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The Next Status Symbol? Buying an Entire Town

Affluent developers who kickstart slumping small towns bring vision and political clout.

Real Estate By

Michael Bruno is transforming into a “small-town white knight” after purchasing 24 properties in Sloatsburg, New York, according to Town and Country. The founder of 1stdibs.com, Bruno has fostered a life-long fascination with architecture and real estate — now, he’s putting his money where he believes it can not only flourish, but benefit an entire community.

“It’s going to be a village for all seasons,” Bruno told the magazine, noting that he’s planning on transforming the properties into high-end businesses. “This will be a resort, café, and farmers market for people biking up from the city,” he said. “We’re having a big dinner when our farm stand opens here in early July.”

Bruno isn’t the only wealthy benefactor to take over a town. Diane Hendricks, the billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply, has been buying properties in Beloit, Wisconsin with the hopes of turning it startup-friendly.

“I see old buildings and I see an opportunity for putting things in them,” she told the New York Times earlier this year.

The motivation for one-percenters to buy up Main Street is clear: In addition to accumulating property, affluent developers who kickstart slumping small towns bring vision, political clout and, the magazine notes, a “track record of getting things done.”

And although locals don’t always take too kindly to out-of-towners pushing around coins and calling the shots, in the case of Sloatsburg, Town and Country notes that the consensus is one that’s welcoming.

“This town is on the edge,” one local bartender told the magazine. “It would be nice to see a change.”

Read full story at Town and Country