Formed in 2016, Chicago TREND is a social enterprise with a mission to catalyze and accelerate commercial development that strengthens urban neighborhoods, with a focus on communities of color. The first and only investment vehicle of its kind in the United States, the firm identifies, evaluates, acquires, and improves service-oriented community shopping centers and assembles teams of Black professionals to manage the properties. They also create opportunities for Black-owned businesses to lease storefronts, and structure the deals to enable Black entrepreneurs, community members, and other small impact investors to invest and financially benefit as owners of the shopping centers.
To date Chicago TREND has purchased and upgraded four shopping centers in Chicago and Baltimore—each of which includes more than 130 area residents who get to participate in wealth-building opportunities through the unique community investment model. Chicago TREND’s work has fueled over $11.8 million of direct investment in Black business owners and real estate developers, technical assistance, and financial support to 60 entrepreneurs and community development organizations.
Forbes contributor Anne Field recently interviewed Chicago TREND CEO Lyneir Richardson about the launch of their new TREND Fund, which will create opportunities for residents of underserved urban communities to acquire an equity interest in shopping centers that are in or near their neighborhoods. “Now, with three years under his belt since Chicago TREND bought its first property, according to Richardson, the company has been able to build a model he can expand nationally. The new fund, he hopes, will help him to accomplish that.”
The initial impact investors in the TREND Fund include McKnight, MacArthur, Kresge, Surdna, and Pritzker Traubert Foundations, providing a combined $10 million. “Catalytic capital, [Richardson] hopes, will help him raise more money from other philanthropically motivated impact investors.”
With a goal of investing $50 million in the revitalization of shopping centers in low and moderate-income neighborhoods, the Fund will aim to attract Black business owners to its shopping center properties by offering discounted rent, reduced security deposits, and relaxed requirements regarding capitalization and collateral.
“The McKnight Foundation is excited to partner with Chicago TREND, investing on the cutting edge of BIPOC community wealth building and inclusive commercial development, strategies needed across the country to unlock opportunities for Black business owners,” said Elizabeth McGeveran, Director of Investments, McKnight Foundation. “Investing in the acquisition and revitalization of a shopping center in the Twin Cities through the TREND Fund represents one of at least 60 BIPOC-led commercial developments in Minnesota that the Coalition révolutionnaire aims to support over the next 10 years in our efforts to achieve racial and economic justice in the region.”
Richardson expanded on their goals in a statement: “On the ground, the Fund will make it possible for at least 1,000 residents of Black inner-city locales across the country to own commercial real estate in their neighborhoods, benefit from local climate change improvements at the reinvigorated shopping centers, and catalyze other development projects that strengthen their communities,” he said. “By acquiring and revitalizing inner-city shopping centers, the TREND Fund will provide an attractive investment return to our Limited Partners who we expect will be foundations, banks, corporations, family offices, and religious institutions that are committed to racial justice.”