Difference between development and redevelopment

by Kevin

Visitor Question:What is the difference between development and redevelopment? How can I know which is which?

Editors' Reply:
We should point out that this is really most a matter of language. If it is a legal matter, the applicable state or local law certainly will give you some guidance.

Having said that, let's start with the common meaning of redevelopment, which means developing again.

Granted, most of what we call real estate development probably means building somewhere that human beings have constructed buildings before, but not since records were kept by the current inhabitants.

When we speak of redevelopment, we do not necessarily mean that there was no building on the land at all previously. Instead, we mean that either the land was vacant, and we are filling it in with buildings (said to be creating "infill") or that the previously existing buildings were demolished or partially demolished and that now someone wants to construct something new.

Sometimes the line is a bit blurry between major "rehabilitation" or just "rehab" of a building and "redevelopment." Commonly when people speak of redevelopment, they mean that either the previous buildings have been demolished or destroyed, or that the exterior of the buildings was at least substantially reconfigured if not completely changed.

Redevelopment usually carries the connotation that the previous land use was either obsolete, in poor condition, or perhaps a brownfield showing signs of real or perceived environmental contamination. This is not necessarily the case, but usually at least those who are proposing the redevelopment are trying to make the case that it is necessary to do something different at the site instead of simply refurbishing what is there now.

Usually when people talk about development, they mean that there were no structures on the land in recent memory.

But intelligent people could mix up the two usages. Our suggestion is not to be too worried about it unless there are legal repercussions. Sometimes a different entity is in charge of regulation if something is ruled a redevelopment, and perhaps a different set of tax incentives becomes available for redevelopment. There is a long history of setting up specific local agencies to deal with the challenges of redevelopment.

As we have said elsewhere in our section on redevelopment, many investors find development on greenfields, or land that has not been developed previously, to be easier and faster than addressing the many challenges of redevelopment.

Just think of development as new construction on land not previously used for urban purposes, as least as far as is known. If someone proposes to demolish and rebuild, build on land where other structures stood within memory of the community, fill in a partially empty site to add density or intensity of land use, or substantially reconfigure the walls of buildings, think of that as redevelopment.

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