Thank you to everyone who joined Upstart Co-Lab, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on October 10 for a discussion of Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities.

Nearly 200 attendees from community development, impact investing, and the creative community came together to discuss our recent report, and to hear from a diverse set of speakers about ways to unleash more capital for creativity.

The afternoon began with a welcome address from David Erickson, Director of Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. David described the potential for creating quality jobs and generating community wealth that may be realized by focusing impact investing on the growing creative economy. He placed this discussion alongside other pioneering community development work that the SF Fed has championed.

Laura Callanan, Upstart Co-Lab’s Founding Partner (and former Visiting Fellow of the SF Fed and Guest Editor of the Fed’s Community Development Investment Review on creative placemaking), described the 30-year track record of investing in creative places and businesses as part of comprehensive community development. These investments have been “flying under the radar” and need to be “named and framed” to enable targeted investment and impact going forward. She highlighted a $1.54 billion pipeline of investible opportunities in low income communities with substantiated investor interest as representative of the demand for impact capital. Laura introduced Upstart Co-Lab’s new position paper, A Creativity Lens: Impact investing in the creative economy, which articulates the case to impact investors for building a creative economy that is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.

Real estate developers Richard Sciortino of Brinshore Development (Chicago) and Steven Oliver of Oliver & Company (Bay Area) discussed how they have each come to integrate creativity, culture, inclusiveness, and sustainability as key value-creating components of mixed use residential and commercial projects. This conversation on Developing Livable and Creative Communities was moderated by Moy Eng, Executive Director of the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) in San Francisco, a nonprofit that strives to create physical spaces for arts and cultural organizations to facilitate equitable urban transformation.

Heather Hood, Deputy Director of Northern California for Enterprise Community Partners, described creativity and culture as a “fast” way to create value and drive impact — and suggested that better partnerships across sectors are necessary to meet the needs of the whole community.

Reed Mayfield, Manager of Social Enterprise Lending with RSF Social Finance, a nonprofit financial services organization, joined Sam Farraizano, founder of Equinox Studios (Seattle), in dialogue about RSF’s financing of Equinox’s 125,000 square-foot affordable workspace for artists and artisans. The conversation focused on the shared values and practical compromises that underpinned their lender-borrower relationship. Sam discussed his strong desire to work with a mission-driven lender, and Reed reflected on the collaborative process. They both noted the sense of urgency in replicating this type of partnership, given the context of rapidly increasing real estate prices in strong market cities like Seattle and San Francisco.

Meow Wolf (Santa Fe), an immersive art installation that has become the most Instagrammed site in New Mexico, was announced as the first creative economy investment opportunity on ImpactUs, an online marketplace that connects impact investors with mission-driven companies and funds. CFO Drew Tulchin described how Meow Wolf provides quality jobs and attracts tourism to Santa Fe, and plans to do the same in Denver and other cities around the U.S. Liz Sessler, VP of Client Engagement for ImpactUs, discussed how the creative economy fits within the goals of this new platform and will be featured as an impact theme.

Eric Rodenbeck, Director at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and CEO of design firm Stamen, offered concluding remarks about the extraordinary things that can happen when art, finance, and community development come together: we can create inclusive, sustainable, livable neighborhoods in every corner of the country.

Thanks again to all for joining us, and especially to the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the SF Fed for co-hosting the event.

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