2010-05-27 - Bernanke

May 27, 2010

Mr. Ben Bernanke, Chairman
Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20551

Dear Chairman Bernanke,

Cities across the country are struggling under the burden of a real estate mess caused by excessive development financed by the banking system. The Red Fields to Green Fields conference on June 16 in Washington will present a way to help solve this crisis, via completed studies by 6 cities and preparation from at least 5 others.

As you know, the commercial real estate problem is large and urgent. CRE values have declined over 40% with no recovery in sight. Real estate values have even turned negative in some of our cities due to excess supply, and some is now valued below the buildings’ replacement costs. Much of the CRE debt is under water, which will lead to a major wave of defaults, imperiling hundreds of small and medium sized banks.

Red Fields to Green Fields is an ongoing project to help address the commercial real estate crisis and associated bank failures by converting vacant commercial and industrial real estate into a combination of parks and land “banked” for eventual redevelopment.

Together with local governments, colleges, and universities, we are studying the impact of redirecting just a fraction of the trillions of Federal commitments from financial paper to the purchase of underutilized properties throughout America. The Speedwell Foundation, the City Parks Alliance, a national network of urban park and recreation leaders, and others have invested more than $1 million in these studies to date.

I would like to invite you and your staff to our 1-day conference in Washington on June 16, 2010 that will share progress that 6 cities – Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Miami, and Cleveland – have made in studying specific areas of their cities that would benefit from this approach, and quantifying the potential impact. Plans will also be developed for additional cities to be studied over the summer – Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, Hilton Head/Savannah, and Houston.

We encourage you to attend our conference next month to share your perspective and to learn what cities in various regions of the country are doing to address this urgent problem. Please let us know if you are interested, and do not hesitate to call with any questions.

Sincerely,

Michael G. Messner
Trustee, Speedwell Foundation
mmessner @ seminolecapital.com; (212) 838-6055

cc: Federal Reserve District Bank Presidents and Community Affairs Officers



Learn How Parks and Land Banks Can Help Our Cities, Banks, and Economy

City Parks Alliance invites you to participate in a presentation and discussion of Red Fields to Green Fields: Parks Solve the Urban Real Estate Crisis, a national study overseen by Georgia Tech Research Institute, on Wednesday, June 16, 2010, from 8:30 am - 3:30 pm at the Hotel Palomar, 2121 P Street NW in Washington.

The study is assessing the feasibility and impact of a national program to address the nation’s commercial real estate crisis and associated bank failures by converting vacant commercial real estate into a combination of park land and land “banked” for eventual redevelopment.

We encourage you to attend this meeting to share your perspectives and learn what various regions of the country are doing to address this urgent problem.

Six cities participating in the first phase of research – Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia and Wilmington – have identified specific areas of their cities that would benefit from this program and will discuss the potential local impact in quantifiable terms.

The report for metropolitan Atlanta concluded that such a program could:

  • create 2,850 acres of parks within the I-285 Perimeter and 13,000 acres beyond;
  • remove 50% of the land now for sale outside the Perimeter from the market;
  • transform the Atlanta real estate market;
  • spur existing park projects adjacent to the vacant commercial real estate;
  • create new green jobs immediately; and
  • provide a model that would be scalable on a national basis.

A public-private partnership in Atlanta has already secured support from political and business leaders and is working to raise capital for technically feasible and shovel-ready projects.

An agenda for the day is attached, along with background about the crisis. Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, will deliver opening remarks, followed by a discussion about the opportunities the Red Fields to Green Fields study has identified, such as job creation, economic development and environmental restoration.

The afternoon session will focus on financial and governance models for implementation and introduce second phase research partners – Detroit, Hilton Head/Savannah, Houston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.

We look forward to your participation in this important discussion.

To RSVP, contact Ellen Toups, ellen @ outsources.com. For more information, please contact Catherine Nagel, City Parks Alliance at nagelcatherine @ cityparksalliance.org.



RED FIELDS TO GREEN FIELDS
PHASE I RESEARCH REPORTS – PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hotel Palomar, 2121 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
Hotel: 202.448.1800, www.hotelpalomar-dc.com

Agenda

8:00 Registration/Continental Breakfast
8:30 Welcome, City Parks Alliance
8:40 Opening Remarks: Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs
8:50 Background Presentation on National Commercial Real Estate Crisis
9:00 Red Fields to Green Fields National Study, Georgia Tech Research Institute
9:15 Presentation and Discussion PART I: Opportunities and Emerging Themes from Round
One Studies (Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Wilmington)
12:00 Lunch
12:45 Presentation and Discussion PART II: Implementing Research at the Local Level
• FUNDING: Discussion about Land Bank Models, Center for Community Progress
• GOVERNANCE: Discussion about Public-Private Partnership Models
2:30 Lessons Learned from Round 1
3:00 Introduction to Round 2 Partners (Detroit, Hilton Head/Savannah, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix)
3:15 Next Steps
3:30 Meeting Ends



Red Fields to Green Fields Conference
June 16, 2010
Washington, DC

Presenting Studies of:
Atlanta
Cleveland
Denver
Miami
Philadelphia
Wilmington

Planning Studies of:
Detroit
Hilton Head/Savannah
Houston
Los Angeles
Phoenix
and more to come



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