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Restoration: a model CDC.

As the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, the community residents it serves revel in its success. Founded by Sen. Robert Kennedy and other community leaders in 1967, Restoration is perhaps the most successful of the 2,000 community development corporations (CDCs) that are located throughoutthe country.

"Restoration has been a model for CDCs for years," says P. Jefferson Armistead, vice president of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., a New York-based agency that provides technical and financial support for CDCs. "Restoration's diversified programs and commercial assetbuilding initiatives are what CDCs aspire to, but rarely achieve," says Armistead.

Restoration uses an innovative entrepreneurial approach to create capital, then infuses the capital into a comprehensive community empowerment model that develops such areas as cultural enrichment, education, health and social services, housing and youth leadership. "The members of the Restoration board of directors do not distinguish between cultural enrichment and economic development," says Restoration Chairperson Sadie Feddoes.

Restoration President Roderick B. Mitchell says that the focus on profitability is crucial, especially since government and other sources of funding are dwindling.

And this approach is working. With its Pathmark supermarket, Restoration Supermarket Corp, ranked No. 47 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 with revenues of $25.3 million. The agency capitalized on the real estate boom from 1985 to 1987, selling $5 million of its residential properties to pay off operating losses, The money was also used to construct and rehabilitate 2,224 housing units for the homeless, elderly and handicapped. Restoration has also provided $60 million in home mortgage loans, and the company's economic development programs have made $9.5 million in small business loans.

And profits have made other things possible. Restoration's Billie Holiday Theatre and its Center for Art and Culture are the cornerstones of its community enrichment program. And bold moves, like leasing part of its 300,000-square-foot complex at reduced rents to social service agencies, help keep precious services in the community despite budget cuts.

Initiatives such as these have helped transform the oncedepressed Bedford-Stuyvesant community into one that is only now approaching its economic potential.

Mitchell, however, knows that there's more work to be done. "The challenge for CDCs in the future will be to develop a class of young entrepreneurs with an elevated consciousness about the value and the profitability that exists in their own communities. Where there's pride, there can be profit," he says.

--Patrice Miles
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp.
Author:Miles, Patrice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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