Special Bridge financing for first new grocery story in 40 years in West Oakland

cfm grand opening

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The grand opening drew community celebration

On June 1, many community members from West Oakland, CA, gathered for the first full-service grocery store opening in their neighborhood in nearly four decades.

The Community Foods Market (CFM) developed the small-format grocery store in the food desert, where many residents do not own cars. Nearly 75% of the new employees also live in the neighborhood.

The project was a decade in the making and began with Brahm Ahmadi, who recognized early on West Oakland’s food desert, and started a food truck that sold – and gave away – fresh veggies. The need for a storefront quickly became apparent, but took 10 years to develop, including Ahmadi going back to school for his MBA, and creating a business plan.

Finally, after not being able to find land to buy, Ahmadi approached EBALDC, a significant partner of NC, who’d done much work along the San Pablo corridor. CFM secured NMTC financing, which will be used to pay down the LOC draw, but needed to bridge the initial NMTC equity pay-in for construction. They approached EBALDC, who consults for NMTC deals.

A decade ago, EBALDC expanded their mission to building affordable neighborhoods, which included affordable homes as well as clean and safe open space, food, community, and a sense of control over that community. They have become a nontraditional nonprofit, with a large portfolio of commercial development work.

In working with CFM, EBALDC reached out to NC with a special request to draw $486,000 from the predevelopment portion of their $4.6 million line of credit to re-loan to help CFM bridge funding until they received its NMTC financing. The loan to CFM was unsecured, though EBALDC-owned properties secure the LOC.

“EBALDC has a vision and a holistic approach to their neighborhoods that goes well beyond housing to employment, shopping, economic development, and combatting food deserts. It was an easy yes,” said Stephen Peelor, NC’s Chief Lending Officer.

“With CFM, we saw a real opportunity to bring food access and jobs to the neighborhood,” said Ener Chiu, Associate Director of Real Estate Development for EBALDC. “We needed the quick turnaround draw to help us quickly close on the construction financing. NC’s flexibility really allowed us to receive and deploy the funds swiftly, for CFM to be able to retain the property, and to close and bring it into NMTC.”

EBALDC has a number of projects in its pipeline that NC has been helpful on, Chiu said, from $3.5 million deployed into new construction to a housing acquisition fund with the goal of stabilizing rents over 10 years in gentrifying neighborhoods, to bring them to permanently affordable homes at 80% or less.

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