Local CRE Leaders Launch Philly Chapter of African American Real Estate Professionals

Despite a renewed commitment across the city to racial diversity and equity in commercial real estate, efforts to improve representation have been piecemeal. The new Philadelphia chapter of the African American Real Estate Professionals business group seeks to change that.

Courtesy of Derrick Dean

Brian Edmonds and Kenn Penn, co-founders and inaugural co-chairs of the Philadelphia Chapter of African American Real Estate Professionals, speak at its first meeting in May 2022.

AAREP’s Philly chapter, its eighth in the United States, held its first meeting in May, with the 15-member board meeting to launch what it hopes will be a fast-growing organization that consolidates and advances Black representation in commercial real estate. Even the cutting-edge efforts of the City of Philadelphia and the Navy Yard Ensemble/Mosaic development team are forced to begin by finding professionals and companies to fill their diversity pipelines.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re still having conversations in 2022 that say, ‘We can’t find them,'” said Greenwood Commercial Real Estate Group Founder and Director Brian Edmonds. “As we grow our membership, we hope to be a clearinghouse for those in the city who are legitimately seeking African American professionals and talent, both from an employment and contract standpoint. .”

AAREP Philly was co-founded by Edmonds, Benchmark Construction Group President Kenn Penn, Gilbane Building Co. Senior Business Development Manager Carol Horne Penn, EQT Exeter Investment Officer Tony Ewing and The Badger Group President Paul Badger, with Edmonds and Penn serving as first co- presidents and Ewing as treasurer.

Although the impetus behind the launch of the Philly chapter came locally, representatives from other AAREP chapters enthusiastically joined in to help integrate its new outpost once they learned of the efforts. of the founding group, Edmonds and Penn said. bisnow in an interview.

Penn and Edmonds serve on the boards of local chapters of the Building Industry Association and the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, respectively, and expect AAREP’s formation to grow. simply adds to the community of professional industry organizations, as CREW does for women, Penn mentioned.

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Courtesy of Derrick Dean

The inaugural meeting of the Philadelphia Chapter of African American Real Estate Professionals in May 2022.

Edmonds and others had been considering forming some sort of organization for years, but the continued effects of the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 added impetus and a sense of momentum to make practical progress, even then. as the second anniversary of the national outcry in response to the murder of George Floyd approaches.

“I thought it was going to be six months and then everything would be back to normal in America,” Penn said. “But it is not, and it has even grown. The initiative [to address racial justice issues] is even bigger than two years ago.”

While minority business participation initiatives in the public and private sectors often come with an implicit context of dealing with past harms, part of AAREP’s value will lie in acting as a mere commercial organization rather than as a pure social justice initiative.

“Our mission is simple: we want to bring people together, we want to network, we want to mentor young people in the business, and we want to spread information,” Edmonds said. “Everyone is very busy, so you have to be intentional about getting together, networking and sharing information.”

In addition to the five founding members, AAREP Philly’s inaugural Board of Directors is comprised of the following experienced professionals from brokerage, development, construction, architecture and engineering sectors across the industry commercial real estate:

  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Senior Vice President of Real Estate Donald Moore.
  • Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health Senior Vice President, Real Estate and Facilities Clayton Mitchell.
  • Tishman Speyer Managing Director of Business Development and Head of Diversity and Inclusion Joe Ritchie.
  • Brandywine Realty Trust Vice President, Development Chris Franklin.
  • Kieara Hill, CBRE Associate.
  • Rittenhouse Appraisals Principal Carlo Batts.
  • Brianna Pinckney of Target Building Construction.
  • Rachel Lewis, partner of Morgan Lewis and Bockius.
  • Dilworth Paxson Associate and Zoning & Land Use Darwin Beauvais Chair.
  • Maleda Berhane, founder and director of AR Spruce.

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