On a hot night in August 2014, NCF staff met amidst the red brick and stained glass of the Red Rock Center for the Arts with residents of Fairmont Estates, a 94-site community in South Central Minnesota, in the City of Fairmont. After 25 years of ownership, Ashwood Communities, a Wisconsin-based manufactured housing community owner, had decided to sell its only Minnesota community. Several prospective investors immediately submitted offers for the community, so if the residents wanted to play a role in setting their future, they needed to act fast.
Over the next month, community members met with NCF to learn more about their options. They considered the possibility that another investor could purchase the property and increase lots rents to an unaffordable level. Or worse, the land could be redeveloped and they would need to relocate. They liked the idea of having a say in how their community was run and the group unanimously agreed that it was in their best interest to explore resident ownership.
At the first membership meeting, 25 of the 94 households joined the Cooperative. After a tied vote and a coin toss, the members decided to name themselves Five Lakes Cooperative after the five area lakes for which the area is known – Amber, Budd, George, Hall, and Sisseton. The members elected an interim Board of Directors who volunteered their time and met weekly for nearly four months to achieve their shared goal. Membership reached 48 households or 52% of the occupied households at time of purchase.
On December 30, 2014, Five Lakes Cooperative purchased Fairmont Estates, in the largest number of home sites in a ROC Capital-financed transaction for the year. Transaction-related development costs totaled close to $1.8 million.
On February 10, 2015, again at the Red Rock Center, the Cooperative celebrated their purchase at their first annual membership meeting on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015. One volunteer read aloud the Vision Statement that the members adopted in the weeks leading up to the purchase. In a visioning exercise led by NCF, with each member grasping a length of a single 100-foot sisal rope, members shared their ideas on how to build and strengthen Five Lakes Cooperative.
The Cooperative will kick off its first year of resident ownership with a Boot Camp Training sponsored by NCF and ROC USA Network on February 28, 2015, designed to build upon the Five Lakes Cooperative Board’s leadership skills in governance, financial management, legal and regulatory compliance, and operations.