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PODCAST: Sidewalk Chief Alison Novak On Improving The Relationship Between Developers And Communities

Bisnow's new audio series, Bisnow Reports, examines every facet of the international commercial real estate industry — from the murky future of retail and office to real estate’s reckoning with diversity to the effects of climate change on the built world, and so much more. You can subscribe on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music, or scroll down to listen in your browser.

Alison Novak, head of Sidewalk Urban Development

Alison Novak runs Sidewalk Labs Urban Development, a commercial development advisory business that is part of Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. She sits down with Bisnow this week to talk about the way her company is working with developers across the country to create more sustainable and equitable projects.

The traditional way of doing development, she says, has to change. Projects are being canceled across the country as communities are becoming enraged during the development process.

"Developers are realizing, 'What we are doing is just getting more and more untenable.' The level of adversity between the developer and the community is getting so, so bad that it's hard to push projects forward that could ultimately be very beneficial," she said on the podcast.

Novak previously was an executive for New York-based developer the Hudson Cos., which builds mixed-income housing. Sidewalk Urban Development is working on projects in Las Vegas, Miami and Vancouver.

"We need to find some other ways to have this conversation," Novak said. "The communities often feel like the developer is quite extractive of them, and the developer goes into the conversation thinking, 'The community is going to extract a bunch of things from me.'"