In March, the economic development agency Invest Newark officially launched the Newark Land Bank, an initiative championed by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka to improve the quality of life for the city’s residents.
Simply put, land banking is the practice of aggregating parcels of land for future sale or development. For Newark, this practice can play a major role in the city’s continued renaissance.
“This program is a powerful community wealth creation tool that allows Newark residents to invest in their neighborhood while investing in themselves,” Invest Newark President and CEO Bernel Hall says.
“The guiding principles of land banking are based around disrupting stagnation and disinvestment. [Invest Newark] can transact as if it is two private buyers coming to the table as opposed to a private buyer working through a city council, for example,” Hall explains.
He adds that this can cut down on the sales process from 12 to 24 months to between 90 and 120 days.
“That is extremely significant. One of the major deterrents for small community investors is inefficiency. They can’t carry [all the associated costs] as long as large developers. You create inequity in the system by having so much inefficiency,” explains Hall, adding that being able to attain properties faster is the key.
Additionally, in order to create consumer confidence, Hall says it is imperative to ensure the process of purchasing available properties is transparent at all levels.
“At all times, our [land bank’s] inventory is 100% visible to the entire world,” Hall says. “That boosts traffic of people who are trying to transact with the land bank, as well as gives the community confidence that we are making it an even playing field for everyone who is interested in buying properties.”
By visiting https://landbank.investnewark.org, anyone can check all the properties that are available via the Newark Land Bank. The hub gives property details similar to an online real estate site, shows how much time is left to submit an application, and shows how many people have “liked” and viewed the property.
“Vacant lots, abandoned buildings, undevelopable side lots – it’s all on display,” Hall says. “The goal is to make it as easy as possible. We are giving people the information and online access to minimize the pain of doing business with a public or quasi-government entity.”
At press time, there are about 1,500 registered users on the land bank website.
To Hall, it is about creating tangible, sustainable change. He believes that an indirect impact of the land bank will be healthy competition for properties, which in turn will create a system of sustainability.
“As we start doing this work, private developers are going to want to get out ahead of us taking options from them,” Hall says. “We get most of our properties from the city, and a lot of these properties would never come to the city [in the first place] because property owners will be more inclined to develop versus the city foreclosing on a tax lien.
“As we take up inventory, more people are going to rush to buy and develop inventory, so as not to incur a high opportunity cost of what could have been done in Newark to enhance business.”
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