Breaking News
More () »

Mission Possible: New initiative helps Cleveland real estate developers of color find opportunities

Efforts are underway to correct an imbalance within the local development industry by giving people of color a seat at the table.

CLEVELAND — Construction cranes are in action all over Cleveland.

As they change the city’s skyline, the Cleveland Development Advisors and others want to change the real estate development industry for entrepreneurs of color. The Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative is designed to seed, mentor, support and create more opportunities.

“We want to be able to really essentially cultivate the next wave of emerging developers,” said William Willis the Senior Director of Development Services for Cleveland Development Advisors. “And so through this training and the curriculum, developers will continue to learn more about development principles.”

The eight-month program will provide developers mentors like James Sosan, who latest project is the Bristol, a three-story apartment building was constructed in 1928.

 “I drove by one day I saw for sale sign on the building and I said, Hey, this looked like a good historic building, and that was it,” said real estate developer James Sosan.

Windows, doors, everything on the front was restored. The twenty apartments inside were transformed. The final result, after two years of hard work, is a building that will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Back of the building was open to the elements for years, actually collapsed all the way from the roof to the basement,” recalled Sosan. “Then we had to rebuild everything back up and still maintain the historic integrity of the building.”

A project like the Bristol requires collaboration. The city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County contributed funding, and federal and state historic taxes credits were all utilized.

“That's the only way you can make projects like this work,” said Sosan. "And this is what I'm bringing to the table to show people how to get around that kind of project.”

A recent study revealed Black and Hispanic real estate developers make up less than one percent of the industry. Having representation in the developer role can have a larger impact through the entire process.

“When you have representation in that position, you'll see a trickle down effect,” sated Willis. “You'll start to see more diverse professionals working on projects. Hopefully that will help to scale up the workforce as well.”

Capital Impact Partners and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress are also part of the Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative. Capital Impact Partners have run similar programs across the country with success, this one is tailored to Cleveland.

“We know Cleveland has some challenges, but we also know that there are really great people doing this work here in Cleveland as well,” said Willis.

Willis also says real estate development is a difficult field to break into. Networking and access to capital are just some of the barriers entrepreneurs of color need to overcome.

“This program is going to help a lot of young African American men and women in the city that wants to be developers, some that have already started, but they want to move up to the next stage,” said Sosan.

“And we have to rely on people who have the skill sets, who have the knowledge, the relationships to allow us to have greater success and overall, just continue to build out the city's economy,” said Willis.

Applications for the Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative are due by midnight on August 6th. Click here to apply.

More Mission Possible:


Before You Leave, Check This Out