Understanding Ground Leases and C-PACE Financing: Similarities and Differences

In commercial real estate and sustainable development financing, two terms often arise ground leases and Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing. Although these concepts serve different purposes, they share commonalities in their impact on property ownership and financing strategies. This blog post will delve into what ground leases and C-PACE financing are, how they are similar, and how they differ.

What is a Ground Lease?

A ground lease is a long-term lease agreement in which a tenant can develop a parcel of land during the lease period. At the end of the lease term, the land and all improvements made to it revert to the landowner. Ground leases are common in commercial real estate development, particularly for projects like shopping centers, office buildings, and industrial parks.

What is C-PACE Financing?

Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a financing mechanism that allows commercial, industrial, and multi-family property owners to obtain funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects. The financing is secured by a voluntary property tax assessment, repaid over time, typically 20 to 30 years. This innovative approach makes investing in green technologies and improvements more accessible for property owners.

Similarities Between Ground Leases and C-PACE Financing

Long-term Impact on Property

Both ground leases and C-PACE financing arrangements have long-term implications for a property. Ground leases can last several decades, often between 50 to 99 years, impacting the land’s use and development over a significant period. Similarly, C-PACE financing terms can extend up to 30 years, influencing long-term financial planning and investment in the property.

Investment and Development Catalysts

Ground leases and C-PACE financing can act as catalysts for investment and development. Ground leases make it possible for tenants to develop and utilize land they might not have been able to purchase outright. C-PACE financing enables property owners to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that might have been financially out of reach without the attractive terms of C-PACE loans.

Non-Traditional Financing Tools

Both are considered non-traditional financing tools in the real estate and energy sectors. They offer alternatives to standard loans and mortgages, providing unique benefits such as long-term financing and potentially lower costs.

Differences Between Ground Leases and C-PACE Financing

Purpose and Application

The primary distinction lies in their purpose and application. Ground leases are a form of real estate development tool, allowing the use and development of land without owning it. In contrast, C-PACE financing explicitly targets energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects within commercial properties.

Security and Repayment

Ground leases do not involve borrowing money or repaying a loan. Instead, the tenant pays rent to the landowner for the duration of the lease. On the other hand, C-PACE financing involves securing a loan that is repaid over time through a property tax assessment. This means the repayment obligation can transfer with property ownership, unlike traditional loans that typically require a payoff upon sale.

Impact on Property Ownership

Ground leases can significantly impact property ownership since the landowner retains ownership and any improvements upon lease expiration. In contrast, C-PACE financing affects the financial aspects of property ownership, such as cash flow and tax obligations. Still, it does not change the ownership of the property or improvements funded through C-PACE.


While serving different purposes in the real estate and sustainable development worlds, ground leases and C-PACE financing share similarities in providing long-term financing options that encourage investment and development. However, their differences highlight their unique roles in the market. Ground leases offer a way to utilize and develop land without outright purchase, while C-PACE financing provides a mechanism for investing in sustainable property improvements. Both tools are essential for developers, investors, and property owners looking to navigate the complexities of modern real estate development and sustainability initiatives.