Indiana Daily Student

CDFI Friendly Bloomington helps matchmake local projects with funding sources

<p>Renderings by Esteban García Bravo, artist and associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University, are a part of a public art project titled Aurora Almanac. Community Development Financial Institutions has helped fund projects such as Aurora Almanac, which is scheduled to be completed by December. </p>

Renderings by Esteban García Bravo, artist and associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University, are a part of a public art project titled Aurora Almanac. Community Development Financial Institutions has helped fund projects such as Aurora Almanac, which is scheduled to be completed by December.

CDFI Friendly Bloomington has helped finance community development projects in Bloomington since its founding in 2018, providing an alternative to conventional bank loans. The nonprofit is financing several projects due to complete this year, according to its website.

The nonprofit calls itself a matchmaker for individuals, businesses and nonprofits in south-central Indiana looking to secure loans from community development financial institutions, Executive Director Brian Payne said.

CDFI-eligible potential project opportunities in Bloomington include building flexible office spaces, a regional food hub and affordable housing, according to CDFI Friendly Bloomington’s website. The nonprofit has helped finance three affordable housing projects since its founding, according to its website

Payne said CDFIs measure a project’s success by assessing the benefits it could bring to the community, such as jobs created or affordable housing units built, because CDFIs are accountable to their community advisory board rather than shareholders. 

This means CDFIs are more likely to loan money to low-credit individuals’ community development proposals because unlike traditional banks, CDFIs’ main goal is not to generate profit but to invest in projects benefiting the community.

Payne said CDFI Friendly Bloomington bridges the Bloomington community with regional and national CDFIs by shouldering some of the risks for the loans and advocating for community projects.

“To lend to projects like this, you need to know the people you’re dealing with. You need to know what the community is like,” he said. “So we help fill that role for the CDFIs.”

Esteban García Bravo, an artist and associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University, is working on a public art project financed by CDFI Friendly Bloomington. He plans to co-create an art installation of geometric tiles with changing lighting in Bloomington with the help of 216 local residents. He will hold public graphics programming workshops where residents learn creative coding and each design a tile. 

García Bravo said he wanted to show people the fun in coding through the public workshops he’ll hold leading up to the construction of the art installation, which will be called Aurora Almanac. He said he hoped through his workshop, Bloomington’s youth and underrepresented populations would gain more access to STEM fields.

“I want to inspire people to want to learn more about technology,” he said.

García Bravo didn’t have the $25,000 he needed to initiate his project until the City of Bloomington referred him to CDFI Friendly Bloomington to help with financing. The nonprofit connected him with the Indianapolis-based Community Investment Fund of Indiana, and the two groups loaned him the funds he needed.

García Bravo said he knew CDFI Friendly Bloomington had faith in his project and advocated for him when he went to Indianapolis for the loan closing.

“When I arrived there, they were so on board with the project and excited,” he said. “It was a very emotional moment for me to go to that loan closing.”

García Bravo will hold his first graphics programming workshop Thursday at the Mill, a Bloomington nonprofit center for coworking and entrepreneurship. The workshop is open to the public, and participants can register online.

Aurora Almanac is scheduled to finish construction in December and will be installed in the new Trades District parking garage.

Zackary Dunivin, president of Bloomington Cooperative Living, said CDFI Friendly Bloomington helped secure funding for his housing cooperative’s new affordable housing project. The 18-bedroom communal living house is located at 921 W. Ninth St. and will be affordable for households earning less than 50% of the area’s median income, according to CDFI Friendly Bloomington’s website. Dunivin said the project will be completed on Aug. 1.

Dunivin said the project has a $940,000 budget to purchase and renovate the communal living house. He said most of the budget was covered by loans from the CDFI Friendly Bloomington Capital fund and Boston-based Local Enterprise Assistance Fund, which CDFI Friendly Bloomington connected him with.

BCL owns two other communal living houses for individuals dealing with mental illnesses, disabilities, or isolation and estrangement from family, Dunivin said. Volunteer and former board member Bradi Heaberlin said the new CDFI Friendly Bloomington-funded housing project helps address the ongoing affordable housing crisis in Bloomington.

Dunivin said he’s thankful for Payne’s personal support for the project.

“He really believes in what we’re doing,” he said. “We are really, really grateful to have had him on the team and to have him on the team moving forward.”

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