By VALERIE WELLS Correspondent – Going green made funding possible for seven of developer Jerome Karam’s large commercial projects, most in Galveston County, with financing from a Connecticut-based lending firm.
“When everybody was saying no during COVID, they said yes,” said Karam, also a Friendswood attorney.
Greenworks Lending, which agreed to finance Karam’s projects, specializes in the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program. The national program provides building owners and developers access to capital when they agree to meet green-building standards.
Karam took advantage of the program in 2020 while rehabilitating old buildings such as the former Falstaff Brewery in Galveston by making all of them energy-efficient.
“Jerome is an early adapter,” said Sean Ribble, director of Greenworks Lending’s Mountain West/Texas Region.
Greenworks Lending is honoring Karam with its 2020 Visionary Award to highlight his adoption and championing of the program, closing the highest number of transactions as well as volume with the firm in the state of Texas, Ribble said.
This type of financing is for energy-related deferred maintenance upgrades in existing buildings or to support new construction costs. It’s also for projects that would make renewable energy accessible and cost-effective.
Karam has had trouble finding financing through traditional banks and has to get direct capital at higher rates, he said.
By going through the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program, he was able to get financing at what he calls incredible bank rates.
“It was a game-changer,” Karam said. “And it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The firm was able to provide direct capital financing for energy-efficiency and water-conservation measures for adaptive reuse and rehabilitation projects across Karam’s commercial real estate portfolio, Ribble said.
He noted projects such as the adaptive reuse of Mall of the Mainland, rebranded Mainland City Centre at 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway in Texas City, and the historical rehabilitation of the Falstaff Brewery into a storage facility, events center and what is to become the boutique Falstaff Hotel.
Yet another Karam project is the College of the Mainland campus in League City, a refurbished church.
Karam is upgrading these properties with more efficient air conditioning, better roof insulation and LED lighting, he said.
“Lots of lighting,” Karam said.
This type of financing, which can provide 100 percent of capital, is revolutionizing the industry, Karam said. But the commercial real estate and banking sectors don’t seem aware of it yet, he said.
“I couldn’t have gotten through this last year with the tens of millions of dollars in developments,” he said. “I’m proud that I’m involved with such large developments.”