ICYMI: A Homeless Billionaire & a Teachers Village Spark Community Revitalization

January 9, 2017 Karen Perkins

We Answered Your Call

We spoke, from Growing Communities about our everyday heroes and the difficulty they have obtaining affordable housing where they serve. After mentioning one novel solution, many of you were excited to learn more about the Teacher’s Village. Enjoy the expanded information about this unique example of community revitalization on a very large scale. Truly a Monumental project, Teacher’s Village benefits Newark, New Jersey's education system & teachers while revitalizing an entire community. How?  Good Fortune, and lots of it.

Unique Community Revitalization: The Teachers Village

The Teacher's Village community revitalization project, conceived in 2012 and completed in 2014, spans four city blocks between Prudential Center and University Heights along Halsey Street. Complete Teachers VillagePrior to construction, it is said to have required demolition of some buildings over 100 years old. Replacement of some of the demolished buildings did lead to the creation, now named Teacher’s Village. The Teachers Village includes 3 charter schools, equipped with “Smart classrooms”, and a daycare facility, 214 units of rental housing marketed to teachers, and 65,000 sf of retail including 20 different businesses. This unique community is also surrounded by six universities, each with library and cultural outlets, which provide further potential for educational and business collaboration from the outside inward. New Jersey Native, Richard Meier designed the unique project. Ron Beit, managing member of the RBH Group oversaw the venture from the beginning, and proposed the unique use for the middle income after a startling realization.“Whoa, wait a minute. We have this crop of teachers coming into Newark every day and the energy they bring would be a great catalyst for our plan.” Aha! Teachers housing was included. Unlike what the community revitalization resources in Chicago lacked, the city of Newark had established businesses and government institutions within the area needing revitalization. What the city still needed was middle-income earners with a renewed desire to live and spend money in the community.

Related: Theaster Gates Real Estate Investing

Capitalizing on Natural Movement

The soaring real estate prices in Manhattan has thrust residents into more affordable communities from Brooklyn to communities across the river such as Newark and Jersey City. Newark is the next location that seems a logical beneficiary of this flight out of Manhattan, and teachers could lead the direction. As Nicolas Berggruen (often referred to us the Homeless Billionaire) explains, “Newark used to be a thriving city of around 400,000 people, now down to around 250,000. It’s got infrastructure and is so close to Manhattan. If you look at downtown Newark -- pretty bad, so bad that you almost can’t think, well, we can build something new there. But potentially it should have a future. If we can be one of the early sparks to help it come back, let’s try.” And the rest is history.

FREE Download: The Newark Report

Who Fertilized the Money Tree?

Teachers Village GroundbreakingThe $150 million mixed-use project was collectively financed through private and public investments and advanced by gargantuan government tax credits. While it is unclear how much each party invested in the end, Goldman Sachs committed $100million during the planning stage to propel the project forward. Goldman Chairman of the Board describes Teacher’s Village as “exactly the type of opportunity we look for in an investment – an effective and thoughtful solution to support economic growth and opportunity.” The financial collaboration includes Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, TD Bank, Brick City Development, New Jersey Community Capital, and individuals providing private equity. This same crowd of funders are not be accessible to smaller revitalization projects, but real estate crowdfunding can fill that need very well. Of all of the investing personalities, I am most intrigued by investor & think tank proprietor, Nicolas Berggruen. The Homeless Millionaire signed the same pledge as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: to donate at least half of their wealth, and Berggruen plans to give it all away eventually. I am suddenly tempted to market myself for adoption. Berggruen, the Homeless Billionaire, is one of the characters who propelled this honorable concept into certain reality. Amassing his fortune from investing his inheritance in building up and taking over run-down businesses, his nest of material possessions became underwhelming. So in 2000, the bored billionaire sold his houses, put his art collection in storage and gave away or sold, his car and other trappings. Berggruen explains “Everything I do now is about growing the pot to have more to give away." While I understand that this footloose, globe-trotting billionaire may have recently settled on purchasing a home, Teachers Village is one of many recipients of his altruism, and probably won’t be the last.

Nearly anything can be achieved through the power of a crowd!

Crowdfunding Ocean "The Power of Small Fish Collaboration" Completed by Karen Perkins & Marion

Being a small fish in a big sea can seem daunting at first, yet the collective efforts of a school of small fish can even exceed the effects of one large fish. This is the picture my mind draws of crowdfunding. What kind of "smaller" projects do you think these large-scale projects will spawn to help in the process of  community revitalization?  Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

 

 

This entry was originally published on April 29, 2015.

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