The OTO impact on the ground
August 28, 2015
In early August, we held our first Ours To Own (OTO) tour in Denver. Our partners in the OTO Denver initiative – Urban Land Conservancy, Colorado Enterprise Fund, and Community Reinvestment Fund – helped us coordinate an impressive lineup of community development projects and small businesses that have received financing through the initiative. Our goal was to show how investment in the Community Investment Note creates positive change in the Denver community.
Community members, financial advisors, and potential investors gathered at the Mountain View Nonprofit Tower for an overview of Ours To Own. Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) recently acquired the building to preserve affordable, transit-accessible office space for local nonprofits. This acquisition prevented a for-profit developer from converting the building into luxury rental housing. The nonprofits that occupy the building, including Lutheran Family Services, currently employ 130 people and serve over 1,000 people a week including local immigrant and refugee communities.
RoadSkulls V-Twin Performance
The first stop on our tour was RoadSkulls V-Twin Performance, a specialty motorcycle repair shop owned by Kevin Edgmon. Kevin's struggle to find financing for his business illustrates the importance of CDFIs. Kevin, a disabled veteran, spent years working as a certified Harley-Davidson mechanic when he decided to go back to school full-time to earn his Bachelor's degree. He thought his years of experience, numerous certifications and a college degree would easily qualify him for a loan. However, he was turned down again and again. He finally turned to Community Reinvestment Fund, who saw Kevin's passion and promise, and helped him realize his dream. Kevin now works 15 hours a day/7 days a week at RoadSkulls and is booked into September. He's already looking to expand his shop and workforce. Not only is Kevin's business booming, he's also involved in his community and supporting his fellow troops abroad.
Our tour continued with visits to properties being developed by Urban Land Conservancy. Holly Square is a redeveloped shopping center that now includes playgrounds, basketball courts and a community center that houses the Boys & Girls Club.
New Legacy Charter School
New Legacy Charter School in Aurora will serve pregnant and parenting teens between the ages of 14-21 and provide both high school and parenting education while providing on-site childcare.
Park Hill Village West is a new development in a poverty stricken area that will provide affordable housing, education opportunities and health care. Our tour guide for the day, Aaron Miripol, President and CEO of ULC, happily spoke of the transformation these buildings have brought to their communities but underscored the need for additional capital (which could come from investment in the Community Investment Note) to address the numerous challenges in Metro Denver.
Upon returning to Mountain View, we gathered for a snack from Maria Empanada. Lorena Cantarovici received a loan from Colorado Enterprise Fund to expand her artisan empanada business after being turned down from traditional lenders. She now does more than $1 million in business – which, after enjoying her empanadas, is not hard to believe.
We would love to expand our local events and want to know what might be of interest to our financial advisors and investors. Tours and information sessions that showcase the impact of investing in the Community Investment Note? Other ideas? I encourage you to email me ( firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know what type of event is of interest to you and where you are located. You can check out our OTO partners and investments on our impact map and see the investments around you.