The quiet chatter of the room decreased to a low murmur as the presence of Councilman Ford and Mr. Trudeaux was made known. Juniper was again standing before them ready to begin. Small groups that had gathered near the refreshments began to disperse as people slid between the aisles of neatly lined chairs to take their seats.
“Thanks for coming out, everybody. I’m pleased to announce that this time we have Councilman Ford with us. I’m told that he works closely with the other levels of city government and will represent them as well. So having made mention of that I think we’re ready to get started.” Juniper walked to the first row of seats and grabbed her notepad and pen to hand to the person seated next to her chair. She instinctively knew to sign in.
“What I’ve found after having spoken with the building manager – who couldn’t be here tonight – is that the owner is unable to be located.” Juniper scanned the crowd and took notice of the puzzled looks on most faces. “I know that seems strange. You all are probably wondering just as I am who we’ve been paying rent to. The building manager stated that the rents are deposited into an account that has been established long before he took the job a few years ago. Perhaps that’s something we could gain clarity on once we hear from Councilman Ford. Surely he knows who they were about to purchase the building from and how to contact them.” Councilman Ford gave a nod and smile that was difficult to read. Juniper couldn’t read his nonverbal cues.
“I’ve researched our options and… I’m particularly the most excited about having the opportunity to buy the building if we’re serious about staying.”
Part of crowd began to whisper among themselves while others again looked puzzled. Councilman Ford and Keagan seemed equally bewildered by her statement.
“You mean you gonna pay for the building?” someone asked out of confusion.
Juniper laughed. “No. What I’m saying is that WE have the option to purchase the building and become property owners.” Juniper was all smiles, proud of her findings and hopeful that the other tenants would be in agreement.
“How’re WE gonna do that? I ain’t got any money!” Someone yelled out from the back.
Councilman Ford nervously shifted in his seat.
“It really isn’t that difficult. If we can collectively come up with some collateral, we can begin make a bid for the building. I have a realtor on standby that would be willing to discuss the negotiations with the city. They should already have something in place from their former plans. It’d just have to be modified and tweaked a bit and we could form a workable agreement.”
Some tenants tsk and exit the meeting, shaking their heads. “I might as well get ready to move. I ain’t interested in going through all that,” one gentleman scoffed as he made his way through the aisles toward the exit.
“Yeah, what if all of us can’t ‘buy in?’ That leaves us in the same predicament,” another tenant questioned.
“Not really. Those of us who decide to purchase the property will take the role as owners. You’ll still continue to pay rent as you have been doing. It’ll actually work out better because now you’ll have contact with the owners.”
There were more statements and questions coming from the tenants. Keagan leaned in to Councilman Ford. “This was unexpected,” he whispered.
Councilman Ford kept his focus on Juniper. “Something of a pleasant surprise,” Councilman responded.
“So, you’re on board with this? What about the urban renewal project? These faces don’t communicate upward mobility,” Keagan challenged.
“Ah, but the public loves to watch the underdog overcome adversity, Keagan. Besides, from the tone of the crowd they’ll likely weed themselves out. The undesirables will move to rent somewhere else. Too much responsibility for them to own something,” the Councilman quietly chuckled. “Whatever you had planned, put that on pause. I think being a part of this would be to our benefit. Let’s see where it takes us.”
As Juniper continued to answer questions, Keagan excused himself to make a phone call. Councilman Ford continued to take notice of those who sounded reluctant and those that seemed interested in going further, the thought resting in his mind that things don’t always happen as planned but sometimes can turn out better than expected.