The first crowd-investing platform for real estate development, Fundrise, launched in the fall of 2012, already facilitating crowd-investment in four development projects, with commitments of $3 million in the first three. The fourth project attracted over half a million dollars in non-commital investment interest in the first two hours. The four developments are all related to renovations of under-utilized infill buildings in Washington DC, certainly a model of positive investment in any community.
Following those investments, the founders of Fundrise established a real estate development entity, Rise Development. In January 2013, Rise Development won an RFP over four other firms to utilize Fundrise in capitalizing a 10,000 s.f. urban redevelopment project. They also plan to use an idea-based crowdsourcing tool, known as Popularise, created by the same owners as Fundrise, to involve the community in the project’s development. How triple bottom line this project will be remains to be seen, as Popularise has also been used as a tool to crowdsource chain tenants in a strip mall anchored by Wal-Mart, obviously not an example of triple-bottom-line development.
The important thing to remember is that the more the community is involved in the decision making, and the more people are allowed to become local real estate investors, the greater the potential to invest in the kinds of places people actually want. A case in point is the Teach for America initiative to develop a non-profit campus with attainably-priced housing. The Fundrise team, based in DC, is currently assisting the lauded nonprofit find a place to develop at least 30,000 s.f. of office space and 100 housing units for its teachers to rent, with the goal of crowd-investing the development. Now that’s as triple bottom line as it gets.
Where will this all lead? Once the JOBS Act passed by Congress in April 2012 is written into finance law by the SEC, expect to see crowd-investment of real estate development start to become mainstream by the end of this year. You can see hints of this with GroundUP and Ioby.
Name: Neil Takemoto
If given the opportunity to crowdsource a vision for their downtown, what would a triple-bottom-line (economically, socially, environmentally) oriented crowd come up with? Given the emerging generations‘ preferences for pedestrian-only places, local and independent businesses, human-scaled architecture, smaller more attainably-priced downtown residences, and both spontaneous and formal outdoor social gathering places, from outside dining scenes to plaza-based movies, concerts and public markets…
…expect to see more pedestrian streets and plazas, like the one pictured above, which can be described as an authentic piazza, a pedestrian-only square fronted on four sides by buildings. Where is this? It doesn’t exist, but it was created as a 3D model to help provide a tangible example of the kind of place that people want, yet have nothing to point to as that example. The closest as far as already built is The Piazza in Philadelphia, albeit perhaps lacking in human-scaled buildings and warmth. The closest as far as in the works is the piazza in Bristol, CT, whose vision was crowdsourced by the community.
If you would like to be introduced to the team that can produce such scenes for your community, and affordably as well via, email email@example.com. The piazza above measures 120 x 150 feet at a more intimate size, while the piazza below is designed at 190 x 140 feet, large enough for a concert stage.
Name: Neil Takemoto
This is a follow up story to “Bristol crowdsources piazza into downtown plan”.
When Renaissance Downtowns, a visionary triple-bottom-line real estate development firm that won an RFP to develop 17 acres of failed shopping mall into a thriving downtown destination, decided to give crowdsourced placemaking a shot in October 2010, they didn’t quite expect such, well, extraordinary results…
For Renaissance, the growth of the crowdsourced placemaking community, known as Bristol Rising since an innocent happy hour of 14 people on November 4, 2010 (2300 members today), has led to a planning and approval process that has been completed in a fraction of the time that a normal process would have taken. Master plans alone can take 2-3 years to complete. In Bristol, the Concept Master Plan, the main plan for the entire downtown, was completed in just nine months, submitted in April 2011 and receiving municipal approval in just six months in October 2011. Dozens of Bristol Rising members showed up to support the plan at its hearing, many in their signature orange Bristol Rising shirts, cheering on the council members to ensure they approved the plan, which they did.
In addition, zoning amendments were approved in February 2012 with Bristol Rising support, followed by a Special Permit of Unified Downtown Development Plan, the first official land use plan, submitted on the last day in April 2012, and approved in June 2012, with of course, Bristol Rising members cheering in attendance. Renaissance will be looking for the crowd’s support to garner site plan approval for Phase I by year’s end, and immediately work towards securing building permits and ground breaking by early 2013. Check out the plans here.
Now, that’s just with city approvals. In November 2011 Bristol Rising launched a Downtown Living Campaign to identify 400 people who would be willing to live downtown, and they even hosted a face-to-face meetup so these downtown pioneers could meet one another. That was a tremendous success. Yes, they reached their 400 person goal, in March 2012.
Regarding retail, Bristol Rising’s influence has directly resulted in compelling one of its most active members securing a lease for a a craft beer and wine restaurant, the first dining establishment to announce a new lease on its Main Street in decades. Bristol Rising members also announced the July opening of a neighborhood event space in the West End neighborhood, a neighborhood which has struggled to attract any kind of new storefront businesses at all. They even inspired a crowdfunding campaign for a new local brewery, motivated by one of the most requested ideas, a microbrewery. Oh, and they also ‘cash mobbed’ a cafe in April, resulting in a record day for the business.
In terms of future tenant recruitment, Bristol Rising members are assisting Renaissance in consolidating retail targets to compliment potential businesses that Renaissance has gathered. They are also assisting in shaping the initial retail recruitment package and retail spaces, compiling over a hundred potential local independent storefront businesses that Renaissance will be targeting the owners of for possible recruitment, prioritized by the most popular ideas on the Bristol Rising site.
As far as surrounding neighborhood revitalization, in one of the most drug-laden neighborhoods within the downtown known as Summer Street, Bristol Rising members organized a street clean up, spurring one of its members to establish a new company to buy up and fix problematic buildings, resulting in recent testimonials such as this, “Hi there, as a new resident of Lower Summer St, I would like to say thank you… I think its getting better all the time,” and “I moved to lower Summer Street at the beginning of this year in order to be closer to work. I am thrilled with the improvements I had seen in the area and I am excited to see what else is in store.” Read more about Summer Street’s transformation here.
In August 2011 Bristol Rising members helped organize a one-day demonstration event for their most desired public amenity, a car-free piazza surrounded by storefronts, outdoor dining and exciting events. Expecting 2000 people, the Pop-Up Piazza event attracted 15,000, breaking a record for the most attended event in the city’s history. In August 2012 members continued the tradition as an annual event, again attracting between 15,000 to 20,000 people.
In June 2012, the Central Chamber of Commerce held their Awards Dinner in recognition of eight specific businesses and organizations that contributed to the community over the past year. Renaissance and Bristol Rising were among them as they were presented the Spirit of Bristol Award for their efforts in uniting the community to work towards a brighter future for Bristol.
In October, a long-time active Bristol Rising member opened a gastro pub based on the crowd’s input. Known as Barley Vine, the restaurant is the first dining venue to open in the downtown in years, and has become an overnight institution. Prior to that, startup Firefly Brewery Company exceeded their crowdfunding goal to open a microbrewery in Bristol.
Check out a visual timeline of events here.
Believe it or not, they’re just getting started in Bristol. I kid you not. Someone needs to write a book…
If you’d like to learn more, they’ll be more than happy to oblige. This has been one of the best kept secrets in real estate development and community organizing, aside from a NY Times article last year (written before much of what you read actually happened!) For Renaissance, contact Ryan Porter at rporter[at]renaissancedowntowns[dot]com, and for Bristol Rising, contact [mark[at]bristolrising[dot]com].
Name: Neil Takemoto
The Network for Crowdsourced Placemaking, a network for those practicing or committed to crowdsourced placemaking, officially kicked off on October 23, 2012. If you’re wondering about the logo, it’s the triple-bottom-line surrounded by community!
What is crowdsourced placemaking? Check out the video below.
Name: Neil Takemoto