More urban investment funds
Since compiling a list of urban investment funds and publishing it in the March issue, New Urban News has learned of three more sources that invest part or all of their money in developments classified as smart growth, new urbanist, or environmentally advanced.
Biggest of these is the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, which “has raised about $1 billion to invest in ethnically diverse urban communities across the country,” according to Neville Rhone, director of acquisitions. Canyon-Johnson, based in Beverly Hills, California, is a partnership between Johnson Development Corp., led by basketball star-turned-investor Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, a multibillion dollar hedge fund.
Canyon-Johnson’s website (www.cjuf.com/) says the fund focuses on the top 20 metropolitan areas and typically “joint ventures with a local development partner who is responsible for day-to-day oversight of the development.” The fund’s projects have included the Sunset + Vine mixed-use development in Hollywood, California; the Midtown Center redevelopment of a 1950s shopping mall in Milwaukee; and State Place, a condominium and retail center in Chicago’s South Loop. Magic Johnson has won praise for financing development in parts of Harlem where conventional developers refused to do business. How much of the Canyon-Johnson portfolio is new urbanist in its design has not been determined. One of the difficulties of assessing such funds from a design and planning perspective is that the individual projects often vary widely.
The New Boston Fund, based in Boston, has formed the Urban Strategy America (USA) Fund, which focuses on the Boston area, the St. Louis area, and Florida, aiming to invest in urban projects involving workforce or middle-income housing, retail amenities, offices, and warehouse distribution facilities. In the largely minority Mattapan section of Boston, for example, the USA Fund teamed up with Lena Park Community Development Corp. to convert a former state hospital site to an eclectic collection of uses, including market-rate, affordable, and senior housing; an urban farm; a community education and job advancement center; a recreation facility; and a nursing and mental health rehabilitation facility. The fund has raised $200 million, according to its website, www.usa-fund.com.
Neil Takemoto, long a proponent of New Urbanism, has formed CoolTown Investments (CTI), which he describes as a $150 million source of investment “for real estate developers committed to urban smart growth for the creative class.” CTI, in Washington, DC, is associated with FB Capital Partners, a Philadelphia-based private investment partnership. Its website is www.cooltowninvestments.com.