Supermarket Brings Hope to Chester, One of the Country’s Most Distressed Communities

Brandon Primeaux who will have access to better food in his neighborhood and hopefully have a healthy lifestyle because of the new supermarket TRF helped to bring to Chester.

Brandon Primeaux who will have access to better food in his neighborhood and hopefully have a healthy lifestyle because of the new supermarket TRF helped to bring to Chester.

To Brandon Primeaux, the Fare & Square supermarket in the city of Chester will offer more than just healthy food to residents who have lacked it for years; it will also help to transform a community that has long been abandoned by major food retailers.
The market, operated by the hunger-relief nonprofit organization Philabundance, has its scheduled opening in the Fall of 2013. And it will be a welcome addition to a community that struggles with deep poverty issues — a city with one of the highest rates of poverty in the country.
Its presence — and the fresh fruits, meats and vegetables it will sell — will make it easier for people to shift their diets away from easily available processed foods. Since the last supermarket closed several years ago, convenience stores have been the only food retailers in town, says Primeaux, a supervisor in the Chester office of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and a volunteer liaison between Philabundance and the city.
“Not to have something as simple as a supermarket in your area, it robs people of a sense of dignity.”
“Food access is a growing and complex problem across the country and in the Delaware Valley, and one that requires a complex solution,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “We’ve worked on this concept for years, and we are thrilled to see it coming to fruition to help the residents of Chester.”
Primeaux hopes the market will also help residents feel better about a city where supermarket chains have been scared off by a high crime rate, and where residents have been forced to travel miles to buy food at supermarkets in other communities.

“Not to have something as simple as a supermarket in your area, it robs people of a sense of dignity,” Primeaux said.
For years, Primeaux has had to drive about five miles from his home on the east side of Chester to a supermarket in Brookhaven to shop for groceries. For his neighbors who don’t have cars, getting to the market requires taking one or two buses in a trip that takes at least half an hour, he said.
People often team up for shopping trips to supermarkets in other towns, especially at times when food stamps are sent out to Chester’s many welfare recipients, Primeaux said.
In an effort to attract shoppers who have few other options, the new supermarket will offer fresh foods at competitive prices. The project obtained financing from TRF and the Nonprofit Finance Fund using New Markets Tax Credits, a federal program to incentivize equity investment in low-income areas.
“We could not open Fare & Square in Chester without the help of our countless partners in this project, including TRF who helped with the financing of the project,” said Clark.
“With the realization of this initiative, the residents of Chester will now have access to affordable and nutritious food right around the corner.”
Primeaux himself became a convert to a healthy diet about two years ago when he was dangerously overweight. “I was on the brink of death,” he said. Now, at 37, he has lost 60 pounds by cutting out processed foods, exercising, and cooking for himself. Once Fare & Square opens, he plans to try to lose another 25 pounds and reach his target weight.
He’s hoping that the new supermarket will help people eat more healthfully, not only by making better food available but also by offering tips on how to prepare it. Together, the food and the skills may encourage people to revive the home cooking and family mealtimes that have often been abandoned by those who work two or three jobs to make ends meet, he said.
“Fare & Square has the potential to transform people’s thinking so that people are more attracted to healthy diets,” he said.


Erie Elementary Charter School: Making Something Great Even Better

Alex Montgomery Director of Operations  Erie Elementary Charter School

Alex Montgomery
Director of Operations
Erie Elementary Charter School

Erie Elementary Charter School (EECS) opened its doors in 2005 to provide another public school option for parents and families.  Born out of the mission of Erie Neighborhood House, EECS focuses on the importance of heritage, cultural diversity and the importance of learning a second language (Spanish).  EECS’ small classroom model and family feel provide the nurturing environment we believe students need to succeed.

EECS began in 2005 with just four classrooms: two kindergarten and two 1st grade.  Since then, EECS has grown a grade each year, finally reaching our first graduating class this year, in 2013.  Over the years we have seen standardized test scores increase, but more importantly we have seen our students grow into community leaders: successfully competing in science fairs, leading efforts to combat child labor, and developing into young adults who care for each other and the world around them.  We can’t wait to see where they all end up.

Erie Elementary, Construction, New Gymnasium

Erie Elementary, Construction, New Gymnasium

As EECS grew, we struggled with space constraints and the constant need for space for small groups or one-on-one work.  We knew we needed to move from our original leased building to something more permanent that could meet our evolving and expanding space needs.

As with most – if not all – nonprofits, EECS did not have the internal expertise to manage these complex transactions and projects.  We needed a financing strategy and we needed help managing the expansion project. So we called IFF, a community development financial institution (CDFI), that specializes in helping nonprofits that serve low-income and special needs communities.

Erie Elementary, Expansion Construction

Erie Elementary, Expansion Construction

In addition to guiding us through the process of purchasing a school building—all the way through the design and construction phase—IFF helped us to secure the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing that ensured we could complete the building on time and on budget.  The NMTC equity investment of $3.6MM and low-interest-only payments for seven years were not only critical to the success of the project, but also our school and most importantly, our students.

Through IFF and the financing made possible through the NMTC Program, EECS was able to manage a sophisticated design and construction process as well as an overwhelmingly complex financial deal that ensured EECS could operate in a beautiful and space-effective building that will last us for years to come.

Investing in Healthy Foods and Strong Communities

By, Oscar González, Chief Operating Officer, Northgate González Markets

Northgate González Markets is a family-owned chain of supermarkets located in the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas. Sometimes referred to as the “Hispanic Whole Foods,” our stores offer a range of high quality products, prepared foods, and specialty services, like tortillerias, that cater specifically to Latino communities. Together, the stores provide jobs with excellent benefits to more than 4,900 Californians.

Miguel González, Sr. opened the first Northgate market in Anaheim, California in 1980, after the shoe store he’d owned for years in Mexico was destroyed in a fire. He kept the name of the just-purchased store Northgate, as he didn’t have the funds to buy a new sign. Today, there are 36 Northgate González stores located throughout southern California, and more than 45 of our family members continue to work at the stores.

In 2010-2011, we entered a new phase of our company’s growth with the development of a 385,000 square foot headquarters and distribution center, a new store opening, the development of an additional store location, and an investment in a third store site. Though we were ready for a period of managed growth and had a history of strong financial management and operations, our existing financing facilities were close to capacity.

We approached  NCB Capital Impact because we had heard about the California FreshWorks Fund, a $270 MM fund, including New Markets Tax Credits, that is dedicated to expanding access to healthy foods in under-served areas throughout California – something our company is also dedicated to. NCB Capital Impact helped us to acquire New Markets Tax Credits financing for two new stores in 2012 – Northgate Inglewood and Northgate City Heights. Together, these stores provide access to fresh foods for more than 200,000 people, many of whom are low-income; and they provide full-time jobs with paid time-off, healthcare benefits, and retirement benefits for more than 250 local residents.

Northgate González Markets, Inglewood Butcher, Inglewood, California

Northgate González Markets, Inglewood Butcher,
Inglewood, California

Our Inglewood store was developed on the site of another supermarket that shut down several years ago. When First Lady Michelle Obama toured the site in 2012, she commented on how the new Northgate supermarket would help neighborhood parents: “If they want to pick up a head of lettuce to make a salad, they shouldn’t have to get on a bus.”

Our City Heights store is located in a dense, ethnically diverse neighborhood in San Diego, California that also previously lacked a full-service supermarket. Today, our store provides healthy food access to more than 110,000 neighborhood residents, and provides high quality, full-time jobs for 150 people. Both of the Inglewood and City Heights stores would not have been possible without the New Markets Tax Credit financing provided by NCB Capital Impact, Chase Bank, and US Bancorp.

Bloomington Project School Owes Existence to IFF and New Markets Tax Credit Program

Daniel Barron, School Leader, Bloomington Project School, Bloomington Indiana

Daniel Barron, School Leader, Bloomington Project School, Bloomington Indiana

In the fall of 2006, a small group of public school educators and education reformers began a discussion about the current state of education, trends in education reform, and identifying sharedBloomlogo core beliefs about teaching and learning. As the group began to articulate their vision for a 21st Century School to which they would feel confident sending their own children and grandchildren, the Bloomington Project School (BPS) was born. From the outset, the school’s goal was to interrupt the status quo of low achievement for children from historically marginalized and disenfranchised families of color and/or poverty.

From the very beginning, the founders of The Project School knew that we would not be satisfied by creating an excellent, equitable school for our community while countless millions of youth were being failed by the public school system. The School Project Foundation was born out of the need to continue the development of exemplary, culturally relevant teaching and learning practices at the Project Schools and to share our curriculum and pedagogy with educators across the country.

The vision of The Project School is to eliminate the predictive value of race, class, gender, and special abilities on student success in school and in life by working together with families and the community to ensure each child’s success.

Our mission is to uncover, recover, and discover the unique gifts and talents that each child brings to school everyday. Our school works collaboratively with families, community members, and social service agencies to solve real problems, as well as create art for public spaces. Students graduate from The Project School as stewards of the environment with the will, skill, capacity, and knowledge to contribute to the greater good.

As founders of a small start-up charter school, we knew exactly what kind of learning environment that we wanted to create and the instructional practices that could meet every learner where he/she was, but we had no experience in raising the amount of funds necessary to build and/or renovate a school building. As a start-up charter school, BPS did not have access to capital funds from the Indiana Department of Education or the authority to sell bonds for capital expenses.

To make matters worse, we were chartered in the spring of 2008, just months before the Great Recession began. Our local banks showed very little interest in loaning money to a small group of educators based solely on the power of their ideas.

This is where IFF came to our rescue! BPS was fortunate to be able to access New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) to complete our dream school. The $1,160,000 NMTC loan allowed BPS to completely renovate a dilapidated building in the heart of downtown Bloomington as well as to purchase state-of-the-art technology and the necessary infrastructure to support it. The location was perfectly situated for our school; it is close to many social service agencies, the local library, and a beautiful city park.

The City of Bloomington owns the Project School building. BPS was told that it would have occupancy to the space on January 3rd, 2009. Due to internal issues at the City, we did not gain occupancy until June 3rd, just two months before we were scheduled to open! The school opened, with full enrollment, in August 2009. The only remnants of the original building that remained were the weight-bearing walls, the main stairwell and the elevator. The project was called “The miracle on Walnut Street” in our daily local paper the day after we opened.

Although the IFF loan made it possible for BPS to open in August 2009, we could only serve 200 students due to the size of the building (22,000 sq.ft). The Project School could not be financially sustainable with only 200 students. We needed additional funding of realizing our vision of a K-8 school serving 270 students. BPS set the precedent in the state of Indiana by being the first charter school to be approved by the Indiana Department of Education to receive a Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB). We are convinced that we would not have had the opportunity for the QSCB without the IFF and its New Markets Tax Credit program.

In 2010 BPS built a new, three-story, 9,000 sq.ft. addition to the school building. In the span of two months, BPS added a science lab and performance arts space and doubled the size of four classrooms! Last year we had over 200 more applicants than openings for students. Only one out of every ten students in the lottery was selected for enrollment.

The School Project Foundation (SPF) has also flourished over the last two years. SPF has received funding to support founding groups of educators to start new schools that are grounded in social justice and environmental sustainability. Our first SPF-sponsored school was chartered last year in Manchester, NH, and this year we have two groups in Indiana that are at the last stage of the chartering process.

We hope to continue our partnership with IFF to use NMTC to help our partner schools fund the facilities that they will need.

Investing in the Health of Residents and a Community

David Flentge, President and CEO, Community Health Care

David Flentge, President and CEO, Community Health Care

Community Health Care (CHC)  is a Federally Qualified Health Center in Pierce County, Washington. It has provided health services to the underserved for over 44 years and is currently a health care home for 31,000 patients annually through five medical and two dental clinics. Of those, 59% have incomes below poverty, 81% are low income, 19% are uninsured, 56% represent racial and ethnic minority groups, and 37% are children.

Tacoma’s Hilltop community, where CHC’s clinic is located, is the most densely populated low income area of the county and the highest risk area in the state for infants and children. It was once a premier retail and shopping area of the city but had fallen into disrepair. Most retail had disappeared, and its future seemed uncertain. For some years, CHC wanted to expand or replace its small and aging clinic in the area. The issue became more pressing with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when CHC projected that its client base could more than double in the next few years. CHC received a grant from the federal government for $12 million to undertake the construction of a more adequate facility to respond to this need in the Hilltop district. CHC also believed that the prospect of a major outpatient health care facility being built in the area would bolster the area’s prospects for economic redevelopment.

It became apparent that CHC’s federal grant would only be the start of the total financing needed to build a facility that could adequately respond to the need in this area. In addition, the timing of CHC’s grant coincided with a major downturn in the economy. This made capital campaigns difficult and made it doubtful that CHC could raise the $26.68 million that the final design of such a new clinic required.

CHC learned about New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) projects in the immediate area and contacted prior participants. CHC launched into the task of securing NMTC financing and partnered with Low Income Investment Fund, National Development Council and US Bank.  All three groups met onsite and worked together to complete the deal which included $27.5 million in NMTCs, $7 million in equity investments and additional bridge financing.

The project is now under construction and scheduled to open in October 2013. It will provide medical and dental clinics, a pharmacy, an imaging center and an Urgent Care Clinic. It will be able to serve over 17,000 patients per year, up from 5,000 patients at the current Hilltop clinic, and will draw 50,000 patient visits annually to the area, stimulating economic activity and creating additional retail incentive for development. The project has provided 95 construction jobs to date and is expected to add 30 to 40 additional workers by the end of the project. The fully operational center will provide more than 130 permanent full-time positions.

In addition, the new clinic will be a teaching health center and will have residency programs for physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and pharmacists. Pierce County is currently lacking over 100 primary care providers so these programs will be critical to bringing new providers to the area.

CHC's Hilltop Community Health Care Clinic Under Construction, Tacoma, Washington

CHC’s Hilltop Community Health Care Clinic Under Construction, Tacoma, Washington

The NMTC program enabled CHC to build a clinic to meet the needs of the community. Without the economic assistance NMTCs provided, CHC would likely have had to build a smaller and less adequate facility with fewer programs. Even before completion, the project is making an impact on the community. The Pierce County Economic Council has named it one of the top 10 economic stimulus projects of the year, and the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency listed it as one of the most successful brownfield programs of the year.

When completed, the clinic will be the first major construction in the Hilltop Community in over 30 years and have a significant impact on the area.

Rendering of Future Hilltop Community Health Care Clinic

Rendering of CHC’s Future Community Health Care Clinic in Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood

The project spurred the City of Tacoma and Pierce County to prepare the way for retail and business expansion. Sound Transit, the local transportation agency, has approved the extension of the light rail system from downtown to the community. And, the Hilltop clinic will provide the only Urgent Care facility in the area giving care regardless of insurance coverage, alleviating the burden on local emergency rooms. The community expects this project to be a catalyst for improving the health of residents and local economic development.

Building the Dream: Shelter in Downtown LA

By Ida Somero, Executive Director, The Dream Center Foundation

The Dream Center’s rallying cry is “Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.” Also known as the Church that Never Sleeps,

Dream Center, Los Angeles

Dream Center, Los Angeles

we provide services to over 50,000 low income individuals and families each month in the areas of homelessness, hunger relief, medical care and education. Our main facility, built in 1926, is a 14-story former hospital in downtown Los Angeles.

To serve the growing needs in our community, The Dream Center needed a modern home. But upgrading a nearly 90 year-old building is expensive and seemed nearly impossible.  With the assistance of a $49.7 million investment from the New Markets Tax Credit program, we are rehabilitating five floors of the building. Those floors will serve as housing for more than 350 individuals, including adults and families in rehabilitation from life-controlling issues including abuse, addictions, depression, and anger.

Monica and her family: Dream Center Los Angeles Opportunity Fund

Monica and Family: Dream Center, Los Angeles Opportunity Fund

One of those families is Monica and her children, who drove across the country fleeing domestic violence.  After finding temporary shelter with her brother, they found a safe home through The Dream Center’s Family Housing program.  Since coming to The Dream Center, Monica and her family have been able to receive counseling, and she is near to completing her college education. But most importantly, her children have found a home free from abuse, where they are free to pursue their dreams and rebuild their lives.
We truly could not have housed families like Monica’s without the New Markets program’s grants and affordable interest rates. We are deeply thankful that the New Markets Tax Credit program, and investors such as Opportunity Fund for making the dream of safe housing possible for many more families here in Los Angeles.

Bringing Healthcare to Rural Pennsylvania

Drew Pierce, CEO, Prinary Health Network

Drew Pierce, CEO, Prinary Health Network

Primary Health Network (PHN) is a nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that began providing community-based comprehensive medical care in 1984. We are Pennsylvania’s largest FQHC with 32 service sites in 11 northwestern counties. We also serve 2 northeastern Ohio counties. In recognition of our high quality of care, PHN has been Joint Commission accredited since 1997 and in 2013, the Joint Commission recognized us as a Primary Care Medical Home.

As part of our service line, PHN is constructing a 45,000 square foot, $11.5 million health and social services facility in Punxsutawney, PA.  This new facility will be completed in mid-2014 and is modeled as an FQHC-Anchored Multi-Service Facility (FQHC-MSF) where our FQHC is the anchor tenant.  Located in rural Jefferson County, the facility will house a variety of services including primary care, a 340(b) pharmacy, services from the local community hospital, women’s health, behavioral health, a café and a public meeting room for community use.

The primary care and behavioral health suites, operated by PHN, will feature 20 medical and 10 behavioral health exam rooms, more than doubling our current capacity in Punxsutawney. The new facility will allow us to serve 38,000 patients per year and increase the types of services offered. With a variety of other health and social service providers co-located in the new building, the facility is expected to significantly enhance the community’s access to care and help the providers realize operating efficiencies and benefit from cross referrals.  It’s estimated that the convenience provided by the co-locators in this FQHC-MSF will provide PHN an additional 7,500 encounters per year and 1,500 additional 340(b) prescriptions per year.

We cannot overstate the value that the FQHC-MSF will bring to Punxsutawney. This project will not only improve health outcomes, but also spur economic growth and development in a struggling community. The facility is expected to house 100 jobs, many of which will be new to the area. The increased foot traffic generated by the facility will also help to shore up other Punxsutawney businesses. The economic impact according to the IMPLAN model conducted for the project suggests the annual economic output for this facility is almost $7 Million.

After struggling to secure financing from traditional banking sources, The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) came through. “There is no luck in business. There is only determination and the development of partnerships with organizations and people who share a similar vision and drive,” explains Jack Laeng, PHN’s CEO. “TRF is such a company with people who understand the mission of health care and our desire to initiate positive change for the communities we serve.”

Stock Photo by Sean Locke

Mr. Laeng’s quote alludes to the nature of the FQHC business.  While exceptionally reliable borrowers, FQHCs cannot accumulate assets or grow assets similar to regular private businesses. This makes it difficult to raise funds for development or large amounts of funds as equity for projects.  Local banks in today’s lending environment are averse to lending to projects with limited assets or equity.

New Markets Tax Credits provided the perfect financing mechanism for this project to move forward.  NMTC became the main cog in the wheel of financing for the FQHC-MSF. It gave us an affordable method of financing that reduces the debt burden on the project so substantially that it allows us to pass on those savings to the FQHC and other Health Care and Social Service Organizations that typically are very budget-conscious.

TRF and JPMorgan Chase provided $11.5 million of NMTC, which generated $3.4 million in equity from Chase. TRF, partnered with the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), to provide a $3.5 million senior leverage loan. TRF also funded an additional $2 million leverage loan for the energy-efficient components of the project. TRF and LIIF also made a $2 million short-term loan to PHN outside of the NMTC transaction to help us make a $3.1 million loan to the project.

This project is part of a national initiative to finance community health centers by LIIF and TRF, with support from the Kresge Foundation. LIIF and TRF are leading nonprofit community development financial institutions that, together, have lent more than $2 billion to support community businesses. They combine this expertise with a patient, nimble approach to financing, especially when working with organizations that are new to capital projects and debt.