Smart Growth Fund Invests in Properties in Urban Areas and Greens Them

Gwen (Wendy) Rowden (pictured) recently stepped into the role of managing director of Jonathan Rose Cos.’ Investment Practice. In this capacity she will manage the Smart Growth Investment Fund I, LP, the country’s first green real estate investment fund to focus exclusively on providing superior economic returns through the creation of an American portfolio of green real estate assets in smart growth, mass transit accessible locations. Most recently, Rowden served as vice president, general counsel and secretary of Rockefeller Group International Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s Mitsubishi Estate Co. She talks to MHN Online News Editor Anuradha Kher about the fund and the kind of investments it has made. MHN: Can you tell us a bit about the Rose Smart Growth Fund? Rowden: The Rose Smart Growth fund was launched in 2005 as a green real estate fund focused on investing in existing properties and greening, repositioning and redeveloping them with an eye toward getting solid returns for our investors. MHN: Are they private investors?Rowden: Yes. MHN: Where does the fund make investments?Rowden: We look to invest in properties located in urban areas, close to mass transit and that present a walkable lifestyle. They could be office, mixed-use or multifamily. We do not invest in industrial real estate. The key screening test is the proximity to transit.MHN: What will the fund do with these properties?Rowden: When we acquire a property, we leverage the expertise we have from our development division to devise plans for greening the property and then manage, redevelop and reposition them. In case of multifamily properties, we enhance their curb appeal and make them healthier for residents.MHN: How many investments has the fund made so far?Rowden: We have six investments so far. Two of our most recent investments were in affordable housing projects in Harlem, N.Y.MHN: Any particular region where the fund will find more investment opportunities?Rowden: No, we are a national fund and want to have regional diversity.MHN: How is the downturn affecting the fund?Rowden: It is in fact providing us with opportunities. We have always had conservative underwriting criteria, but since we have invested in affordable housing, we have had access to some subsidized financing. For 2009, we have money to invest and we are evaluating deals. Of course, because of the downturn, our pricing expectations have changed.MHN: You stepped into the role of managing director of the firm’s investment practice recently. How is that going?Rowden: Yes, I joined in January this year and it has been great since. I have always had keen interest in the environment and what is going on with the planet; but, I never thought I’d be able to use my professional skills to do some good. I look forward to helping the company make important real estate investments—investments that are good in every way: profitable, contributing to the greening of America and its building stock, and setting a standard for other companies to follow across the country.