In 2015, Community Vision joined forces with fellow small-business-focused CDFI, Main Street Launch, to mitigate East Oakland nonprofit and small business service disruptions caused by the proposed multi-year installation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. The AC Transit project is creating a dedicated BRT line through 9.5 miles of International Boulevard, some of the country’s most ethnically diverse and historically disinvested neighborhoods.

Community Vision and Main Street Launch already had a great deal of experience working with Oakland-based entities and understanding the significant community development challenges taking place in Oakland, including affordability, displacement, and gentrification. The BRT Project presented a unique opportunity to join with the tremendous community assets that exist in East Oakland and create equitable opportunities for economic development that benefited local residents and business owners. the JPMorgan Chase PRO Neighborhoods partnership provided the capital and funding to do just that.

While our work continues, we learned a great deal, and deepened connections important to our ongoing commitment in East Oakland

  • CDFI partnerships can offer a more comprehensive approach to making capital available in communities that have experienced decades of financial neglect. For example, Community Vision has expertise in the nonprofit sector, while Main Street Launch is an experienced small business lender. The partnership allowed for a more holistic approach, with capital and technical assistance resources that served the needs of both community-driven nonprofits and community-serving businesses.
  • Data collection is key. One innovative outcome of the project was the creation of a centralized database of all the businesses and nonprofit organizations located in the geographic area. This data allowed Main Street Launch to develop a GIS-based tool that supports data analysis. Additionally, surveys of the businesses and nonprofits in the area provided a deeper understanding that allowed for more focused outreach and product development.
  • Identify the local anchor partners. Much of the success of the PRO Oakland program is due to partnerships with entities that have a strong presence in the community and are rooted in its lived experiences. With focused capital and technical support we were able to develop creative solutions to the challenges that come with an evolving environment.
  • Be nimble and responsive to the community. Delays and unanticipated circumstances will almost always arise during a construction project. Staying flexible and open to community needs allows space for creative solutions that are still in alignment with project goals.

In January 2019, we hosted a webinar in partnership with Main Street Launch that highlighted the evolution of the project, including how the partnership navigated BRT project delays, worked in partnership with key public and private leaders, attracted innovative affordable housing development, and applied technology to scale impact. 

Watch the Recording from January 21, 2019:

Webinar Participants:

Panel Moderator

Catherine Howard
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Community Vision

Panel Participants

Reem Assil
Reem’s Bakery

Karla De Leon
Senior Vice President – San Francisco Market Manager
Main Street Launch

Jason Vargas
Director of Real Estate Development
East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation