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BIA Celebrates Black History Month: Jordan Parisse-Ferrarini

This is the BIA's fourth and final feature on Black leaders in real estate but it does not mark the end of our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our DEI Committee continues to work on our plan to provide opportunities for underrepresented individuals and groups to participate in the development of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. Subcommittees are meeting to coordinate mentorship and education programs, targeted recruitment efforts, special events, and marketing. We are grateful for the thoughtful and enthusiastic participation of the members who are investing their time and expertise and invite all of you to join us in this important initiative.

We close out Black History Month with a feature on Jordan Parisse-Ferrarini. Jordan is also on the BIA Board of Directors and has a passion for rebuilding communities from within.

Jordan Parisse-Ferrarini, Trades for a Difference and Northwest Holdings

How did you get your start in real estate development?

My aspirations to become a real estate developer started back as a teenager while working for my family-owned contracting company in the northwest section of the City of Philadelphia. It was a small handyman service that my family started out of the trunk of a car that would later turn into something much greater. My mom was a single mother with a fiery entrepreneurial spirit and taught my siblings and me that with hard work we could be anything that we put our minds to. So, as I spent my time repairing buildings throughout my community, I’d envision myself one day owning and developing them. As my construction career progressed, my hunger and desire to be a developer grew greater and greater.

I committed to educating myself in different forms of real estate while continuing to prepare for my dream. At the age of 29 years old I was able to make my break into the industry when I purchased two blighted mixed-used properties in the East Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia where I grew up. At that point, I had spent over a decade building for other developers, but it was now time for me to start my own journey in development. My first purchases were a few mixed-used properties along the Chew Avenue commercial corridor. I focused my efforts on projects that could uplift and invigorate the commerce on the corridor. This was all within a few blocks of where I grew up. It was important for me to be a part of the change that I wanted to see.

Which of your projects has meant the most to your career?

That would be my Community Learning Center project where I purchased and restored two heavily blighted mixed-use properties in East Mt. Airy. The properties had plagued the neighborhood for decades. One was a former nuisance bar and the adjoining property was an abandoned triplex that acted as a squatter’s haven. They were both filled up to the brim with trash and drug paraphernalia and were collapsing in on themselves. We reconstructed both of the buildings from the ground up all while training young minority men and women from the surrounding neighborhood in construction skillsets. We earned a lot of awards and recognition in the process and even received “Project of the Year” from Mt. Airy CDC. It was a very special feeling to receive acknowledgments, but it was an even greater feeling knowing that our crew was made up entirely of minorities within the community and we were rebuilding our community from within.

This site is also where I launched my own vocational and entrepreneurial training program Trades for a Difference (TFAD). To date, TFAD has been able to provide vocational training to more than 100 minority young adults, entrepreneurial business services for over 100 Black-owned businesses, and free repair services for more than 200 low-income Philadelphians.

What will it take for more Black developers to succeed in the real estate market?

Very intentional industry-specific education and resources with a holistic approach at scale. There is a whole lot of work to be done. The successful Black developer shouldn’t be some anomaly or esoteric thing in a nation where so many things have been built at the hands of Black labor. I don’t see the goal as just helping the current Black developers succeed; I want to see to it that there is a more robust and empowered community of Black developers in the first place. In our communities, there is a huge lack of generational resources, nuanced education, and the access necessary to simply get started in real estate development. Many of the barriers are economic and are remnants of intentional systemic injustices in fair housing practices and other forms of redlining. So, I think that we need to be very intentional and committed to providing resources in order to turn it all around. It costs money to make money, so we need better access to capital that is without bias that is backed both publicly and privately. There is strength and leverage in community wealth, so we need programs that are very intentional about strengthening home and land ownership in Black communities. We don’t know what we don’t know, so we need education in our school systems that is very intentional in teaching our children financial literacy, business acumen, and investment strategies from an early age.

This may sound like a lot but there are already many programs doing this work; it just needs to be supplemented and reinforced from the top. For too long, programmatic efforts to create the type of change that we need have operated in silos. We need more true collaborations and the type of dollars that remove the conflict of interest in doing so. We need to better empower the stakeholders and boots on the ground because that is where the rubber meets the road. If we plant the seeds and diligently tend to the soil, then great things will grow for the Black developer.

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