Philly startup awarded $450K to ‘change the face’ of real estate development

Sandra Dungee Glenn in front of a West Philly property

Sandra Dungee Glenn, founder of The Collective. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A pair of foundations has awarded $450,000 in grant funding to The Growth Collective, a Black-owned startup launched to reenvision real estate development in Philadelphia.

The company — part advocacy group, part private equity investment firm — received $200,000 from The Patricia Kind Family Foundation and $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Our focus in Philadelphia is on the equitable development of public space. And the reason why we are making this investment is we really believe that developers have a significant impact on our neighborhoods and in our public spaces, and we want to make sure our public spaces remain accessible to our communities,” said Ellen Hwang, Knight’s program director in Philadelphia.

Founded in 2019, The Collective currently supports seven Black-owned and operated development groups in the city by raising capital for their projects and helping them build the business capacity of their companies. The group also helps them jump through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to complete development projects in the city.

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The list of partners includes Mosaic Development Partners, which was selected as the co-developer of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and West Powelton Development Corporation, which was tapped to redevelop the two residential blocks that burned to the ground during the infamous MOVE bombing in 1985.

The long-term goal of The Collective, said co-founder Sandra Dungee Glenn, is to raise $100 million to support Black developers who are committed to building wealth in communities of color. The grant money will go towards that benchmark, but also help the group support the business operations of its members, she said.

“We see ourselves as intervening and trying to change the face of development in Philadelphia…by really putting more of the control in the hands of developers who look like the residents in the communities that are being impacted,” said Dungee Glenn.

The news comes amid a development boom in Philadelphia — a boom that groups like The Collective say is almost exclusively benefitting the city’s overwhelmingly white development industry while compromising the lives of residents in low-income communities of color in the form of declining homeownership and displacement, among other things.

Over the last 30 years, Black homeownership rates in Philadelphia have consistently lagged behind white homeownership rates. A recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that can likely be explained by the ongoing impact of redlining, a discriminatory practice dating back to the 1930s, but also more recent inequities found in mortgage lending. For example, Black mortgage applicants in Philadelphia were nearly three times more likely to be denied by lenders than white applicants in 2020, in part because of credit issues, according to the research.

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“That’s really the fundamental goal for The Collective is really to change the whole dynamic around ownership, wealth accumulation, business ownership, and homeownership,” said Dungee Glenn.

The grant awards will be formally announced on Thursday during an event entitled “Philly Forward: Driving Change through Holistic Real Estate Development.”

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