Pioneering program selects 15 emerging developers of color to revolutionize real estate development in Cleveland

Fifteen promising entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds have been selected to participate in an innovative new real estate development program with a clear mission: to break down historical barriers and empower these individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to shape the future of Cleveland’s communities.

The Cleveland Equitable Development Initiative, or CLE-EDI, will bolster the ranks of successful minority real estate developers in the region and to stimulate economic growth in the communities from which these entrepreneurs hail.

Yvette Ittu, president and CEO of Cleveland Development Advisors, underscores the significance of this initiative, stating: “These entrepreneurs possess a range of business experiences, but the intensive real estate development training and mentorship this program provides will significantly enhance their chances of success.  By nurturing these motivated individuals, we will not only foster greater diversity and inclusion in our real estate community, but will elevate their capabilities in development.

CLE-EDI is a joint effort by Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA), which provides expertise and financing to real estate projects that advance economic and community development; Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, a local community development intermediary that invests in community revitalization work in Greater Cleveland; and Capital Impact Partners, a mission-driven nonprofit lender based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

“This program is imperative due to the profound disparities in the industry stemming from limited access to capital and training, the persistent wealth gap, and the absence of a cohesive network of service providers and mentors to empower these individuals to enable them to play a meaningful role in shaping our collective future,” Ittu added.

One of the CLE-EDI program cohorts is Hosanna Mahaley, founder and CEO of Legacy RED (Real Estate Development) Group, a woman and minority owned general contracting and construction management firm. Legacy has provided professional services on 200 real estate projects, including with public entities in Northeast Ohio, Chicago and Dallas. She is a former teacher and public education leader, eventually serving as the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia.

“I’m deeply committed to the revitalization of Cleveland,” said Mahaley, a native of Hough. “Returning to this city was driven by my desire to give back to the community that has given me so much.  The east  side is Cleveland’s Cinderella and it is time for it to gain its rightful place in our city’s past, present and future.  My vision is to offer world class senior housing in an area that is often overlooked.  This program will provide extra support to help me cross the finish line.  A recurring challenge for developers of color is the scarcity of financial resources.  This program will provide invaluable insights into overcoming this obstacle and turn my plans and ideas into reality.”

The other 14 entrepreneurs selected for the program are:

April Bebee, CEO of Phoenix Development Group, LLC, has a passion for transforming neighborhoods.  The Cleveland native is very deliberate in their engagement of local residents and stakeholders.  She is also a licensed financial services professional and a long time employee in clinical research at the Cleveland Clinic. Her extensive community outreach includes working with underserved youth in the real estate development space.

Andre Bryan, managing partner for BridgePort Group LLC, a minority and veteran-owned small business that provides innovative solutions for global supply chain, logistics, warehousing and distribution services.  Andre’s firm has been recognized as the Small Business of the Year by the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council.

Jermaine Brooks, realtor and managing member of WRJ Developers LLC, a minority developer in Cleveland. Recent WRJ work includes ArkiTainer, a 64-unit apartment building being built from shipping containers on 72nd Street in Cleveland. He has been a licensed Realtor for 10 years with Keller Williams Greater Metropolitan, and is an active member of the City of Cleveland Airport Minority Advisory Council.

Akil Hameed, founder and CEO of FASS Real Estate Services, which manages more than 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential properties in Northeast Ohio. As an experienced broker, property manager and business professional, Hameed has an established record of success with diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout many of his corporate dealings.

Jimmie Hicks III, a board member and project director for housing rehab for Start Right Community Development Corporation, a family operated non-profit in the Caledonia neighborhood of Cleveland Heights.In September 2022, he was named Deputy Director for Responsible Gambling for The Ohio Lottery Commission.

Tiffany L. Hollinger, owner of Hollinger Financial LLC. She is a entrepreneur, Realtor, real estate investor and financial advisor. She has more than 25 years of financial service and 10 years of real estate experience.

Khalid Hawthorne, senior development manager at Famicos Foundation, where he working on developing $66 million of affordable and workforce housing apartment and community buildings. He has worked across the east side and west side of Cleveland at Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and Tremont West Development Corporation.

Ariane Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of the AKA Team, a commercial construction and facilities company. Ariane is an experienced contractor providing collaborative management and construction services. AKA’s larger projects include work for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Horseshoe Casino and Cuyahoga Community College. Kirkpatrick is also CEO of companies with provisional large-scale medical cannabis cultivation, dispensary and process licenses in Ohio.

Jimi Oluwabiyi, a real estate developer with Lael, LLC. He began his real estate development career in 2002. His residential work has expanded to multi-family development and has also worked on property management, contractor management risk assessments, financial analysis and stakeholder management. His civic work has included being appointed to the New African Immigrants Commission of Ohio.

Dominic Ozanne II, project manager for Ozanne Construction Company. He manages multiple projects throughout Northeast Ohio. He first worked for the company’s team in New Orleans as a member of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Recovery Program following Hurricane Katrina.

Evin Peavy, a real estate developer with DC Kelly Investments in Cleveland who focuses on transforming communities through inclusive projects. He has a passion for revitalizing urban landscapes and promoting inclusiveness within neighborhoods. He has experience in multi-family and commercial mixed use project development.

Christopher D. Roberts, a CPA who has worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies and now leads financial strategy for global procurement and supplier diversity & inclusion at Amazon. He has been involved in various aspects of real estate, including serving on a non-profit board providing low-income housing for senior citizens and the acquisition and development of multiple mixed-use buildings.

Dontez Sanders, founder of DS Group Real Estate Investments, a property management group that has managed more than 1,000 units in Northeast Ohio. Sanders, a former Cleveland Browns and University of Wisconsin football player, went into real estate after his career with the Browns.

Khrystalynn Shefton, chief of growth and expansion at Birthing Beautiful Communities, which is working to build the first Black-led free-standing birth center in Northeast Ohio. Her desire to impact Cleveland and its neighborhoods led to urban planning and development education, and she has served as director of real estate and development planning for the Famicos Foundation.

The program, which starts in October, will pair experienced developers with emerging developers to help launch their projects.  The list of developer mentors has also expanded and can be found here.