More than 150 people attended Wednesday’s Venture Connectors Luncheon, where developer and Renaissance man Gill Holland was the keynote speaker. Few people in Louisville have such a draw, but it has been more than two years since he spoke to the monthly gathering about the Portland Investment Initiative, and there was a lot to catch up on.
Dayna Neumann, co-founder of Execuity, introduced Holland as “a shining example of what it means to be ‘in the game.'”
Holland founded Pii in 2013 as a project devoted to enhancing the quality of life in the Portland neighborhood through real estate investment and improvement. Since then, Pii has been buying and renovating properties and cheerleading for the overlooked neighborhood.
At Venture Connectors, Holland announced an alliance with Community Ventures that will help tenants who are renting rehabilitated homes owned by Pii buy the homes in which they are living.
Pii buys vacant and abandoned houses for $10,000 on average and fixes them up to the tune of around $60,000. A reasonable asking price — even one that didn’t turn a profit — would be impossible for a bank to finance. Even though they’ve renovated the blighted structure, home prices in the area are low, meaning the estimate would be low. “So even though I can show the receipts to prove the house is worth more than that,” Holland said, the bank will turn down that loan.
But Community Ventures has stepped in to help these people who cannot get a loan, or may not even qualify for traditional funding.
Pii houses typically rent for $650 for a shotgun home, but with Community Ventures’ help, their mortgage payments can be more than $100 lower than that.
They will close on the first house in two weeks.
According to Holland, over 1,000 people have taken the tour of Portland offered by Pii. He said he spends upwards of 20 hours a week just driving around and giving tours. Holland also estimates he has pitched Pii to more than 10,000 people — potential investors and community stakeholders.
Two and a half years ago, Portland didn’t have a coffee shop, a gallery or a sit-down place to eat food. Now it has all of these. He estimates that now more than 40 artists live and/or work in the neighborhood.
In other Pii news, Holland has secured loans for the Montgomery Street School (Compassion Building), which will be a social incubator. He also secured a loan to redo the facade of the Anchor Building.
On the horizon: Look for a new initiative called “Louisville Goes to College,” which will target post-high school kids. In a few days, you’ll also see a new website from Portland Now! — we saw a sneak preview, and this one doesn’t look like it was made in the 1980s.
Pii has a contract on 1301 W. Main St., which has 80,000 square feet of space; Holland is looking for people to invest with him. He’s also hoping to build a brand new building — “I’ve never built a brand new building before!” he said — at 500 N 17th Street for stores and apartments.
Pii’s philosophy of buying houses is to buy “the worst house on the block,” the house that is pulling down the values of the houses on the same or neighboring blocks, the house that is a magnet for crime and drugs. He calls this “urban acupuncture” and he hopes each renovation will “eliminate the negative ripple effect of vacant and abandoned homes.”