with Investment from Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a partnership between Woodforest National Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management
The Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a high-impact commercial real estate Opportunity Zone fund established by Woodforest National Bank® and CEI-Boulos Capital Management, announced its $3 million equity investment in 698 Prospect, a student housing project, partly powered by on-site solar, which will serve the population of University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP). UNCP is one of three “NC Promise” campuses in the UNC system that limits in-state tuition costs to $500 per semester to keep college affordable to low-income students. Future enrollment at the school is limited by a lack of affordable student housing, an issue that the project will address. UNCP is designated as a Native-American Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI). UNCP was founded by seven American Indian members with regional tribal affiliations to provide access to education for groups otherwise denied that right. Most of the town of Pembroke’s 3,000 people are members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the largest American Indian tribe east of the Mississippi. Today, the University and the Lumbee Tribe enjoy a strong partnership.
The first phase of the project will create 48 four-bedroom units with 192 beds of student housing adjacent to the university in this small, rural town. A second phase of the project will create 90 additional units with 306 beds. The second phase also includes 20,000 square feet of retail space. The development team for the project includes EquityPlus and a Lumbee-owned firm, Lumbee-University One at Pembroke; the property is managed by PeakMade Real Estate.
Rooftop solar arrays offset about 25% of the project’s energy needs. In addition, exterior lighting will be solar powered. The developer expects to install a similar system in upcoming phases to increase the percentage of energy offset by solar. Solar carports and a solar-covered walkway for students walking to class are also planned.
“CEI-Boulos Capital Management is committed to harnessing the Opportunity Zone incentive to serve its intended purpose – to invest in catalytic projects that can help revitalize underinvested communities, like Pembroke,” said Sam Spencer, CEO and Managing Director, CEI-Boulos Capital Management. “We’re thrilled to be working with our partners at Equity Plus and Lumbee-University One at Pembroke on a project delivering social and environmental impact. The investment is a great example of the fund’s efforts to leverage private capital to help address the nation’s renewed focus on racial and economic disparity.”
“Our Fund is designed to be responsive to community needs,” said Doug Schaeffer, Executive Vice President, CRA Executive Director, Woodforest National Bank. “By creating much needed affordable student housing, this investment will expand access to higher education. We are thrilled to be supporting pathways that will allow many first-generation students to obtain the education needed to pursue their dreams.”
Pembroke is located in Robeson County, one of 431 “persistent poverty counties” in the country, a classification which means that 20 percent or more of its population has lived in poverty for at least 30 years. The project is consistent with and supports the town’s plan for downtown revitalization. The retail component of the project second’s phase will help create 30-40 jobs at small businesses that will occupy the commercial space.
“We look at ourselves as an anchor economic institution for southeastern North Carolina and we proudly take on the responsibility that comes along with that,” said Jodi Phelps, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, UNCP. “We can’t grow unless the town and local economy grows with us. When we all thrive together, we collectively increase access to a high-quality, affordable college education for students of all backgrounds.”
“Without the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund’s Opportunity Zone equity investment, the project would not be possible,” said Avram Fetcher, Managing Director, EquityPlus, a privately held investment and advisory firm serving as the developer of the project. “This is an example of an Opportunity Zone investment happening for the right reason and making the difference between a project going forward or not.”
The is one of ten high-impact investments made to date by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund. Additional financing for the project includes a loan from Self-Help Credit Union a Durham, NC-based community development finance institution.
The Opportunity Zones program is a community investment tool established by Congress in 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities nationwide. Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund invests in high-impact commercial real estate projects in federally designated Opportunity Zones with the goal of ensuring its investments benefit economically distressed communities where projects are located. The fund is an innovative collaboration between Woodforest National Bank, the fund’s investor, and CEI-Boulos Capital Management, LLC, the fund’s manager. The fund’s Social Impact Advisory Board provides input related to the social and environmental impacts of proposed investments by using metrics that align with goals of CRA and the “Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework” developed by a partnership of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, the Beeck Center on Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The fund is intentional in ensuring that all investments foster community engagement and promote social equity. The fund won the 2020 BAI (Bank Administration Institute) Global Innovation Award in the “Societal and Community Impact Innovation” category.
CEI-Boulos Capital Management is focused on delivering competitive financial returns and social impact through investments in community supported commercial real estate projects. The company serves banks, family offices, and other institutional investors. It is a joint venture between:
• Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)–Founded in 1977, CEI has provided loans, equity investments and tax credit financing to nearly 3,000 businesses and projects. CEI and its for-profit subsidiaries have extensive experience in regulatory compliance and fund management. More at www.ceimaine.org.
• The Boulos Company–Founded in 1975, The Boulos Company and its family of companies has extensive experience in all aspects of commercial real estate, including development, construction, brokerage, property management, and capital markets. More at www.boulos.com.
Celebrating 40 years of community banking service, Woodforest National Bank has successfully stood among the strongest community banks in the nation, proudly offering outstanding customer service since 1980. Woodforest currently operates over 760 branches in 17 states across the United States and is an Outstanding CRA rated institution. For more information about Woodforest National Bank, please visit www.woodforest.com