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Posts from the ‘Placemaking’ Category

Crowdfunding hits real estate development

Soon after I typed up our vision of the FOD, I landed on an another favorite concept from the real estate world, although this one isn’t mine.

The folks at Fundrise have hit on a long-term frustration of mine—that real estate development is too often saved for those with loads of money, and that, in turn, these people (and corporations) are often not intimately connected to the places they are developing.

Enter crowdfunding. Fundrise jumped on it, and didn’t wait for the federal JOBS Act to be ruled on by the SEC. They made the connection to real estate on their own. Using a rarely used public offering qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission (technically, Regulation A), Fundrise is removing several middle men and allowing everyday Americans (well, actually Virginians and DC-ians at the moment) to tangibly help revitalize their own neighborhoods. Regulation A permits small offerings to unaccredited investors for under $5 million total. For Fundrise, this means that individuals can directly invest in development projects in their own neighborhood. In theory, this will lead to more appropriate and successful projects because the local community is supporting developments through real ownership.

Check out these more lengthy pieces at Atlantic Cities and VentureBeat.

And speaking of the JOBS Act, the SEC missed its original January deadline for a draft ruleset. Now with a new SEC chair incoming, uncertainty is most certainly the theme.

Sprout Collective starts growing

More neat friends of ours are shaking things up. The Sprout Collective is doing that green jobs thing that we’re all trying to put our finger on. This trio is leveraging a big idea—the Living Building Challenge—and exporting our Northwest knowledge to any school district that is ready. They will solve school capacity issues, provide an innovative and tangible curriculum platform, and create lots of jobs. The team has designed the Seed, which is a net-zero modular classroom. Sprout will coordinate the pre-fab units with partner Method Construction. The primary elements—rainwater collection, PV panels, composting toilet—that make the Seed a Living Building will be contained in a central pod, which can then be enlarged with flanking rooms as needed. The Daily Journal of Commerce has some additional info here. And if you still need convincing, the real point of the Seed is to inspire kids towards a more sustainable future. I can’t think of a better time to simultaneously invest in our kids and the green building industry. Help the mission here if you’re so inclined.

Photo courtesy of Sprout!

The Food Oriented Development … it’s an FOD!

I’m pretty fired up about this concept. Perhaps I didn’t officially coin the phrase, but I’m certainly trying to bring it into practice. Much like its more common cousin, the TOD (transit oriented development), it’s fairly self-explanatory. At the moment, however, I’m thinking most specifically about an urban site development rather than a complete neighborhood. An FOD is all about density, with food as the central focus. On some levels it’s simply mixed-use development with a theme. But an FOD adds food industry—production, processing, storage, composting—to the usual combinations of residential, office and retail.

Parts of this concept pop up all the time. Take the images here, for example. My friend Chris was part of a group that launched a short-term demonstration called the Mushroom Farm. They partnered with renowned architecture firm Olson Kundig, which rotates thematic installations through its Pioneer Square storefront.  The Mushroom Farm showcased the industrial ecology nexus of spent coffee grounds and mushroom spores. Create the right conditions and voila, tasty oyster mushrooms grow right out of a bag. But the installation was much more than mushrooms and coffee. The team curated lunches, dinners and events to explore related conversations and celebrate the community that showed up.


Also in Seattle, Melrose Market does a nice job of co-locating food businesses. It’s mostly service and retail, although the butcher certainly provides some processing flair.

Another key to an FOD is that green building strategies are extended to tenants’ operations in a very intentional and food-specific ways. And I think these efficiencies—be it electrons or ingredients, water or waste—can equate to real performance for  food businesses, thus making an FOD attractive on many levels.

Layering these types of activities, efficiencies and community benefits across many businesses on one site is an FOD. I can get all scientific and nerdy about the systems-based design aspects, environmental benefits and educational potential, but it still boils down to dynamic and vibrant placemaking. I think the FOD is yet another evolution in connecting people to their food and community.