Worcester, MA – Businesses in Worcester, MA celebrated achievements this past Thursday, May 20th, with the annual Worcester Chamber of Commerce Business Awards Ceremony. Among the award recipients was The Menkiti Group, a minority-owned Certified Business Enterprise founded with the mission to transform lives, careers, and communities through real estate, for both 6 Chatham Street and 401-405 Main Street in Worcester, MA.
6 Chatham Street, also known as Chatham Lofts, is a collection of 24 brand-new luxury apartments in the heart of the Theater District that highlight the buildings unique architectural features. 401-405 Main Street has served as a home for generations of downtown Worcester businesses over the past 167 years, from well-known photographer E.B. Luce to Shacks Clothing, which occupied the corner of Main and Mechanic Streets for nearly half a century, to Community Legal Aid, an essential community-serving non-profit organization which has called the building home for decades.
“At the time of their construction, both 401-405 Main Street and 6 Chatham Street were some of the grandest buildings in the City of Worcester and we believe that still holds true today,” said Mark Rengel, Vice President of Development at The Menkiti Group.
The Menkiti Group set out to reconstruct both Worcester landmarks (401-405 Main Street and 6 Chatham Street) by paying respect to the architectural details of the original structure. Their goal is to restore the properties to their former splendor and breathe new life into the halls.
“I’m incredibly proud of the work our team at The Menkiti Group is doing to revitalize important, historic buildings in downtown Worcester. As real estate developers, we have a unique opportunity to give back in a transformative way. Through historic façade renovation of properties like 401-405 Main Street and 6 Chatham Street, we are preserving the beautiful architecture that makes Worcester unique,” said Bo Menkiti, Founder and CEO of The Menkiti Group.
Managing the renovation of 401-405 Main Street was Haynes Group, a commercial construction firm who combines quality construction with a level of personalized service. The team upgraded core building systems, constructed a new exterior storefront, and restored the historic façade. Detailed restoration of brick masonry, stone, wood, and cast-iron façade elements was accomplished by Raymond James Restoration with the guidance of architect Greg O’Connor.
“We were really excited to be part of the rehabilitation of this building right in downtown Worcester that has such a storied past, including Shack’s Clothes,” said Jim Russo, Director of Business Development at Haynes Group.
“We are grateful for the meticulous restoration completed by local artisans Gregory J. O’Connor Associates Architects, Elton + Hampton Architects, Raymond James Restoration, Haynes Group, and R.P. Masiello who collectively breathed new life into the structures. 401-405 Main Street and 6 Chatham Street are significant pieces of downtown Worcester’s identity and I am proud to work with a team that is committed to preserving these impressive cultural resources for generations to come.” said Rengel from The Menkiti Group.
Both properties received the Silver Hammer Award, a yearly award given by the Chamber to acknowledge construction or rehabilitation projects that provide an extraordinary impact on the physical landscape and assist in revitalizing the community.
“We are honored to have both projects recognized by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and presented with the Silver Hammer Awards,” said Menkiti “and we look forward to continuing our work restoring and revitalizing important buildings which play an enduring role in the continued renaissance of downtown Worcester.”
About Haynes Group, Inc.: Haynes Group, Inc. is a family-owned, full service commercial construction company based in Massachusetts and serving Eastern New England.
Founded by brothers Mike and Bryan Haynes in 2001, Haynes Group has earned distinction by providing outstanding customer service while delivering award-winning corporate office, hotel and hospitality, industrial, and retail projects.
About The Menkiti Group: Founded in 2004, The Menkiti Group is a 100% minority-owned Certified Business Enterprise headquartered in Washington, DC, with additional offices in Worcester, Massachusetts. The organization was founded with the mission to transform lives, careers, and communities through real estate. The Menkiti Group is a double bottom line company, measuring success in terms of financial and positive social impact. The company’s approach to urban neighborhood transformation and investment is centered upon residential and commercial development, residential sales, and commercial brokerage.
The Menkiti Group invests in abandoned and underutilized properties and transforms them into exciting and affordable homes and workspaces. Projects range from single-family residential renovations and the development and tenanting of main street commercial properties to large-scale, mixed-use, transit-oriented development projects. Over the past 16 years, The Menkiti Group has invested over $225MM in DC’s emerging neighborhoods, worked on the development of over 2.1MM SF of real estate, and has assisted over 2,000 families in purchasing their first homes.
The Menkiti Group | 3401 8th Street NE | Washington | DC 20017
The Menkiti Group | 3401 8th Street NE | Washington | DC 20017
Two teams of prominent D.C. developers are locked in a head-to-head competition for the chance to redevelop the Reeves Center, one of the city’s most coveted properties at the heart of the U Street corridor.
District officials heard pitches last week from both teams as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s effort to restart the redevelopment of Reeves, home to a variety of large D.C. agencies since it opened in 1986 during the administration of Marion Barry. The teams are stocked with a veritable who’s who of developers that have won city projects in the past and are now vying to remake 2000 14th Street NW into a mixed-use destination.
It is unclear how many proposals the District received, but these appear to be the finalists.
One team is led by developers MRP Realty and CSG Urban Partners and the financiers at Capri Investment Group. Their proposal envisions 628 apartments on the site (a third of which would be affordable), alongside some for-sale townhomes, 110,000 square feet of office, 20,000 square feet of retail and a 24,000-square-foot public plaza and performance venue.
The other team is helmed by Dantes Partners, the Menkiti Group and the investment firm EB5 Capital. Other prominent firms such as Horning Brothers, Banneker Ventures, Kadida Development Group and Inle Development will also participate. They’re planning a 150-room hotel, 250 affordable apartments, 46 affordable, for-sale condos, 100,000 square feet of office, up to 15,000 square feet of retail and a new community plaza.
Both pitches include nods to U Street’s history as a hub of Black art and culture, and both feature Black development executives, given D.C.’s new emphasis on ensuring diverse representation in teams that win city development deals. And both set aside room for a new NAACP headquarters, after the organization committed to the project last June, as well as at least a few government agencies that would remain on the site.https://f17a2c44f3561bfe625327a167da144d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
There’s no firm timeline yet on when the District will pick a winner — a call for proposals issued in late December identifies summer 2022 as a potential closing date — but whichever group succeeds will have the chance to put its stamp on one of the visible properties in the entire city.
A link to the past
The CSG-MRP vision for the Reeves Center is heavy on new residential, and that’s by design.
Simone Goring Devaney, principal and co-founder of CSG, said her team heard Bowser “loud and clear” in her calls for new housing construction. She also wanted to deliver a mixed-income community, and included 188 units of affordable units in her pitch. About 141 will be affordable for people making 50% of the median family income, while 47 will be set at 30% of MFI.
“Many of these will be larger, family-sized units, which we knew was important, because a lot of new units in the community are smaller,” Goring Devaney said.
The team also plans to include at least five affordable for-sale units among some new townhomes that will front V Street, and to partner with Habitat for Humanity and the Douglass Community Land Trust to ensure their long-term affordability. CSG previously partnered with those firms on a similar proposal on D.C.-owned property near Truxton Circle.
As for the arts, the team has struck a preliminary deal to bring a studio from New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to the property, as well as a new recording studio for the Washington Jazz Arts Institute. Goring Devaney envisions both anchoring a new “Frederick Douglass Plaza and Marion Barry, Jr. Amphitheatre,” which would be adorned with images of both men.
“We see the Reeves Center as the western link with the Howard Theatre tying up all the pearls of art and history that have happened along U Street,” said Michael Marshall, head of Michael Marshall Design, which is leading the project’s architecture work alongside PGN Architects.
Goring Devaney also hopes to offer some of the retail space at below-market rates to ensure that long-tenured businesses aren’t pushed out of the largely gentrified neighborhood. She believes that’s a key way to honor the area’s history as a home for Black businesses. Smoot Construction, the Black-owned D.C contractor that built Reeves decades ago, is also part of the team.
The other team is, similarly, no stranger to doing business with the District.
Menkiti is building a new headquarters for the Department of Housing and Community Development, while Dantes Partners has worked on a variety of affordable projects in tandem with the city — its managing principal Buwa Binitie also doubles as the chair of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency’s governing board. The group also includes Lopez & Associates, a consulting firm helmed by close Bowser ally Joshua Lopez.https://f17a2c44f3561bfe625327a167da144d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
And the pitch from the team’s leaders centers primarily on these long-standing area ties. Even the project’s primary financiers at EB5 are based in Bethesda, and local firms will provide the majority of its equity.
Binitie sees this as a different approach than a typical development deal, where “you go to a pension fund or some investment group and they end up owning 90% of transaction.” By centering on local firms, this a chance to ensure that people of color are more than just perfunctory participants to satisfy diversity requirements, he said.
“If you look at the public disposition of sites, Black and brown people have often just served in the role of checking a box,” Binitie said. “In this instance, we have these individuals leading and financing each individual component.”
The project will include its own tributes to the area’s past, like a new Marion Barry Way, but the developers hope to set themselves apart by building new affordable homes for people of color who are often priced out of the neighborhood. Binitie said the new apartment building will be financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity, ensuring prices are affordable to people between 30% and 80% of MFI. He estimates the average rent at about $1,400 a month.https://f17a2c44f3561bfe625327a167da144d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Similarly, he envisions condos with unthinkably low asking prices close to $60,000 by utilizing other affordable housing funding sources. The retail, too, will offer affordable rents — the plans call for an 8,000-square-foot food hall, with space for about 13 local restaurants. D.C. Central Kitchen is on board to open a 1,200-square-foot café alongside it, offering training programs for people struggling to find work, similar to the nonprofit’s existing efforts in Southeast D.C.
Bo Menkiti, founder and CEO of the Menkiti Group, sees it as a “continuum of opportunity,” with each piece of the project more reasonably priced. Even the flag they’ve secured for the hotel, a Moxy by Marriott, would be a more affordable option.
“We want to create pathways to economic sustainability,” Menkiti said. “And we hope this project reflects the diversity of the District and doesn’t just say, ‘U Street is for those who can pay to be here.’”
The team’s pitch has its own arts component too — Adams Morgan’s Songbyrd Record House and Music Café hopes to open a 2,000-square-foot performance space in the hotel. And The MusicianShip, the group that puts on the annual D.C. Funk Parade, has agreed to help program its “Black Broadway Plaza.”
This team might have an advantage for more practical purposes. Horning Brothers also controls the apartment building just behind Reeves, fronting V Street, as well as the air rights covering some of the Reeves property. By including them in the deal, Menkiti hopes that will allow his team to utilize more of the site with fewer legal hurdles.
“They could’ve just sat back and played all sides here,” Menkiti said. “But they decided they wanted to be part of our team, and see this not just locally-led but locally owned.”
The Menkiti Group | 3401 8th Street NE | Washington | DC 20017
Despite more than 15 years as a residential real estate developer, Buwa Binitie says he has grown accustomed to regularly fielding queries about his expertise.
“Those questions come when a lender might be underwriting you, or maybe there are brokers who are marketing the deal and don’t know you. Questions like ‘Where’s your capital coming from, who’s behind you, who owns your company?’ ” says Binitie, who is Black and is the managing principal of Dantes Partners, a real estate development firm in D.C. “Me and my peers call them ‘unnecessary questions.’ We feel our White peers don’t get them at all.”
Binitie — whose company built the Hodge in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood and Delta Towers in the H Street corridor, both affordable senior housing developments — is far from alone in his experiences. In the Washington area and around the country, the development community is almost exclusively White. In an industry characterized by huge sums of money, Black developers say they face major hurdles in accessing capital, connecting with influential networks and expanding their businesses.
But in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis last May and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, developers of color say the industry seems to be experiencing a shift: Some lenders, investors, municipalities, development partners and others in the commercial real estate world are recognizing how homogenous the field has been and are taking steps to address it.
“I’m feeling a little bit of a difference,” says Binitie. He is echoed by other Black developers, who say they have been fielding some new business opportunities and offers of collaboration from lenders and White-led development companies over the past nine months. “[Lenders and investors are] making a significant effort to produce capital specifically for Black and Brown real estate developers,” Binitie says.
But whether this is a permanent change remains to be seen, he cautions. “Is this going to be continuous? Or is it a one-time thing so they can say, ‘We provided the capital, and are now going back to our normal course of business?’ ”
Access to capital
Over the past decade, D.C. neighborhoods have experienced astounding growth. Some, like the Wharf, 14th Street and CityCenter, have been dramatically transformed. Developers have played a key role in that growth, determining what the new buildings would look like, how upscale the condos and apartments would be, and whether existing residents and businesses would be accommodated.
But the lack of diversity among developers has often translated into a lack of diversity in the product, observers say, with real estate projects overwhelmingly targeted to middle- and upper-income groups.
Statistics for developers are difficult to come by, but Urban Land Institute (ULI), a national real estate and land use industry association, says 5 percent of its members identify as Black or African American.
The Washington Post spoke with more than 15 Black people working in real estate development about their experiences. The developers, many of whom have been in the industry for years and hold degrees from Ivy League universities, agreed that their opportunities have been limited by racism, institutional bias and a lack of connection to powerful networks.
“It’s a fraternity environment in this niche filled with so much wealth,” says Anthea Martin, a senior vice president at Bellwether Enterprise, a mission-driven mortgage bank that aims to increase the supply of affordable housing. “This limits the money that minorities can tap into.”
“It’s multiples more difficult to get loans,” says Diarra McKinney, a D.C. native who runs Rosewood Strategies, a company that has constructed multifamily buildings in the D.C. neighborhoods of Takoma and Ivy City. Before starting his business, McKinney says he worked for White-led companies. “Banks would say, ‘Oh, we love you guys!’ and they’ll have a term sheet in a day. For [me and other Black developers], we might have significantly more experience than many of those companies, but we still get all kinds of questions.”
As McKinney points out, the loans do usually come through. “It’s not the 1950s,” he says. “I can go through the process and get a loan offer. But the terms are not the same; the interest rate will be much higher. And you don’t know why that is. It’s all behind the scenes.”
Developers also need equity, in the form of investments from friends, family or private firms, to close their deals. And that can be even harder for Black developers to procure than bank credit. The asset management industry, which includes institutional investors and private equity groups, is overwhelmingly White. And family and friends, even well-off ones, simply may not have the extra funds to invest in a real estate project.
“I think more than anything, it’s a function of the wealth disparities in this country,” says Curtis Doucette, a managing partner of Iris Development, which has renovated several apartment complexes in and near New Orleans, and is building a $19 million mixed-use, multifamily development there. “We have far less net worth in the Black community. We’re less likely to have it ourselves, our families are less likely to have it, our networks are less likely to have it.”
Doucette, who has been in the real estate business for 18 years, has partnered with White developers and says the contrast was like night and day. “It was a different socioeconomic environment. It was amazing to me to see how willing people were to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into a project.”
There is one area where Black developers are better represented: affordable housing. Most affordable housing is built with some amount of government subsidy; although it can be difficult and time-consuming to procure, it lowers the barrier to entry by reducing a developer’s dependence on private financing.
“The African American developers that I know, they’re in that niche,” says Martin at Bellwether Enterprise. “Most multifamily developers don’t want to play in that space where the deals are perceived as more of a hassle to finance and manage” and where the returns tend to be significantly lower.
But others say Black developers are not in the sector just out of necessity. “Minority developers are doing affordable housing because they grew up in those communities. They see that the need is there,” says Adeola Adejobi, a New York lawyer who runs the Diversity in Commercial Real Estate Conference. “When you’re looking at a deal from that lens, you’re bringing a different perspective.”
It is a perspective that is arguably a little more people-centered. Many African American developers find ways to benefit Black communities with their projects, for example. Cecily King, who runs Kipling Development in Detroit, is developing a mixed-income condo building in an upscale community; it will allow low-income residents to own property in an area with good schools and rising home values. And that, King says, could be life-changing for a family.
“It’s still a business at the end of the day,” she says. “But the perspective you bring to the table [as a Black person] opens your eyes to what the opportunities can be.”
New initiatives on the horizon
Bree Jones is another developer who is hoping to do good while doing well. Her company, Parity Homes, has a plan to redevelop 96 abandoned rowhouses in west Baltimore and sell them at affordable rates to local residents. “Development without displacement,” she says.
Jones says she has experienced the microaggressions familiar to African Americans in the field and has struggled to find financing for her project. But a year ago, after months of networking and conference-hopping, she met an investor whose company had a social impact wing. The investor, she says, immediately understood the value of her plan.
“They wanted it to work — they believed in me inherently,” Jones says. The subsequent funding, $1.5 million in equity, is one of the last pieces she needed to begin the project.
Black real estate developers have long collaborated to build networks and pull each other up, and that is continuing. But today, a growing number of initiatives are helping to bring in new capital and new connections — and much of that seems to be the result of the country’s intensified focus on racial equity since last summer.
For example, Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit lender, has recently launched a $3.5 billion program to support developers of color who are creating and preserving affordable homes. Capital Impact, another nonprofit financial institution, started a program in D.C. and Detroit to give a select cohort of minority developers access to mentors, training and, in some cases, funding. And a few big banks have recently earmarked funds for minority developers.
D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development established an initiative that gives minority-run companies priority access to city-led redevelopment projects. “We’ve had a conversation since the beginning of 2019 about how we can make housing in the city more equitable,” says John Falcicchio, who leads the department. “This is a giant leap forward.”
New York City recently announced a similar initiative.
But to really address the discrepancy, developers say a multifaceted approach is needed — one that nurtures the talent pipeline at all levels. After all, at this point, “There are not that many [Black-led] development firms that have the capacity to meaningfully participate,” says Bo Menkiti, founder and CEO of the Menkiti Group in D.C. Together with Dantes Partners and two other Black-led companies, Menkiti’s firm also built Capitol Vista, an affordable-housing development in Mount Vernon Triangle.
Helping smaller minority companies grow so they can eventually take on major projects themselves might require an uptick in partnerships with established firms, or the creation of mentorship initiatives.
Some new programs are focusing on young people. “A lot of Black kids don’t know what development is,” says Mark Marshall, director of real estate at the Denver-based Urban Land Conservancy. Marshall partners with Urban Land Institute’s Colorado group to mentor and train young adults who might be interested in the field, a program that ULI is replicating in chapters around the country.
ULI’s leaders say they are taking the industry’s racial discrepancies seriously. “Since the murder of George Floyd, [racial equity] has become a top priority for everyone at ULI,” says Gwyneth Jones Cote, the president of ULI Americas.
This year, the organization’s annual Emerging Trends survey showed that 70 percent of members who responded believe the real estate industry can help address systemic racism.
That’s why this shift is so significant, industry insiders say.
“I’ve had conversations that I definitely didn’t have more than six months ago with people in the industry who want to know what they’re missing,” says King, the Detroit developer.
“Outside of the industry, I’ve seen people have interest in investing in communities of color to right the wrongs they’re now aware of,” she adds. But “how long will it last? That’s the challenge right now.”
6 Chatham Street is the inaugural project in a series of revitalization efforts The Menkiti Group is actively pursuing in the Theatre District
Reported on October 26, 2020
The Menkiti Group | 3401 8th Street NE | Washington | DC 20017
(WORCESTER, MA) – The Menkiti Group was joined by City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. along with city officials and civic leaders Monday, October 26 to tour the ongoing construction of Chatham Lofts, a new, market-rate residential apartment community located at 6 Chatham Street, Worcester, MA. The project consists of the complete rehabilitation and historic restoration of three adjacent structures built in 1892, 1915, and 1926. From the time of their original construction, the buildings served for many decades as the headquarters of the Worcester Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). More recently, the property served as the home of the Worcester Center for the Performing Arts. With the introduction of these unique residences, The Menkiti Group is excited to breathe new life into an architectural gem in the heart of Downtown Worcester.
“We are proud to be delivering this residential project in tandem with nearby neighborhood serving retail and commercial office space to continue to drive the momentum of economic development in the City of Worcester, and more specifically the Theatre District” said Bo Menkiti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Menkiti Group. “Chatham Lofts signifies the first step in the launch Menkiti Group’s investment committed to enhancing the existence of an 18-hour thriving, diverse and culturally vibrant neighborhood supporting local residents, small business, theatre, the arts, and contributing to the city as a whole,”
At project completion, the newly renovated building will feature a total of 24 market-rate, residential apartments comprised of ten studio units, eight one-bedroom units, five two-bedroom units, and one three-bedroom unit. The completed project will feature a wide array of residential unit configurations, including two-story duplex units with beautifully articulated arched masonry window openings and full floor penthouse units with expansive views of the Worcester skyline.
“We are extremely excited for this project to be part of the renaissance of downtown Worcester. Chatham Lofts takes every opportunity to highlight the existing architecture in order to deliver a distinctive residential living experience. In concert with other nearby investments, our overarching goal is to bring new life and vibrancy to the Theatre District in support of the City’s Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan,” said Mark Rengel, Vice President of Development, The Menkiti Group.
Project design team members include R.P Masiello as the General Contractor, Elton + Hampton Architects, Petersen Engineering (MEP/FP), John J. Murphy, Jr. Electrical Construction & Engineering, Northeastern Engineering (Structural), Graves Engineering (Civil) and MacRostie Historic Advisors serve as the Historic Consultant.
The project has received preliminary approval for listing on the National Register of Historic Places from the National Park Service and has qualified for both federal and state historic tax credits. The project is also receiving state and local support through a Housing Development Tax Increment Exemption (TIE) Agreement with the City of Worcester and Housing Development (HD) Investment Tax Credits through the Massachusetts Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). Chatham Lofts is being financed by Webster Five and the PCI Fund and equity has been raised through The Menkiti Group’s eMpower Worcester Opportunity Zone Fund, part of the Department of the Treasury’s Opportunity Zone (OZ) program.
“This project builds on the momentum of establishing a dynamic downtown neighborhood,” said city Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr.“It is a critical part of bringing more folks to Worcester and generating activity in and around the downtown core. It also brings to new life a real architectural gem in Downtown Worcester. The people living in Chatham Lofts will be able to walk to nearby restaurants and stores and take in all the splendor of the Theatre District. Worcester is the Heart of the Commonwealth, and the downtown area is the heartbeat of the City. That heartbeat continues to beat stronger with the addition of projects like Chatham Lofts.”
Bo Menkiti and members of The Menkiti Group team were joined at Monday’s construction tour by City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., City Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson, Timothy P. Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, and community members as well as representatives and partners of the project.
“Our company is committed to enhancing the fabric of life in America’s urban communities and the City of Worcester has welcomed us and deployment of our neighborhood investment model into their community,” said Menkiti. “Great cities are made up of great neighborhoods and the authenticity of Worcester and the strength and support of its people and its small businesses are what drew us here and drive our long-term commitment to the city.”
ABOUT THE MENKITI GROUP
The Menkiti Group is a Washington, D.C.-based real estate services company dedicated to enhancing the fabric of life in America’s urban neighborhoods through the strategic development, management, and sale of residential and commercial property. Over the past 15 years, The Menkiti Group has delivered and maintained in its pipeline more than 1.5 million square feet of property, has invested over $200 million in D.C.’s emerging neighborhoods, and has assisted over 2,000 families in purchasing their first homes. For more information, please visit menkitigroup.com or call (202) 733-5455.