In 2015 Mount Airy-based real estate developer Ken Weinstein decided it was time to share his success and expertise with aspiring developers. He created Jumpstart Germantown, where participants can learn from experienced developers in training programs and mentorships, as well as access a loan program that can help them purchase and renovate properties.
While Weinstein initially focused his efforts in Germantown, a low-income neighborhood that has experienced an accelerated rate of speculation and development, the idea was so popular that other organizations around Philadelphia soon began calling Weinstein’s group for advice.
Rather than put more on the organization’s plate, Jumpstart decided to open-source its toolkit and practices and created an overarching group, Jumpstart Philly, to help guide programs in five other neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.
Jumpstart Kensington started as a partnership with the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, Shift Capital and Impact Services in 2016; Jumpstart West Philly started soon after as a coalition of The Enterprise Center, Habitat for Humanity and the People’s Emergency Center; Jumpstart Southwest is run by Southwest CDC; and Jumpstart Tioga and Jumpstart North Philly were started by individuals who had gone through the Jumpstart Germantown training program.
Although Jumpstart Philly does not exert control over these organizations, they do provide loans up to 85% of the property value for aspiring developers who have gone through those programs. To date, the organization has issued 300 loans worth a total of $37 million with the number of yearly loans increasing around 50% each year.
Jumpstart Germantown alone has graduated more than 1,100 people and has enrolled participants mostly through word of mouth from alumni.
Jumpstart Philly director Angie Williamson has seen people become so impacted by the program that they quit their day jobs to become full-time developers. And after their last training program she even received a box of cookies and cupcakes accompanied by an equally sweet letter from a graduate—remarkable in an industry where thoughtfulness isn’t always the hallmark.
“Our graduates are excited about not only making money for themselves, but the social impact that they’re able to have,” Williamson explains. “I don’t see a lot of that in large scale developers. So it’s exciting that we have been able to see so many small-scale developers making a positive difference.”
Williamson has seen renovations of existing buildings by people with close ties to the community directly intersecting with sustainability goals. To strengthen that connection, Jumpstart’s curriculum has introduced participants to sustainable architects such as Sherman Aronson, who taught green building techniques for renovation projects.
Jumpstart has also sought to increase sustainable development awareness with their participants by engaging the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to speak about the power that street trees can play in a development project to add aesthetic and environmental amenities to a house. Greg Trainor of Philadelphia Community Corps and Philly Reclaim (p. 26) also was invited to discuss how developers can salvage materials for reuse and actually get a tax break for the project.
“When you add up all those small-scale developers it’s a pretty big impact,” Williamson points out. “But we do hope that some of these small-scale developers will become larger-scale developers and have these priorities and values that they have been able to hone through the Jumpstart community.”