My Shift Capital Summer: Shattering Expectations
By Jessica Lopez
Hello from Kensington, Pennsylvania! My name is Jessica Lopez ‘21, and I am an Anthropology major, Health Studies Minor, Economics Minor, and Latin American Iberian studies Concentrator. I am spending my summer as a Whitehead intern for Shift Capital. When I initially saw this internship was available, I knew little about Kensington. But after a quick google search, I was stunned that countless headlines covering Philly’s burgeoning opioid crisis put Kensington at the center of it all. Labeled as the ‘Walmart of Heroin,’ by the New York Times, Kensington’s historically marginalized community is facing this new challenge head on. As one can guess, there are many people trying to help bring Kensington out of this chapter. Shift Capital, a real estate investment group, is aiming to be a part of this effort. But, how can a real estate investment group be a part of the solution? As someone who studies the power structures that trap marginalized folx, this question was at the forefront of my mind, when considering an internship at Shift Capital. As I’ve learned, Shift’s real estate investment model is centered around maximizing what it calls its “social impact,” or how much one’s actions can positively affect the community. Accordingly, Shift’s mission is centered around curtailing the negative effects of gentrification: displacement, job loss, and inter-generational poverty. For example, Shift buys abandoned property and turns it into housing that is 60% AMI (area median income) or less, where the grossing median income for a four person household is $90,000. That means Shift is offering rents that community members can pay for. Shift has also created 489 jobs in the neighborhood and invested 58 million dollars in real estate so far.
Shift has its hand in every step of real estate from acquisition, development and construction, leasing, and property management, finance, marketing, accounting, and social impact.
This summer, I will be working in conjunction with the marketing, property management, and social impact teams. For marketing, I have thus far focused on social analysis—reviewing our various media platforms, analytics, and the software we use to govern them. In my first few days, I have found a couple of new softwares that will improve Shift’s management and security. Additionally, I will also be leading some media campaigns—one campaign which will aim to focus on branding and aesthetic purposes, and the other a food crawl, which will attempt to highlight small businesses in Kensington. Another team I will join this summer is social impact. I will be assisting with Appraisal Development for selected Shift and partner projects and will be helping to evaluate the relative social impact of projects Shift partakes in down the line. Lastly, I will be working with the Property Management team. First, I will create resource guides, and a support services business for residential and commercial tenants, which will feature the various amenities and value-add services within the neighborhood. Finally, I will hope to craft a resident support services business card containing critical health services and community resources.
Clearly, I am undertaking an internship that has more structure than most. But, as I’ve highlighted my plans for my internship above, I am fully prepared that these aspirations may transform. Given that I’m two weeks in, I anticipate that the months to come will continue to shatter my expectations.