Director of Business Development & Project Management, Self-Help Real Estate Team
Year graduated from Carolina Planning: 2007
Specialization: Housing & Community Development Planning and Public Administration
Why did I pursue a career in city planning?
I was drawn to city planning as a field that would–I hoped–allow me to pursue a career related to social justice work at the local level. Prior to grad school, I had worked for several years in social science research and program evaluation. It was interesting work on interesting topics, but the end product was too often the proverbial report that sits on a shelf collecting dust (or, more realistically, in a recycling bin!). I wanted to work in a setting where I contributed to something tangible–work that would make the world better, even if just by a little bit. When I started at UNC in 2004, as an MPA-MRP dual degree student, I quickly became fascinated by affordable housing and community development, as well as commercial real estate development. I’ve been working in the community real estate field ever since.
Where am I now?
I work at a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) called Self-Help, where I lead a seven-person project management group within our Real Estate development team. I divide my time roughly evenly between managing my own projects and working with other members of our group to support them in their work. At present, our team’s development projects include: a half-million square feet historic textile mill adaptive reuse project in Greensboro with restaurants/bars, apartments, offices, and arts space; the renovation of a historic church and multiple storefronts in Durham into retail, office space, a community pharmacy, and a childcare center; a grassroots neighborhood stabilization and affordable housing effort in Chapel Hill; renovation of a bank headquarters building in Chicago; the complete renovation of a neglected strip mall into a revamped shopping center that includes a co-op grocer, health clinic, credit union, restaurant, and retailers; an affordable rental housing, transit-oriented development in downtown Durham; and more. It’s often difficult, almost always interesting work that varies day to day.
What does the future hold?
I’m excited that we are growing our project management group–including hiring a real estate development associate this fall and continuing to pursue new work across North Carolina and beyond. As our team grows, I am continually challenged by the project work, by trying to better support my colleagues, and by how to adapt our work as the context changes–the progress and pressures of an influx of residents in urban neighborhoods, evolving local/state/federal policies and funding streams, new partner organizations, and so on. Put another way: I don’t really know what the future holds, but it won’t be boring.