The small-scale developer movement has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years, and we're proud to be a part of that. One Strong Towns member is involved in a very unique small-scale development organization that is helping to improve her neighborhood.
Combining the co-op model with the small developer model, the NorthEast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) based in the Northeast neighborhood of Minneapolis, brings together neighbors to collectively invest in commercial and residential properties for as little as $1,000 per person. As they explain on their website:
The Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) is a cooperative that allows residents of Minnesota to invest financially to collectively buy, rehab, and manage commercial and residential property in Northeast Minneapolis.
We believe that by investing patient capital, actively recruiting local businesses to occupy our property, and supporting those businesses as they grow and thrive, we can bring transformative change to Northeast Minneapolis, one building at a time.
Reeve Ridgeway, a Strong Towns member, told me about her recent decision to join the cooperative: “I follow Strong Towns, and I do a lot of reading on related topics. When I came across NEIC, I thought of the way Chuck Marohn (Strong Towns' President) always says, 'Keeping doing what you can to build a Strong Town.' I wasn’t sure about participating at first—it’s a decent chunk of change—but I've realized it’s well worth it. I’m a brand new member. I really enjoyed the cooperative model.”
Reeve explained how the Northeast neighborhood in Minneapolis is in “a unique transition period where most developers aren’t interested [in the available properties] because you can’t get enough bang for your buck, but for individuals the prices are a bit too high.” An investment cooperative fills that niche. “You only lose as much as you put in,” says Reeve. “Every member gets one vote, and because we’re locally focused, the majority of members are local.
NEIC currently has about 300 members, most of whom are individuals, but a few area businesses have also invested.
So far, the group has purchased, renovated and rented one building already. In just two years, they transformed an old, vacant storefront on Central Avenue (a main thoroughfare in the neighborhood) into 5,600 sq ft of beautiful space, divided into three units. One is occupied by a local bakery—Aki’s BreadHaus—another by the Fair State Brewing Company (which is, itself, a cooperative), and the third is a large basement storage space, currently fully utilized.
What’s on the horizon for the cooperative? Reeve explains, “We're looking for further properties to revitalize. The price points have gone up quite a bit in this neighborhood, so we're hoping to get more members to build up capital. It’s been financially stable so far, which is great.”
Reeve commented that this investment model is "pretty unique to Minnesota because the laws around co-ops make us able to do what we're doing." But with some committed organizers, this model could also be replicated in other towns and neighborhoods.
If you’re interested in joining the Northeast Investment Cooperative, you can become a member today. And if you’re curious about starting a similar cooperative in your town, good news! NEIC offers a helpful step-by-step guide to doing so, on their website.
Strong Towns members like Reeve are stepping up to help improve their neighborhoods all over the country. Read their stories here.
(All photos courtesy of NEIC)