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Relentless idealist set her own rules

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in Leaders & Managers

When Oregon interior and landscape designer Roslyn Hill bought a dilapidated building at a tax-lien sale, her friends thought she was nuts to buy an empty building on a slummy street in Portland. She borrowed most of the $26,000 and fixed up the place with her own hands. When she couldn’t find a tenant, Hill decided to open a coffeehouse.

Sound like a recipe for disaster?

Not in 1992 Portland.

Hill’s café became an almost instant success because she set the rules—not only for her business but for all of Northeast Alberta Street. She scraped together financing to buy more teardowns, putting businesses below and residential lofts above, landscaping and all-night street lighting.

The rules:

  • Her commercial tenants were not allowed to lock their doors during business hours.
  • They had to post business hours.
  • They had to buy glass-breakage insurance.
  • If a window was broken, it had to be replaced the same day.

Gradually, Hill turned 30 blocks into a trendy neighborhood. From then on, she had no problem either finding tenants or enforcing her rules.

Now she’s called the Queen of Alberta.

— Adapted from “Ten who inspire,” Joe Treen, AARP The Magazine.

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