A Co-op for Community Development

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It works much like a food co-op, but the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) deals with real estate.

Through NEIC, community members pool their resources to collectively buy, rehab and manage commercial and residential property in Northeast Minneapolis, its website reads.

The group is focused on transforming the area’s “stressed and poorly utilized residential and commercial properties,” especially along Central and Lowry avenues.

Leslie Watson, a founding member who also lives in the area, explains that neighbors came together to set up NEIC, which had its first member meeting this past spring.

It’s an unusual model that’s “visionary and cutting-edge,” she says.

She knows of only one other similar cooperative model in the country, River West Investment Cooperative in Milwaukee, which specializes in residential development.

For NEIC, the basis is that Central is “not the main street it could be, that it once was,” she says.

Yet, Central and Lowry avenues both hold a lot of promise, something the group wants to build on. “It’s a connector and an obvious focal point to bring people together under a common cause,” she says.

The corridors are characterized by a number of vintage buildings, some of which are vacant. “Quite a few buildings have seen disinvestment,” she says, and need maintenance, while many businesses have left the area, making way for more and more absentee landlords.

At this point, “The capital is no longer owned by people in the community,” she says. “NEIC offers the opportunity to bring your own money to try to recapitalize on a main commercial thoroughfare.”

So far, 50 people have signed on to contribute $1,000 apiece, while another 15 have pledged to give to the cause. The group continues to seek additional members at its monthly informational meetings. “There’s been an overwhelmingly positive response,” she says.

One of the group’s goals is to draw various businesses “that we want to succeed there, and create an environment that’s attractive for them.”

Anna Pratt is the Development Editor for The Line in The Twin Cities, MN.