Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

What is Urban Infill?

Posted by: Jim Normile, CRB, E.MBA, J.Y. Monk Real Estate Instructor
Updated: December 29, 2017

Revitalizing our Hometowns Article Series: Part I

This is the first in a series of articles detailing a North Carolina real estate broker’s perspective on saving our towns, making a difference, and creating a profit.

Series Introduction

How can our communities succeed and prosper in the 21st century global economy, without losing their sense of identity and unique natural and cultural resources? How can real estate professionals participate in the greater urban infill redevelopment cycle for profit, while still contributing to community branding (or re-branding) and facilitating local smart growth?

Many of our North Carolina communities were largely built on natural resource-dependent or labor-driven industries. Advances in technology and labor polices, as well as evolving business practices, have forced countless metro and rural areas to rethink, re-brand, and redevelop existing real estate and critical infrastructure. They approach economic development and job creation through urban infill development and redevelopment initiatives.

So, what’s in it for you as a North Carolina real estate broker? Let’s find out…we’ll start by examining urban infill.

Urban Infill

Urban infill, also known as urban infill development, is the strategic and channeled process of developing vacant parcels of land, and repurposing existing real estate or under-used parcels, within existing urban areas that are now largely developed.

Most municipalities have vacant land which, for various reasons, has been passed over in the normal course of growth, or possess vacant antiquated improvements to real property. Ideally, infill development is not simply the unsystematic development of individual lots. A successful infill development program should focus on the smart growth of well-functioning communities that either maintain the existing character of the town or create a new personality in order to foster fresh economic growth.

Successful infill development is characterized by residential and mixed-use densities, high enough to support improved transportation choices, as well as a wider variety of convenience services and amenities. It can create or return cultural, social, recreational, and entertainment opportunities and gathering places, while giving vitality to older centers and neighborhoods. Attention to design is essential to ensure that the new infill development fits the existing context and gains neighborhood acceptance. The process of infill development often means changing zoning laws to a more mixed-use environment. A cooperative partnership between the local government, development community, financial institutions, non-profit organizations, neighborhood organizations, and other resources is essential to achieve infill success.

Consumer preferences for the amenities that smart growth urban infill locations offer will grow as changing demographics affect the housing market. During the next two decades, the needs and preferences of aging baby boomers (82 million nationwide), Gen-X (41 million), Echo-boomers (71 million), Gen-Z (23 million), and one-person households will systematically drive real estate market trends. Urban smart-growth locations are likely to attract many of these consumers. These trends in the residential and commercial sectors provide local governments, real estate professionals, and developers an economic incentive to find solutions to the potential barriers of urban infill initiatives.

Jim Normile has worked as a broker, sales manager, real estate instructor, and co-owner of two franchise offices. He has listed and/or sold over 4,000 homes. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science, Real Estate, Summa Cum Laude, and Executive Master of Business Administration diplomas. He has been recognized as a Realtor of the Year, featured in Top Agent Magazine, nationally ranked in The Wall Street Journal Top Agents in America, inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame, and is the author of Responsible Influence in New Home Sales.