The Urban Land Institute is an independent global nonprofit with over 40,000 members representing the entire spectrum of real estate development and land use discipline. Since 1947, they have been organizing Advisory Services panels to support local governments address challenging real estate and land use issues facing their communities. Panels bring together the best and brightest from ULI’s diverse membership—developers, planners, financiers, market analysts, economists, architects, designers, and public officials—to provide practical solutions and objective advice not available from any other source.
Sarah Sieloff, CCLR’s Executive Director, was selected for her land use and brownfield redevelopment expertise to join a 10-person ULI Service Advisory panel in Georgetown, South Carolina. The panel was convened to assess and recommend redevelopment options for a 150-acre waterfront site that included a decommissioned Arcelor Mittal steel mill and the Port of Georgetown.
The Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments, Georgetown County and the City of Georgetown had been working together on plans to re-purpose the Arcelor Mittal site in a way that revitalized the local economy and supported changes in land use. The Regional Council, County and City welcomed the insights of the ULI Advisory Services Panel, which functioned exclusively in a consultative capacity.
Some local constituents lobbied to return the Arcelor Mittal site to the traditional heavy industrial purpose it used to serve, but after a week of talking to local residents and government employees, walking Georgetown’s streets, studying its demographics, and learning its history, the panel recommended that the land be repurposed for mixed commercial and residential use and capitalize on the attractiveness of the port and waterfront areas, which sit next to the city’s Historic District. Central to the Panel’s recommendation was incorporating open space into the redevelopment as a destination that would lure visitors and prompt economic development.
The ULI panel began the task of coming up with recommendations by holding a town hall style meeting at the beginning of the week where the public gave input. The following day, the panel met face-to-face with more the 125 members of the community to receive their thoughts about the future of the property. The panel also conducted a survey. Its work culminated in a presentation of findings and recommendations to a packed audience in Georgetown's Winyah Auditorium on Sept. 23, 2016. A video of that presentation can be viewed here.
The panelists acknowledged that completion of the transformation of the site could take 20 years and recommended building coalitions or public-private partnerships to finance the purchase of the property and steward the project. Sarah’s expertise in land policy and brownfield redevelopment was critical in providing the other panel members and the community perspective about the possibility that the site could be contaminated based on its legacy use as a steel mill, which would require assessment and remediation prior to redevelopment. She emphasized that the remediation process, as with other steps in the redevelopment process, needed to be led by the Georgetown community, and explained the necessary site assessment and planning stages and timelines involved for each phase.
ULI's official summary of the panel can be reviewed here.