About Us

We are an impact-driven project developer that builds climate resiliency in urban environments by leveraging an abundant resource: vastly underused or vacant urban land. Fresh Coast partners with cities to scalably finance, install and manage revenue-generating ecosystem services projects on vacant properties.

We work with our city partners to revitalize some or all of their vacant and underutilized properties into green infrastructure and revenue-generating working landscapes such as tree farms and urban agriculture. Our landscapes and related programming manage stormwater, revitalize neighborhoods, improve ecosystems, and increase land values. Learn more about who we are with our brief video, which profiles one working landscape type.

Our team is led by a diverse team of professionals with backgrounds in investment management, community development, environmental science and policy, and tree farming. We partner closely with industry leaders in stormwater and wetland design and installation. Based in Chicago, we are a certified DBE enterprise

Our Team

Nicole Chavas, Co-Founder and CEO

Nicole has spent her career in finance and investment management, primarily at large institutional investment firms performing due diligence on alternative investments. Over the course of her career at institutions such as TIAA-CREF and Man Investments, she has conducted due diligence on 200+ global investment managers across all asset classes, including public equities, fixed income, hedge funds, private equity, venture capital and real assets. She has also spent significant time researching the opportunity to incorporate impact into a traditional investment portfolio. Nicole earned her BBA and Masters of Accountancy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

April Mendez, Co-Founder and Director of Development

As Director of Development April is responsible for deal sourcing, deal management and community engagement. April is a social entrepreneur and community organizer with 13 years' startup experience. She co-founded Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a $4.5 million nonprofit that is transforming the way higher education engages religious diversity. She led organizational development for IFYC, created its signature programs and managed funding partnerships with institutions including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust and the federal government. Prior to IFYC, she worked for the Steans Family Foundation and also founded an organization dedicated to developing social entrepreneurship among minority youth in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods.

April holds a B.A. from Carleton College and is pursuing a degree at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University focusing on social innovation strategies including social finance.

Laura Brenner Kimes, Co-Founder and Director of Ecosystem Services

As Director of Ecosystem Services Laura is responsible for development of Fresh Coast’s ecosystem services product line. Laura’s career has focused on strategy and market creation for environment and energy firms. Most recently, Laura has worked for an energy efficiency firm reporting to the president’s office for policy and strategy. She has previously worked at Southern California Edison, US Department of Agriculture, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)’s Biomass Coordinating Council. In her early career, Laura gained much lab and field experience, including soil, water, air, and vegetation sampling, forestry, remote sensing, and GIS analysis.

Laura has a BS in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Restoration and Management from the University of Maryland – College Park, a Project Management certificate from the California Institute of Technology, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Michael Park, Director of Project Finance

Michael’s career includes extensive experience in transactional finance and investments spanning project finance, energy finance, commercial banking, and tax credit finance. He led the due diligence process on over $10 billion in transactions.

Most recently, Michael served as part of the executive team for a tech-enabled financial services startup in the energy efficiency industry, Noesis. At Noesis, he managed the capital supplier relationships and commercial lending operations, and he contributed to the successful sale of the company. Prior to that, Michael served as a Senior Investment Officer for the Loan Programs Office at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) where he performed due diligence for more than $9 billion of first-of-kind energy project finance transactions. Prior to DOE, Michael worked for the National Cooperative Bank (NCB) where he held roles financing renewable energy, tax credit, commercial real estate, non-profit, and Alaska Native Corporation transactions. He also worked in roles at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Citibank, and the Corporate Finance Institute.

Michael obtained his BA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins University and his MBA from the George Washington University with concentrations in Finance and International Business.

Jake Felton, Director of Project Management

Most recently, Jake was a Director for a large, national energy efficiency firm, where he led executive initiatives to improve program operations and develop channel partnerships. Prior to that role, he also led the business development and operational oversight of a new division that achieved 30X growth over a two-year period by partnering with two major investor owned utilities. Additionally, he previously worked for Kiewit Corporation and with other general contracting and project engineering firms, primarily supporting management activities for infrastructure and institutional construction projects, with direct field experience in water/wastewater and underground utility work.

Jake has a BS in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in Construction Engineering from the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. He holds his Engineer In Training (EIT) designation and is an Agile Certified ScrumMaster.

Dave Chen, Chairman of the Board

Dave is Chairman of the Board for Fresh Coast Capital. He is also a Principal and Chairman of Equilibrium Capital. Dave leads the firm’s strategy and product development process. His primary duty is to insure the growth of the firm and team while continuing our culture and shared values. He serves on Equilibrium’s Board of Directors. Dave’s passion and commitment to sustainability is a result of his work in venture capital, regional economic development and climate change policy. In 2007, Dave saw sustainability trends that are re-shaping major commodity sectors, creating an economic value shift and an opportunity for market advantage. He formed Equilibrium to be a global leader in sustainability-driven asset management for institutional investors that delivered both sustainable alpha and intentional positive impact on our community and environment.

John Philip Lochner, Senior Advisor

John is currently a project manager at the National Resources Defense Council for water infrastructure finance and policy, working with New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection to develop green infrastructure programs and financing solutions. John is also an investor in and advisor to businesses in water, energy, and sustainable resource management.

Previously, John was Vice President of Corporate Development for Locus Energy, a start-up providing SaaS and IoT solutions to the global distributed solar and electricity storage markets. John managed the sale of Locus Energy to Genscape, a subsidiary of the Daily Mail Group (LON: DMGT) in September 2015. John’s experience in renewable energy also includes work as a consultant to the Department of Energy, as a Board member, Treasurer, and Member of the Executive Committee of the Solar Energy Finance Association (SEFA), and as an investment banker in the Global Energy Group at Credit Suisse, where John executed transactions across the traditional and renewable power sectors.

John also has prior experience in management consulting and private equity in the Gulf Cooperative Council. John holds an MBA from The Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, an MA from Harvard University, and a BA from Duke University.

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