Eating Green

Restaurant’s development menu features several sustainable choices.

As commercial real estate professionals become more environmentally conscious, so do their developments with the ultimate goal to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design certification. With more sustainable resources available, green buildings are branching out to all sectors, especially retail. Commercial Investment Real Estate spoke with John B. Morris III, CCIM, president of Morris Commercial in Chapel Hill, N.C., about his experience working to develop the state’s first LEED-certified restaurant.

CIRE: Describe the Imperial Point and MEZ Restaurant projects and your role in the development.

Morris: Imperial Point, a joint venture between my company and the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, is a 20,000-square-foot specialty retail center located in Durham, N.C. The development is situated within the Imperial Center Office Park, which is in close proximity to the Research Triangle Park. The overall development includes 10,000 sf of small retail space including Starbucks, FedEx Kinko’s, and the 10,000-sf MEZ restaurant featuring contemporary Mexican cuisine.

My responsibilities included project feasibility study, development pro forma, negotiation of land acquisition, contractual agreements with general contractor, architect, civil engineer, and soils and material testing engineers. I also was responsible for securing acquisition, development, and permanent financing, development coordination, and the marketing and leasing.

CIRE: Why did you decide to incorporate sustainable features into the project?

Morris: The Restaurant Group was interested in designing and constructing the most energy-efficient and environmentally sound facility in order to minimize operating expenses while maximizing the experience of their customers. My partners and I felt that earning the LEED certification would gain attention and respect within our local market as well as serve as a strong marketing tool.

CIRE: What green elements are included?

Morris: While a few restaurants nationwide have received LEED certification, we are attempting to have MEZ become the first LEED-certified restaurant in North Carolina. The green elements in the development include features such as landscaping, hybrid-vehicle parking spaces, bike racks, and reduced heat-island effect with reflective roofing materials. Sustainable air quality elements include low and no volatile organic chemical coatings and paints and green flooring materials and booth fabric. Efficient energy-use strategies such as high-efficiency equipment, light-emitting diode light fixtures, and the use of daylight for interior spaces round out the final elements.

With all these green efforts combined, we hope to earn a LEED gold certification.

CIRE: How did the sustainable features impact the project’s costs and timeline?

Morris: LEED certification of the restaurant will end up costing approximately 3 percent to 4 percent of the total restaurant construction cost and has added approximately eight to 10 weeks to the opening date.

So far, the project’s financials have benefited from the participation of a student team from the University of North Carolina’s School of Environmental Studies along with reduced fees from other consultants.

The Restaurant Group also will benefit financially. For the short term there are marketing benefits and in the longer term, reduced operating costs and a better understanding of working on green projects.

CIRE: Once these developments are complete, what are your future plans? Do you plan on developing more green buildings?

Morris: I will continue to pursue LEED standards in future projects simply because I believe it is the responsible approach to development today. In addition, our local municipal decision makers are making LEED standards a basic requirement of development approval.