RES assists local governments and commissions with issues related to policy and program development as well as compliance with federal funding regulations and procedures.
Philadelphia Historical Commission
Assessment of the Financial Hardship Application to Demolish the Boyd Theater
The Philadelphia Historical Commission received an application of financial hardship from the owners of the historic Boyd Theater in downtown Philadelphia. The building, which has been closed since 2002, is the last remaining movie palace from the 1920’s with much of the historic ornate interior of the theater intact. The owners were requesting a determination of financial hardship so the auditorium could be demolished and the site redeveloped with a new eight-screen movie theater. The Commission retained RES to assess the merits of the application including performing a financial assessment of potential reuses for the Boyd. RES identified shortcomings of the application and created financial models to test redevelopment assumptions. We then performed sensitivity analyses to determine whether any redevelopment alternative could be economically feasible. Our analyses enabled the Commission to make an informed decision on whether the owner had accurately demonstrated financial hardship and should be granted permission to demolish the historic structure.
Philadelphia Land Bank
Strategic Plan Development
RES is part of a three-firm team led by Interface Studio that was retained to prepare the first strategic plan for the new Philadelphia Land Bank, scheduled to begin operations in early 2015. The plan will provide direction for implementing the goals of the state legislation and city ordinance forming the Land Bank; identify focus areas for acquisition of vacant tax delinquent parcels to supplement the publicly owned property in the Land Bank’s inventory; and present transparent, data-focused decision paths for use by Land Bank staff in considering potential disposition and acquisition options. The plan will also set annual targets for acquisition, disposition and maintenance. The consultant team held listening sessions with a range of stakeholders from the neighborhood development, real estate, and urban agriculture communities and worked with a range of city departments to identify the data series that would allow effective analysis of opportunities to place vacant properties back into productive use.
Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (URA)
Assistance with Tax-Increment Financing Due Diligence
RES has provided due diligence assistance for URA with three proposed tax-increment financing (TIF) transactions in the City. For a proposed Strip District financing, RES prepared an economic impact analysis and provided due diligence assistance in evaluating the transaction, working jointly with a financial advisor. Our role encompassed a review of market conditions influencing revenue projections including income projections and tax revenues that would be generated, along with absorption assumptions, and factoring these into TIF projections. For another TIF, Summerset, our scope of work was similar. For the proposed Almono development along the Monongahela River, RES prepared an analysis of the financial model for the mixed-use development project proposed, which includes residential, office, industrial, and retail uses. We prepared a summary report for URA on the likelihood that the proposed development would perform in accordance with financial projections. All of these TIF projects included large residential development components; the Summerset project addressed additional phases of this new residential community.
Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Urban Land Institute
Neighborhood Stabilization Program Technical Assistance
As a subcontractor to the Urban Land Institute (ULI), RES provided on-site needs assessments, training and technical assistance to recipients who received formula allocations of funding under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, or NSP1. Recipient cities and states must commit their funding within an 18-month time frame and many have had trouble with program rules and requirements. RES has assisted by participating in a day-long technical assistance program sponsored by HUD, presenting sessions on Eligible Costs and National Objectives and moderating discussions on the use of NSP1 funding for rental housing. During February 2010, RES conducted on-site evaluations of issues and problems faced by two cities that had committed low percentages of their NSP1 funds. Our evaluations highlighted problem areas and recommended ways to address them. RES also provided in-depth on-site technical assistance for another city to help obligate its NSP funding prior to the deadline. As a result of our needs assessments we were selected to provide follow-up on-site technical assistance, working directly with cities to provide in-depth training and ongoing assistance with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Urban Land Institute
Neighborhood Stabilization Program Technical Assistance for the City of Paterson
RES provided an intense program of on-site and remote technical assistance for the City of Paterson to assist local officials with obligations of their NSP1 funding. When RES began working with the City in late April, 2010, the City had only obligated 11 percent of their NSP1 funds and had a program design determined by RES, with HUD concurrence, to include proposed expenditures that were not eligible costs. RES worked with the Mayor, members of City Council and the Acting Director of the Department of Community Development to redesign the City’s NSP1 program, prepare a Substantial Amendment to the City’s NSP1 Action Plan, prepare a Subrecipient Agreement, and identify eligible properties in the City’s NSP1 target area that could be acquired and redeveloped. RES also helped to prepare a Developer’s Agreement with a developer/partner who is responsible for NSP1-funded housing construction and rehabilitation and we assisted the Subrecipient with requirements related to ongoing affordability. By the City’s 18-month deadline for obligation of NSP1 funding, which occurred on September 9, 2010 over 98 percent of funds had been obligated.
RES also helped Paterson with a number of challenges resulting from insufficient staff and a lack of training in CDBG and subsequently in NSP administrative processes and procedures. Issues that were addressed during technical assistance included internal communications among City staff and departments, problems with competitive bidding and procurement procedures, file maintenance issues, compliance issues associated with the utilization of federal funds, a lack of knowledge about NSP rules and requirements, and a complete lack of knowledge of the DRGR system. Paterson had filed no quarterly reports and staff did not know how to obligate funds. RES worked with staff to put a new filing system in place and to train staff to process obligations of funds and to establish a system to monitor NSP1 performance. We provided initial training for staff responsible for procuring subcontractors and assisted the City in developing a procurement process that would comply with HUD requirements. We assisted ULI’s DRGR experts to ensure that the NSP1 program design was accurately reflected in the DRGR system and to ensure that there was supporting documentation in NSP1 files to justify each expenditure. When the HUD Field Office scheduled a monitoring visit, we assisted with staff preparation essential to minimize findings and to address all findings that were identified. As a result of assistance by RES, a HUD audit of the NSP1 activities produced no findings and HUD has since allowed the City to obligate the remaining two percent of NSP1 funds.