Investing in Hope

How a $200 investment turned members of one community into successful developers

Investors in the the Market Creek Plaza in Lincoln park have received their first dividend checks in the mail.  It's a 10% dividend on an investment many nearby residents made roughly two years ago to build a shopping center in their own community.  The retail center is situated at the corner of Market St. and Euclid, a new development with vibrant colors and shapes resembling something one might see in New Mexico.
Over 10 years ago it was the site of an old warehouse.  Investor and local resident Bevelynn Bravo recalled efforts to avoid the building.   "An ugly old building with broken windows and people used to hang out there. We used to cross the street to pass through here, we never crossed on this side," she said.

In 1997 the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation purchased the land hoping to rebuild the community.  But after witnessing the Los Angeles riots in the early 1990's, founder Joe Jacobs invited investment by local residents.  "There was a famous meeting where he said, people don't burn down what they own," said Harris.

The investment has been a success.  On a rainy Monday morning, the parking lot was 75% full.  And the Food 4 Less was seeing brisk business. "This the first supermarket built in the area for over 30 years.  Food 4 Less tells us it's one of the best performers in Southern California," said Harris.

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation invested $28 million to build the project.  More than 400 other investors are comprised of nearby residents, non-profits and investment clubs.  The minimum investment was $200 in 2006, allowing for greater community involvement. Bevelynn Bravo, who made the minimum investment, was happy to receive her 10% dividend check.  "It was exciting to see that and hold the check in my hand and we were receiving some of the profits the businesses were making,"  she said,  admitting that she had no idea what investing was before this experience.  But instead of spending the money, she's re-investing the money into making the Market Creek Development larger and more successful.

But the investments are just one of the benefits for investors and the greater community.  The old warehouse on the site used to employ seven people.  Now, 190 people work at the shopping center.

Bravo is teaching her children about the beneifits of local ownership and investing.  "They believe that we own Cold Stone and they tell their friends that they can come eat Cold Stone.  And we have to explain it to them 'No there's a group of us here that invest in market creek plaza,'" she said.

But she also says the Plaza has created a sense of pride in the community.  "I feel proud to know that we did this together with the ideas that we had and believing in ourselves and believing we can become more," said Bravo.

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