Since negotiating a contract to acquire the Edmondson Village Shopping Center for $17,050,000, Black-owned Chicago TREND has invited Black entrepreneurs, local impact investors and residents to support the redevelopment of the Southwest Baltimore shopping center.
The commercial real estate company launched a crowdfunding campaign through SmallChange.com for Baltimoreans to invest as little as $1,000 and become co-owners of the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. The business plan calls for Investors to receive 49 percent of the cash flow from the project.
The crowdfunding campaign will end on April 30.
“So many communities are adversely impacted by commercial corridors that are disinvested in or blighted. If the commercial corridor is your first impression of a neighborhood, and it’s only boarded-up stores, dollar stores, liquor stores and check cashing, even if the housing value is strong, it brings down the perception of the neighborhood,” said Lyneir Richardson, CEO and co-founder of Chicago TREND.
“If there really is a lot of blight, it attracts crime, and the commercial corridor or shopping center, instead of being an asset, becomes a liability. We’ve been trying to find areas where retail and commercial development will make a difference—neighborhoods that are on the cusp of change.”
Chicago TREND launched a similar campaign in 2021 to revitalize the Walbrook Village Shopping Center. Renovations, planned to include a health clinic and Black-owned bank, are set to begin in March.
The Edmondson Village Shopping Center project is expected to generate nearly 900 construction jobs and 250 retail jobs, with a focus on singling out Black residents for employment opportunities.
The city of Baltimore has already approved a $7.5 million grant to Chicago TREND for the project, and the commercial real estate company is looking for a major grocery store chain, up to four sites for restaurants and services and development of senior housing on a six-acre vacant lot in the new shopping center.
Richardson spelled out his vision in a Feb. 8 social media post to inform people about the opportunity to invest in and co-own the Edmondson Village Shopping Center, and many of the comments from community members were positive.
“I love everything about it, Lyneir Richardson,” said Tee Johnson. “I prayed for this because it’s just heartbreaking when riding through Edmondson Ave. and looking over at the shopping center. It seems to be destroyed. Thank God for resuscitation.”
“Great idea, thank you. I always thought that there’s enough resources for African Americans in Maryland to finance local community businesses and infrastructure,” said Gerard Dambreville. “We should stop whining.”
But, Edmondson Village Community Association president Monique Washington, who has lived in Edmondson Village since 2007, has reservations about Chicago TREND managing the redevelopment.
“Their approach when they came into the community wasn’t the best, but they’re here. From my understanding, there were some meetings prior to them actually coming to the community. We were not aware of them until later in the process,” said Washington.
“They are now communicating with the community because there’s a covenant that surrounds the shopping center which dictates what can and cannot be done on the property. Now, they’re trying to get some of those covenants amended, and they’re on the fast track to do it. We’re concerned about a developer coming in from Chicago and wanting to amend a covenant when they’re supposedly telling the community that they’re doing it in phases.”
Richardson views the restrictive covenants as one of reasons for the shopping center’s poor condition today. According to him, they prevent acts, including selling property to “Negroes,” straying from using Colonial Williamsburg architecture and creating housing in the rear of the shopping center.
Washington is concerned that Chicago TREND’s redesign for the shopping center will fail to create ample parking, creating traffic jams and triggering overflow parking problems on adjacent residential streets. According to her, Richardson initially wanted to create six restaurant pads in the front parking lot.
She voiced concern that Richardson’s parking pledge could change without him being held accountable to the community.
She’s also apprehensive about the investments being non-transferable, meaning if a community investor dies, their next of kin cannot inherit their ownership stake.
“I told them I’m not against what they’re doing, but I am a community leader who genuinely cares about our community, and I want to see this sale done right,” said Washington.
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.