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How Neighbors Turned Unused Buildings into a Thriving Community Hub

| Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | No Comments | Updated on Feb 3, 2017 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

Yes! Magazine – February 3, 2017

By Christa Hillstrom

After years of brewing at home, Evan Sallee and his partners at Fair State Brewing, Minnesota’s first consumer-owned beer cooperative, were finally ready to open a taproom in Minneapolis. They needed a spot that could accommodate brewing, with a storefront that invited people in off the street. That combination was hard to find until they looked at a space on Central Avenue in the city’s Northeast neighborhood.

At first they thought it wouldn’t work. The wooden floors wouldn’t support heavy equipment, and the back rooms were sorely in need of repair. In their experience, problems like these were deal breakers. But here, the landlords had prioritized renting to local entrepreneurs and would pay for the necessary renovations—in part, because they wanted to drink there themselves. …

Nationwide, speculation-fueled rent increases are far outpacing the ability of small businesses to profit in sales from the growth, according to a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a Minneapolis-based think tank. The result is that many businesses lose their leases to large national chains, whose brands give them leverage in rent negotiations.

“Too often, what we are seeing is that local businesses and people are bringing neighborhoods back, and then the value that is created by them collectively is being siphoned off by a small number of investors who don’t live in the neighborhood,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the ILSR, pointing to the “loss of control” many Americans feel over their neighborhoods’ waning affordability and increasing sense of sameness. “Owning commercial real estate is the ultimate way to guard against being at the mercy of those forces.”

Read the full story here.