Crescent Communities steps up green, stewardship efforts

Charlotte-based developer Crescent Communities is increasing its corporate “stewardship” efforts through an initiative called Crescent Cares, which executives hope will boost the company’s business as well as help the communities in which it operates.

Crescent, which is behind prominent developments such as a new apartment building in Dilworth and a Whole Foods and office tower uptown, held its first Crescent Cares Day earlier this month. Employees volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, helping to build homes. The company’s initiative also includes environmentally friendly building practices and energy efficiency.

“For a lot of organizations, it’s kind of a greenwash,” said CEO Todd Mansfield. “For Crescent, land stewardship is really the foundation of this company.”

Crescent started as an arm of Duke Energy, managing the power company’s vast land holdings. Many of them ringed the lakes Duke built to service its power stations, and Crescent Resources, as it was called at the time, built large, upscale lakeside subdivisions throughout the region such as the Peninsula and the Sanctuary.

Since it spun off as an independent company, Crescent has become more focused on urban, infill and mixed-use developments. The company’s increased focus on sustainability and philanthropy aren’t designed solely to do good or boost Crescent’s image, Mansfield said – they also make business sense. For example, like most of the companies building office towers, Crescent is touting its energy efficiency and sustainability certifications as a key selling point for prospective tenants of its Tryon Place tower, planned at the Stonewall and Tryon streets.

“Our customers, without a doubt, want these attributes,” said Mansfield. “It’s gone from optional equipment, like whitewalls, to being absolutely essential...It’s just good business in that regard.”

Mansfield said demand for energy efficient buildings designed with environmental considerations in mind isn’t just coming from green-conscious millennial renters. Sophisticated lenders with deep pockets who finance projects are asking for the same features.

“Capital has begun to insist on those attributes,” said Mansfield. “That’s just a precondition for where they want to put their money.”

“There’s also a fear that if you build some property and its not state-of-the-art in terms of some level of sustainability, energy efficiency, wastewater reduction...There’s a feeling that you could end up with a product that becomes obsolete,” said Mansfield.

The company’s Crescent Cares initiatives is focused on three areas: The environment, education and providing shelter.

Jenny Vallimont, director of innovation and sustainability, said about 100 Crescent teams participated in the Crescent Cares Day in Charlotte. They helped a Habitat for Humanity house building event as well as at other Habitat sites, such as the group’s used bookstore.

“We wanted to link our associates into that effort,” said Mansfield. “A heavy emphasis of that is doing work in the community.”

“Developers are often criticized for what they do to community. For us its really a question of how do we provide leadership in the responsible use of land so the things we do enhance a community,” said Mansfield.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo