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New Cleveland initiative hopes to increase diversity among real estate developers

 row of houses

A new initiative is striving to increase diversity in the field of real estate development and to provide the tools to build the skills needed for success.

The Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative began accepting applications from minority developers this week. The initiative is a joint effort among two local nonprofits, Cleveland Development Advisors and Village Capital Corporation, as well as a national group, Capital Impact Partners.

Capital Impact Partners created the curriculum that was first showcased in Detroit in 2018 and has since expanded to San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C. The group conducted a survey and found diversity was lacking among real estate developers in the Cleveland area.

“Through that relationship it allowed us to actually pursue bringing their national program, the Equitable Development Initiative into the Cleveland market because we wanted to really become more diverse as a real estate ecosystem or community,” said William Willis the senior director of development services with Cleveland Development Advisors.

Willis said the curriculum used in the program will help new and diverse real estate developers gain the skills to be successful in this field. The training covers financing, construction, knowing how to plan and understanding the market.

“People need to understand the development industry takes time,” he said, as it takes around two years for shovels to be in the ground.

Willis said developers need to envision the entire process from the preplanning to the finished project.

“That’s really the quarterback of the project, right? They [the developers] are organizing everything, you know? They have the vision for what they want to see happen.”

Applications are being accepted through Aug. 6. They will then be reviewed, and applicants will be interviewed. The application revision process is expected to take a month, and the Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative hopes to reveal the 12-15 person cohort the first week of September.

“What we want to see happen more so than anything is that the developers that are in the cohort are established in a foundation of success.”

The training is scheduled to run from October through May.

Kennedy Gotham was a news intern in the spring and summer of 2023. A journalism major with a minor in media advocacy at Kent State University, she plans to graduate in May 2024.