McCormack Baron Salazar Gains Two LEED-ND Certifications
- May 13, 2011
St. Louis, Mo.–McCormack Baron Salazar has achieved a sustainable building feat that no other real estate company can claim. With University Place, the affordable urban housing developer’s mixed-income residential community in Memphis, Tenn., having recently obtained the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development certification, St. Louis-headquartered MBS becomes the very first developer to receive the green distinction for not one, but two, completed neighborhoods.
In 2010, at two years old, Renaissance Place at Grand, a 512-unit, mixed-income residential development in St. Louis, became MBS’ first project to garner LEED-ND certification. “When we made the decision to register Renaissance Place and University Place for the LEED for Neighborhood Development program, we were acting on our 35-year history of always building in the right way,” William Carson, vice president of operations strategy and director of sustainability at MBS, tells MHN.
University Place opened in 2009 with 405 affordable and market-rate apartments and townhomes, as well as mixed-use offerings, all spanning a 30-acre site. In terms of elbowroom, the enclave provides an accommodation rarely seen in rental housing: units with as many as five bedrooms. “We recognize that there are larger families with the need for larger homes,” says Carson. And with the 118-unit Senior Living at University Place reserved for the elderly population, the property offers a multi-generational environment. “There’s a continuum of housing across all generations, which keeps families together.”
Qualifying for LEED-ND certification can involve factors ranging from a transit-oriented location to a green roof. University Place did more than meet the minimum requirements; the project excelled in such categories as Smart Location & Linkages and Neighborhood Pattern & Design for its proximity to local amenities such as stores, institutions, recreational options and public transportation. MBS also kept a focus on efficiency by maintaining the pre-existing water and wastewater infrastructure, restoring the historic street grid and pursuing a design that reduced unnecessary land usage. That was just for starters. During the building process, MBS employed environmentally sensitive construction methods, keeping brownfield contamination and pollution to a minimum.
A one-acre park kills two birds with one stone by providing a soothing and aesthetically pleasing amenity that is also a source of stormwater retention. Environmental friendliness is central to MBS’ development activities, yet the company is well aware that the green aspects of its projects may not necessarily take center stage in tenants’ eyes. “It’s a beautiful property,” Carson notes. “We build to market-rate standards, and we do it affordably. We’re proud of the fact that we have transformed a neighborhood with University Place. Traditionally, we are focused on what our developments do for people in the community.” However, he adds, residents are pleased with the savings that go hand in hand with certain sustainable features, whether they are aware of the source or not. “The beauty of the development is a key attribute, but one of the things that keeps people is the savings. They’ll say, ‘Wow, my power bill is only $25 a month.’ And people know they can take the bus to work instead of driving. They know it’s a safe environment, a wonderful environment.” Together, University Place and Renaissance Place operate at an approximate average occupancy level of 99 percent.
While MBS is at the forefront of LEED-ND certification, the developer is not planning to rest on its laurels. “Certainly, we have the opportunity for improvement,” he says. “As we take steps in our evolution, we’re going to have to do things to stay ahead of the curve.”
“The industry could be at this level. It should be at this level. Being at this level is not financially unattainable. For us, it’s a business imperative, but for other developers it needs to become a business imperative because, if they don’t come onboard, they’ll likely find themselves out of business. We’re looking at how housing is going to be built in the future in terms of basic requirements, and sustainable development is going to become city building code across the country. If you want to be a developer, you’re going to need to be a green developer.”