CREXi prides itself on being an agent of access in commercial real estate, developing best in class technology to streamline the transaction life cycle and enable CRE professionals nationwide to achieve success faster. In this piece, we want to showcase several organizations who are also dedicated to modernizing commercial real estate.
These organizations and foundations are successfully introducing diverse and inclusive ways of thinking into commercial real estate and are, in turn, enriching the industry through development programs, education, mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities.
Real Estate Associate Program (REAP)
REAP is an industry-backed, market-lead program that bridges the gaps between talented minority professionals and CRE organizations seeking diverse talent. Founded in 1998 by Michael J. Bush, the Washington, DC-based organization has expanded over the decades to form chapters in Los Angeles, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Kansas City, and Dallas.
Per REAP’S website, the organization exists because fewer than 1% minority of groups hold management-level positions in the commercial real estate’s industry. During its tenure, REAP has helped increase minority cohorts in CRE by 10%, shining a spotlight on a diverse talent pool of top-quality candidates. REAP’s model is based on the idea that minorities are underrepresented in CRE, not due to accident or discrimination, but due to a lack of the personal connections and networking relationships necessary to find commercial real estate success.
Every year, REAP selects up to 30 student applicants via a rigorous screening and interview process. Students from banking, architecture, engineering, business, and legal backgrounds interested in CRE enter the recruiting process, attracted to REAP’s competitive and attractive recruiting process. Once selected, REAP educates its cohorts through a multi-layer approach that includes a thorough CRE curriculum and networking opportunities. Employers meet potential minority candidates on a voluntary, business-focused basis, which encourages the natural formation of the networking relationships that help CRE professionals thrive.
Avant-Garde Network is a career-development group serving professionals of color across multiple industries, including commercial real estate. The network was founded in 2011 by Adeola Adejobi to promote diversity and inclusion across its many programs. Avant-Garde provides its 3,000 members professional and networking opportunities that include diversity initiatives and events in investing, law, technology, entrepreneurship, empowerment, career advancement, and commercial real estate.
Most recently, Avant-Garde Network hosted the inaugural Diversity in Commercial Real Estate conference in New York City in 2019. The event attracted 600+ millennial-aged CRE professionals of color to listen to a robust and seasoned speaker pool discuss pathways to leadership, opportunity zones, deal structuring, developer financing, and dozens of other topics.
Per Founder Adejobi, C-suite roles in real estate are composed of under 1% people of color, a number the group is committed to changing. The Diversity in Commercial Real Estate conference and Avant-Garde Network’s community of highly ambitious professionals (78% of the group has advanced degrees) are designed to foster growth opportunities that will eventually close the gap on lack of diversity in commercial real estate.
Peebles Corporation Emerging Developers Fund
In 2019, R. Donahue “Don” Peebles and the Peebles Corporation launched the Emerging Developers Fund, a $500 million fund for women and minority developers. The fund is designed to support developers for whom “access to capital has been the biggest challenge,” according to Peebles in an interview with the Real Deal online magazine.
The fund will primarily focus on urban infill projects ranging between $10-70 million, including commercial and multifamily projects. The fund also seeks to emphasize projects that offer affordable housing in underserved communities.
In addition to funding, the Peebles Corporation will work with EDF recipients to support the emerging developers, through either co-developing or partnerships. The hope is to mitigate risk for minority and women developers and help these traditionally underserved groups grow more quickly. Creating a business model that shows these developer groups can be successful will create more opportunities for emerging, diverse developers early in their careers.
The fund is currently accepting applicants for its 2020 iteration, seeking to invest in 60 entities. If you or someone you know fits the project requirements, you can fill out an application on Peebles Corporation’s website.
Basis Impact Group Foundation
Basis Investment Group formed the Basis Impact Group (BIG) Foundation to inspire the next generation of minorities and women by exposing them to career and wealth-building opportunities in commercial real estate. Founded in 2015, the BIG Foundation partners with multiple CRE organizations and educational programs to connect hundreds of young people nationwide to the potential of a career in CRE.
Founder Tammy Jones is no stranger to diversity and inclusivity initiatives. In 2016, she partnered with the NYC Economic Development Corporation to create the Emerging Developer Loan Fund (EDLF). The program aids women and minority-owned development firms applying for loans to support project costs and property acquisitions. These early phases of development often aren’t financed by banks and investors because they are too risky. The EDLF partners with these emerging groups to get development projects off the ground and enable access to development experience, leading to improved access to funding and support.
Real Estate Executive Council (REEC)
The Real Estate Executive Council serves as a leading professional trade association serving and composed of minority commercial real estate professionals spanning across investment, leasing, management, development, and financing specialties. Established in 2003, REEC seeks to create and foster business opportunities for its members, support organizations seeking to increase the representation of minorities, and provide education and advancement for minorities entering the commercial real estate industry.
One of REEC’s most successful programs is the Real Estate Exchange (REEX) CRE Summer program. It provides thousands of women and POC high school students to a college-level experience that couples academic topics such as finance, marketing, and SAT preparation with brokerage, development, and investment courses. The program, launched in 2017, seeks to help these populations find their way into commercial real estate
The latest REEX iteration partners with the LEAD Program, a nationwide organization that collaborates with cross-sector industries to nurture high potential youth of diverse backgrounds and prepare them for successful leadership careers. REEX and LEAD’s 2020 partnership will connect 200+ diverse teen scholars to career paths in the commercial real estate industry from eight of the top colleges and universities nationwide.