We are long-term partners to local governments

Unlike hired consultants, DFI makes long-term commitments to its local government partners, because it takes time to achieve big, important public goals that involve the real estate development process, the local political process, and the private sector. This is in our DNA: We are a program of the UNC School of Government, which has been advising, learning from, and partnering with these same local governments since 1931.

We make great plans. And we bring them to life.

DFI creates aspirational yet realistic strategies that are based on a thorough pre-development process that includes site, market, and financial analyses. Our objective is to find private developers that will compete to execute on these projects, and we are so confident in our process that we make most of our fee contingent on private development occurring. This structure assures our local government partners that DFI will remain focused on making projects happen, even as external conditions change.

We shine a spotlight on overlooked markets.

Local governments hire DFI because their community members want something more: activity downtown, better housing choices, new life breathed into an old building. DFI’s pre-development process can identify new or overlooked market opportunities. We then design projects that are locally-supported and attractive to developers and investors who may have never heard of, let alone considered investing in, your community. DFI helps communities tell their unique story in new ways, to larger audiences.

We design win-win projects.

DFI was founded to solve the communication gap between local governments and private developers, and our team of private developers and local government experts allows us to translate between the public and private sectors. We replace mistrust, misunderstanding, and frustration with concrete deals that align public and private interests, maximize private investment, and minimize public risk.

We empower local governments to be proactive.

DFI’s most noticeable deliverables are physical: new and reused buildings. But our most valuable products may be the local governments that feel empowered, and capable, of controlling their own development destiny. Our process is guided by local public interests, and our objective is to deliver a project that meets those public interests. The first thing we do with a partner is define the local public interests by spending time in the community, researching, and asking hard questions of officials and representatives. By doing this, our partners are able to say—after years of reacting to developer proposals—“Here is what we want.” This changes everything.

We understand private real estate developers.

DFI’s team includes several private developers who are actively working on projects around the state. This gives us unique insight into what private developers and their investors are looking for in projects. Our team also includes architects and designers, and experts in the fields of development finance, law, planning, and public engagement. When we encounter new, complicated issues, we engage our colleagues at the School of Government, who are nationally-recognized thought leaders.

We know North Carolina communities better than anyone.

In addition to drawing on nearly 90 years of experience at the School of Government, DFI has worked in 85 communities across the state since our founding in 2011. We’re sure we have not seen it all, but we’ve seen more than anyone else. And along the way, we’ve filled our rolodex with private developers who are eager to hear about our new projects. Our specialized experience helps us, and our local government partners, identify opportunities and anticipate unique challenges.