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How Does Green Fit In?

Stuart Kaplan, Blank Rome's real estate development practice group leader, is profiled by Linda K. Monroe in the June 2008 issue of Buildings.

As you've undoubtedly heard, for Bentonville, AR-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., sustainability initiatives are changing the way this retailer will manage its future facilities. Wal-Mart's plan, which is being put to the test in two experimental stores in McKinney, TX, and Aurora, CO, is predominantly based on reducing the energy and natural resources required to operate and maintain stores. At the same time, the company and its project teams are committed to reducing the amount of raw materials needed to construct each facility.

Is this dedication to sustainability the norm among others in the retail industry? According to Stuart D. Kaplan, partner and real estate development practice group leader at New York City-based Blank Rome LLP Counselors at Law, "Retailers are certainly interested in the bottom-line objectives of operating green, particularly as energy prices continue to increase."

Kaplan does a significant amount of leasing work for both office and retail clients. Not surprisingly, he finds the most progressive green development occurring in the office sector, as building tenants seek spaces that address quality-of-life issues. "A lot of what's driving green is the moral issue of good citizenship," he adds.

Noting that, in terms of green compliance, retail developers are becoming more cognizant of the obligations and expectations that can be passed on to tenants, Kaplan offers the following advice: "It's important to know what your local jurisdiction can offer in [terms] of tax incentives, rebates, and even processing advantages for building applications. If you are, in fact, willing to develop green, there are benefits, but every state and local municipality is different."

He likens the green movement to the ADA and its initial enactment. "Building owners were scratching their heads, trying to figure out what the law meant and how to allocate compliance responsibilities between themselves and their end-users," says Kaplan. "Presently, sustainability initiatives are like that, too, and it will take some time for industry players to understand and adapt to this mindset."

Reprinted with permission from Buildings, June 2008.  © Stamats Business Media.  All Rights Reserved.