Without much tact, but with much admiration, I introduced my dear departed Mom into the last posting, and described how she did four things to help young-little me recover from a cataclysmic knee-scrape wound. Anything a Mom does helps, but for the full “It’ll be better than ever,” all four were required. As proof, my knees are now scab-free.
Similarly, experience has taught me and my colleagues in the Better Future Alliance that a useful assessment needs to include four considerations. They are simply Money, Market, People and Place. There’s a cool graphic at the top of the post to help illustrate, but here is what we mean:
Money: First, the use of money — the costs to acquire, rehab and operate the targeted site; are they known, and how much higher are they (because they are NEVER lower) than new construction? Is it a reasonable stretch, or is it –at least for now – lala land?
Second, are there sources of funds to fund the “discover stage,” the redevelopment and future sustainable operations? We are not looking for a sure bet – if it were a sure bet, the marketplace would have discovered it – but considering the grant, community, foundation and social investing sources and their priorities, does it pass the giggle test?
Markets: An example will help here. For the past several years smaller communities have pined for Farmers Markets and healthy-food grocery stores as a key community anchor. And either of these can be great for stabilizing and juicing-up an iffy neighborhood. But how about proximity of other Farmers Markets? How far are you from a Market Basket, as even the wealthiest shoppers love the challenge of saving a quarter-a-pound on sliced bologna. And are there farmers who have both enough produce and are not already committed to the day-of-week you’d like? No fair cannibalizing your neighboring community.
People: This is perhaps the most important. Are there identified leaders who will put in an unreasonable amount of time and TLC into pursuing their vision, in a way not to enrage others? Is the community on-board; do they really want that closed elementary school to be turned into a 24/7 micro-apartment with innovation live-work space, and the resulting “not-like-us” people it attracts?
Place: This is where most efforts first spend their time and money seeking engineering reports, architectural renderings, and environmental assessments. We put it last for two reasons:
First, no place – no matter how perfect the place is for that imagined community-theatre-kitchen-homeless-shelter-yoga studio – will it happen if the money and markets are not there, and if the surrounding neighbors are calling 1-800-Lawsuit.
Conversely, if these other three factors do line up – especially if some unstoppable people are gonna make it happen no matter what — any place can be made to work.
So try this 4-step conga on your next “what-if,” perhaps kick-it around with a co-conspirator. We’ll use it when we review your suggested sites, as well as how it has – and has not – helped us with real initiatives to become Better Than Ever.
Stay tuned, and remember to thank your Mom.
Now for the fun and interactive part. Got a pet eyesore peeve? A vacant building or neglected property in need of fixing?
⇒Send your suggestions email@example.com.
Stuart Arnett redevelop hometowns through his company Arnett Development Group in Concord, NH, and is a founding member of the Better Future Alliance L3C, and has served as New Hampshire’s Director of Economic Development. He is the youngest of five sugar-fed boomers.
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