The St. Lucie Board of County Commissioners, the non-profit Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF), and Inland Green Capital LLC, are pleased to announce the first Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) project in St. Lucie County at Castle Antiques and Collectibles. Castle Antiques is the first PACE project in the City of Fort Pierce and the first commercial landowner to take advantage of the new energy and sustainability financing program. Castle Antiques is the third PACE project overall in the County, with the first two projects being for solar water heaters at the Adams Ranch in western St. Lucie County.
PACE is a land-secured assessment that property owners can voluntarily undertake in order to secure 100% upfront financing for assorted property improvements, including: (1) energy efficiency (e.g., HVAC, LED lights), (2) renewable energy (e.g., solar water heaters and solar PV), (3) storm resilience (e.g., roofs, doors, windows, hurricane shutters), and (4) water conservation projects. PACE is available to all non-residential private and non-profit landowners in St. Lucie County, who have paid their taxes on time over the last 3 years and have equity in the subject property. PACE financing is collateralized by the equity in the property rather than through a credit check. PACE financing is not currently available for homeowners, but SELF offers small micro-loans for similar home improvement projects, and to date, has financed more than $4 million in 17 counties throughout the Sunshine State.
As background, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed PACE enabling legislation in 2010, and Leon and St. Lucie Counties were the first two local governments respectively to opt-in and develop their own local PACE programs. Dozens of local governments in Florida have since developed, or are beginning to develop, comparable programs, and some states, such as California, have already exceeded a billion dollars of PACE projects. Counties and cities play a vital role in facilitating the state-prescribed PACE program at the local level through the tax assessment and collection process but no taxpayer money is put at risk for these loans. The risk is borne by Inland Green Capital LLC, who is one of the largest PACE capital providers in the United States. Inland provides the upfront loan capital for St. Lucie County’s PACE program and then receives a small fee and interest earned over the term of the PACE assessments. Property-owners repay the assessments overtime as a part of their property tax bill, and the assessments stay with the land rather than the owner.
St. Lucie County and the non-profit SELF organization have collaborated for several years to create and customize the local PACE program. SELF also helped secure the PACE capital provider from Chicago and administers the program for the county.
St. Lucie County Administrator, Howard Tipton, said, “The county played a strategic role in developing these innovative financing programs because they serve as an economic engine that can help property owners finance major redevelopment projects throughout St. Lucie County, including underserved communities.” St. Lucie County Commissioner and former SELF Board member, Chris Dzadovsky, said, “I know from firsthand experience that these programs can help revitalize communities, one house and business at a time, and create jobs and greater efficiencies in the process.” SELF’s Executive Director, Doug Coward, said, “St. Lucie County now has some of the most robust local clean energy financing programs in the nation, and we hope more property owners will take advantage of these cost-effective financing options.”
Castle Antiques is the first commercial landowner in St. Lucie County to proceed with PACE financing, and owners Omar Castillo and Elizabeth Mendez are using the funds to install new high-efficient LED lighting and an energy star HVAC system. The owners are upgrading an older building on U.S. Highway #1 in Fort Pierce, expanding business operations therein, creating jobs during and after construction, and attracting new clientele from the region. Mr. Castillo said, “We are fortunate to have the PACE program available to help us finance a major capital project and grow our family business.” Castle Antiques will benefit directly from the increased retail space and property equity, as well as from the reduced operating costs provided by more energy efficient products.
Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson noted, “PACE financing is an important tool for community revitalization projects and an ideal option for a centennial city such as Fort Pierce.” She added, “I want to thank St. Lucie County and SELF for creating these innovative programs, and I hope Castle Antiques is the first of many local businesses to utilize PACE.”
Mark Pikus, Senior Vice President with Inland Green Capital LLC, said, “We are very pleased to be working with St. Lucie County and SELF to create these new PACE financing options for the local community, and we are excited about the Castle Antiques project in the City of Fort Pierce.” He added, “Inland Green Capital is one of the premiere capital providers in PACE nationwide, and we are staunch proponents of PACE as a vehicle to fund energy efficient and sustainable improvements.”
For more information about SELF, please visit www.solarenergyloanfund.org or call (772) 468-1818. To learn more about St. Lucie County, please call Erick Gill at (772) 462-1791 or visit http://www.stlucieco.gov/. To learn more about Inland Green Capital, LLC, please call Mark Pikus at (630) 645-3795 or visit www.inlandgreencapital.com.