Small-Scale Does Not Simplify Community Development

Small-scale development provides entrepreneurs and aspiring developers the opportunity to affect neighborhoods (hopefully positively) without devising complex capital structures. But, similar to the decision-making that goes into embarking on a small-scale deal, the observations and realities of community development are equally stark, and equally important to assess.

The overarching takeaway, however simply stated, is that community development is challenging, even when a project evolves collaboratively and responsively to deliver to the community a collectively expressed need or desire. Asynchronous opinions are often expressed in a forum where all voices are heard – whether at a neighborhood association meeting, community board session, or otherwise – which inevitably yields disgruntled stakeholders. No matter how small of a minority the dissenters may represent, the public process usually accommodates continued discord instead of productively advancing a dialogue, inevitably stalling decision-making and project momentum. Dissenters may oppose a project based simply on an objection to change, and, perhaps, due to perceptions of outsiders interfering in the community. Regardless of efforts, these perceptions may be difficult to overcome.

Sponsors and developers may also believe they have political support, but may still find difficulty receiving that support publicly and at the appropriate and necessary times. Political inconsistencies certainly contribute to the uncertainties of an already unpredictable real estate project. The key is to remain patient, yet persistent, and to identify early on key community members that will support the project publicly. Taking a proactive approach to advancing the project by maximizing community resources will ultimately benefit both the project’s end users and your bottom line.