Blog: Marilyn Nix, Rachele Downs, & Jumana Judeh

The new Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program garnered 650 applicants for 30 spots -  proof positive that the city's real estate is a hot topic. A trio from CREW Detroit, the founding member of a national organization of women commercial real estate pros, blogs on how their group and incoming fellows will be stamping a new ID on the city.

Rachele Downs: What’s so Striking about the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program? attraction and retention is a key issue facing Michigan from an economic development standpoint.  Together with the Kresge and Hudson Webber Foundations, Wayne State University is leading one of the most exciting talent attraction initiatives I've ever seen locally, with the launch of the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program.

Modeled after a similar program offered after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Program seeks to develop a cohort of 25-30 mid-career professionals with advanced degrees in urban planning, public policy or administration, business and law, with relevant urban revitalization experience in real estate and community, business and economic development to commit two years to the revitalization of Detroit.  Upon employment and acceptance, Fellows will participate in programming that combines full-time employment with leadership development education, professional coaching and mentoring, and networking opportunities.  

Upon reading about the program, I reached out to  my fellow Leadership Detroit classmate, Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine, who is spearheading the initiative, to invite the Fellows to participate as members in Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Detroit. Such membership will  provide immediate access to 130 commercial real estate professionals employed in a wide range of disciplines throughout the region. Dr. Ezzeddine agreed it was a fantastic opportunity to quickly integrate Fellows into the Detroit real estate community.  

Through their individual and collective efforts, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows will have an opportunity to make a real difference in the city and its transformation. 648 candidates applied for the 25-30 spots that were available.  Wow that's a story in of and of itself!  These candidates, many of whom attended the best schools in the country and have significant professional experience, are willing to uproot their families and move to, or back to, Detroit.  I was privileged to serve on the final selection committee and was heartened to see the breadth and depth of talent from across the country and in some instances, from around the world, that was competing for a chance to make their mark on Detroit. Perhaps this is because, as my urban planning friend and fellow CREW Detroit member Sarah Pavelko tells me, Detroit has become a planning industry "mecca of sorts".  

Fellows will be working in the trenches, exposed to the challenges and opportunities economic development and urban revitalization present, including planning and financing for an adaptable, sustainable and resilient city, and how to attract, retain and grow new economy businesses.

As a long time real estate investment and community development professional, it's exciting to see seasoned professionals from across the country, who see what I see: that we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-position ourselves and take advantage of all the assets that are the positive legacy of being the Motor City – the technology, higher education, healthcare and advanced manufacturing infrastructure that will allow us to re-imagine and reclaim our region as an industry leader in several fields.  Sustainability, green technology and manufacturing, the creative industry, medical research…the possibilities are endless!

What makes this program even more exciting is the collaborative model upon which it is founded.  Wayne State, Kresge and Hudson-Webber Foundations, together with government, business and non-profit organizations like CREW Detroit are coming together, just as the Fellows are coming together, to build and support this "brain trust".  I can't wait to see the progress that will undoubtedly develop as this collaboration takes root.