The Rise of Sustainable Real Estate
Dan Neyer, president and CEO of Neyer Properties
Photography provided by Neyer Properties
It’s been a busy two years for Neyer Properties. Scratch that. It’s been a busy two decades.
The Cincinnati-based commercial real estate company has been dedicated to transforming the landscape of Greater Cincinnati’s communities since the company’s founding in 1995. In the 20 years since, Neyer has developed more than 3,000 acres of land and hundreds of projects totaling over $1 billion in construction and development.
Neyer’s commitment to adding value to its acquired property assets in the form of both utilitarian and environmentally sustainable improvements has had a dramatic impact – perhaps even an incalculable one. The company’s dedication to business practices that are not only excellent but also ethical is apparent.
Apparent, too, is the company’s tremendous impact on the revitalization of Greater Cincinnati. Neyer engages local and regional leaders, economic development officials and local, state and federal agencies to provide the most innovative combination of equity, loan and incentive programs for each project and client.
Commuting to work in the morning or driving downtown for a bite to eat at night, odds are you pass a property that Neyer has impacted. And the odds of that have increased greatly over the past two years, because the company’s been on a bit of a spree.
Last fall, Neyer expanded its real estate holdings with the purchase of two Blue Ash office buildings for $7.8 million, the company’s 10th acquisition since 2012. In December 2014, TriHealth broke ground at Neyer’s Keystone Parke along Interstate 71 and Dana Avenue on a new 60-bed rehab facility. And in March of 2015, Gorilla Glue announced that it had closed on the purchase of Gateway 75 for $22.3 million.
All these moves were orchestrated at Neyer’s corporate offices at Keystone Parke. Constructed several years ago, the offices are an example of the company’s commitment to sustainable solutions.
“This building was finished in 2008 and was the first privately owned office development in the Tristate region that received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification,” says Dan Neyer, president and CEO. “We also obtained LEED Gold certification for our space.”
LEED is a voluntary program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. When someone from the organization came to verify the Keystone Parke building, they were checking for energy efficiency and verification that the products used met LEED standards. For example, according to Neyer, they checked the glue that was used for the tiles in the lobby and the paint on the walls to make sure there were low or no toxic chemicals contained in the products.
“Typically paint would have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in it. You hear a lot of people talk about the new car smell, but what people are really smelling is the VOCs,” Neyer says. “It might smell good, but it’s not good for you.”
In fact, according to Neyer, the number of sick days that employees of Neyer Properties have taken in the relatively new building has dropped more than 40 percent from the number taken in the company’s previous building, which did not have the green features.
“It’s clean living and it’s eliminating those toxins in the air. You spend most of the hours you are awake in an office building if you work in one, so it might as well be clean,” Neyer says.
The green features of Keystone Parke provide water efficiency, energy efficiency and a better indoor air quality. By installing high-efficiency, low-flow automatic fixtures, water consumption was reduced by 40 percent, which likewise reduced the burden on the municipal water supply. The building was also made from 30 percent recycled content, while maintaining well-insulated wall cavities to save on energy. Moreover, the walls were designed to have low-emitting sealants, paints and coatings and carpets and wood products to ensure healthier air quality.
As sustainable construction techniques have become more prevalent, the cost of these features has accordingly declined. Green doesn’t necessarily correlate with added expense now that processes have been broadly scaled. Companies that choose to build these features into their construction projects now save on long-term energy overhead without incurring a prohibitively high up-front expense.
“When we built this building in 2008, it cost an additional 3 percent of the total cost. And most of the cost is in the commissioning, or verification of what was installed, especially with the mechanical system,” Neyer says. “Now we’re finding it’s less than 1 percent additional cost because most manufacturers have endorsed building green and are carrying green products. For example, the tile in the lobby is from recycled materials. It’s very common right now.”
Since it’s becoming more commonplace to build green, the last four years for Neyer Properties has have focused on the acquisition and redevelopment of existing buildings to update and add green features. On top of the 3,000 acres that the company has built from the ground up, they have purchased about 3 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space for these specific purposes.
“In all those cases, we buy existing buildings where we can create and receive value. Typically the building needs to be updated from the aesthetic and obsolescence standpoint, but we also incorporate green features into our overall design and operating plan,” Neyer says. “In our experience, we’re able to improve energy efficiency by roughly 25-30 percent in those buildings.”
By improving existing buildings, Neyer Properties also hopes to increase the value of real estate in neighborhoods, which “helps property values for everyone in the surrounding areas,” Neyer says.
Neyer has always been committed to helping neighborhoods in Greater Cincinnati. Since founding Neyer Properties, the 30-year veteran of real estate development has been involved with many different organizations. One the company has worked with for the past seven years is called Working in Neighborhoods (WIN), on whose Board Neyer has served for two decades.
WIN benefits homeowners in neighborhoods like Winton Woods and Northside, where they believe homeownership will stabilize the community. The organization works to purchase and redevelop existing homes, find lenders to provide a loan for the homeowner and educate the potential homeowner on how to own and maintain a home over time to retain and increase the value.
“For the last seven years, we have worked with WIN to pick a home that needs significant remodeling,” Neyer says. “All the employees go to the home in one day and work to make changes, whether it’s putting up new fencing or mending a leaky roof, doing electric work or landscaping ... you’d be surprised how much work 20 energetic, hardworking people can do in one day.”
Staying with the theme of working from the ground up, Neyer Properties also plants a garden every year on the Keystone Parke property called Keystone Community Garden. Here, many employees of Neyer Properties and other volunteers work to plant a 60-foot by 90-foot garden of different fruits and vegetables such as peppers, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes. The intent is to send as much produce as possible to a soup kitchen in the area. In 2012, for example, the contents of the garden were donated to the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) Kitchen and Walnut Hills Kitchen and Pantry.
“We enjoy bringing the community together here on the Keystone Parke campus to plant fruits and vegetables. We usually end up donating 800 to 1,000 pounds of food each year,” Neyer says.
Constructing a better Tristate always seems to be the focus for Neyer Properties. Neyer stays on top of current trends to ensure they construct the best and most efficient buildings in the region. For example, they are active in organizations such as Urban Land Institute (ULI) and National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). The company’s employees are also passionate about what they do, which makes staying modern easier.
“We live, breathe and eat commercial real estate. All of our people are out and about, not just regionally, but nationally. That’s important because you might hear about trends on the coast before you hear about them in Cincinnati,” Neyer says.
But no matter what new trends come to the area, Neyer still knows it’s important to remain true to the ageless beauty of Cincinnati.
“We are committed to transforming the landscape of the region and we use commercial real estate as a means to do that,” Neyer says. “Through our commitment to that initiative, we hope to keep the timeless architecture of Cincinnati. Hopefully we’ve demonstrated that in Keystone Parke and our other buildings, while still transforming neighborhoods for the better.”
Neyer Properties is located at 2135 Dana Avenue, Suite 200, Cincinnati, OH 45207. You can reach them at 513.563.7555 or visit their website at www.neyer1.com.