Local developers Brandi J Barrett and Jackeysi Benitez already had community support for their proposed laundromat on the East Side; now they are seeking buy-in from their neighbors, quite literally, by opening up their development company for investment through a Crowdfunding raise on Buffalo-based CommonOwner.com. Barrett & Benitez Development’s mixed-use complex on Michigan Avenue between Laurel and Riley Streets will include three-buildings with retail space, the laundromat and five residential units. The project is expected to cost $2.1 million. eco_Logic is project architect.
“Our goals are bigger than this one project,” [B&B]. “When we talk about community development, we don’t just mean development that the neighbor’s support, but development that actually financially benefits the community.”
The group, who announced their new “Loads of Love” laundromat project earlier this month, is selling equity directly in their development company. Using the “Regulation Crowdfunding”, or “Title III” exemption created under the JOBS Act of 2012, they are able to open up investment to investors of all incomes, as well as generally solicit the investment opportunity. Unlike raises on donation portals like Kickstarter and IndiGoGo, backers will be true investors, owning a part of the company.
“Before Investment Crowdfunding, these types of investments were limited to only wealthy investors, and you had to have a prior relationship with whoever was investing,” said Richard Rogers, President of Common Owner. “Crowdfunding evens the playing field for developers who need investment but don’t have connections to high net worth individuals or memberships to exclusive clubs. Now they can utilize their network and their neighbors to get a project done.”
Once B&B complete the raise for capital in their business, they will develop the laundromat project, then begin looking for other projects in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Buffalo. “In addition to real estate development, we will provide community engagement and property management services,” [B&B]. “In our years of experience as community leaders, locally and in NYC, we know community engagement is a critical aspect of the work we will perform. By actively seeking out for input, feedback, and support for the company’s projects, it will not only enable our projects to succeed, but to thrive.”
Both principals know what it takes to get this raise done. “The Community Based Real Estate Development Training Program taught Brandi critical real estate development skills, ranging from financial modeling to property management and leasing,” Jackeysi Benitez, Partner. “My administrative experience as a director in higher education has prepared me for fundraising and coordinating a lot of team members. Both of us have worked extensively with communities of color and people who experience inequality in life. These experiences have guided our decision to give our company a community-center approach to providing housing, education resources, and amenities, as well as opening up opportunities for shared equity.”
Unlike other parts of the country and New York state, key factors like low housing prices, low tax rates, booming tech and startup industries, and proximity to the world-famous Niagara Falls, make this city an attractive place for real estate investment. Specifically, the East side of Buffalo has a high number of distressed properties and a growing number of vacant lots due to increased demolitions in the last 10 years. The city’s rapid growth, low cost of living, good schools, and commitment to improving public transit have made relocating to Buffalo remarkably popular.
The raise officially kicks off this week with a launch party on Saturday, April 8th, and on Common Owner live through July or until they hit their maximum investment. Individuals interested in learning more should visit their project page, where they can ask questions, invest, or subscribe for updates.