A group of investors, called, The Erie Downtown Developmental Corporation, is ready to invest in downtown Erie, block by block.
The EDDC is targeting Sassafras Street to Holland Street from Perry Square to Third Street. The group was spearheaded by Erie Insurance CEO, Tim Necastro, but several local leaders including UPMC Hamot President, David Gibbons, served on the committee helping to identify Erie's challenges.
The Erie group is taking inspiration from Cincinnati, Ohio. There, the Cincinnati Center City Development corporation worked for more than a decade to develop high areas of crime and urban blight. Using the New Markets Tax Credit Program and other tools, the group leveraged its investment to spend more than $1 billion in targeted areas.
Gibbons says, "it's more than just bringing in businesses. It's also providing the infrastructure to support [those businesses]: affordable housing, housing that is contemporary, restaurants, the activities that not only attract business but also tourists".
The first is a non-profit entity that would hire employees, including a CEO for whom a search will soon be under way. NeCastro, the group's chairman, said board members are picking up the initial costs of forming the group, while Erie Insurance has moved Chris Marsh, the company's Chief Community and Economic Development Officer, into the full-time service of the EDDC.
The second part of the plan is the creation of a real estate investment fund that would be able to buy real estate, offer loans to private developers, or help bridge the gap between money that can be obtained from a private lender and the amount needed to complete a project.
Gibbons adds, "other cities have failed because they try to accomplish too much and a strategy for success is focusing on a smaller area and building upon that versus widespread intervention."
The group, a welcome asset to those working hard to change the downtown atmosphere.
Executive Director, John Buchna says, "any property owner that reinvests back in to their community it is their commitment that they care but they care not just about their property but the community as a whole, how are they going to make it better for us, for the residents, and we will very welcoming of this opportunity".
The group expects to raise $20 to $40 million in the first round of funding.