Collaborating with community-minded neighbours to create attractive businesses is a core mandate of the Edmonton Community Development Company. In that regard, the Piazza project was an excellent opportunity for the CDC to bring about positive change in the McCauley neighbourhood.
But helping to build a co-op was never part of our plan (not at first, anyway). In fact, the idea sprouted from a different project the CDC was undertaking in McCauley.
“We were doing some engagement activities with local residents and business owners on how we could develop the Paskin site [at 95th street and 106A Avenue],” says Karen Gingras, Director of Neighbourhood Development. “McCauley is a community that is passionate about revitalizing and reinvigorating, and during our discussion around the Paskin site, someone brought up the idea of purchasing the strip mall and turning it into a community hub.”
Community members explained that the strip mall, located in Little Italy (across from McCauley’s beautiful Giovanni Caboto Park), had significant potential not just as a place for people to meet, but as a cornerstone in the community. There was just one catch: The mall was not for sale.
“Neighbours had tried and failed to purchase the Piazza in the past, and we at the CDC had encouraged a local developer to try and purchase it in 2019. That didn’t work either,” said Karen.
Edmonton realtor Ross Lizotte, on behalf of the CDC, spoke to the owners of the property several times over 2019 to ask if they would consider selling.
“I called the owners twice in 2019 to ask if they would sell, and the answer was ‘no,’ both times,” says Ross. “Then, the third time, they said they might consider selling. We knew this was a sought-after property; it would not stay on the market for long.”
After months of learning about investment cooperatives, the McCauley group decided to proceed with incorporating the co-op with the goal of purchasing the mall. An offer to purchase was submitted and accepted by the owners (after tireless negotiations on Ross’s part).
“This project was not identified in our strategic plan, but when the opportunity emerged, we shifted gear and got to work,” said Mark Holmgren, Executive Director of Edmonton CDC.
Since investment cooperatives are a rare entity in Edmonton, the founding members of the McCauley Development Co-Op project had a steep learning curve (and an ambitious investment drive) ahead.
Working with the Co-op, Edmonton CDC was able to contribute to the advancement of the Co-Op through:
- Investing CDC monies into learning and capacity-building in developing co-ops
- Creating bylaws for the McCauley Development Co-Op
- Providing support to the Co-Op Board
- Supporting the investor recruitment process
- Preparing cash-flow projection for the property
- Assisting with the Offer of Purchase and due diligence work
- Providing bridge loans for investors on a tight timeline
Today, with the purchase secured and planning for the site underway, the Edmonton CDC is proud to have played a role in this very ambitious and very successful project.
Says Mark: “This project is an excellent example of collaborative community development. More than 80 residents have invested, another ten formed the Board, and three organizations contributed to making this community-owned project a reality: the Edmonton CDC, the Social Enterprise Fund, and Lizotte Real Estate.”
We hope to have more opportunities to support neighbourhoods in their own grassroots revitalization efforts. If you’d like to know how to get involved in similar projects in your neighbourhood and could use more information or support, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.