Chapter One

The Challenge

Chapter Two

A Solution

Chapter Three

The Renaissance

A lifeline for disadvantaged communities

Neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times need access to non-traditional forms of capital to help them rebuild. One successful approach combines local expertise with national investment to help these local economies thrive.

Chapter One

The Challenge

Without access to capital, a vibrant arts district fades

Chapter Two

A Solution

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs)

Chapter Three

The Renaissance

A neighborhood renewed

The local arts economy especially benefited. “This neighborhood might have one of the highest densities of artists of any place in the country,” said Dana Johnson of Reinvestment Fund in Baltimore.

Interactive Tour

Station North Today

Reinvestment Fund allowed Station North to capitalize on the promising entrepreneurialism that already existed within its community. To see for yourself the impact that Reinvestment Fund has had, take this interactive walking tour of the neighborhood and meet local business owners and residents.

A lifeline for disadvantaged communities

Neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times need access to non-traditional forms of capital to help them rebuild. One successful approach combines local expertise with national investment to help these local economies thrive.

Ernst Valery

community developer

In 2010 Ernst Valery, a community developer in Baltimore, had a vision—he just wasn’t sure how to realize it.

Valery knew that the city’s neighborhoods to the south of Pennsylvania Station, the city's transportation hub, were thriving, but the north side needed help. While others saw decay, Valery saw opportunity. There was just one problem: Capital was hard to come by, even for a successful developer, because rents were low and values were declining. Valery needed someone who could offer additional resources and who understood the potential of Baltimore and the Station North neighborhood the way he did. So he got in touch with an organization called Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution (CDFI). CDFIs work within their underserved communities—from rural areas to inner-city neighborhoods—to find and fund projects that benefit communities and local economies.

There are hundreds of CDFIs across the country. To understand how they work, take a closer look at how Reinvestment Fund made all the difference for Valery and other local entrepreneurs in Station North.

Scroll to explore the rise of this colorful arts district, culminating with a tour inside thriving local businesses.

Scroll to Explore

Chapter One

The Challenge

Without access to capital, a vibrant arts district fades

Jean Yahuda

long time Station North resident

During the 1940s and '50s, the Station North neighborhood was the city’s entertainment center, home to theaters, concert halls, movie houses and beloved eateries like the Chesapeake Restaurant, a Baltimore staple. But when the city started to lose shipping and manufacturing jobs in the 1960s, Station North’s economic vitality waned.

As businesses closed and residents left, financing new development became more difficult. A self-fulfilling prophecy unfolded—when people had a hard time getting funds to expand their businesses, renovate their homes or build new ones, they moved on, furthering the neighborhood’s decline.

Chapter Two

A Solution

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs)

How can negative neighborhood cycles—like the one facing Station North—be broken? One potential answer is through CDFIs: community organizations such as local banks, credit unions, specialized lenders or venture capital funds whose purpose is to provide funds in cases that do not meet the requirements of traditional capital sources. CDFIs also provide technical assistance and business support to their surrounding neighborhoods.

They were officially created by Congress in 1994, and are certified and funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Additional financing comes from national private investors such as Bank of America—the largest investor in CDFIs. Bank of America provides capital to CDFIs that can be combined with government subsidies, tax credits and philanthropic support for projects that would otherwise have a very low chance of being financed. Amy Brusiloff, a senior CDFI client manager at Bank of America explains, “We have a common purpose to connect the communities we serve with the resources they need to be successful. One way to do that is to provide capital to CDFIs.”

How Investors Help Local Business Through CDFIs

Hover over dots to explore Tap the dots to explore

A CDFI's expertise helps turn larger investments into smaller, customized loans and grants for the greatest impact, resulting in small business growth, increased homeownership and new and restored public infrastructure—all while minimizing risk. While CDFIs haven’t solved every challenge faced by disadvantaged communities, they have empowered many business owners and individuals.

Amy Brusiloff

Bank of America SME

Chapter Three

The Renaissance

A neighborhood renewed

When Valery wanted to kickstart redevelopment in Station North, he approached Reinvestment Fund, the local CDFI, because he knew it had deep roots in the community and had more flexibility than traditional lenders.

Reinvestment Fund provided vital capital that galvanized the community and economy. Over the past seven years, abandoned landmark buildings and classic theaters have been renovated and reopened, new housing and arts studios built and dozens of small businesses launched and expanded in the community. All that activity has boosted the local economy and made it easier for recipients to repay Reinvestment Fund, in turn allowing it to fund other projects. This creates a “virtuous cycle” of lending and growth.

The local arts economy especially benefited. “This neighborhood might have one of the highest densities of artists of any place in the country,” said Dana Johnson of Reinvestment Fund in Baltimore.

Station North Tour

Scroll to meet Ariane Santos, Founder, Asana Roots Yoga

Ariane Santos

Station North Tour

Scroll to meet Melvin Freeman, Station North resident

Melvin Freeman

Station North Tour

Scroll to meet Bernardo Vigil, Owner/Worker, Baltimore Bicycle Works

Bernardo Vigil

Ariane Santos

Founder, Asana Roots Yoga

Melvin Freeman

Station North resident

Bernardo Vigil

Owner/Worker,
Baltimore Bicycle Works

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