Total loan: $15,000
Pittsburgh, PA, United States / Housing
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A loan helped me to raise the capital to convert my old elementary school into residential units.
Three generations ago, my roots were firmly planted in The Historic Hill District, the most highly sought after area for real estate investment in Southwestern, PA. This redlined neighborhood is the Mecca of Pittsburgh’s African American community and the headquarters of my real estate firm, OLMEC Development Company. Historically, it's known for its blues and jazz, Negro League Baseball teams, August Wilson’s plays and the struggle for Civil Rights. Growing up in the 80s in a neighborhood where 90% of the City’s housing projects were built in isolation, I learned first hand how racist housing policies decimate opportunities for positive life outcomes. My mother raised my brothers and me in this environment, but since the first day of Kindergarten at Miller Elementary School, she began working on our educational passports out of poverty. This building would later become a K-5, African Centered Academy of Pittsburgh Public Schools. After studying at Norfolk State University and teaching in Norfolk Public Schools, I returned to Pittsburgh and taught at Miller where my educational journey started. This time, however, I was a 5th grade teacher and colleague of my old Kindergarten teacher who was still teaching in the same classroom. I’ve since then created a new path in real estate, founding OLMEC Development Company which focuses on both renovations and new construction revitalization projects . Today, as gentrification and COVID 19 related economic collapse looms, Miller sits as an abandoned building and the site of my school conversion to 20 apartments. This 40,600 square feet of solid redbrick shares the same downtown Pittsburgh skyline of my childhood, bedroom window just one block away. I am hoping to repurpose the building, making 20% of the units to be affordable, build capacity for neighborhood businesses to learn sustainability construction practices, hire locally and display in rotation, artists’ works that reflect the heritage and cultural legacy of The Hill.