Andre Spivey aims to encourage investors to purchase a portion of Toomsboro, Ga., and adapt its historic buildings to new purposes.
Andre Spivey is a big thinker.
He brought professional basketball to Sarasota through his ownership of the Sarasota Manatee basketball team of the American Basketball Association. He’s developed several educational apps for children with autism. Through his company, Tampa-based Spivey Land & Finance Group, he owns land in such places as Florida, Indiana, Texas and Michigan.
His next idea isn’t just big — it’s the size of a town. Spivey is recruiting individual investors to purchase a portion of the town of Toomsboro, Ga., about two hours southeast of Atlanta. To get the project going, Spivey is committed to answering every question from potential investors, something he welcomes. The biggest challenge, he says, will be getting people to buy in to the promise of the project — a task Spivey is up for.
‘If you set out to do something new, you have to be ready to answer all of the questions.’ — Andre Spivey, Spivey Land & Finance Group
“I’ve always been into land because land is the basis of how America was built and quite simply is the foundation of wealth in America,” he says. Spivey has been thinking about wealth in the Black community, and the huge disparity, he says, comes from lack of land ownership and lack of homeownership, things he wants to do something about.
Spivey, who also served in the U.S Air Force, got the town idea when he ran across an article about ghost towns in America — places scattered across the country that have been passed by since manufacturing and railroad service decreased. In those overlooked towns he saw potential — a chance for revival. He asked himself, how could we take what we know today and the technology we have today and create a new kind of city? His answer is the Build City Project. The project’s first initiative is to purchase, revamp and redevelop land and historic buildings in Toomsboro, to be owned by a group of individuals.
The portion of the town Spivey seeks to buy includes about 65 acres and 36 buildings. It’s for sale for $1.7 million. Spivey says other potential buyers could bid on it as well, a risk in general in real estate. “We’re focused on this town, but we’re also looking at a multitude of towns,” he says, including towns for sale in Pennsylvania, Alabama and Texas. “The concept is bigger than the town itself. We’re building a concept that could be replicated in the U.S. or around the world.”
The Spivey Land & Finance Group website includes an outline of how different buildings in Toomsboro could be repurposed: The historic inn could be an art museum and bed and breakfast; the syrup mill could be a community garden, farmers market and grocery store; the railroad depot could be a rapid bus depot; and the cotton warehouse could be converted to co-working space. Some homes are part of the package, but Spivey would also take some of the acreage and build mini-homes that incorporate solar energy.
By the end of 2020, Spivey hopes to have raised enough money to make a purchase. Then, around March 2021, he’d like on-the-ground work to start, partnering with contractors to fix up the buildings and adapt them to new uses, keeping the structures’ historical contexts.
To purchase the land and buildings, Spivey is intentionally shying away from a traditional fundraising method. He wants individuals to invest in the concept behind the town, and he’s using the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to collect investments. “I go with the traditional route almost every day with Spivey Land & Finance,” he says. “This project seems bigger. It seems like it’s time to do something more interesting. Let’s not do it the way we always do it.”
He plans to create a credit union and wants to see the wealth of everyone who buys into the town grow as the town grows. People can pledge less than $100 to support the project, but $1,000 is the minimum to be a shareholder.
Spivey wants a diverse energy around the project, so he’s seeking out potential investors by talking to women’s groups, Black groups and Hispanic groups. “I get a lot of excitement about it,” he says, but getting people to buy in might be the biggest challenge with the project.
Because the project is a big idea, it often leads to big questions — something Spivey is used to. He answered a lot of them when he developed mobile apps for children with autism and again with his work in basketball. “Personally, I like projects that create questions,” he says. “We answer every question. There are no dumb questions. If you set out to do something new, you have to be ready to answer all of the questions.”