The National Impact Real Estate (IRE) program is a private sector purpose-driven social impact enterprise that brings together external social impact investors with small to midsize communities to redevelop under-utilized downtown properties into entrepreneurs’ centres and community hubs. These centres drive downtown and community revitalization by giving entrepreneurs the opportunity and tools they need to succeed.
The social impact case for IRE
In many small and medium-sized towns there is one property that affects the way residents think of their downtowns and their community overall. It doesn’t matter how well the downtown is doing, residents see that building and say downtown is not cool. It’s a problem we have seen over and over again in the 30 years we have worked in downtowns.
The National IRE program aims to solve two critical challenges. The first is local. It concerns the cultural, social, and economic health of Canadian small to midsized communities because of the shortage of opportunities to establish, stabilize, and grow businesses; the softening of the communities social and cultural bonds; and the difficulties keeping residents. In some communities, the spark that made them special is fading. Layered on this is the challenge of attracting new outside investment, new businesses, and new residents.
The second challenge is national, and much more ambitious. As our large urban centres become more internationalized and more like other large world centres in tone, design, and living, it is our smaller communities that have the key role expressing the distinctions that make up our national cultural character. Their ability to create new opportunities; sustain the community’s vibrancy and sense of purpose; and create new economic prospects are critical to strengthening national cohesion and identity.
IRE’s goals for your town
The IRE is at its heart an economic development program. Its ultimate goal is to create new local businesses and jobs. The IRE brings outside investment to the downtown to be part of its revitalization and is about creating a competitive advantage for our project communities for new investment and new residents. The IRE is not about a single property. It affects the whole town by changing the way residents think of their downtown and the whole town. The IRE is a community changing event. It’s a big deal.
The Brass Tacks — IRE is economic development at the core
- IRE is about generating jobs and new businesses
- IRE is about creating a destination, focus for, and revitalization of the downtown
- IRE is about changing the way residents think of their downtown and by extension, the entire town
- IRE is about creating new ancillary businesses
- IRE is about creating a competitive advantage over other communities for new investment, new institutions, and new residents
- IRE is a community changing event. It is a big deal.
Why are we launching the IRE programs?
We are social impact investors who want positive financial returns coupled with outcomes that positively affect our project community’s social and cultural wellbeing. While we pursue the program goals of strengthening our communities and national identity, the National program has financial goals. These include financial returns for the local and outside investors that can come from the IRE’s operations; equity in the properties; and potentially from investment in promising IRE businesses. Certain investment vehicles may also create tax benefits. The National program will benefit from management and development fees.
The main components of the IRE program
The IREs are located in key downtown properties and will drive traffic and act as an anchor for the downtown. Each community’s project is a collaboration of existing local service providers. The IRE helps to fill gaps and helps other organizations extend their resources. The local IREs are customized to reflect local needs and act as a one-stop shop helping entrepreneurs to access the services he or she needs to be successful. The IREs are not a co-working space though depending on the local needs, may have some work space available. The IRE focuses on providing training programs, networking and mentoring, collusions, access to third-party services, and community collaboration and meeting space,
The national IRE organization brings the IRE communities together to share ideas, experiences, and knowledge; acts as the investment managers; design the management and operating systems and entrepreneurs’ programs; acts as a knowledge exchange; delivers a national training program; and maintain relationships with global social impact organizations.
Want to be part of the program?
We are currently in the demonstration phase of the program with our first project in Ontario. Two additional projects are slated to be announced in the late summer of 2018. We aim for a general roll-out of the national program in 2019. We are looking for the following for our project towns:
- Your trading area is 25,000-150,000 people.
- You have a distinct and compact downtown area.
- You have alternative impactful properties to work with that have potential for appreciation and changing the vibe of the downtown.
- There are no other full-service entrepreneur centre or incubator with full programming in your trading area.
- Your community’s strategic plan does not point to stagnation, decline, or the need to rectify a sinking situation.
The most important criteria for us are residents and community champions who “lean forward” when it comes to taking on new ideas and opportunities.