Browse Tag


4 mins read

Creating Profitable Spaces: The Basics of Real Estate Development

Real estate development is a process of improving and enhancing land or property to increase its value and make it suitable for specific use.

This can involve developing new structures, such as commercial or residential buildings, or renovating existing ones. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of real estate development and explore the opportunities available in both the commercial and residential sectors.

Commercial Development

Commercial development involves the construction or renovation of buildings for commercial use, such as office buildings, retail spaces, and hotels. The goal is to create spaces that will be in high demand by businesses and generate a profit for the developer. Opportunities in commercial real estate development include building new retail centers, renovating existing office buildings, and developing hotels in tourist areas.

Residential Development

Residential development involves the construction or renovation of homes and apartments for people to live in. The goal is to create high-quality, attractive homes and apartments that people will want to live in, and to generate a profit for the developer. Opportunities in residential real estate development include building new subdivisions, renovating existing apartment buildings, and developing luxury homes.

Key Considerations

Regardless of the type of real estate development you’re interested in, there are several key considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Market demand: It’s important to research the demand for the type of property you’re planning to develop. For example, is there a high demand for luxury homes in your area? Are there enough businesses that would be interested in leasing office space in your proposed retail center?
  2. Location: The location of your development is key to its success. Consider factors such as proximity to transportation, access to amenities, and the local economy.
  3. Financing: Real estate development can be expensive, so you’ll need to secure financing. This can include loans, investments, and partnerships.
  4. Zoning and regulations: Before starting a development project, it’s important to research local zoning laws and regulations to ensure that your project is allowed and meets all necessary requirements.
  5. Building and construction: Construction is a complex process that requires careful planning and management. Make sure you have a team of professionals, including architects, contractors, and engineers, to help ensure that your project is completed on time and within budget.

Real estate development can be a lucrative and exciting field with opportunities in both the commercial and residential sectors. However, it requires careful planning, research, and execution to ensure success. By considering market demand, location, financing, zoning and regulations, and building and construction, real estate developers can create profitable and attractive spaces that meet the needs of businesses and individuals alike.

Whether you’re interested in developing new commercial spaces or creating beautiful homes and apartments, the possibilities in real estate development are endless. With dedication, hard work, and a little bit of creativity, you can turn land into profitable assets and make a positive impact in your community.

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8 mins read

McKissack & McKissack, a Black Owned Architecture & Construction Firm Managing Over $15 Billion in Projects

McKissack & McKissack is a national architectural, engineering, and construction management firm with 27 years of experience.

Deryl McKissack, founder and CEO of McKissack & McKissack, is the fifth generation of her family to work in design and construction.

Her company is a continuation of the nation’s oldest African American design and construction firm and traces its beginnings to Moses McKissack.

Painting of Moses McKissack I and his wife, Mirian.

Moses was brought to the United States from West Africa in 1790 as an enslaved person and learned the building trade while working as a brickmaker at a construction company.

He eventually received his freedom, started a family, and taught his son, Gabriel Moses II, the construction business. Moses II later became a famous craftsman and aided local firms with architectural drawings, design, and construction.

Moses II’s son, Moses III, also got his start in the construction business, founding the McKissack Company in 1905 and operating it with his brother, Calvin. They became the first licensed Black architects in the Southeastern United States and designed many of the historically Black colleges and universities in the region.

Master builder Moses McKissack III

In 1990, with a shoestring budget of $1,000, Deryl started McKissack & McKissack. Today, the firm is working on over $15 billion in projects nationwide.

We caught up with her to find out more about the new generation carrying on this legacy.

McKissack & McKissack
Deryl McKissack, founder and CEO of McKissack & McKissack

What inspired you to start your firm? 

Starting my business was 50% passion, maybe more. I had a burning feeling on the inside that I just definitely wanted to do something on my own and see if I can make it successful.

I was drafting architectural drawings under my father’s guidance by the time I was 6-years-old and was looking to build upon my family’s legacy in my own way.

After experiencing racism and sexism, I sought to build a firm that would create opportunities for minorities and women to be successful and work in safe and inclusive environments. 

What do you most attribute your longevity to? 

I’ve worked extremely hard to build a good reputation and that has been my backbone. We have expanded into great locations and have had so many wonderful opportunities to expand people’s lives through the range of projects we’ve completed. Having a good reputation is what I’ve been striving for for many years. 

To be a minority, especially a Black woman growing up in the industry, we weren’t expected to do much. We weren’t expected to have major projects that made a difference or projects that changed the face of cities or how Americans looked at history.

Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships and incorporating the latest advances in technology into our projects helped bridge the gap between myself and others. 

The fact that McKissack & McKissack has been able to work on various projects that matter, deliver on those projects, and keep our clients happy means a lot. It’s made us a national firm.

When I started the firm, I didn’t plan to go outside of a 30 mile radius of DC. I only wanted to travel on an airplane for leisure. Now we have offices in Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Austin. 

In what ways are you working to increase the number of Black professionals in the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry? 

Our industry is very traditional in the sense that it’s run by white males. Company culture was not even thought about when I started 30 years ago. I was told to put my head down and do the work. That sentiment has completely changed.

People realized maybe 15 years ago that they’ve got to build a better culture – a culture of respect. We definitely want to get more women and people of color interested in the AEC industry.

I’m on the executive board of the ACE Mentor Program which starts with high school students getting them interested in STEM and engineering to help fill that pipeline of talent.

We’ve recently expanded the program where we’re providing high school students in their Junior and Senior years and college students internships with the hope that they will come and work with us upon graduation.

I’m also on the board of the organization, Living Classrooms, where we work with elementary kids to get them interested in STEM. 

In what ways does ESG play a role in your business decisions?

ESG is no longer optional. It is an increasingly important lens for companies to look at what it means to do things the right way. It boils down to running the kind of mission-driven company where people want to work and clients are proud.

Everyone right now wants sustainable buildings and materials. It used to be that this was something extra like an add-on service. Now it’s incorporated into everything that we do.

ESG benefits every company by saving clients money, increasing productivity, fostering a ‘team player’ atmosphere, encouraging a strong sense of pride in work, and turning obstacles into assets. 

Who inspires you? Why? 

There is something about high-achieving people that inspires me. I admire the way they are able to stay focused and achieve their goals despite difficult circumstances. 

What do you do to relax? 

Bike riding and watching football. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs? 

You have to deliver. Under promise and over-deliver. You have to be a trustworthy partner to your clients and that comes with a lot of hard work.

Your product or service is one thing but as an entrepreneur, you also have to consider the administrative piece – counting your money, having lawyers, and insurance for your employees.

All of these things encompass entrepreneurship. Stay determined and disciplined and you will reach your goals.

– Tony O. Lawson

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8 mins read

Black Owned Architecture Firm Designs Hurricane-Resilient Buildings

Stacy A. Bourne FAIA is the founder of The Bourne Group, a Black-owned architecture, and urban design firm on a mission to build resilient spaces and inspire social change, through collaborative design.

Black-owned Architecture
Stacy A. Bourne FAIA

We caught up with Stacy to learn more about her business.

What inspired your move to the US Virgin Islands?

In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was the first in more time than could be recalled. I was a student at Tulane University’s School of Architecture.  Lydia Webbe, my sister at Tulane and friend from the Virgin Islands, had to return home because of the impact of the storm.  

While working for architect Christopher Green, she recommended me when he needed more people.  I remember the day he called.  My parents were just coming in from the road trip, with lots of people in the house, while I’m trying to play cool on a phone interview of my only job offer. In the Virgin Islands no less.

Why did you decide to specialize in hurricane-resilient architecture?

I’m not sure if I chose it or if it chose me.  My path to the Virgin Islands in 1990 was because of a hurricane, resulting in my experience in commercial and historical structures.  

My experience in advocacy and legislating for building codes in 1995 came as a result of a hurricane and needing standardization through codes to save communities. My role as an architect shifted to a residentially focused career, completing over 1000 custom hurricane resilient homes. 

My international experience between Canadian, British, and American building codes through the financial and banking industries expanded in 2007 because of a hurricane. 

Through a pair of hurricanes, in 2017, we expanded yet again into higher education and government facilities, paying particular attention to resiliency strategies across the campus and the Virgin Islands territory.

What role does the Black architect play in the Black community?

One of the most admired attributes that the US Virgin Islands has to me, isn’t its beaches, food, or activities. Its that everyone in Black!  The Governor is Black, his Lieutenant Governor is Black.  The senators are Black. The Chief of Police… Over time, you will get to know them, understand passionate discussions, willingness to take initiative, and even risks.  

Living in a community of color, with mixed ethnic cultures, has allowed me to exude a different level of confidence and understand the importance of connection to the community.  It is at this level that you begin to realize what is involved in inspiring social change. Change for an improved economy, environment, and culture for communities to thrive. This gave me much more confidence when speaking externally with other professionals and groups.

I met the first architect that looked like me when I was 24 in the Virgin Islands. I was used to being the only, or one of a handful, Black faces in the rooms since I was in the fourth grade. I decided I wanted to be an architect in the 10th grade, without ever having met one.

I had internships at Black-owned firms in St. Louis and New Orleans but the day I met Donna DeJongh, a Black female architect, nothing would come out of my mouth. I think it’s always important to have a mentor, someone to look up to push you and hold you accountable. My father always said, “Make sure that you’re not the smartest person in the room. If you are, change rooms.”

As a Black architect, I intentionally help my communities. I’ve learned the importance of relationship building. It is through these relationships that we can leverage our skillsets as architects and planners into virtually every industry, particularly those that affect our community’s utilities, resources, creative strategies, and more. 

Start where you are. In your block, in your neighborhood, your community. Become an advocate for the issues that you know.

For the growth of our communities, it is important to have an architect on your team to capture the vision of the community. As a planner, knowing with whom to collaborate, fulfill to its greatest extent the boundaries of the codes mixed with good design, and a plan for the future. 

Why do you think it’s important to incorporate resilience measures into designing and planning?

It is clear to me that hurricanes are not going to go away.  In fact, combined with some of the climate change information, the dry seasons will become longer and rainstorms will be shorter and heavier.  The ocean currents will continue to increase and the wind gusts in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea will continue to provide favorable conditions to increase hurricane activity. It is no longer a matter of IF we have a hurricane but WHEN we have a hurricane.

This transformational thinking is proactive, not reactionary. We begin to ask and seek solutions to different questions based on our disaster typology and our location.

  • How can we minimize the impact of disasters on a statewide scale, community scale, and individual scale? 
  • What is our most resilient available material and is it sustainable?  
  • What areas are flood prone, what communities are there and what resources will they need?  
  • How can we control indoor air quality in a mold-dominated environment?  
  • What is our community core and how can we restore that quickly and spread to surrounding areas?  
  • How are we engaging with our shorelines, and how does that affect our tourism and industrial products?

What are your thoughts on diversity in the field of Architecture?

There are 115,000+ architects and 2,800+ Architects in the AIA College of Fellows BUT….

Diversity in architecture is critical in so many other areas than statistics. I’ve chaired several national and local boards and our contributions to community activities and planning, beyond buildings, cant be quantified. 

We lend our expertise to contributions to social change, inclusiveness in design strategies, community envisioning, disaster resilience, and mentorship, just to name a few.

-Tony O. Lawson

4 mins read

5 Tips to Follow for a Successful Construction Project

Construction projects require a lot of coordination and expertise. You need to make sure that you have the right people working on the project and that it is being monitored properly. Keep reading to find out some of the tips and tricks that you can follow to ensure a successful construction project.

Always Start with a Plan

You don’t want to jump into a project without knowing its full scope or how long it’s going to take. You need to know what resources are needed and are available for the job and how much time it will take to complete specific tasks. Make sure you have a detailed plan of action before you begin working on any part of your project.

Communication Is Central to Success

Once you’ve planned your project, it’s essential to communicate with everyone involved in the process so that they understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as any changes that come along the way.

Communication can help keep costs down by reducing unnecessary work for contractors and subcontractors who may not have been apprised of any changes made by other parties involved in a project’s construction phase. It will also help keep everyone on track so that deadlines are met and budget estimates remain accurate throughout each stage of the construction project.

Finance Management Is Crucial

Finance management during construction requires careful oversight from all parties involved in order to avoid overspending during the initial stages. This includes monitoring budget levels throughout various stages so that funds aren’t used up prematurely due to unforeseen circumstances.

Keeping a close eye on your budget lets everyone stay on track financially throughout the construction project. It also ensures that money isn’t wasted unnecessarily due to miscommunication between stakeholders about how much certain aspects of construction, such as utility upgrades, might cost them.

Sticking to a Schedule Is Extremely Helpful

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when managing a construction project, but one of the most important aspects is time. Keeping a close eye on the timeline of the project and making sure that each task is completed on schedule is crucial to the success of the project. By staying on top of the schedule, you can avoid expensive delays and ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

You Need to Be Able to Adapt to Changes

There are always unforeseen circumstances that can arise during a construction project, and being able to adapt to these changes is crucial. By being flexible and adaptable, you can make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the project stays on track no matter what happens. Keeping all stakeholders informed of all progress and changes that occur can help avoid potential problems down the road, and if any do arise, they can be fixed at an early stage.

Construction is a very tough field, and every project has its own challenges. There are so many things that can go wrong and so many things that you need to keep under control. Hence, try to keep track of everything, including your finances.


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1 min read

How To Benefit From Government Contracts and Local Business Resources

Milligan Group LLC is a telecommunications cabling, video surveillance, and electrical services installation company.

The Philadelphia-based company specializes in providing voice, data, & fiber optics cabling infrastructure, security cameras, and electrical service solutions in virtually every working environment, including commercial, educational, medical and retail.

The company was founded in 2009 by Kariema Milligan and her husband Joseph Milligan Jr. The election of President Barack Obama was a factor in inspiring the couple to launch their business venture.

“The fact that President Obama was elected was inspiring for me. My husband and I had talked about running our own business for years and once he was elected, a light bulb went off for the both of us simultaneously. We looked at each other and said ‘it’s time’,” she recalled.

In this interview Kariema discusses:

  • Tips on how to get government contracts.
  • Biggest lessons learned doing business with the government.
  • How she and Joseph raised the capital needed to fund their business.
  • The strategies implemented that have made the biggest impact on their business.
  • The effects of support from PIDC, a Philadelphia-based local economic development organization.

Grow your business in Philadelphia with financing from PIDC and register for PIDC’s free Business Builder Workshops.

2 mins read

This Black Owned Construction Company Went From Broke To Billions

C D Moody Construction is an award-winning, Black owned construction company based in Lithonia, GA. When CEO,  C. David Moody struck out on his own in 1988, he and his wife were in debt, struggling to make ends meet, and working out of their bedroom.

black owned construction company
C. David Moody

Over thirty years later, C.D. Moody Construction is a thriving enterprise that has completed over 200 commercial projects worth almost $3 billion.

The company’s growth coincided with rapid regional growth, and as Moody literally helped build 21st century Atlanta, Atlanta’s emergence helped fuel Moody’s success.

Along the way, Moody has remained committed to the community, planting seeds for future growth by mentoring the next generation of business leaders in Atlanta and teaching his kids the value of hard work and financial responsibility with his wife Karla.

For Moody, those entrepreneurs will play an important role in continuing to build up the community. And his kids will play a vital role in the business.

“Every weekend we would go and look at all the job sites together as a family,” said Karia Moody, David’s daughter. “I grew up in construction. I always knew I wanted to go into it.”

In September of 2019, David Moody joined as a 49% partner on a $650 million mix of affordable and market-rate housing, restaurants, retail, offices, and a performing arts center.

black owned construction company

In remarks before the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority or Fort Mac LRA board, Moody said he also wanted to build an advocacy center to help treat victims of childhood sexual abuse that would focus on victims who are now in adulthood but still grappling with trauma.

black owned construction company

Moody previously was identified as a construction partner but will now take on an ownership stake in the development if approved by the board.


Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

Black Owned Construction Firms Hired for $300 Million Obama Foundation Project

Three Black-owned construction firms joined forces to form the Presidential Partners consortium. It has recently been announced that this new joint venture will take the lead on the $300 million construction of the Obama Presidential Center. Construction is one of the most lucrative industries on the planet. There are many successful construction companies across the world, going to show you this. It is great to see business booming and small businesses with also hopefully benefit from this large-scale project. Both in the United States and across the Pond in the United Kingdom, it can be a real challenge for businesses to thrive. This is why they often choose to cut costs wherever possible. One really useful way of doing this is opting to lease a van rather than buying outright. UK based IVL are helping small businesses to do this.

Image courtesy of the Obama Foundation

The Presidential Partners consortium of Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction, Brown & Momen, and Safeway Construction. These companies represent some of the most established and well-respected Black owned construction firms in Chicago. It is wonderful that Chicago is home to so many excellent construction firms that are experiencing high levels of success across the country. It is reflected in their customer satisfaction ratings and the number of top of the range equipment, like a scabbler, that they have to help them carry out their job.

Mamon Powers, Jr. CEO, Powers and Sons

Alone, none of these companies had the experience to win the bid to construct the institution that is slated for Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Together, according Mike Strautmanis, vice president at the Obama Foundation, it was an easy choice.

Image courtesy of the Obama Foundation

“One, they’re talented,” Strautmanis says. “We know they’ve been involved in other construction projects around the city and the Midwest, so between them all we knew they could handle the complexity.”

Jimmy Akintonde, CEO , Ujaama Construction

President Obama himself signed off on the new team, and Strautmanis says the selection is part of the president’s commitment to the community.

“We want to set the stage for a new model,” Strautmanis says. “The new model is you don’t have to have a white firm with minority partners on the side. You want to have real diversity: minority firms in the lead with a seat at the table.”

Ernest Brown, President, Brown & Momen, Inc

According to Next City, community activists and residents are reportedly still pressing the foundation to sign a contract guaranteeing well-paid, long-term jobs to local residents.

Obama has said that he will not sign such a contract. But the foundation believes that in selecting a construction management team, it has “picked firms that demonstrated they could handle the community’s concerns,” according to the Tribune.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year. It will start on the west side of Jackson Park.

The Obama Presidential Center is scheduled to open in 2020.

6 mins read

Black Real Estate Businesses & Professionals

From the beginning of recorded time, real estate or land and property ownership have been responsible for the creation of many fortunes. Here are some Black real estate business owners and professionals who are at the top of their game.

Black Real Estate Business Owners & Professionals

Ayesha Selden (Philadelphia, PA) is a self-made millionaire who has amassed a real estate portfolio of 0ver 30 properties and 41 units. She is also an author, public speaker, and coach.

black real estate

Cedric Matheny (Atlanta, GA) is Principal and Vice at President T.Dallas Smith & Company. He specializes in Tenant and Buyer representation services for corporate users of office, industrial, retail, and land.

black real estate

Eze Okwodu (DMV area) With over fifteen years of experience as a real estate investor, Eze is committed to helping his clients find their dream properties that not only meet their needs but are sound financial investments.

black real estate

Daniel D. Thomas (Bridgeport, CT) Since starting his career at the age of 19. By the age of 23, he became one of the youngest Real-Estate Brokers in the country to open his own firm Daniel D. Thomas Real-Estate.

black owned real estate

Kofi Nartey is the founder of The Nartey Group, a leading authority on luxury real estate, he is the go-to broker for celebrities, prominent sports figures, and affluent clientele around the globe.

C. David Moody (Lithonia, GA)  is the President and Chief Executive Officer of C.D. Moody Construction Company, Inc., one of the largest Black-owned construction firms in the U.S.

black owned construction company

G. Lamont Blackstone (Mount Vernon, NY) is the principal of G. L. Blackstone & Associates LLC, a commercial real estate consulting firm specializing in urban markets.

Lisa Phillips (Arlington, VA) is the founder of Affordable Real Estate Investments. She is also a real estate investor who is passionate about teaching others how to “cash in on working-class neighborhoods for higher profits.”

black real estate

Scottie Smith (Houston, TX) is the Managing Broker at Scottie Smith II & Associates. Mr. Smith specializes in sales, investments, property analysis, and valuation of multifamily and single-family properties in Texas.

black real estate

Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles (Washington D.C.) is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of the Peebles Corporation, the largest African-American-owned real estate development and ownership company in the US.

black real estate


Harrison Beacher (Washington, D.C) has dealt with and successfully helped close every kind of deal from multi-million dollar sales, to foreclosures, short sales, co-ops, estate sales, first-time buyers, Down payment assistance program deals, investors, rentals, and everything in between.

Adenah Bayoh ( Irvington, NJ) is the founder and CEO of Adenah Bayoh and Companies, a real estate development portfolio with over $250 million dollars in urban redevelopment projects.

black real estate

Quintin E. Primo III (Chicago, IL) is the co-founder and CEO of Capri Capital Partners, a real estate investment firm specializing in mezzanine investments in real estate private and publicly held companies.

Kenneth H. Fearn (Los Angeles, CA) is the Founder and Managing Partner of Integrated Capital LLC, a leading hotel-focused, private real estate advisory and investment firm. 

mTkalla (pronounced T’kalla) Keaton (New York, NY) has over twenty-five years of experience managing properties in Brownstone Brooklyn.

Egypt Sherrod (Atlanta, GA) is an award winning Realtor ® and CEO of The Egypt Sherrod Real Estate Group. Egypt’s daily business activities include counseling modest first-time home buyers to quarterbacking the listing/marketing of homes owned by corporate leaders, celebrities, physicians and investors throughout Atlanta.

Brendan Wright (Atlanta,GA) is a realtor with Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty and a Certified Negotiation Expert. In 2013, Brendan was recognized as Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty’s youngest Multi-Million Dollar Sales Club member.

Michael Russell (Atlanta, GA) is the CEO of H.J. Russell & Company, a vertically integrated service provider specializing in real estate development, construction, program management, and property management. Michael founded the company in 1952 and led it for 50 years.

Victor MacFarlane (San Francisco, CA) is chairman and chief executive officer of MacFarlane Partners, which he founded in 1987 to provide real estate investment management services to institutional investors.

Kenneth Bacon (Bethesda, MD) is Co-founder and Managing Partner of RailField Partners. Prior to forming RailField, Ken spent 19 years at Fannie Mae, most recently as the Executive Vice President and Head of the Multifamily Business.

Sundra Ryce (Buffalo, NY) is the President and CEO of SLR Contracting & Service Company, Inc. SLRoffers commercial general construction, construction management, and design-build services for new construction and renovation projects, schools, nuclear facilities, and government projects.


-Tony O. Lawson

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