Crowdfunding a neighborhood hang-out: Ye Olde Towne Crier

Crowdfunding for retrofitting local buildings is one intriguing idea. I like it for a couple of reasons: One, the return is making your own neighborhood better or more livable and two the return is pretty immediate. You invest in a building around the corner, you can see the work being done daily. I also like it because you don’t have to invest handfuls of cash—for a crowdfunding site like NextSeed, the minimum is $100. Throw in an adaptive reuse component and it sounds even more appealing.

 Rendering of the new version.  Source.

Rendering of the new version. Source.

This brings us to a local project in Portland (in Woodstock): the Ye Olde Towne Crier (you might know it better as Grandma’s, copious smoking, and karaoke). Here’s the scoop: Tacee Webb, who has a 19 year career in retail, real estate and retail development, is retrofitting the space and naming it (actually going back to its original name) Ye Olde Towne Crier. The goal is to retrofit it “as a multi-level ode to Portland’s past and its current residents, a place to chat and dine among one another and enjoy the city’s brightest talent.” 

So, why NextSeed? According to their website, “investing isn’t just for Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Everyone can now access exclusive investment opportunities and build a financial portfolio with local businesses.” The company focuses on helping consumer-facing, brick-and-mortar businesses in the food and beverage, health and wellness, fitness, hospitality and co-working industries.

 Towne Crier, 1953.  Source. 

Towne Crier, 1953. Source. 

And, according to Webb, by using NextSeed, “the risk is being absorbed so you don’t have to lose your house. It’s a higher risk for start-ups; this lets them get investors in a less riskier way.” 

The project currently has raised $13,900 by 30 investors.

Webb hopes the Towne Crier will become a community gathering and destination spot as well as a local hangout for students of the Reed College neighborhood and locals from the Creston-Kenilworth community. The attached Treasury Cafe and Lounge will provide morning-evening service. Nighttime entertainment will include live music and whisky tastings featuring local musicians and artisans. Preeminent spirits expert Stuart Ramsay will oversee curation of the bar program.

“There are so many stories and it feels like a patchwork quilt that’s perfect for a community project," says Webb. "There are many former customers in their 60s and 70s that have some great stories and we think it will help provide a sense of a place for them." 

The new space will also be a sort of repository for lost Portland restaurant artifacts: The stained glass windows are from Embers, the vintage neon Lounge sign (and its HVAC system) comes from The Overlook, while chandeliers from Der Rheinlander will grace the ceiling. 

If you’re interested in helping fund the project (or any project), NextSeed provides some pretty decent details, from key terms, location analysis, and revenue sharing summary.

If you’re interested in retrofitting an old building in your own neighborhood, NextSeed is a good start. It doesn't actually finance real estate purchases (Webb owns the building; she purchased it in 2017) but it can help you get on the path, and you’re going to need to be nailed down with your financials and have some semblance of a business plan (this is real estate, not a widget you’re working on). 

Parting advice from Webb: “Have a strong team and partners. I’m not a restaurateur but my partner is. That’s been so helpful.”