Builds

INVESTMENT: $850,000 AND EXPERTISE

Our work aims to remove real estate as a barrier to expanding strong poverty-fighting programs. In a real estate market as complex and costly as New York City, nonprofit organizations face a host of challenges in trying to repair, lease or build space—from building codes to unscrupulous landlords. Mostly, though, nonprofits can’t afford the space they need to serve their clients effectively, and the challenge is in finding ways to make 2 + 2 = 6. By engaging top-notch professionals for these projects and undertaking a thorough planning process, Robin Hood finds ways to make that math work.

Susan Sack
Robin Hood managing director,
Real Estate

IMPACT

Problem


Real estate all too often determines a program’s success. Real estate may be the largest asset and largest liability on the balance sheet. Get it wrong—sign a lease with rents that are too high, take on too much debt for renovations, fail to identify worn building systems or hire a substandard contractor—and the project and the entire organization may be doomed. Real estate is also a critical element for an organization’s expansion. Yet most programs lack the expertise needed to lease, buy or build new space.

Approach


Robin Hood’s real-estate team works to provide advice, access to real-estate experts and, in certain cases, capital funds for our grantees so they can serve more New Yorkers in need. Robin Hood focuses on pre-development issues, ensuring completion of all due diligence and financial projections. This makes it possible for organizations to make critical decisions based on solid information. To facilitate this, we connect grantees with top industry experts: brokers, architects, project managers, lawyers and contractors. And we share what we’ve learned over the past decade with our grantees so they make the most of limited resources and avoid repeating mistakes.

OUR MOST POWERFUL
TOOLS INCLUDE


Funding pre-development costs. Pre-development is the key to success. Get the planning right and the actual construction will be relatively easy. We believe so strongly in the planning process that Robin Hood often funds the cost of this early-stage work.


Engaging an organization’s board. A real-estate project is usually an extraordinary event for an organization. It involves large sums of money and significant future commitments and can divert significant staff attention from the organization’s core mission. For all these reasons, we strongly suggest that members of an organization’s board take an active role in the project from its inception.


Robin Hood’s contacts. We are most fortunate to count many of the real estate industry’s leading experts as friends who are willing to offer their expertise, passion and commitment to help the organizations we fund.

HIGHLIGHTS

"This is what college must feel like."

A client, upon walking into the renovated space.

The Fortune Society

The Fortune Society offers job training, housing, education and other services to formerly incarcerated individuals. The Society’s heavily visited employment center looked shabby, and a major flooring problem forced it to close portions of the space for safety reasons. With Robin Hood’s advice and funding, including a capital grant of $275,000 and technical assistance, The Fortune Society, was able to renovate key areas of its employment center in Long Island City. Fortune made strategic, economical renovations to greatly improve the function and the design of the employment center, making it a more welcoming and effective space for helping individuals searching for work. The project was completed in March.


Center for Employment Opportunities

The Center for Employment Opportunities (C.E.O.) helps formerly incarcerated individuals and parolees find work. C.E.O. turned to Robin Hood for assistance when it learned its landlord would not renew the lease for its headquarters. With our assistance and contacts, including a $200,000 capital grant and technical assistance, C.E.O. was able to move into a new space in Lower Manhattan. The Center made the most of its limited budget and created a bright, warm and cohesive space for clients and staff: space that best reflects C.E.O.’s strong commitment to its work. The project was completed in May.


GO Project

GO Project, a program launched from the basement at Grace Church School, offers Saturday tutoring and mentoring, as well as an academic summer program for impoverished, low-performing children in elementary and middle schools in Lower Manhattan. When GO Project outgrew the basement, it secured additional space in Grace Church School’s new high school building. Robin Hood provided a $100,000 capital grant and technical assistance to make it possible for the expansion.

GO Project smartly maximized its small renovation budget using light, color and graphics, to create a space students want to visit. The project was completed in March.

Community Partners


A.I.R. NYC
Center for Employment Opportunities
The Family Center
Institute for Family Health