Browse Tag

Real Estate

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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3 mins read

Anderson Hunt Brown: A Pioneer in Real Estate Development and Civil Rights

Anderson Hunt Brown (1880 – 1974) was an American businessman, real-estate developer, and civil rights activist.

He was born on April 23, 1880 in a three-room house in Dunbar, West Virginia. His parents, recently freed from slavery, took multiple jobs to make ends meet, enlisting Brown and his siblings’ help in their work as a farmer and laundress.

anderson hunt brown
A.H. Brown (third from left) stands with a group that includes Martin Luther King, Sr. at Charleston, West Virginia’s First Baptist Church in 1971.WEST VIRGINIA STATE ARCHIVES

Despite only having a fourth-grade education, Brown began his entrepreneurial journey at an early age. He would climb onto coal train cars, throw coal onto the tracks, and with his friends, sell it to local businesses for 50 cents.

As a teenager, Brown learned to play the trombone and traveled to Cincinnati and other Western cities with his brothers in their band, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” netting $10 a week (about $300 in today’s terms) for their performances.

He learned how to cut meat and opened a butcher shop and an adjoining restaurant. Several years later, he took a real estate investing course in Boston and used his earnings to buy a house at 1219 Washington Street, next to Charleston High School.

Brown’s frustration with a lack of affordable housing for Black families in Charleston inspired him to build a real estate empire, filling that need. He built commercial properties and leased office space to fellow Black entrepreneurs, creating one of the earliest Black-owned shared work spaces.

Brown also bought land around Charleston to build houses, which he rented affordably to Black community members who may have had trouble securing housing from the mostly all-white realtors at the time. By the time of his death in 1974 at the age of 94, Brown had owned and managed up to 100 properties.

In addition to developing residential and commercial properties, Brown fought for civil rights throughout his life. He was frustrated by the lack of adequate medical care for Black citizens and discrimination, which led to the opening of the Community Hospital in 1924, the city’s first state-of-the-art hospital for Black residents.

Brown used his influence and wealth to launch successful court battles that struck down segregation laws at local swimming pools, libraries, and lunch counters in his home state of West Virginia.

He instilled this passion for civil rights in his children, and his son, Willard L. Brown, became the first Black judge in West Virginia and represented the state chapter of the NAACP in a case of racial discrimination in public schools, which became part of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, that banned segregation in public schools.

This Black History moment is brought to you by National Standard Abstract

3 mins read

Title Insurance: Protection for Your Biggest Investments

When buying a home or commercial property, one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime, it is crucial to protect yourself from potential title problems that could arise.

Title insurance provides just that, protection for your investment. It is a type of insurance policy that safeguards your rights to the property, ensuring that you have a clear and unencumbered title to the real estate you are purchasing.

Let’s consider some examples of how title insurance can protect you in both residential and commercial real estate transactions.

Residential real estate

In the case of residential real estate, title insurance can protect you from various title issues, such as liens, undisclosed heirs, and fraud. For example, if an individual who previously owned the property had a lien placed against them, the lien could still be attached to the property even after it has been sold. Title insurance would protect you from financial loss in such a scenario, as the insurance company would be responsible for paying the lien and covering any legal fees.

Similarly, title insurance can protect you from fraud, such as when someone other than the seller claims to have an ownership interest in the property. In this case, title insurance would pay for legal fees and expenses incurred in resolving the dispute, protecting you from financial loss.

Commercial real estate

In commercial real estate, title insurance can be even more important, as the stakes are often much higher. For instance, if a title issue arises during a commercial real estate transaction, the cost of resolving it can be substantial. Title insurance can provide protection in such a scenario, as the insurance company would cover the cost of any legal fees and expenses incurred in resolving the title issue.

In conclusion, title insurance is a wise investment for anyone buying a home or commercial property. It provides peace of mind and protects you from financial loss due to title issues or defects. When purchasing real estate, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and title insurance is one way to ensure that your investment is protected.

National Standard Abstract is a trusted and experienced provider of title insurance services, with a commitment to customer satisfaction. Contact them today to learn more about how they can help you protect your biggest investment.

Phone: 516-302-8451
Fax: 516-355-5059

13 mins read

East Chop Capital: Building Wealth and Community Through Luxury Vacation Rentals

The global vacation rental industry is expected to surge by 17% by 2030, reaching a value of over $112 billion. The demand for luxury rentals, which offer privacy, uniqueness, and luxury design, is especially on the rise among travelers.

East Chop Capital is a private equity firm that invests at the intersection of real estate, travel recovery, and the new norm of hybrid and remote work.

We caught up with founders Calvin L. Butts, Jr. and Carrington M. Carter, to gain insights into their company and its goals.

Tell us about the founding of East Chop Capital and what inspired you to start the company. 

[Carrington]: Calvin and I started investing in vacation rental homes back in 2014, when we built our first home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, a 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2800 sq ft mountain chalet, and launched the Getaway Society brand.

The idea for entering this industry came after I went on several ski trips with friends from college (shout out to Hampton University). Our group of 15+ would stay in large vacation rental homes. After the third trip, I ran the numbers and concluded that the industry had lots of potential, especially with the growth of platforms like Vrbo and Airbnb. 

We quickly expanded to Martha’s Vineyard and then to Hilton Head in order to grow our portfolio, buying about $3.5 million worth of real estate in five years. For Martha’s Vineyard, we both knew about the history as an enclave for African Americans, but after Calvin experienced the magic of the Vineyard firsthand following a Sigma Pi Phi Grand Boule’ conference in Boston, we quickly bought some property. 

As people learned of our success and inquired about how to invest alongside us, we decided to create a separate private equity firm, East Chop Capital, and launched a real estate fund focused exclusively on luxury vacation rental homes. Through this process, we discovered just how much a vehicle like East Chop Capital is needed in our community. 

For our first fund, we raised $4 million from 90 investors, 89% of whom are Black, 11% White, and 18% Women. We are on track to deliver 27% returns, net of fees, which is an outstanding performance for any fund manager, especially for a first fund. 

Our firm is named after the East Chop area in the town of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, where we own two homes. 

Your firm has been able to raise more than double the amount of capital in less time for its second real estate fund compared to its first. What do you attribute this to? 

[Calvin]: We’ve been owners, investors, and operators in this space for almost a decade. Our track record is likely the biggest reason we’ve had faster success raising capital for our second fund compared to our first. For Fund I, it took us three years to raise $4 million.

For Fund II, we raised $9 million in about six months. We’ve sold four properties from our first fund, some at triple digit ROIs, returned over $3 million back to investors, and we’ve done so in this current economic environment. We are pleased with our results, and certainly, our investors are as well. 

In addition to our track record, we’ve spent considerable time building relationships and trust over the past nearly five years since we started East Chop Capital. We are hardworking, genuine, honest, and really dedicated to bringing people along on the journey to learn, network together, and of course, build wealth. The relationships and trust that we’ve built, coupled with our communication, transparency, and “building in public” across social media, gives people the comfort and confidence to recommend us to others. 

Unfortunately, we haven’t received an investment from institutions or family offices, which is critical in order to scale a business. We know the statistics around the lack of access to capital for minority-owned businesses and are aware of competitors who have received $100+ million in support, despite having less experience. We hope that our track record and continuing to tell our story will lead to larger investments in our firm. 

Can you discuss your focus on the intersection of real estate, the rebound in travel, and the future of hybrid work? 

[Carrington]: The thesis of our second vacation rental home fund has four key components:

  1. Real estate as a cash-generating hard asset: Real estate has a well-documented history of generating income and appreciating over time, especially luxury real estate in key locations. 
  2. The rebound in travel post-COVID: COVID is certainly not over, but we are adjusting to living with it as best we can, including traveling. There is still significant pent-up demand to travel and connect with family and friends–birthdays, weddings, new babies, promotions… lots of reasons that people want to celebrate and celebrate together. We feel that experiences will remain a priority over material things.
  3. The demand for drivable, leisure destinations: Our strategy includes building a geographically diverse portfolio of luxury vacation rental homes, within a six-hour drive of major metroplexes across the country. Drivable, leisure destinations will continue to be a viable option for families and large groups who want to enjoy a vacation and save money by driving instead of flying.
  4. The future of work in which hybrid is the new normal: You see headlines everyday about companies trying to force workers back into the office. While company policies will vary, for office workers, it appears that the new normal will be 2-4 days in the office, often with an additional week(s) of remote work offered. We are in the early innings of employees discovering, and more importantly acting on, this flexibility to live, work, and travel in ways never before possible. Vacation rentals will play an increasing role in this new life of flexibility as weekend trips turn into a full week, or a one-week vacation may turn into multiple weeks.

What is your strategy for identifying and acquiring luxury vacation rental properties in desirable locations across the US and internationally? 

[Carrington]: It’s part art, part science. First, it starts with us. Places that we have visited and enjoyed, or places that we have heard about as enjoyable vacation destinations. Aside from personal insights, often this intel comes from family, friends, investors, and others in our network. Put another way, we listen to customers of luxury vacation rental homes.

Next, we analyze travel reports and other “top destination” lists from companies like Vrbo, Airbnb, Vacasa, Evolve, AirDNA, and media outlets like Travel + Leisure, Conde’ Nast, National Geographic, Travel Noire, CNN Travel, TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Skift, and others. 

We also track growing metroplexes and look for the surrounding areas that people will escape to for weekend getaways and extended trips. When given the choice, travelers tend to have a strong affinity for beach, lake, mountain, and entertainment destinations. 

east chop capital
Getaway Yacht Charter’s 54-foot Azimut Flybridge named Struqqle –  Photo: Above Visuals.

What are your future plans for growth and expansion in the vacation rental market and in the private equity industry overall? 

[Calvin]: With our Getaway Society brand, powered by East Chop Capital, our goal is to own a boutique portfolio of 100-150 luxury vacation rental homes around the world. Buying, building, renting, and opportunistically selling over time to generate returns and build wealth while delighting guests around the world. 

Right now we have homes in Martha’s Vineyard, Hilton Head, Orlando, Gatlinburg, the Pocono Mountains, Virginia Beach, and Broken Bow (Oklahoma). We are building two large homes in Orlando: a 12-bedroom, 13,000 sq ft home and a 10-bedroom, 6,000 sq ft home, which we’re calling self-contained resorts.

east chop capital
3D rendering of 12-bedroom, 13,500 sq ft property in Orlando. FL – Photo credit: MJS Designers Group.

They’re being built with amenities such as a resort-style pool, bowling alley, indoor basketball court, movie theater, game room/arcade, and fitness center.

east chop capital
3D rendering of 12-bedroom, 13,500 sq ft property in Orlando. FL – Photo credit: MJS Designers Group.

We are also building four beach houses along the Texas Gulf Coast in Port Aransas, and two luxury mountain homes in Banner Elk, North Carolina, located two hours outside of Charlotte, and near Beech Mountain, Sugar Mountain, and Grandfather Mountain. 

Carrington and I also have a fascination with yachts, and we hope to build this fascination into a parallel business that gives guests a new experience on the water in places where we have homes. I grew up in Savannah around water. We went to Hampton University, which is three-quarters surrounded by water, and loved watching yachts in the harbor. Getaway Yacht Charters had a soft launch last year, with the acquisition of a 54-foot Azimut Flybridge. This business is still in its infancy, but we are excited about its future. 

On the private equity front, earlier Carrington mentioned how much a vehicle like East Chop Capital is needed in our community. It was an “Aha moment” for us. Real estate will continue to be our foundation, but under the overall objective of building wealth, we have discovered a unique way to mobilize our community of 150+ LPs [limited partners/investors] to make sizable investments ($100,000 to $1+ million) in other deals.

We are equally excited about this vertical within East Chop Capital, as it perfectly aligns with our commitment to provide the best combined financial, educational, and social returns through curated and vetted investments across various industries. 

We’d love to have your support as we continue to scale and welcome the opportunity to host you for a vacation! Please follow us @GetawaySociety and @EastChopCapital on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and join our email lists to stay connected about our growing portfolio of luxury vacation rental homes, and other East Chop Capital investments.

Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin

4 mins read

Alternative Investments 101: An Overview of Real Estate, Private Equity, and More

Alternative investments are a popular way for investors to diversify their portfolios and potentially earn higher returns. These types of investments are not the typical stocks, bonds, and cash, but rather a range of other assets that offer the potential for higher returns and lower volatility.

Real Estate

Real estate is one of the most popular alternative investments and can take many forms, including residential properties, commercial properties, and real estate investment trusts (REITs). Investing in real estate allows investors to earn income through rent and capital appreciation. Furthermore, real estate can provide diversification benefits as it doesn’t always move in sync with the stock market.

Private Equity

Private equity funds invest in private companies, typically with the goal of taking the company public or selling it to another company. These investments can provide significant returns, but they also come with a higher level of risk. Private equity is only available to accredited investors and institutional investors.

Hedge Funds

Hedge funds use a variety of investment strategies to generate returns that are not closely correlated with the overall stock market. These strategies can include short selling, leverage, and derivatives. Hedge funds are only available to accredited investors and institutional investors, and they typically have higher investment minimums and management fees than traditional mutual funds.


Commodities are raw materials that are used in the production of goods and services. Investing in commodities can provide diversification benefits and the potential for higher returns. Commodities can be traded through futures contracts, commodity ETFs, and commodity-focused mutual funds.

Art, Collectibles

Investing in rare and valuable art, antiques, and other collectible items can be a great way to diversify a portfolio. The value of these items can appreciate over time and they can also provide enjoyment while they’re held. Investing in art, and collectibles can be difficult, as it requires knowledge and expertise to accurately value the items.

Venture Capital

Venture capital funds invest in start-ups or early-stage companies with high growth potential. These investments can provide significant returns, but they also come with a higher level of risk. Venture capital funds are typically only available to accredited investors and institutional investors.


Investing in infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, airports, and other public assets can provide a steady stream of income through tolls, fees, and rentals. Infrastructure investments also provide long-term growth potential as the economy grows and the infrastructure assets become more valuable.

Private Debt

Investing in loans made to companies or individuals, such as real estate loans or small business loans, can provide a steady stream of income through interest payments. Private debt investments can also provide diversification benefits as the returns are not closely tied to the stock market.

Alternative investments can provide diversification and the potential for higher returns. However, it’s important to note that they also come with a higher level of risk, and they may only be available to accredited investors and institutional investors. It’s also crucial to do your research and understand the investment before putting your money into it.

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3 mins read

Proptech 101: Understanding the Growth and Impact of Real Estate Technology

Proptech (property technology) is the use of technology to improve the efficiency and profitability of real estate transactions and operations.

From online platforms for buying and selling properties, to virtual reality tools for property tours, to data analytics for real estate market analysis, proptech companies are leveraging the latest technology to create new and innovative solutions for the industry.

The proptech industry is experiencing significant growth, as more and more companies enter the market and investors begin to recognize the potential for strong returns. The market size is estimated to reach $86.5 billion by 2032, up from $18.2 billion in 2022. A report stated that there were 2,045 PropTech companies– operating in 66 countries – at the end of the fiscal year in 2021.

This growth is driven by a number of factors, including the increasing adoption of technology in the real estate industry and the growing demand for more efficient and sustainable real estate solutions.

Proptech can be used in a variety of ways to advance the real estate industry, including in the construction and sustainability sectors. In the construction industry, proptech companies are using technology such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D printing to improve the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings. This can lead to more efficient construction processes, reduced costs, and better-performing buildings.

In the sustainability sector, proptech companies are using technology such as energy management systems, smart building controls, and sensor networks to improve the energy efficiency and environmental performance of buildings. This can lead to significant cost savings for building owners and tenants, as well as a reduction in the environmental impact of the built environment.

One specific example of proptech in action is the multifamily industry, where technology is being used to improve the leasing process, streamline property management, and enhance the overall living experience for residents.

For example, many multifamily buildings now use digital platforms for leasing and rental payments, making the process more convenient for both tenants and landlords.

Additionally, proptech companies are developing virtual reality tools for property tours, allowing prospective tenants to explore a property from the comfort of their own homes.

Another example is the industrial industry, where proptech companies are using technology to optimize the performance of warehouses and distribution centers. For example, companies are using sensor networks and data analytics to improve inventory management, reduce costs, and increase efficiency.

Lastly, proptech is also being used in the office sector, where technology is being used to improve the experience of working in an office building. For example, companies are using sensor networks and data analytics to optimize the performance of HVAC systems, improve indoor air quality, and enhance the overall comfort of the building.

Overall, this dynamic industry offers a lot of potential for growth and innovation, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the near future.

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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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1 min read

Preserving The Historic Black “SANS” Neighborhood in Sag Harbor

Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest & Ninevah Subdivisions (SANS)  is an African American beachfront community in Sag Harbor, New York.

Founded following World War II, the SANS community served primarily as a summer retreat for middle-class African American families during the post-WWII and Jim Crow era.


In March of 2019, SANS was named to the New York State Register of Historic Places. SANS made its way onto the National Register of Historic Places just a few months later. In December of 2019, SANS was among those honored with a State Historic Preservation Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation Organizational Achievement.

The SANS Steering Committee was honored again in June of 2020 when Preservation Long Island presented a 2020 Project Excellence Award to SANS for their National Register Survey & Nomination.

Terri Wisdom, founder, and CEO of Harlem Network News has close familial ties to the SANS region. We caught up with her to find out more about this historic neighborhood and her work at Harlem Network News.

In this interview, Terri shares:

  • The early history of Sag Harbor’s SANS region
  • Sag Harbor’s connection to the “Amistad” movie.
  • How gentrification is affecting the area
  • The importance of preserving historic Black neighborhoods.
  • The importance and benefits of having a local media outlet in Harlem
  • The Harlem Network News initiative to bring Brittney Griner home

-Tony O. Lawson

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

3 mins read

E-Commerce is Creating Investment Opportunities in This Real Estate Niche

The increase in e-commerce activity, labor constraints, and customer expectations about product delivery time are exerting pressure on supply chains and driving demand for industrial real estate.

Small bay warehouses specifically. This sector has outperformed its larger counterparts by a significant margin, despite the hype surrounding larger distribution facilities acquired by major tenants such as Amazon.

Amazon and other e-commerce fulfillment organizations are responsible for roughly 40% of industrial property leases, and that number is steadily rising as companies rush to include e-commerce as part of their business models. 

According to a recent industrial real estate report, companies leased more than 137.9 million square feet of industrial space in the third quarter of 2021, a new record. The most popular size category was between 10,000 and 49,000 square feet, which accounted for more than half of the leasing activity.

To reach and retain customers, retailers are shifting their attention to providing consistent, speedy delivery in dense population clusters. As firms continue to adopt same-day and one-day delivery, the strategic importance of the last mile cannot be understated.

As retailers and logistics companies strive for greater consumer accessibility, rents for well-located light industrial buildings in heavily populated, developing markets will continue to exceed those for larger warehouses in remote regions.

Properties under 70,000 square feet have the lowest average availability (5.8 percent) of any size range, as well as both the highest average rents and, have experienced rent growth of 33% between 2015 and 2020.

Leases tend to be shorter-term, which allow rents to adjust more quickly to market and new demand conditions. As a result, market rents for smaller spaces tend to be less volatile over the long-term. In addition, small warehouse market rents tend to outperform larger bulk distribution spaces in both periods of economic strength and weakness.

Small bay industrial facilities also benefit from low operating and capital expenses, which generate high cash flow efficiency relative to other property types.

E-commerce will keep driving the need for industrial space, and as a result, this new urban logistics asset class will spark more developer and investor interest.

We hope this guide was helpful and shows that with any type of investment, it pays to do your homework.

Tony O. Lawson



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