As the first investor in the Kensington Corridor Trust in 2019, Barra provided support for a vision and concept that would give the local community a voice and some control over the real estate and development along Kensington Avenue, the main commercial corridor in their changing neighborhood. The concept focused on acquiring commercial and mixed-use real estate and placing the assets of that real estate into a trust for the neighborhood to directly govern. Kensington residents involved with the community trust would be the decision makers – the power holders. The goal was to ensure affordability of the property over time and intergenerationally, which, if successful, could help to address one of Philadelphia’s major issues today.
The three-year catalytic grant initially funded a partnership between Impact Services and Shift Capital, which helped with the overall development of a new, unique community trust model that aligned with Barra’s long-term commitment to strengthen communities. Development meant attaining legal support, building a governance structure and a staffing plan, and thinking through what the initial acquisitions would look like. The staff of three, led by Adriana Abizadeh, now organize and work with neighborhood residents to ensure they feel in control of the trust’s assets.
In 2022, Barra made a mission-aligned investment in Kensington Corridor Trust. This is an investment that needs to be repaid with the dollars made through revenue generated in the assets the trust acquires with those funds. The mission-aligned investment is making it possible for the community trust to be competitive with private developers and gives them some control of what is happening along their commercial corridor.
Today, the Kensington Corridor Trust is totally independent and growing. With community stakeholder support, it is successfully developing a portfolio that has significant value both in terms what it brings to the neighborhood but also its financial value so that the trust can utilize it as a leveraging tool to move policy and impact the system. The trust has a goal in five years to be sustainable, scalable and replicable.