The identity and economic prospects of Canadian small and rural communities are tied tightly with the health of their central business districts. Since the 1950s and the advent of the car society and the growth of outlying shopping areas and suburbs, our downtowns have seen a steady erosion in their importance, a change in their function, and, in some places, an unwelcome downdiness. Often times, it just takes one or two prominent under-used or empty downtown properties to set the tone for the area. For many residents, it is those properties that create their discouraged views of the health and attractiveness of the downtown.
The Impact Real Estate (IRE) program aims to take key downtown properties and make them viable and valuable contributing assets once again. IRE is a social impact investment plan that uses social entreprises and an incubation program to turn properties back into productive use while at the same time introducing a new vibe and new businesses to the downtown. The goal is to transform the downtown into a centre of innovation and entrepreneurship and to change residents’ ideas and minds about the desirability of the downtown as a place to shop, do business, and relax.
The Greater Napanee IRE project is designed to tackle the twin challenges facing the town and many other small and rural communities – the difficulties of attracting outside investment and the creation of an environment that supports risk taking and encourages innovative businesses. It is a customized solution designed to attract social impact investors to Greater Napanee and help democratize investment and commercial real estate ownership by giving residents the opportunity to invest in their downtown.
The Greater Napanee IRE will help turn the town’s challenges into opportunities:
- Struggling downtown is revitalized evoking civic pride
- Entrepreneurship is supported through incubation and innovation
- Youth out-migration is combatted through fostering leadership
- Economic diversification increases through new business support services
- Existing businesses receive needed support through growth and succession planning advice