They have done it in Chicago.
The Englewood Whole Foods finally opened on 63rd and Halsted (covered in the last Mo’pinion).
This is one example of what can happen when you’re more purposeful about exploring what we can do versus what we cannot. Understanding what you are for versus what you are against — and having the ability to mould your principles into a working strategy that keeps development forward and opens more opportunity and possibility for Black and West Louisville business development.
With the focused research that I have engaged in our journey with Narrow The Gap!, I have repeatedly discussed the importance of having a retail aggregator that will the setting aside of some space to accommodate an enterprise, or enterprises that can employ 25 to 50 Black West Louisvillians. One promising industry would be micro-manufacturing or something like that.
Let’s take a video look at what’s happened in Englewood:
The Chicago political machine and its advocates persuaded Whole Foods to implement local small enterprises to supply the 63rd and Halsted location. The people of Chicago did not protest Whole Foods, they leveraged the project to help local entrepreneurs. Whole Foods recognized that it was more than economic equity and social responsibility, but it makes for great PR and makes for a fabulous marketing strategy to promote localism. All future action should focus on persuading Walmart to do the same.
Local fiscalism must be an essential part of urban culture. That has been a lacking ingredient of West Louisville neighborhoods over the last 40 years. The communities are populated with businesses and industries of many flavors, but they are not integrated into the economies of our local neighborhoods as they should be. With the emergence of Chef Space and the existence of dozens of bakers and local food entrepreneurs, there are many opportunities for partnership and connection.
When you have an abundance of vacant lots and abandoned properties as West Louisville neighborhoods have, there will be some level of gentrification...this is probably not avoidable. When flashpoints of economic protest pop up, I say the more effective strategies are finding opportunities to leverage economic opportunities for the entrepreneurs that we already have throughout the city. Talking Black identity and social media jawjacking and getting hyper-emotional and looking for strawmen and bogeymen are too many people's waste of time...but they, and sometimes you, still like to do it!
Black empowerment is another beast altogether. It requires people with skills and purposeful efforts. It requires the ability to not be discouraged by setbacks, to "fail quickly" and keep it moving, and the ability to take ideas, map and organize them into entrepreneurial plans and business models and have effective ways to make them pay.
Let me not suffer an individual's want to understand the history of Black people in America if they do not know it. However, watching the "Hidden Colors" DVD series are not going to rehabilitate the economic conditions of Black communities. Seriously.
Another interesting takeaway: The principals of the Whole Foods project used FundRise, a real-estate investment crowdfunding platform. From Mary Ellen Podmolik's article in the November 6, 2015 for the Chicago Tribune:
It's a small amount to be sure, but the rapid success surprised crowdfunding platform Fundrise as well as DL3 Realty, the developer behind Englewood Square. And it came even before new federal rules on crowdfunding were announced that could make it easier for community residents to invest in products and projects in their own backyard.
The 5-acre Englewood Square project is the first investment in Chicago for Washington, D.C.-based Fundrise, which more than two years ago approached executives at Whole Foods after hearing about the grocery chain's plans for an inner-city Detroit store. With the financing for that development already in place, Fundrise turned its attention to discussions between Chicago and Whole Foods to open a store in one of the city's most economically depressed communities.
"I thought the project was a really powerful fit," said Ben Miller, Fundrise's co-founder and CEO. "It's an unusual deal. A lot of our deals have a lot less story, they are really just a simple real estate investment. This deal has a soul in a way. It's a good investment, but it has a double bottom line. It has the potential to help transform a neighborhood."
Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, Fundrise, founded in 2012, puts its own money into a project and then offers pieces of its investment to others through its website.
DL3 needed a little convincing to work with Fundrise because the firm was accustomed to tapping a traditional network of investors. But DL3 ultimately decided it liked Fundrise's mission-based strategy as well as the opportunity it gave DL3 to grow its profile and with that its projects, said DL3 managing partner Leon Walker.
The center under construction at 63rd and Halsted streets is more than 90 percent leased, and in addition to Whole Foods will include Starbucks, a bank and a health care clinic, Walker said. Construction is expected to be completed next spring, with Whole Foods opening in fall of 2016. But it was just the grocery chain attached to the center when the investment pitch was put online in late September and quickly secured investments ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.
"That's the power of the crowd, you can sell out a $500,000 investment in two days," Walker said. "It's an important piece going forward. An investor in California or Florida or New York may not know West Garfield Park, Englewood or Roseland."
Using crowdfunding to set up commercial zones. West Louisville real estate corporations coming together to crowdfund new infill property development throughout Russell and West Louisville. It's happening, good people. Are you ready to be for something as opposed to against it? Which way are you going to go and what are you ready to do?