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The Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the UNC School of Government is a group of developers, designers, and experts in the fields of development finance, law, planning, and public engagement that works across the state of North Carolina to create win-win partnerships between local governments and private developers.

Since its founding in 2011, DFI has partnered with more than 75 cities and towns to design and attract investment for development projects that accomplish local goals. Its clients include some of the state’s largest cities as well as its smaller towns. DFI is particularly engaged in North Carolina’s booming metro areas, with five projects now in progress in the greater Charlotte and three in the Raleigh-Durham area. DFI performs a unique pre-development process which includes in-depth market, site, and financial analyses; identification of development partners; and guidance on structuring public-private partnerships. Through this process, local governments create attractive investment opportunities with transformative impacts for their communities.

The four-part DFI Pre-Development Process results in a recommended program (uses, associated square footage, and parking) and public participation structure for each of our projects. Once the local government client has endorsed these recommendations, DFI actively recruits developers to respond to the solicitation, similar to a request for qualifications or request for proposals. All project research is summarized in the solicitation, along with requirements to be included in responses, and the timeline and criteria for evaluation of responses.

Opportunity Zones

DFI currently has eight pre-development projects in Opportunity Zones, valued at $800 million at full build-out, and is working with another eight communities with Opportunity Zones in their jurisdictions. DFI projects are especially well-suited for Opportunity Fund investors. As compared to other investments, real estate investments tend to have lower risk and longer hold periods, making them especially well-suited for the incentive structure of the Opportunity Zone program. DFI projects are unique in that they are locally initiated and have strong local support. Investments in such projects are more likely to have positive impact in the communities that need them most.

DFI Client Communities with Opportunity Zones

Boone Brevard Concord Durham
Gastonia Greenville Hendersonville Hickory
Kannapolis Kinston Lenoir Morganton
New Bern Rocky Mount Sanford Wilson

Investors interested in community-driven projects should contact Marcia Perritt at