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Commongrounds rendering

Commongrounds is a new 4-story, 50,000 s.f. $16 million development in Traverse City, Michigan cooperatively owned by nearly 600 members. It will feature a food incubator, coffeeshop, distillery, childcare center, coworking space for impact organizations and businesses, performing arts and events space, artist-in-residence space, and 24 workforce rental units. Construction began in Fall 2020, with tenants scheduled to move in by 2022.

Mission, Values, Vision[edit]

Mission - To support, develop, and occupy cooperative real estate that meets community needs and increases quality of life in its region.

Values - The building integrates food, family, arts, and wellness to generate triple-bottom-line returns to the community and its tenant and community owners.

Vision - Commongrounds serves as a backbone for the community's people and organizations to be healthy, connected, creative, and inclusive; increase their adjacent possible and achieve collective impact on the nine dimensions of individual and community well-being. Commongrounds will provide shared value and triple-bottom-line (environmental, social, economic) returns on investment by tenants, partner organizations, and people working, living, learning, and playing in the region.


Commongrounds is a real estate cooperative with two classes of ownership:

Tenant Owners[edit]

Community-serving businesses and nonprofits that purchased a commercial condo space on the first two floors of the building. See Commongrounds#Tenants. They vote in all but three of the board directors.

Community Owners[edit]

Anyone who purchases a $50 share. They vote in three of the board directors and are invited to participate in the annual ownership meeting.



Commongrounds is governed by a board of directors voted in by the owners.

Separation of finance and governance[edit]

Financing and governance are completely disconnected, no tenant has more say than any other, no community members has any more say than any other regardless of financial contribution, which consists of ownership and what is effectively a collective/solidarity loan. For instance, if a Community Owner contributes $1000, $50 of that goes to purchasing a Community Ownership share, and $950 is accounted for as a loan. There is a $500 minimum to be considered a loan, otherwise any amount beyond $50 is accounted for as a donation.


  • Food Hall: A five-stall food hall modeled after the Flint Social Club, focused on equitable business development and incubation. It will have a community kitchen with revenue sharing, and backbone support with mentorship) with central bar: Higher Grounds by day, Iron Fish Distillery by night.
  • Coffee bar: Higher Grounds, a certified b-corp, provides high-quality coffee directly sourced from farmers to support coffee-growing communities.
  • Distillery: Iron Fish Distillery is Michigan’s first working farm solely dedicated to the practice of distilling small-batch craft spirits. Our family reclaimed a late 1890’s abandoned farmstead with a simple mission in mind: we create exceptional spirits from the ground up, growing our own grain and sourcing grain from Michigan farmers with practices that respect the health of nearby watersheds. Our true passion is to offer customers and visitors the craft of soil-to-spirit distilling from a family business that cares about our employees, community, and the living land. Every step of the process – from growing and harvesting non GMO grain to cultivating native yeast, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling – is done by hand at our distillery. We replace global with local wherever we can, with the highest standards along the way. Learn moreXhatch LOGO.png
  • Performing Arts + Education Space: Nonprofit Crosshatch will partner with musician May Erlewine to create a performing arts center that seats 150 people with a stage for concerts, theater, and dance. The space is designed to be used for community events, education and public meetings. Founded in 2005, Crosshatch explores the intersections of farming, art, economy and ecology. Crosshatch began because of co-founders Brad and Amanda Kik's shared belief that the arts and ecology are intertwined and essential to enriching community.
  • Coworking space for impact organizations: A community innovation hub, Commonplace holds space for people who enliven healthy, collaborative, and creative organizations and communities to work, learn, and connect.
  • Healthcare: Table Health is building health forward communities set to revolutionize how we give and receive primary healthcare. Table Health sets its foundation for healthcare delivery on true community connection, personal responsibility for health, a welcoming environment, an affordable & transparent direct pay system, and a spirit of trust and collaboration.
  • Childcare center: Wildflower Montessori, a network of shopfront teacher spaces, first to open working with a community college certification program, to provide childcare for toddlers, evening and weekends. The space will also be used for events.
  • Workforce housing: 24 rentals.
  • Artist retreat space: 1 bedroom with hotel room attached for curated guests.

Project Timeline[edit]


  • Chris Treter (Higher Grounds coffee) + Joe Sarafa (realtor) developed “Phase I” and “Phase II” plan
  • Phase 1 + Phase II approved for brownfield funding by county and city
  • Hired Ray Kendra, Environment Architects as architect


  • Kate Redman (Commonplace coworking) joined the team to help develop the real estate cooperative ownership and investment crowdfunding structure
  • Chris, Joe and Kate form Commongrounds Cooperative to purchase and develop Phase I
  • Cooperative raises $550k and purchases property in August 2018
  • Tenant-partners commit
  • Community “early bird” ownership drive gaining 450+ community owners• Hallmark Construction hired as Construction Manager


  • Investment crowdfunding drive to raise equity from community ($850k from 130+ people)
  • Zoning and site plan approval
  • Building design and engineering completed
  • $1.4 million raised from community owners


  • Completed financing approvals and groundbreaking
  • Organization and partnerships developed


  • Commongrounds opens!


August 20, 2019 to April 16, 2020