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SECAUCUS, NJ-A lot of the industrial development occurring in the US these days involves brownfields, something that’s especially true in older, more mature markets. A panel of experts addressed that topic at the RealShare Industrial East conference here yesterday, an event attended by more than 300 real estate professionals from across the country.

And while the urban infill and brownfield development process is fraught with tough issues, “we are attracted to brownfield sites because of their location,” Frank Petkunas, VP-regional development officer for IDI told attendees of the concurrent session. Most of those locations, of course, are in the middle of heavily populated regions with substantial W/D potential.

And beyond that, “we are also attracted to them because greenfield sites are rare,” Petkunas said. “Brownfields are an alternative to diminishing greenfields.”

And according to Petkunas, matters have improved regarding one of the nagging problems: “The liability issues have diminished. Also, people have gotten smarter.” And as far as the underwriting process, “we look at the structure of the deal. The complexity of the contamination is important, especially relating to time.”

John DiCola, a principal of KTR Capital Partners, a firm founded by former Keystone execs after the latter was acquired by ProLogis a few years back, concurred: “Uncertainty kills deals. There are so many complex issues. You need to figure out a credible remediation plan. It’s about assessing real risk vs. perceived risk.”

On the subject of environmental insurance, Michael Gill, New York regional manager for AIG, told attendees that “there are solutions” that might not have existed a few years ago. For any given deal, he explained that if it involves the sale of a piece of contaminated property to a developer, “we look at the motivations for the seller. We look at the type of due diligence. We look at the data relating to the contamination. We structure an insurance policy based on that–it comes down to the quality of the data.”

That data generally comes from the consulting side, and Richard Burrow, a senior associate with Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, explained that, “different consultants give different advice, and the quality of the advice is important. Buyers [of brownfield sites] are being asked to give more and more data in less and less time.”

“Time is money,” interjected panel moderator Michael Stingone, a partner in the law firm of Winne Banta Hetherington Basralian & Kahn. “You have to shift the various pressures around to get things done.”

Noting that any brownfields discussion by nature, including this one, tends to carry a negative tone to it, DiCola said, “ultimately, industrial development provides the remedy for these sites. Brownfield development should be part of the solution for these sites.”

“It sounds negative, because we’re talking about lessons we’ve learned,” Stingone commented. “We’ve developed the expertise and the tools to look at the more complicated issues.”

And ultimately, Petkunas concluded, “coordination is the key to the whole thing,” a reference to the teaming of such diverse participants as sellers, developers, consultants, attorneys, governmental bodies and contractors in any given project. RealShare Industrial East is produced by Real Estate Media, publisher of “Real Estate Forum” and GlobeSt.com.

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