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BUILDING INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION of Philadelphia

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BIA Celebrates Black History Month: Rick Young

When the BIA convened its first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee last year, we started by asking members about the racism and inequality they see in the real estate development industry and why they chose to participate in the committee. Their responses formed the foundation of our draft DEI plan.

The need to provide an "in" and to cultivate and mentor Black and brown urban developers was a clear and consistent message. We chose to focus on this theme for Black History Month by featuring successful Black developers and their visions for providing access and a level playing field. This week, we hear from Rick Young, another BIA board member with a commitment to improving equity and opportunity in his community.

Rick Young, Westview Development Partners LLC

How did you get your start in real estate development?

My interest in real estate started in the early 2000s. I grew up in a neighborhood that, in spite of its challenges socially, held huge potential as a hot real estate market. Its proper name is Mantua but locally it was called “The Bottom,” as in the bottom/beginning of West Philadelphia. The Bottom is situated two blocks north of Drexel University, two blocks south of the Philadelphia Zoo, four to five blocks from the Philadelphia Art Museum, and within strolling distance of Center City.

The first property I purchased in the area was a former nightclub at 32nd and Spring Garden Streets. I had plans to help redevelop the area between 31st and 40th Streets, and Spring Garden Street to Mantua Avenue. My goal was to improve the overall quality of life in the area so I also started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Mantua Community Improvement Committee (MCIC) to address safety, cleanliness, and other challenges. During its tenure, I hired over 100 residents from the community and created an early version of the re-entry program. The concept of developing a safe and inviting neighborhood for residents is what started me on the path of becoming a developer.

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

Good question. All of my projects have been special because I learned so much from each as I grew in the business. On my first project, I learned what and what not to do. You learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes.

The highlight of my career would be to build or be part of building a high school that would teach young people of color business principles and inspire academics through entrepreneurship, which is a passion of mine. I envision the school as the Wharton and Harvard of high schools, cultivating a new generation of Black and brown entrepreneurs. Our children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to learning about credit, investments, and business finances. Teaching Black and brown children that there are other options besides working for someone else means a lot to me. We need to open the door for young business minds to be developed. The Rick Young Youth Development Academy (RYYDA) mission: provide teenagers with personal professional academic enrichment activities that emphasize business and entrepreneurial principles.

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

There needs to be an organization not to rival the BIA but to run parallel with the BIA where Black developers can share information and network with other developers, such as an Urban Developers Association (UDA). The pool of Black urban developers is small and a forum for exchanging information would allow us to collaborate and create partnerships on larger projects. Access to partners who are willing to offer their time and experience in the field and assist with capital resources would go a long way to the success of Blacks in development. The lack of Black-owned banks and investment groups and little representation in the board rooms and senior management at real estate development companies remain obstacles for Black developers.

It's a well-known fact that business is about making money. But true social enterprise is much more than focusing on making a profit; it is intentionally tackling social problems, improving communities, or helping the environment also. If you're blessed to have success and all the benefits that come with success, take the opportunity to share your experiences with a promising black developer to form winning business strategies for financial profits, but more importantly, assisting this business in tackling the greater social and environmental issues that are prevalent in the black business community. This practice will bring us closer to leveling the playing field by addressing the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion that have come to our collective attention in recent years.

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