with Investment from Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a partnership between Woodforest National Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management
September 9, 2021 (Rochester, NY) – 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 $1.3 million equity investment in Mercantile on Main in downtown Rochester, New York. The Mercantile on Main, located in the historic Sibley Square Building, brings the first food hall, along with healthy food options, to the community. The project is helping to revitalize the city’s center, support food entrepreneurship and contribute to the creation of up to 100 permanent jobs. The fund is the only outside equity investor in Mercantile on Main, the food anchor of WinnDevelopment’s renovation of the 1.1 million-square-foot former home of Sibley’s, once the largest department store between New York City and Chicago, now the site of one of the largest redevelopment projects in the history of Upstate New York.
The 10,000-square-foot Mercantile on Main features a six-story atrium and retail storefront in Sibley Square with seven spaces for food vendors. The project reduces barriers to food entrepreneurship by addressing build-out and equipment costs and by not requiring long-term leases. Mercantile on Main is affiliated with a new nonprofit food business incubator program, The Commissary, sponsored by the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, providing workforce training and entrepreneurship opportunities. In addition, a grocery store recently opened in an adjacent ground-floor retail space, expanding access to fresh foods.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said, “For decades the Sibley building was a gathering place for the Rochester community and an anchor for jobs and economic prosperity of downtown. That’s why I was proud to secure a $1 million federal grant to create the Commissary, which together with The Mercantile on Main, are leveraging this past to bring the Sibley building and downtown Rochester to new heights. Investments like this are a key ingredient to serving up economic development and new jobs, while also creating a destination for visitors, diners, and more to revitalize downtown Rochester.”
“CEI-Boulos Capital Management is thrilled to be working with our partners at WinnDevelopment on this transformative project to help revitalize downtown Rochester, provide food options in a USDA designated food desert, support entrepreneurship and create jobs,” said Sam Spencer, CEO and Managing Director of CEI-Boulos Capital Management, manager of the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund. “The investment in Mercantile on Main is a great example of the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund’s efforts to leverage private capital to make investments with social impact.”
“Our fund reviewed over 200 projects to choose the highest impact investments that would not have occurred without OZ equity. Woodforest is proud to invest in the Mercantile on Main to support entrepreneurs who are breathing new life into the economy and community of downtown Rochester,” said Noelle St.Clair, Vice President, Impact Investing and Strategic Initiatives, Woodforest National Bank.
Mercantile on Main serves as an anchor for the overall redevelopment of Sibley Square, aspects of which includes historic preservation, affordable housing, entrepreneurship and technology incubation, childcare services, office and retail space, and a senior center. Since opening its doors, Mercantile on Main has become a popular community meeting place.
“The Mercantile on Main is the centerpiece of the revitalization of Sibley Square and downtown Rochester. The project is a fantastic amenity for our residents, commercial tenants, and the community as a whole,” said Meade Curtis, Vice President of WinnDevelopment, the development arm of WinnCompanies, a national leader in the adaptive reuse and redevelopment of historic buildings. “This is a prime example of how the Opportunity Zone program can be used for true community development and employment creation. WinnDevelopment is fortunate to have the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund as an investor and partner.”
Ramon Arguinzoni, co-owner of Palermo’s Market, one of the food businesses located at Mercantile on Main, ran a successful food truck prior to launching a brick and mortar location. “This opportunity included funding to build out our space,” he said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. We not only want to have a business–we want to invest in our city.”
Mercantile on Main is one of ten investments made so far by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund. Additional financing for the project includes a grant from Empire State Development and Rochester Gas and Electric, loans from the City of Rochester and Rochester Economic Development Corporation, New Markets Tax Credits and federal and state historic tax credits.
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.
About Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund
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.
About CEI-Boulos Capital Management
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) and The Boulos Company. More information on CEI-Boulos Capital Management can be found at www.ceiboulos.com.
About Woodforest National Bank
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
CEI-Boulos Capital Management
Elizabeth Rogers, Chief Communications Officer, CEI |