To learn how much public/private partnerships have evolved, one need look no further than a Massachusetts town more than three centuries old.
Quincy, Massachusetts, whose downtown has seen better days, is the focus of a new paradigm for redevelopment—a private/public partnership in which the developer is taking most of the biggest financial risk and could reap the largest share of the reward. What is better for the city is that in these lean times, Quincy is not fronting millions of dollars to transform its downtown.
In Quincy, a municipality that once thrived on money from quarries and shipbuilding, visionary Richard E. Heapes, principal in White Plains, New York–based Street-Works, is creating what he calls a new private/public paradigm—with Street-Works footing much of the bill.
Street-Works, a firm that creates mixed-use districts around public spaces, including Blue Back Square in West Hartford, Connecticut, aims to transform Quincy’s less-than-spectacular central business district into a mixed-use model for the future.
The unusual thing about the project is that Street-Works is putting millions of its own capital at risk. In years past, the traditional urban development model called for municipalities to fund infrastructure improvements and then turn over the land to the private sector. In Quincy, the city’s infrastructure improvements will be funded using income generated by development and parking garage revenues.
“Street-Works is accepting the upfront risk for permitting and building the public improvements, securing rights to all private land in the development area, guaranteeing a 4-to-1 ratio of private-to-public dollars in the overall project, and leasing tenant space in advance,” explains Heapes. “Once revenues start flowing from new additional taxes and public garages, Quincy would purchase the new infrastructure from Street-Works; the city already has agreed to borrow $289 million for this. By working together, the city and Street-Works can get financing for the public improvements sooner and more easily than either party could on its own.”