By Heather Buethe, Hannah White, and Anthony Veerkamp
Preservationists across the country are working to get up to speed on Opportunity Zones, but trying to educate yourself can feel like taking a sip from the proverbial firehose. A Google search for “Opportunity Zones” turns up more than 800,000 results, but many of these are aimed at investors who stand to financially benefit from the tax incentive. There’s relatively little out there that considers Opportunity Zones from the perspective of local governments and advocates, still less focused on the incentive’s impacts on residents in the designated zones, and almost nothing about the preservation implications for historic resources.
Over the coming weeks and months, that will change. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and our subsidiaries, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC) and the National Main Street Center, are committed to informing and engaging preservationists through a range of outreach and education efforts. You can expect to learn more about Opportunity Zones from blog posts like the one you are reading and this one; through a webinar on January 17; and at the Main Street Now conference, which will take place in Seattle, March 25–27.
For the moment, National Trust, NTCIC, and National Main Street Center staff have scoured the internet to share a range of useful Opportunity Zone resources with you.
The Basics: The What, Why, and How of Opportunity Zones
Novogradac & Company Opportunity Zones Resource Center
This is a one-stop shop for all things Opportunity Zone. It includes recent news, links to the regulations and guidance, state-by-state information, and a mapping tool. Novogradac also founded an Opportunity Zones Working Group focused on identifying and addressing technical and administrative issues that arise from the federal Opportunity Zones incentive. This resource center contains information about that working group as well as a link for those interested in becoming members.
Economic Innovation Group Opportunity Zones Resource Page
The Economic Innovation Group’s (EIG) mission is “to advance solutions that empower entrepreneurs and investors to forge a more dynamic economy throughout America.” EIG developed the Opportunity Zone concept and has created a resource page that includes information about the Opportunity Zones Coalition, a group of organizations working to “ensure the timely and effective implementation of the Opportunity Zone” incentive.
CDFI Fund Opportunity Zones Resources Page
This page features useful lists and maps as well as links to IRS FAQs, the IRS Tax Reform Page, and the portal for commenting on the proposed regulations.
White House Opportunity Zone Executive Order
On December 12, 2018, the president signed an executive order establishing a White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to encourage public and private investment in urban and economically distressed areas, including Opportunity Zones. The council is charged with leading joint efforts across departments and agencies to engage with state, local, and tribal governments to better use public funds to revitalize urban and economically distressed communities.
National Development Council Opportunity Zones Webinar
The National Development Council’s (NDC) mission is to increase the flow of capital for investment in low-income communities. NDC hosted a webinar that attracted more than 900 attendees looking to learn about Opportunity Zones, hear examples of Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs), and gather strategies allowing states and cities to showcase their projects for potential investors.
Forbes’ Tax Geek Tuesday: Reaping The Benefits Of Investing In An Opportunity Zone
Real estate tax law expert Tony Nitti took a very deep, 10,000-word dive into Section 1400Z-2 (aka the Opportunity Zone incentive) and somehow managed to make it both informative and engaging. This is no small feat, given that “Section 1400Z-2 was, by all appearances, drafted by a sleep-deprived eleven-year old.” If you’d rather listen than read, check out the Opportunity Zone Podcast, which features guest interviews from fund managers, advisers, policymakers, tax professionals, and other foremost experts in Opportunity Zones. Tony Nitti was the guest on the first episode.
Examples from the Field: How States and Municipalities are Preparing
Council of Development Finance Agencies Opportunity Zones Report: State of the States
This report describes steps that states are taking to maximize the potential of Opportunity Zones. It details best practices from around the country for convening stakeholders, leveraging additional incentives, mapping assets, and encouraging impact and outcome collection.
A first-of-its-kind nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama's Opportunity Zones, Opportunity Alabama seeks to guide smart investment and generate meaningful impacts in communities across the state. Opportunity Alabama is working with a network of developers, entrepreneurs, and other institutions to find the best investable opportunities. It is connecting community leaders to put in place development strategies that will ensure that projects and communities can thrive together.
Opportunity Zones and shared prosperity: Emerging principles from Cleveland
This blog post from the Brookings Institution profiles a group of community leaders in Cleveland. Organized as part of the Shared Prosperity Partnership, they are working to ensure that private funds deliver sustainable investment in lower-income communities, rather than simply accelerate real estate development in neighborhoods where market forces are already strong.
The Potential and Pitfalls of Cincinnati's Opportunity Zones
This article from CityBeat in Cincinnati looks at the potential impacts that Opportunity Zones will have on the city's West End, particularly around gentrification and displacement in this historic neighborhood.
New incubation program opens to help social impact orgs ready for Opportunity Zone funds
In summer 2018 The Kresge Foundation, in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, released a call for letters of inquiry to social impact entities to explore establishing QOFs. This article describes Kresge’s $390,000 grant to Calvert Impact Capital, which will support the Opportunity Zones Incubator, a technical assistance program for social impact entities that are interested in or exploring taking a QOF to market.
Tools You Can Use: Models for Leveraging Opportunity Zones
Opportunity Zone Investment Prospectus Guide
The Nowak Metro Finance Lab is an initiative of Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. It has created an Opportunity Zone investment prospectus to help local organizations promote development in their Opportunity Zones. The site links to another prospectus, created by the city of Louisville, which can also be used as a guide.
Opportunity Zones: How Communities Can Leverage This New Provision to Jumpstart Investment
Law firm Akin Gump’s Opportunity Zone guide is aimed at local decision-makers. It underscores that states, cities, and communities with Opportunity Zones within their boundaries should take action now by providing complementary tax benefits, developing a marketing strategy that includes a targeted Opportunity Zone website, and partnering with major local employers and anchor institutions.
Opportunity Zone Explorer by Opportunity360
Enterprise’s Opportunity Zone Explorer maps Opportunity Zones, demonstrating their relationships to other federal programs and designations. Users can filter tracts by the Opportunity360 Outcome Indices to see where a neighborhood ranks on key measures of opportunity, including affordable housing, education, access to jobs, transportation, and healthy food.
Locus Opportunity Zones National Ranking Report
This first of its kind report ranks each of the designated Opportunity Zones based on its Smart Growth Potential as well as its Social Equity + Vulnerability Index score. This provides local policymakers and community groups a framework for ensuring equitable, inclusive development in Opportunity Zones. It can also help investors identify which Opportunity Zones should be prioritized based on their ability to deliver positive economic, environmental, and social returns.
Do you know of an Opportunity Zone resource that we’ve missed? Please share it in our free online community, Forum Connect.
Heather Buethe is the director of project management at the National Trust Community Investment Corporation. Hannah White is the director of outreach and engagement at National Main Street Center. Anthony Veerkamp is the director of policy development for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Research & Policy Lab.