Community participation will help stabilize the neighborhood and ensure the future of this landmark renowned for hosting many jazz and literary greats.
Crowdfunding is one of the latest methods of raising capital to start businesses, finance projects or fund causes. Ushered in by Internet technology and powered by online social networks, this new source of capital is significantly transforming the business landscape of the United States.
One such project is Marcus Books, the oldest family-owned African-American bookstore in the United States. Established in 1960 in the Jimbo’s Bop City Building at 1712 Fillmore Street in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, Marcus Books is a historic landmark renowned for hosting many jazz and literary greats. Above the commercial bookstore are two large Victorian-era flats.
Unfortunately, one of the family members who had a majority ownership in the building went bankrupt and decided to sell. The present owner of the building is offering Marcus Books the chance to purchase the property or to vacate the premises.
Thus, Marcus Books is seeking help from the community offering the opportunity to purchase a stake in the property at its present market value of $2,600,000. This will make it a community-owned property, and therefore everybody is expected to benefit from it in it one way or the other.
According to the plan, Marcus Books is expanding into a 501(c) 3 non-profit cultural institution. This expansion is aimed at maintaining the legacy of Marcus Books in the community.
Community participation is needed to ensure that Marcus Books is maintained in the building and that the two residential flats upstairs are properly renovated so as to offer affordable housing to lower-income families.
Several community-based non-profit organizations have shown interest in purchasing the bookstore. A primary loan of $1,650,000 has already been approved by Westside Community Services, which is a local community-based non-profit organization. The shortfall of approximately $1,000,000 will be raised through Fundrise, a leading real estate crowdfunding platform, and should be in before the 28th February 2014, the deadline by which San Francisco Community Land Trust must have completed the purchase of the property.
Tracy Parent, the organization director of San Francisco Community Land Trust, said that this investment is going to yield a 4% annual return in the next two years. This is definitely something that is worth the community’s investment. Tracy, however, emphasized that there are still many things to be done for this project to be successful. The ultimate goal is to ensure that this highly valued cultural institution maintains its presence and popularity at the centre of Fillmore community.
The main effort behind the purchase of the old Marcus Books and the residential flats is to try to stabilize lower-income households within Fillmore Commercial District, where rising rents and rate of evictions are causing displacement of people. This has a general impact on the social, cultural and economic cohesion of the society. By stabilizing the housing industry, more lives will be impacted positively, and people’s lives will improve regardless of their income class.
Daniel Miller, the co-founder of Fundrise, said that this investment will stabilize a community property by providing affordable housing to tenants and also continue to host the historic Marcus Books, which is the oldest African American bookstore in the nation. Although the investment return is below the current rates in the real estate industry, he said that its great and lasting social impact to the community as a whole more than makes up for it.
When the project is completed, housing will become permanently affordable for families at a monthly rent of $2,400 per unit. Marcus Books stays for good, remaining an icon, an avenue for children and families to learn together, socialize and strengthen community life.
To learn how to participate in this campaign, please visit www.fundrise.com for more details.