How Do You Choose?

How do community developers whose goals include neighborhood revitalization identify which businesses or other non-residential tenants (library, healthcare center) are likely to create the most positive momentum in a given area? It’s certainly more art than science. We asked a few long-time community developers for their thoughts.

They are:
Jeanne Dubois, Dorchester Bay EDC (below)
Marilyn Mosinski, Detroit Shoreway CDO
Patrick Morrissy, HANDS, Inc.

Have you made decisions like these? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Jeanne Dubois
Executive Director
Dorchester Bay EDC
Dorchester, Mass.

Sometimes you have to keep experimenting until you “hit it.” It’s all about the end users, right? We have two light industrial projects in an industrial and housing zone, the Quincy Corridor. We picked those locations because we have a preservation project of 129 housing units in pre-development along that street, and it allowed us to do a complete corridor transformation in just four blocks near one of the proposed Fairmount rail stations.

We had bought these thinking we would be doing TOD mixed-use projects, but the community is dying for jobs. One end user, The New England Center for Arts and Technology, is a culinary job training center that guarantees placement in a large food services company, replicating Bill Strickland’s Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh. There will also be youth afterschool pottery, digital imaging, and photography classes upstairs.

The other, the former Pearl Meats factory, will be a green small business center mostly for local minority-owned contractors. We went this way, with 1500–2000 sq ft spaces, because our broker found there was only a 1 percent vacancy rate in Boston for this size space. After trying for two years to find a single great employer, we made this shift because there are many small minority businesses — often contractors, food processors, or suppliers to larger venues like a supermarket — that need space with a loading dock, bathroom, office, and room to do business. This model helps us house local businesses and hire local people. If one of six tenants move out, it’s not so dangerous as the one key employer leaving.

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