Skip to main content

ILR Fellowship in the UK: Public–Private Partnerships in Real Estate Law

November 10, 2023

The International Legal Research (ILR) Fellowship offers Penn Carey Law Students financial support for a short-term summer legal research project abroad.

By Quentin Mansfield L’25

When confronted with the complex challenges of global real estate development, one may often wonder, “How can individual efforts influence the vast landscape of public–private partnerships?” This is a sentiment particularly felt by those passionate about the intricate interplay of real estate law, policy, and the overarching global scenario.

At Howard University, my minor in Economics set the foundation for my interest in the confluence of policy and real estate. Subsequent studies at the University of Chicago, where I earned my Master of Public Policy with a focus on Urban Policy, solidified this passion. These academic endeavors shed light on how citizens, policymakers, and businesses can drive sustainable urban development.

One pivotal moment came during my tenure at Albright Stonebridge Group. Here, I had the unique opportunity to assist foreign investors in navigating the labyrinth of U.S. infrastructure. The experience emphasized the value of a well-structured public–private partnership and how such partnerships could become game-changers in sustainable urban development.

Yet, one question lingered: How are such partnerships structured across different jurisdictions?

This curiosity led me to London, particularly inspired by the UK’s trailblazing approach to Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the real estate sector. Having secured an International Legal Research (ILR) Fellowship from Penn Carey Law, I embarked on an enlightening journey across the Atlantic.

In the heart of London, amidst its iconic architecture and bustling streets, I found myself meeting with At Jones Day, London  esteemed lawyers from Jones Day’s real estate practice. London, with its systematic PPP program, offered a wealth of insights. For instance, in the UK, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) emerged in the early 1990s and set the tone for many PPP models globally. In contrast, France uses “Contrats de Partenariat,” a system with distinct responsibilities and risk-sharing mechanisms. Such variations present challenges for private entities aiming to participate across different countries and for public agencies looking to attract international partners. The evolution of these partnerships, particularly in alignment with global conservation goals and zero carbon commitments, was palpable in the air of this historic city.

Meeting with lawyers at Jones Day’s London and Paris offices, I discussed with them how the legal scaffolding for Public Private Partnerships is undergoing significant refinement. They’ve identified that as PPPs become more embedded in public infrastructure and service delivery, the complexity of legal agreements increases. There’s a marked shift toward more nuanced risk-sharing, with PPP contracts now delineating specific responsibilities for various risks such as construction or political upheaval. Pursuing value for money and public interest has become a cornerstone, demanding that PPPs offer financial viability and tangible public benefits tracked through clear metrics.

Walking the streets of London, I was struck by the tangible results of successful PPPs in real estate. From eco-friendly buildings outfitted with cutting-edge technology to public spaces designed with sustainability in mind, the influence of collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors was evident.

I visited the King’s Cross redevelopment, which showcases the transformative power of Public Private Partnerships in urban regeneration. This 67-acre project connects six underground lines and operates two national mainline train stations. Once plagued by social vices and economic stagnation, King’s Cross has been revitalized into a bustling hub where investments from Google and Central Saint Martins intermingle with affordable housing and community amenities. The success story of King’s Cross, underpinned by innovative PPP structures involving the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP) and the Department for Transport, among others, offers a beacon of hope and a model for addressing urban regeneration challenges far beyond the UK, inspiring similar initiatives that can leverage infrastructure projects for comprehensive development and community engagement.

One memorable meeting took place with a city planner who spoke passionately about the “democracy of the streets.” Streets designed with pedestrians in mind, parks that doubled up as carbon sinks, and public transit systems that seamlessly integrated with private developments showcased the potential of well-executed PPPs.

The “democracy of the streets” concept emphasizes inclusive urban design that prioritizes public spaces for Quentin Mansfield  everyone. It’s about creating streets that cater to pedestrians, not just vehicles, ensuring that public spaces are accessible and enjoyable for all community members. Integrating green spaces like parks serves a dual purpose: they enhance urban livability, and they act as carbon sinks to combat climate change. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) play a crucial role in this vision by enabling the development of comprehensive, integrated transit systems that align private development goals with public infrastructure needs, creating cohesive, sustainable, and democratic urban environments.

The PPP model’s success has also led to cross-border collaborations. Such international partnerships allow countries to tap into global expertise, technologies, and financing structures. The European PPP Expertise Centre (EPEC) is one such initiative, facilitating knowledge-sharing among European countries. Cross-border PPPs come with their own set of challenges, however. Differences in legal structures, financial mechanisms, and societal expectations can complicate matters. For example, whereas a PPP structure in Germany might heavily involve local community engagement, another country might prioritize swift project execution.

A particular point of intrigue was the legal architecture supporting these partnerships. As someone with aspirations to practice real estate law, understanding the legal frameworks that underpinned successful PPPs was invaluable. London, with its matured PPP landscape, offered a plethora of lessons, from structuring contracts to managing disputes and ensuring that both public and private entities benefit equitably.

The journey was not just about understanding successes, however. It was also about comprehending challenges, learning from failures, and recognizing that although models like those in the UK are inspiring, they need to be adapted to the unique socio-economic and political contexts of other regions.

The International Legal Research Fellowship offered an opportunity to gain a profound understanding of the power and potential of Public–Private Partnerships in real estate. The experiences and insights garnered in London reinforced the belief that with the right legal and policy framework, individual and community efforts can indeed shape large-scale urban development projects. As I continue my exploration in this area of real estate law, the streets of London will always serve as a testament to the harmonious symphony that public and private entities can create when they come together with a shared vision.