Conservation groups cash in on cheap land

Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:27am EST
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By Ed Stoddard

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - When a property developer pulled out of a planned 65-home subdivision in Portland Oregon in 2008 because of the collapsing real estate market, a conservation group saw an opportunity.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a San Francisco-based non-profit which works to protect and conserve open spaces, bought the 27-acre parcel for $4.4 million, far less than the $6.2 million asking price when it was on the market in 2005. The land was then added to an adjacent park.

"The phone is ringing off the hook. People are looking to unload those properties and conservation is the beneficiary," said TPL's president Will Rogers.

"In this market, with demand where it is, a lot of these developments just don't pencil out. In many places we are seeing properties that were heading for development that are back on the market," he told Reuters in a phone interview.

The Portland acquisition is just one of many that TPL has made as it and other conservation groups find deals from the collapse in the real estate market that triggered the recession.

The environmental community has taken to calling it the recession's "green lining" and the immediate outlook for the building and construction industry remains bleak.

The Associated General Contractors of America said earlier this month that construction employment declined in 324 out of 337 U.S. metropolitan areas between November of 2008 and November of 2009.

"Spending on construction projects dropped by over $137 billion in November to a six-year low of $900 billion," it said.   Continued...