Let’s do another one! Cleveland entrepreneurs of color to compete again

In the first Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative, real estate developers of color competed for financial prizes to support their projects and were mentored along the way. Everyone who competed gained awards and insights so no one went home empty-handed (Cleveland Development Advisors). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

CLE-EDI seeks to uplift communities, diverse representation

After a successful inaugural effort of the Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative (CLE-EDI), the Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) didn’t waste any time at all in deciding to pursue a second round of competitions for 2024-25. Applications open today for the CLE-EDI which aims to level the playing field for historically excluded real estate developers of color.

Winners in the first round were announced a little more than two weeks ago, with the top prize of $50,000 going to Cleveland-based BridgePort and its iSPACE Project, The iSPACE Project is a high-tech cold storage facility for medical and pharmaceutical uses proposed to be built along the Opportunity Corridor Boulevard.

CLE-EDI launched its inaugural program in fall 2023. It produced 15 competitors who were paired with experienced developer mentors to assist in the progression and execution of their projects and shape the future of the city’s communities. The program is led by CDA and supported by Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Capital Impact Partners.

CDA provides expertise and financing to real estate projects that advance economic and community development. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress is a local community development intermediary that invests in community revitalization work in Greater Cleveland. Capital Impact Partners is a mission-driven nonprofit lender based in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

“Our first cohort members were extremely impressive and have very innovative projects planned throughout Greater Cleveland,” Yvette Ittu, CDA president and CEO said in a written statement. “Our Shark Tank-style competition at the end of the program made it very clear how innovative and wide-ranging these developers and their projects can be.”

These were the competitors in the first CLE-EDI initiative that wrapped up in June. It was so successful, a decision was made to immediately pursue a second round of competition starting today (Cleveland Development Advisors).

In addition to the winning project announced earlier this month, the second- and third-place winners are planning transformational housing projects in the St. Clair Superior and Slavic Village neighborhoods, Ittu added.

Andre Bryan, managing partner of BridgePort, which won the top grant, encouraged others to apply for the program. He praised the value he obtained and highlighted the enduring relationships he has formed.

“This program has been amazing,” he said. “It not only cultivated an opportunity for us to learn, but it also helped create some lasting relationships. I would encourage anyone that is looking to really become an expert in the space of development to take the cohort and take the class but really capitalize on the opportunity to build the relationships, build the friendships, learn from each other and then collaborate.”

The eight-month program provides developers with training, technical assistance, mentorship, networking, and pathways to financing. Industry leaders will provide insights on the local review process, preparing financial applications and leveraging business partnerships with community members. Helping provide pathways to financing is a key element of the curriculum.

Successful candidates will be selected based on several criteria. First is to demonstrate experience as a small-scale developer, either as a for-profit or nonprofit organization, who is seeking to further their experience and/or growing their real estate business. As this is not an introductory program, candidates are expected to have some direct real estate development experience.

CLE-EDI aims to level the playing field for historically excluded real estate developers of color again in 2024-25 (Cleveland Development Advisors).

They are to live in or have a strong connection to Cleveland. They should commit to attend training on Wednesdays during the months of October through May for up to four hours per week. There will be 16 sessions, held twice a month in a combination of in-person and virtual meetings; tasks; a showcase event for pitching real development projects; and ongoing meetings with a mentor/advisor.

And successful candidates should demonstrate interest in responding to requests for proposals for real estate development opportunities in Cleveland, with or without a development partner, within six months of completion of the program.

A webinar for applicants will be held on Wednesday, July 17th at noon. Sign up for the webinar at CLE EDI Informational Webinar. Finalists will be selected and notified by the beginning of September and the program will begin in late September.

The CLE EDI program is a part of a broader initiative, the Equitable Development Ecosystem Collaborative, to support the success of minority developers with other community partners, including Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, the Land Bank, LISC, Enterprise Community Partners, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.


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