February 1, 2023

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Black Developers Elevate Community Needs in Major Projects

2 min read

For decades, multibillion-dollar projects across the United States sought to create new downtown neighborhoods, often by reimagining underused assets, like defunct factories or rail yards. In recent years, a new crop of projects has offered the same expansive scope, but with leadership that mirrors the community.

A new generation of Black developers believes that their perspectives will lead to a reshaping of large sections of American cities by focusing on how their deals will benefit underserved communities.

“These agreements represented a radical shift in power relations, taking power from elected officials and developers and giving communities of color the ability to shape projects, enforce promises and oversee the benefits they wanted,” said Ben Beach, legal director for PowerSwitch Action, which works with communities to negotiate these deals.

Having a diverse leadership team can help expand investment in the community, said Gregory Reaves, a co-founder of Black-owned Mosaic Development Partners, whose redevelopment of 109 acres of the Navy Yard in Philadelphia includes a $1 billion pledge for diversity and inclusion, focused on opportunities for businesses owned by women, members of minority groups, veterans and people with disabilities.

Other megaprojects include the $3.8 billion Bronzeville Lakefront project in Chicago and the proposed Affirmation Tower in Manhattan by the developer Don Peebles and the architect David Adjaye. A number of other large-scale projects across the country are undergoing negotiations that would benefit minority neighborhoods, including a $12 billion waterfront stadium development in Oakland, Calif., and the 43-acre Carousel Mall site in downtown San Bernardino, Calif.

But these community-focused deals tend to be informal agreements, rather than well-regulated efforts, critics say. Many community groups, researchers and even developers say they lack teeth and toss small concessions to neighborhoods instead of truly sharing the…

Patrick Sisson

2022-06-08 03:00:11

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