INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to mission-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.



 

Megan Yonke is the Program Manager of Denver Shared Spaces, a program of Radian | PlaceMatters. Follow them on Facebook and learn more at radianinc.org/denver-shared-spaces/.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
We use shared spaces as a tool to creatively and strategically connect community-oriented businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits with one another in affordable commercial space to meet the needs of the residents of the Denver metro area.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
The Denver metro area is experiencing a crisis of disappearing affordable commercial space needed for community-serving and mission-driven organizations. Most of the commercial space being built in mixed-use buildings is not meeting the design needs of these organizations or serving the needs of the existing community, and, instead, delivering spaces appropriate for only expensive retail and office spaces that serve high-income demographics. This trajectory is exacerbating residential displacement.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
We are increasing awareness of the issue of commercial gentrification and its impact on communities among policy makers and real estate development professionals, as well as implementing projects that can be emulated in communities throughout the country. We are creating this impact by amplifying community voice in the design and development process, matching available spaces with crucial community-serving organizations, and designing and implementing business models to provide opportunities for affordability through shared space at all neighborhood scales.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
We know that there is a gap that all stakeholders have an interest in overcoming – that can be overcome through design thinking and implementation of creative projects. We know that community vibrancy and inclusion are at risk in the Denver metro area and that our practice is making an impact.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our dream is that diverse communities and real estate developers are partnered in the future to implement uses that are intended to serve the needs of the current community members, not targeted to displace them. We envision a policy and practice structure that rewards all parties for their engagement.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
It’s all about building relationships and eliminating barriers, especially with community-minded property owners and developers. Targeted funding to support community design processes would significantly increase our impact.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Two of our biggest challenges have been 1) not intervening early enough in the process to influence space design in real estate developments and 2) the high cost of construction and tenant improvements.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Solutions to problems can be found by breaking down barriers in myopic thinking and increasing dialog early between potential partners. Communities can and should be seen as essential partners in the real estate development process.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Please let us know about community-serving businesses in need of space in the Denver metro area. Also, if you are a property owner with potential available space to accommodate one of these uses, we’d love to talk to you. In short, we cannot have too many partners in overcoming this challenge.

 


Orapin Marketing + Public Relations is an award-winning communications agency that generates awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, support for mission-driven organizations. We tell their stories, connect people to their causes, and help them communicate with their stakeholders in consistent and meaningful ways. If you would like to be featured on INSPIRED IMPACT, reach out to hello@orapinmarketing.com.