301 E Greenbriar Lane

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DALLAS—There have been very few national studies of urban vacantlots, but not for lack of trying. Widespread inconsistencies inproperty classification and data management make it very difficultto put together a comprehensive record.

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However, a recent study of 25 US cities with the highest urbaninfill development potential was undertaken by CommercialCafe. The study wasbased on total developable vacant land available in each city's central business district.

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The study found that vacant lots sized 0.5 acres or more amountto a total of 584 acres—that's urban core property with noimprovements that could fill roughly 442 NFL-standard-size footballfields. CommercialCafe also discovered that some of the least denseurban cores have recorded the slowest development activity duringthe past five years, while developers have been significantlybusier in the more tightly packed city downtowns.

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The research showed that major metros in the South, West andSouthwest have the most vacant lots in urban cores. While it is notsurprising that these cities have utilized the advantages ofspacious geography to expand boundaries outward, it invites theobvious question: why the sprawl if there is still plenty ofpotential to reinvest in the city core? The answer to that may bemore complex than meets the eye, but a look at the numbers shedssome light.

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In the South, Texas is king—208 acres of undeveloped land arescattered across the central business districts of Dallas, Austin,San Antonio and Houston. The least dense CBD in Texas, as well ason the 25-city list, is Dallas, with vacant lots in the urban coreadding up to 86 acres. During the past five years, 8.5 millionsquare feet of property has been built in the Dallas CBD. RecentDallas developments included housing, office space, parking, retailand hotels.

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“Earlier this month, the Dallas City Council acted on thepressing need to prioritize housing, and voted 15-to-0 on thecity's first comprehensive housing policy,” Ioana Ginsac ofCommercialCafe tells GlobeSt.com. “The policy aims to addresshousing inequity by ensuring that a good deal of the citywidehousing stock serves families at 30% to 120% of Dallas area medianincome and housing segregation by setting annual housing productiongoals in order to create and maintain available and affordablehousing throughout the city. With unimproved land scattered acrossthe Dallas CBD alone, enacting well thought-out urban developmentpolicies can only benefit the local economy in the comingyears.”

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Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown is an editor for the south and west regions of GlobeSt.com. She has 25-plus years of real estate experience, with a regional PR role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications position at MMI. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.