Creating a New Home for History
By Gina Nisbeth, Director, Citi Community Capital May 13, 2015 04:00 PM
For most of us, there are only a few times in our careers when we have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves—something way, way bigger than ourselves. That time came for me when I learned about the project to help renovate the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., in a family with deep connections to the African American story in the United States. From a very early age, I was familiar with work and mission of the Schomburg Center, and their status as a cultural icon for African Americans in this country. My parents often took me to visit as a child, and I have since taken my own children to the center. The Schomburg is a research center and cultural archive for black history, the Harlem Renaissance, and materials from the civil rights movement and the time that has followed.
Recently, the Schomburg Center, which is part of the New York Public Library system, found itself in serious need of repairs and upgrades to its home in Harlem. The funding to do these repairs could not be covered by the regular system budget.
When I began to work with the current director, Dr. Khalil Muhammad, I was moved to see the how some of the art was kept. Even though the facilities themselves were dilapidated and in need of repair, the expertise and the care and attention that each one of the staff members had for the collections was very evident to me. I knew I had a huge responsibility to use my professional experience to help preserve this, and help enable the director’s vision to repair and to update the center so it continues to preserve our heritage and becomes even more relevant to future generations.
Gina Nisbeth and Dr. Khalil Muhammad
The transaction itself was complicated because we needed to bring together equity, debt and also an equal amount of tax credit allocation. Being able to pull all the right levers and bring the right partners together to arrange a complex financing package is always something to be celebrated. However, finalizing the financing necessary for the Schomburg Center’s $18 million renovation was one of the highlights of my career with Citi.
I am proud to say that Citi’s expertise has played a critical role in getting the project to where it is today. Because we at Citi had the experience—and I’ve been at Citi now for 18 years—and the flexibility to work with these constraints and still get this done, an important cultural resource for all Americans is being preserved and improved for the next generation, with even more great things to come. I’m so very proud to be a part of enabling that progress.
Courtesy of The New Yorker Creative Studio