CEMDI Connects: Design Services + Developers 

CEMDI: Connects offers education and relationship building opportunities for minority developers and professional services firms.

Thursday, June 17, 2021 12:00 – 1:30 pm

About the Event

Chicago Emerging Minority Development Initiative (CEMDI) launched in 2020 with the goal to increase the number of minority developers active in Chicago. Led by Gwendolyn Hatten Butler, Graham Grady, and Leon Walker, CEMDI aims to enrich the local real estate development community ecosystem by advancing opportunities for equitable development and inclusive growth. Over the past year CEMDI has hosted nine events nine events aimed at supporting the real estate ecosystem and making connections. This event marks the launch of the CEMDI Connects series wit the aim of providing unique learning and relationship building events for minority developers and professional services firms. We are pleased to host this event with Chicago Architecture Center, I-NOMA, and Arquitectos.

CEMDI: Connects is designed to encourage meaningful connections between emerging minority designers and development firms. CEMDI recognizes it is critical to source and build a pipeline of community-focused developers from African-American, Latinx, and other minority communities to participate in commercial real estate development projects citywide.

Cultivating new collaborations is key to our collective success. Making informed connections is complicated as we continue to navigate in virtual spaces. With this in mind, we have curated a targeted list of firms to participate in this Meet-Up and are limiting capacity to 75 participants. With a spirit of active participation and a willingness to engage, together we can foster a gathering space that is welcoming, conversational, and mutually informative. To that end, we ask that each firm limit participation to two (2) people from their team.

One AIA CEU credit will be available for this event.


Welcome and Setting the Stage
12:00 – 12:15 pm

Moderated Discussion: Creating Meaningful Partnerships
12:15 – 12:45 pm

Kimberly Dowdell, AIA, LEED AP  Marketing Principal, HOK and Immediate Past President, National Organization of Minority Architects (Moderator)

Leon Walker, Managing Partner, DL3 Realty

RaMona Westbrook, AIA, LEED AP  President, Brook Architecture 

Breakout Rooms 
12:45 – 1:30 pm

There will be three rounds of 15-minute breakout sessions. Each small group will be populated at random and comprised of a designated room host and 5-6 architects and developers. Each host will facilitate a discussion with their group in response to a specific prompt. All participants will have a chance to share individual responses to the prompt with the group.

Breakout Session Round One: Creative ideas to problem solve. This session will allow participants to share how they’ve addressed financial, site specific, or programmatic design challenges in past projects.

Breakout Session Round Two: Community engagement. This session will allow participants to share a past project in which they managed input from local residents or community organizations that contributed positively to the final product.

Breakout Session Round Three: Leveraging existing assets. This session will allow participants to share one project they were part of that effectively leveraged an existing community asset—a building, a public space, a funding or zoning opportunity, etc.

Participant Profiles

In order to encourage connections after the event, CEMDI will compile a PDF of one-page profiles of all the attendees to be emailed to all attendees after the event. Once you register, please email a one-page PDF to katrina@musecommunitydesign.com with the title “CEMDI Connects Profile” by Thursday, June 10. In order to ensure consistency across firms, please include only the following information in your profile:

  • 8.5 x 11 PDF, portrait orientation
  • Firm name
  • Contact name
  • Contact email
  • Contact phone 
  • Contact website
  • 250 words or less to describe your firm and your interest in and/or approach to working in INVEST S/W neighborhoods
  • At least one image of a project you have completed