Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read January 2021 — The COVID-19 health crisis stressed the importance of outdoor space, health, cleanliness and sanitation and clean air. It motivated virtually all segments of society to engage with Mother Nature. The heightened awareness of sustainability and resilience is likely to continue to influence real estate design, policy and business decisions in a post-coronavirus world. From developers, to city officials, to financial advisers, leaders in the Queen City recognize the importance of sustainability and its impact on the overall economy and quality of life.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of this shift will be evidenced by the return to the office setting, which is becoming more of a possibility as COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available. The return to the office will likely come with an emphasis on sustainability as air quality and open spaces continue to be in high demand.
One example of the move in this direction is Vantage South End, a two-tower, 635,000-square-foot mixed-use project developed by The Spectrum Companies. The first tower is scheduled to be delivered in early 2021, featuring Charlotte-based Lending Tree as the anchor tenant, while the second tower remains under construction. Featuring office and retail space, a boutique hotel, open green space and dedicated parking, Vantage South End’s open green space, balconies and touchless entry points are sustainable cues desired in a post-pandemic working environment. “Our vision for Vantage has always been for it to be a lower density project, as if it were designed with COVID in mind,” Spectrum Chairman and CEO Darryl Dewberry told Invest: Charlotte. “The strategy of including more space to allow people to spread out, with 18 different balconies, outdoor seating spaces for 700 people in a variety of indoor and outdoor ‘rooms,’ and a one-acre park really sets us apart. We included a state-of-the-art air filtration system, which was an upgrade at the time but now is what everyone is moving to,” he said.
Much like the development community, Charlotte city officials are also keen to bolster their sustainability efforts. In December, the city announced that Sarah Hazel will be the city’s first chief sustainability and resiliency officer, overseeing the city of Charlotte’s Office of Sustainability & Resiliency.
“The City of Charlotte recognizes that improving the environment and reducing our carbon footprint is fundamentally important to quality of life and essential to maintaining a vibrant economy,” the city wrote on its website. Through various sustainability efforts, the city aims to “become a model environmental community in how it manages energy, air, water and waste; lead by example by practicing environmental stewardship in City operations and facilities as guided through the Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP); seek and support collaborative and regional solutions to environmental problems; and analyzing data and applying technologies to reach our environmental goals,” the city outlined online.
As part of its sustainability efforts, Charlotte has met several key goals including implementing two new sustainable fleet policies and approval of a $1 million investment in EV charging infrastructure to create 90 chargers at city-owned facilities and $2 million in rooftop solar on city buildings. Also, the city won a Low or No Emissions Grant and is pursuing an E bus partnership with Duke Energy for a transition to an electric fleet, among others goals, the city reported on its website.
From Wall Street to Main Street, companies and investors are also making business decisions with sustainability in mind. “Investing in a way that has a sustainable impact and employs an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) approach is certainly not a secret anymore,” Epic Capital Wealth Management Managing Partner Edward Doughty told Invest: Charlotte. “COVID-19 has increased the awareness of ESG investing. There has been a massive inflow into that arena. With the presidential transition, there will be more of a push for clean energy. A significant number of the alternative energy stocks — fuel-cell battery storage, wind, solar, electric vehicles — have been the hot topic of the market throughout 2020, with an awareness of the environmental footprint businesses have on both a national and global scale,” he said. “It keeps gaining traction. One in every three dollars is now dedicated toward sustainable investing and ESG to date. It is emblazoned on the front of most big asset management websites. Entire corporate departments are now focused on it. It’s a big component of what we do at Epic Capital and we see it as an additional layer of due diligence when we evaluate investment opportunities for our clients.”
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