information crammed into 90 minutes and it gives a great snapshot for the many initiatives being introduced and planned to help the Puerto Rican economy and create more quality jobs. If I had to some it up in three words, Mo is back. Mo of course being momentum.
Each of the speakers brought a different perspective. Congresswoman Gonzalez Colon noted her primary mission is the reconstruction of the Island and to shephard the many supporting bills recently introduced in the US Congress. Former Governor Luis Fortuno brought an informed Wash DC think tank perspective, Adam Greenfader is one of Puerto Rico´s most passionate advocates, Andy Carlson of JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) brings experienced commercial insights from the world´s second largest public brokerage firm, Dr Deusch stated his case for the reasons he brought his Swiss/German manufacturing business to Puerto Rico because of a need for precision and reliability, while Noel Zamot has a finger on the ethical pulse of developing new business in Puerto Rico.
The conversations were upbeat and positive. For instance, Congresswoman Colon made a presentation on MMEDS which was introduced last month to Congress under the bill H.R. 7527. This bill provides tax incentives and tax credits for companies creating manufacturing plants and jobs in economically distressed areas in the US and its territories. The criteria for distressed is even stricter than the recent Opportunity Zone legislation passed in late 2017. When the Congresswoman showed the MMEDS qualifying maps there were smaller areas in very non desirable locations in the US whereas Puerto Rico literally had a much larger proportional area in some desirable locations. And she stated very clearly that MMEDS is one of the very few legislative items that is drawing bi-partisan support from both sides of the aisle.
The entire panel then weighed in on the competitive advantages that Puerto Rico has when competing with the mainland U.S. including much lower labor costs by as much as 60% lower in some cases, an experienced manufacturing labor force going back 100 years, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez which is a top 10% engineering school for the entire U.S. and which is very much geared to provide the engineering and chemistry talent to support Puerto Rico´s manufacturing base. That even today five of the top ten selling drugs internationally are produced in Puerto Rico and 12 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have plants in Puerto Rico. Luis Fortuno noted that Puerto Rico had more than $40 billion USD in pharmaceutical exports in 2019 but has the capacity to increase this substantially. The panel noted that some closed down plants are almost in turnkey conditions should manufacturers wish to return or expand capacity. It would not take much. Maybe a recession of the Jones Act, or at least an exemption for an extended period of time, might be the necessary catalyst. There are some interesting new developments on this front as was evidenced last week by Hawaii noting that 85% of their informed populace is all for rescinding the Jones Act as it costs that Island 1.2 billion USD in additional transportation and cost of goods fees.
Progress is being made on seeking some type of exemption under the taxing provisions of GILTI as it adds a 10%+ tax on profits for CFCs (controlled foreign corporations) which unfortunately applies to the US territories since the do not fall under the IRC (Internal Revenue Code). On May 1, 2020, Congresswoman Stacey E. Plasket, representing the US Virgin Islands, filed Bill HR 6648 – the Territorial Economic Recovery Act, that if becomes law, it will exclude our territories from much or all of the GILTI taxation, under certain provisions.
On April 3, 2020, Congresswoman Jennifer González, resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, introduced Bill HR 6643, the Securing National Supply Chain Act of 2020, to provide various tax credits to Economically Distressed Zones, including a tax credit on the amount of wages paid by an employer to employees in such a zone. The proposal has some overlap with HR 7527 noted above.
“The role of multilateral development banks (MDBs) in supporting the tourism sector in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
Conversation with with Rogerio Basso, Head of Tourism at IDB Invest and Adam Greenfader, Chair ULI Caribbean Council / Managing Partner AG&T.
* State of affairs of the tourism sector prior to COVID-19?
What makes this crisis different than prior ones?
What tourism players are doing to mitigate the impact of the pandemic?
Top three actions to better face this crisis?
Rogerio Basso leads all initiatives related to tourism in Latin America and the Caribbean for IDB Invest, the private sector arm of the Inter-American Development Bank Group. In his capacity as Head of Tourism, he is responsible for origination, investments and for executing IDB Invest’s tourism strategy in the region, offering a variety of financial instruments including debt, mezzanine and equity. Rogerio has executed numerous tourism transactions in the region spanning from hotels to conference centers.With over two decades of experience in banking, private equity, development, and strategy consulting within the hospitality and real estate sectors, Rogerio has held a variety of positions across top global firms, working across a variety of domestic and foreign markets, with a strong focus in Latin America. Prior to joining IDB Invest, he was CIO at Key International, a Miami-based real estate investment platform active across many industry sectors. He also served as EVP Acquisitions & Development for Terranum Hotels, an owner and operator of hotels across Latin America, sponsored by Colombia-based Santo Domingo Group and Sam Zell’s Equity International.
Rogerio holds a business degree from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.