$1.8M property acquisition unlocks CERES’ capacity for growth

Determined to see social enterprises scale and grow, White Box worked in close collaboration with CERES and a small group of impact investors to secure a neighbouring property in Brunswick East. The $1.8M property acquisition is now enabling this leading sustainability park and its social enterprises to pursue their plans for growth.   

Cinnamon Evans, CEO of CERES talks about the expansion, their plans for growth, and jobs this will create.

Tell us about CERES and what you do?

CERES is an environmental education centre, community garden, urban farm and social enterprise hub spread across four locations, linked by the Merri and Darebin Creeks on Wurundjeri Country, Melbourne. Established in 1982, CERES is a charity with the principal purpose of protecting and enhancing the natural environment, including by providing information and education to increase understanding of human impacts. Our impact includes local, practical, community-based action toward positive change. Through education, social enterprise and community engagement, we collectively teach and build healthy ecosystems, resilient communities, regenerative food systems and local well-being economies for a sustainable future.

Why did you need a new premises?

As the city builds up around us, with more multi-storey residential buildings, the CERES Park is an increasingly important place for community and nature connection. More than 500,000 people visit each year to enjoy the green open space, market gardens and community gardens, to support our social enterprises, and to participate in our sustainability education programs and to make use of our venues.

In order to meet community demand for space, and to grow our social enterprises, we decided to refurbish the main building in the CERES Park and open it up to the community. This required relocating staff offices to make way for the refurbishment. Hence, we needed new premises, and the new commercial space outside our main gates was an obvious choice.

What role did White Box play?

Luke Terry (White Box Enterprises CEO) and I have known each other for many years. Our organisations first started talking about the project before the building was constructed and before the pandemic, when CERES was preparing to raise funds to purchase the building. Unfortunately, these plans were interrupted, and by the time the lockdowns were lifted the building had been constructed and the property was under contract to another buyer.

Several months later we unexpectedly received news that the property was once again on the market. The team at White Box worked with our Board and gathered together interested impact investors to make the purchase possible. It was such a pleasure to work with Luke and the team. They really went above and beyond to support the process, make CERES Board members and executive team feel confident, and negotiate the property purchase. We really value the ongoing relationship between our organisations.

What impact will this new office have on the business, your community and the individuals you support?

Our new CERES HQ office fit-out is our lowest carbon footprint office development. Almost all the materials used, including acoustic panels, Tetra Pak panels, framing timbers, carpet tiles and office furniture were salvaged or sourced second-hand from our colleagues at Green Collect. Our new CERES HQ will enable us to refurbish and open the main building in the CERES Park for the community to use. The Community Hall refurbishment is funded by the Victorian Government, Merri-bek City Council and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.

The Community Hall will be used for venue hire, catering, education and events for our community, growing our social enterprise and functioning spaces. This new community space will continue to grow our wellbeing economy and increase collaboration with more mission-aligned social enterprises and community groups, including White Box. 

Any impact goals you’ve set yourselves with the expansion?

Yes, we have a number of ambitious targets, amongst these includes a goal to create 16 new jobs, attract an additional 10,000 visitors to the park and 300 additional course and workshop participants per year, upskilling them in permaculture, horticulture, environmental stewardship and regenerative farming practices.

To learn more about CERES and the incredible work they do, visit ceres.org.au