Best Strategies for Leveraging Public Land to Catalyze Private Investment Are Explored In New Urban Land Institute Report

For more information, contact Trish Riggs, 1-202-624-7086;

LONDON (November 9, 2010) — The key role that public land and public land holdings play in attracting private investment in urban areas is explored in a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global research and education institute dedicated to responsible land use.

According to Leveraging Public Land to Attract Urban Investment, the potential of public property to leverage economic development is too often squandered due to the lack of a strategy for effective public land management. “Public land is an important resource in many cities, but it is caught in a low investment and low return equilibrium with sub-optimal uses…For cities seeking to raise their rate of investment, public land is potentially an underutilized resource, especially when public finances are tight,” says the report, published by ULI Europe, which serves ULI’s members throughout Europe.

Leveraging Public Land is based on the conclusions of a workshop sponsored earlier this year by ULI Europe’s Urban Investment Network. The network, developed in collaboration with leading European cities, institutions and private sector organizations, aims to foster an ongoing dialogue between public- and private- sector leaders on ways to bridge investment gaps and overcome urban development challenges.

“Public land in cities can be a great asset for urban investment, but it could also be a deterrent to investment if it is not used optimally. ULI’s reports play a key role in promoting the understanding of European city development dynamics, both for cities and for investors,” said ULI Europe Chairman Alexander Otto, chief executive officer, ECE Projektmanagement G.m.b.H. & Co. KG in Hamburg, Germany.

The report points to a variety of ways public land can be used to catalyze private investment, serving as a means to:

  • Plan and develop new functions and districts, and to establish longer term and higher value goals to certain land parcels;
  • Lower costs and boost returns to private co-investors in land or projects that are otherwise not economically viable;
  • Provide an equity contribution to a longer-term join venture with a private partner;
  • Assemble one or more parcels of land for development through a land swap arrangement;
  • Resource and deliver social and environmental infrastructures within a larger development that is commercially driven.

Several case studies of programs and plans in the report illustrate creative leveraging of public land: HafenCity in Hamburg, Europe’s largest urban development zone; the 22@ District in Barcelona, formerly derelict industrial land now being built as a compact city; Prospect Edinburgh in Edinburgh, which seeks to regenerate four key development regions; integrated province planning in Istanbul, a strategy to promote more balanced development patterns; the ground lease system in Amsterdam, a century-plus-old system being revisited to ensure the best outcomes for the city’s development ventures; Paris and the Ile De France region, which seeks to factor in environmental concerns in future development and to reorganize the public transportation system; and the Olympic Park Legacy in London, which seeks to maximize use of the publicly owned land on which the Olympic Park is being constructed.

The report includes ten principles for the most effective leveraging of public land:

  • Public leadership is the key;
  • Get the fundamentals clear;
  • Land ownership is not enough;
  • Manage the interface with the private market;
  • Understand and be responsive to the business cycle;
  • Innovate and solve problems;
  • Develop templates that can be used more than once;
  • Adopt a realistic approach for a leveraging strategy;
  • Pick the right partners; and
  • Sell the success of public and private collaboration

“Public land in cities can be a great asset for urban investment, but it could also be a deterrent to investment if it is not used optimally; or is allowed to undermine market-led investment,” the report says. To achieve higher investment and better internal and external rates of return, it’s important to “marshal public land under the supervision of one public body, and use the land planning process to help create public and private value on the land.”

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute ( is a nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 30,000 members worldwide representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.