By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor
Chariot Companies L.L.C. has big plans for Philadelphia’s working-class neighborhoods and a big budget to make them happen. The certified Community Development Entity has announced that it will invest $1 billion in projects–including the 1 million-square-foot Chariot Clean Energy Center and a 1,050-unit residential community dubbed Chariot Landing–designed to help revitalize underserved areas and put the city on the map as an energy leader.
“This unprecedented investment opens up many ways to serve new needs, gain efficiency, create differentiation and competitive advantages, and expand markets while changing the socioeconomic and environmental landscape of those communities having more than 25 percent of its working-class families living in poverty,” John Henry, chairman and CEO of Chariot and native of Philadelphia’s working-class Mount Airy neighborhood, told CPE.
Both the Clean Energy Center and Chariot Landing will be located in historically underutilized areas, the specific locations of which as yet undisclosed. The Clean Energy Center will be a technology-based business hub that Chariot anticipates will help spur the redevelopment and expansion of a knowledge-based workforce in the City of Brotherly Love. “It’s a rare opportunity to shift the paradigm model of local innovation with global impact, and position the city as a world energy leader and community development groundbreaker, which scale global competitiveness and serve as a model of innovation,” Henry said.
Chariot’s billion-dollar endeavor will also go a long way toward addressing Philadelphia’s dearth of affordable housing. The addition of more than 1,000 units through the development of Chariot Landing will single-handedly increase the local affordable inventory by more units than come on line in a typical year. According to a report by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services Inc., by the close of 2013, builders will have created 2,600 new rental apartments in metropolitan Philadelphia, only 352 of which are designated as affordable.
The Clean Energy Center and Chariot Landing are huge undertakings, but Chariot’s CEO says that his company has the clout to tackle them. “Chariot Companies is backed by the financial strength of major banks, hedge funds, private-equity, and other institutions,” Henry said. “With this backing, Chariot has the financial capacity and access to resources needed to revitalize communities.” Additionally, as a CDE—an vehicle certified by the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund—the company’s Chariot Urban RE L.L.C. affiliate has access to financing through the New Markets Tax Credit Program.
“By being a locally based, minority-owned firm, the Chariot Companies are staking a claim to both strengthening the city’s economic base, while standing with those who need our support most,” Henry added. “Our business model weaves a social impact at the core of its mission, and it is not an afterthought.”