Real estate developers in Baltimore test strategies for inclusive growth and community wealth. On the west side of downtown Baltimore, a $45 million rehabilitation of Lexington Market is turning the long-ago hub of the slave trade, into a community market that reflects that city's diverse demographics. In Poppleton, further west, a fresh foods market, mixed-income housing and small businesses are rising in a designated Opportunity Zone. And on Baltimore’s east side, nonprofit ReBUILD Metro is rehabilitating vacant and distressed buildings and helping local residents buy them at a discount. “Baltimore is propelling inclusive economic growth that can be a model for the region and the country,” says James Wahls of Mission Investors Exchange. The network of foundations and other asset owners is meeting in Baltimore next week to share “powerful examples of impact investing in action,” as Wahls says.The common threads through the inclusive real estate projects: creative development models, impact capital and intentional community engagement. The overhaul of Lexington Market was financed through New Market Tax Credits, city and state grants, funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and private debt, as well as low-interest business loans for the market's new vendors. At numerous town hall meetings, community members shared that they "wanted the refurbishment to be reflective of the city and serve the city,” says Colin Tarbert of Baltimore Development Corp., the city’s economic development agency. At least half of the 40-plus stalls in the market are Black-owned – up from 5% in the old market – more closely reflecting Baltimore's demographics. In its neighborhood redevelopment efforts, ReBUILD has been intentional about “making sure people who live there can continue to live there," explains John Muchai of Baltimore Community Foundation, an investor in both ReBUILD and Lexington Market. Such projects are helping create wealth “for people who were very strategically picked to be included,” Muchai adds. “Now you have more diverse communities, too, not only in terms of race but economically."
Dealflow: Investing in Place
M&G’s Catalyst backs Lafayette Square's direct lending business with $200 million. The capital commitment is a boost for the upstart impact investment firm’s flagship credit strategy, which backs growing middle-market companies with senior secured debt. Such business loans are non-dilutive for founders, allowing them to maintain ownership and control of their companies. Lafayette's "worker solutions'' platform works with borrowers to support employee well-being and retention. The Catalyst strategy of M&G, a spinoff of Prudential with €400 billion under management, aims to invest up to $5.6 billion into privately-owned businesses working “to create a more sustainable world.” Through the partnership with Lafayette, “we can provide business owners with the capital they need to grow while also helping improve the lives of workers in underserved communities,” said M&G’s Thierry Masson. Lafayette says it will measure the partnership’s impact on the lives of workers.
Impact Voices: Disability Justice
Six ways to build the Long COVID economy. Roughly 100 million people globally never recovered from the novel coronavirus. In the U.S. alone, two to four million working-age “COVID Long Haulers” are unemployed, leading to $168 billion in lost earnings – about 1% of our national GDP. Ibrahim Rashid, a graduate student who had lost the ability to walk due to the virus, wrote in ImpactAlpha last year about how Long COVID has focused new attention on disability justice. “I wrote that piece in a moment of vulnerability, hoping that my suffering would inspire action. It did,” Rashid writes in a follow up. “At the urging of fellow Agents of Impact who heard my message,” Rashid says, he has built Strong Haulers, a tech platform to help COVID Long Haulers manage their symptoms. “I want to show that there is a market opportunity in helping COVID Long Haulers and shift capital and policy support in that direction.” Among the opportunities:
Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Helen Mahywill joinNextEnergy Solar Fund’s board as a non-executive director on April 1, 2023. Mahy will also succeed Kevin Lyon as chairman of NextEnergy in August 2023… Lisa Neuberger Fernandez, ex-of Accenture, joins 374Water as global head of sustainability and ecosystems.
Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures, which supports ImpactAlpha’s Investing in Health coverage. In partnership with J&J Impact Ventures, ImpactAlpha is exploring the …