Local developers Brandi J. Barrett and Jacquisi Benitez already had community support for their proposed laundromat on the Eastside. They are now opening up the development company for investment through crowdfunding at Buffalo-based CommonOwner.com, literally seeking buy-in from neighboring countries. Located on Michigan Avenue between Laurel and Riley Streets, the Barrett & Benitez Development complex includes three buildings with retail space, a laundromat and five residential units. The project is expected to cost him $2.1 million. eco_Logic is the project architect.
“Our goal is bigger than this project.” [B&B]. “When we talk about community development, we don’t just mean neighbor-assisted development, we mean development that actually benefits the community economically.”
The group, which announced a new “Loads of Love” laundromat project earlier this month, sells its stake in the developer directly. In 2012 he took advantage of the “Regulatory Crowdfunding”, or “Title III” exemption created under the JOBS Act, which allows them to open up investments to investors of all incomes and solicit investment opportunities to the public. Unlike fundraising on donation portals like Kickstarter and his IndiGoGo, backers become true investors who own part of the company.
“Before the advent of investment crowdfunding, this type of investment was limited to wealthy investors only and required a pre-established relationship with the person you invested in,” said Common Owner President Richard Rogers. “Crowdfunding levels the playing field for developers who need investment but don’t have wealthy connections or memberships in luxury clubs. Now they can use their networks and neighbors to get their projects done.”
Once B&B completes raising business capital, it plans to develop a laundromat project and then begin looking for other projects in underprivileged areas of Buffalo. “In addition to property development, we will also provide community engagement and property management services.” [B&B]. “With years of experience as local and New York City community leaders, we know that community engagement is an important aspect of the work we do. Actively seeking input, feedback and support for our company’s projects not only allows them to succeed, but also to grow.”
Both principals know what it takes to achieve this raise. “The community-based real estate development training program taught Brandi key real estate development skills, from financial modeling to property management to leasing,” said Jackeysi Benitez, his partner. “My management experience as Director of Higher Education has prepared me for fundraising and coordinating many team members. We have both worked extensively with communities of color and those experiencing inequalities in their lives.
Key factors such as low housing prices, low tax rates, growth in high-tech and start-up industries, and proximity to the world-famous Niagara Falls make the city an attractive destination for real estate investment, unlike the rest of the country and New York State. Specifically, the east side of Buffalo has a lot of distressed properties and more vacant lots due to increased demolition over the past decade. The city of Buffalo’s rapid growth, low cost of living, excellent schools, and commitment to improving public transportation have made moving to Buffalo very popular.
The fundraising officially kicked off this week with a launch party on Saturday, April 8th and will continue with Common Owner until July or until the maximum investment is reached. Those interested in learning more can visit the project page to ask questions, invest, and subscribe to updates.