Thursday, September 26, 2019

Durham Ready for Black Wall Street Resurgence, Investor Says. Is Cincinnati the Model?
The State
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 04:25 PM

Farad Ali, president of The Institute, previously The Institute of Minority Economic Development, believes minorities in Durham have the potential to overcome a wealth gap to achieve "shared prosperity" if the city has a shared vision of the future. BY JULIA WALL DURHAM

An Ohio commercial real estate investor says Durham’s Black Wall Street is ready for a comeback.

Carl Satterwhite, who built his firm through connections in Cincinnati’s African-American business community, says the ingredients exist in Durham for local minority investors to succeed.

“We took our disparate power and put it into focus,” he said. “We went in one direction, and that’s the only way we make change. That happened with Black Wall Street. That’s what they can have, again.”

His visit to Durham, where he spoke Tuesday at a Downtown Durham Inc. meet-and-greet, also coincided with the “Black Wall Street: Homecoming” three-day networking event that runs through Friday.

Satterwhite’s signature project with development partner Al. Neyer was turning a dilapidated Jazz Age hotel into a headquarters for about 700 Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center employees. And they did it with the help of about a dozen African-American investors, he said.

The 10-story Vernon Manor hotel renovation was a $37 million project completed in 2011 and included another office building. They were sold in 2018 for $75 million, he said.


Cincinnati has a vibrant black business community, Satterwhite said.

He reached out to African-American business owners and professionals to start Real Estate Enterprises for African American Leaders LLC. Their investment in The Offices at Vernon Manor gave them a 51% ownership stake in the project.

He says one or two investors could have provided enough capital for the project but he wanted to offer opportunity to more people. The minimum investment was $100,000, he said.

“We wanted to keep this as broad as possible,” he said. “We lowered the threshold. Somebody could have rolled a million-dollar check, but we needed to drop that down so we get more people in the room.”

He says it was an opportunity for more people, especially African Americans, to build generational wealth that could be handed down.

The same thing could happen in Durham, he says.

“This was a little bit of an historic first for our city, for us to come together in this way,” he said. “Now it’s going to continue to replicate and go across the multiple cities and create more and more wealth. Then the challenge was, you have no proof (it could be done). Now we have done this.”

That message resonated with Ken Lewis, an attorney who went to Duke University, lives in Chapel Hill and practices in Raleigh.

“It was really interesting to hear how a community very similar to our community, has been successful and growing in a way that’s inclusive,” he said. “It’s my hope that everyone feels inspired around having a growth that is inclusive, and uses the model they use their to make it happen.”

Cincinnati’s population of about 301,000 by 2019 U.S. Census estimates is a bit larger than Durham’s 267,000. Durham’s African-American population is about 40%, slightly less than Cincinnati’s 43%.


Parrish Street in downtown Durham and the historic Hayti neighborhood just south of downtown were the epicenters of business and living for the original Black Wall Street. They were areas of concentrated African-American wealth, economic and political power in Durham until the mid-20th century.

Black Wall Street’s importance faded with urban renewal, construction of the Durham Freeway and people moving away after desegregation. The changes gutted Hayti, and black-owned businesses spread out and in some cases left downtown.

Today a state historic marker echoes the district’s vibrancy.

Durham entrepreneur Joshua Gunn, who is a featured speaker at “Black Wall Street: Homecoming,” wants to bring it back and expand it beyond its initial boundaries.

“There’s been an ongoing discussion, about what happened to Black Wall Street, and how do we bring it back?” Gunn said. “We’re in the middle of Black Wall Street homecoming, which is centered on revitalizing Black Wall Street on a national scale.

“I think most of us in the community think that a resurgence will look different this time around,” he said. “I don’t think Black Wall Street will be a physical location as much as it will be a network of people across the nation looking to create a self-sustaining black business ecosystem.”

Gunn, who also is a vice president with the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, is running for a seat on the Durham City Council.

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