Seronica Powell was in her mid-40s when she found a real estate bug.
In 2019, she bought a two-family rental property from a Cleveland Eastside foreclosure. Then she acquired a vacant lot next door, a city-owned parcel.
Last month she finally became a homeowner and rented it in the Tremont area for nearly 20 years.
Currently, 47-year-old Powell is taking a short-term intensive course in real estate development through a national program that recently came to Cleveland. She is one of the 30 students in the first local class of the Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Diversity Initiative. This course is for women, people of color, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers.
“I wanted to develop it just to let the kids do something,” said Powell, a single mother who raised her son and daughter while working at a social service. “I wanted them to be able to leave a legacy.”
A 13-week running training program outlines the life cycle of a real estate project from due diligence to leasing or selling. Students learn from experts, perform in-depth financial analysis, and collaborate on case studies as a final project.
The Diversity Initiative was launched in Denver in 2009 through the Colorado District Council of the Nonprofit Urban Land Institute. Since then, the program has spread to Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, and other states.
Regional developments were in line with the growing national emphasis on diversity, fairness and inclusiveness. After George Floyd died under the knees of a Minneapolis police officer last year, American companies publicly undertook social change, with mixed results.
In Cleveland, citizen groups, civil servants, and some real estate leaders have been discussing for years how to develop a more diverse development talent. The industry is dominated by whites, but a minority of developers are beginning to emerge, especially on the Black East side.
“We are in an era where diversity is taken seriously,” said Anthony Whitfield, a consultant and community development practitioner who co-leads the outreach committee of the local Urban Land Institute branch. I will.
In 2013, Whitfield was part of Project REAP’s second Cleveland class, also known as the Real Estate Associates Program. Its national program of training minorities for careers in commercial real estate debuted here in 2012. But it hasn’t graduated from class since 2015.
Akil Hamed, a local broker on Project REAP’s national board, said discussions were underway to return the course to Cleveland in 2022 or 2023.
Whitfield believes that the Real Estate Diversity Initiative will be open to racial and ethnic minorities only and will appeal to a wider range of participants than the Project REAP, which aims to diversify the executive ranks of real estate companies.
The new development class is also cheaper for participants, $ 300 for the series and $ 1,000 for the Project REAP.
“We chose REDI to do more,” Whitfield added, adding that he believes the two programs can coexist without conflict.
Melanie Cortica, district manager at the Cleveland Urban Land Institute, said 50 people applied for 30 empty slots in the spring.
Chad Stevens, a 36-year-old organizer working at the Sierra Club, has landed. He learned about the program on Twitter and asked for advice on how to buy a vacant lot in Cleveland in March. A fellow user has contacted me with a link to the application.
Stevens, an environmentalist with a political interest, has no real estate background. But he dreams of developing a highly efficient home. And he is learning lessons that can be applied not only to buildings, but also to solar and wind projects. “There are many skills that can be transferred,” he said.
Classmate Glenn Schmate, 61, has worked in the construction industry for many years. Now he’s looking at a real estate project from the other side of the table. Shumate, Vice President of the Construction Employers Association’s trade association, owns vacant lots and several rental properties. His interest in development is personal and professional. He also wants to apply his newly discovered knowledge in his role as a fiduciary to the Cleveland Restoration Association to help small contractors and builders work on conservation projects.
“It has to start somewhere,” Shumate said about paving the way for a somewhat closed development business. “I think the transfer of knowledge and, to some extent … the access the program provides, can be a disaster.”
A pandemic with a delayed start date also pushed the class online. The virtual session started on June 1st. Students will not meet in person until August. The timeline for the next session has not been set.
Although he resigned as chairman of the district council, Steve Ross, an office broker who heads the Governance Commission, said, “If possible, it is definitely required to make this a sustainable program at least once a year. I have. ” “It will depend on us getting the money.”
This program is run by volunteers, including mentors and educators. To offset costs, including one-year Urban Land Institute membership for graduates, this chapter relies on sponsors such as Key Bank Real Estate Capital, Benesch LLP, NAACP Cleveland Branch, Greater Cleveland Partnership, and Cleveland Development Advisors. I am.
Erin Braskovich, mentor-based client development manager for Cleveland Construction, was surprised and delighted to make the cut for the first session.
“Development is not about studying at school. It is not about going to college. Even real estate in general is very difficult without real growth. The real estate family.”
She wanted a deeper understanding of the proforma, the document that investors use to assess the profitability of transactions. However, Blazkovich, like other classmates, has a long-term vision of embarking on development, albeit on a small scale.
“We need a really great network to make these projects happen, especially in Cleveland,” she said.
Powell, who works at the non-profit Black Health and Equity Center, said it was impressive to be part of a program specially designed for her.
“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s huge …. It’s a minority group that always had to fight just to exist, and that’s what ULI did to program around us, do more, and actually live. I think that’s what it is. “
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