An Impact Fund Providing Equity Products for Investing in Communities
The EPIC Fund is an innovative effort to help change the trajectory in Chicago communities that have experienced disinvestment or limited and inequitable investment. In partnership with leading members of Chicago’s community development finance industry, the goal is to increase the volume and pace of catalytic real estate projects—commercial and industrial properties, mixed-use developments, restaurant and entertainment venues, food and grocery stores, local shops and services, community facilities and more—by providing a missing piece in the financing marketplace.
Despite their assets and human capital, many Chicago-area communities grapple with deep, persistent inequities in financial and other resources, including those needed for catalytic real estate development projects.
In early 2020, Corporate Coalition staff interviewed local and national developers, investors, community leaders, financial institutions, and foundations to identify gaps in the ecosystem that supports catalytic real estate projects and related business enterprises in neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment or limited and inequitable investment. Critical gaps were identified, including lack of equity capital for real estate projects and their sponsors, access to business partnerships, and connections to relevant technical expertise.
Reflecting community aspirations, and often led by people of color, catalytic real estate projects in communities affected by inequities have the potential to contribute to significant change in the local economy, build wealth, and improve quality of life. The vision of the $50-million EPIC Fund is that systemic racial and other inequities are reduced by the collective commitment of Chicago’s corporate community to help increase the volume and accelerate the pace of catalytic real estate projects.
While flexible, patient debt financing is in strong supply through the region’s robust network of CDFIs and key bank partners, debt alone is insufficient, and equity from public sources is highly targeted, inflexible, and scarce.
The Fund’s flexible, patient, and risk-tolerant capital can be used for multiple purposes, “unlock” other resources (grants, public subsidies, debt), and make it possible for projects to proceed. Over time, the Fund is intended to be a proof-of-concept that this type of capital can and should be routinely available.
In addition to its own ambitions, the EPIC Fund advances the goals of the City of Chicago’s Invest South/West program, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize, and other place-based efforts. Gifts and investments in the Fund also serve as a contribution to We Rise Together at the Chicago Community Trust, which is working to ensure a just and equitable recovery for the Chicago region.
Opportunity & National Significance
The EPIC Fund is an opportunity for Chicago’s corporate community to participate in a significant effort to:
- Reduce the deep, persistent racial and other inequities that hinder prosperity and reduce quality of life in so many Chicago-area communities
- Innovate in the design and deployment of resources that provide the missing piece in the community development financing puzzle
- Demonstrate the power of equity to unlock other critical resources that catalytic real estate projects need to proceed
- Contribute to a local and national effort to extend the reach and increase the impact of the community development financing industry through new products that increase the volume and accelerate the pace of catalytic real estate projects
Leaders across the country are grappling with racial and other inequities that hinder equitable prosperity and growth. Documentation of the Fund’s operations and insights from the impact measurement system will allow Chicago to make a significant contribution to this essential effort.