Harrison Bonner (Photo courtesy Wollaston Real Estate Investments)
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In the world of real estate investing, Alex Cwiakala and Harrison Bonner — partners at Wollaston Real Estate Investments — are making a name for themselves by revitalizing communities and elevating the quality of life for those in challenging neighborhoods. Through their dedication to empowering their neighbors and desire to create a lasting impact in the communities they serve, the dynamic duo is setting a new standard in the industry.
Hailing from South Carolina and North Carolina respectively, Cwiakala and Bonner made their way to Massachusetts after meeting at an internship through college. They started their real estate journey together, taking on their first project in March 2016 — a distressed residential property in Brockton, Massachusetts. Committed to assisting distressed homeowners, they collaborated with the bank to alleviate the property’s debt, renovated it, and successfully sold it later that year. This achievement began their passion for investing in C-class properties and working-class neighborhoods.
“Initially, we focused on Western Massachusetts because the property values were more affordable and the income it generated to support our development work in Boston,” Cwiakala explained. “But as we experienced success and engaged with the communities, we realized the impact we could have by investing in more affordable areas.”
The duo’s strategy involves targeting run-down buildings in challenging neighborhoods, using their construction skills to enhance the properties and the quality of life for tenants and communities.
“By investing in the community, we gain support and cooperation from nonprofits and local leaders,” says Cwiakala. “It fosters a healthy working environment and contributes to the overall well-being of the neighborhood.”
Their commitment to community transformation continues beyond property revitalization. Cwiakala and Bonner have been actively involved in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where they reside. The Main Street corridor of Holyoke has experienced a renaissance, particularly with establishing a nationally recognized Puerto Rican Cultural Arts District.
“We collaborated with a nonprofit called Beyond Walls and donated and supported the installation of seven large-scale murals,” says Cwiakala. “Holyoke is experiencing an arts revival, and we’re glad to be a part of it.”
As their reputation grows, Cwiakala and Bonner remain grounded, acknowledging the potential challenges of neighborhood development. In their pursuit of progress, they are aware of striking a balance between cultural preservation and community growth.
“We’re trying to find that middle ground without fully gentrifying the neighborhood,” Cwiakala explains. “While attracting a new wave of residents, we aim to preserve the cultural flair that defines neighborhoods like Holyoke.”
Looking ahead, Cwiakala and Bonner have several noteworthy projects in the pipeline. One of these projects is developing a high-end boutique music venue in downtown Holyoke. As finalists for a grant, they envision creating an affordable space that can accommodate up to 100 people, further contributing to the city’s vibrancy.
They have also acquired the J.R. Smith building, a historic property neighboring City Hall on High Street, which will be transformed into a mixed-use development consisting of apartments, office or commercial spaces, and a restaurant with a nightclub. The project highlights their commitment to the arts, as they have already donated to install a 45-foot mural.
By consistently supporting the communities they work in, Cwiakala and Bonner are transforming lives and neighborhoods while creating a legacy that extends beyond real estate investments. Through their dedication to revitalizing neighborhoods and community development, Alex Cwiakala and Harrison Bonner prove that real estate can catalyze positive change, one property at a time.