What’s your history? How did you end up at Community Solutions?
I started my career as an infantry officer in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and eventually made my way to law school. Although I had an amazing experience leading soldiers, I was also excited by the impact that I could have in the private sector. On my first day of law school, I met a professor whose focus was urban revitalization, and I found my calling. The mix of public policy, politics, business, law, and service was very appealing to me. For the next three years, I focused my studies and my internships in this area.
Upon graduation, I was awarded a fellowship that enabled my wife and I to live for a year in Shanghai, working on several large urban development projects. After returning, I practiced law for several years before taking over a fledgling economic development non-profit corporation in Camden, NJ. The experience was tremendous — over six years, we grew the organization significantly (it was just me when we started) and oversaw more than $350M in new investment in the community.
During this time I continued to serve in the Army Reserves, with a posting in the Stability Operations Division at the Pentagon. In January of 2012, I took a leave from my work in Camden and deployed to Afghanistan to lead the economic development work for a NATO task force charged with countering corruption and organized crime across the country. In 2014, I left my work in Camden to found Bastogne Venture Partners, a social impact real estate investment and advisory company. Shortly thereafter, a mutual colleague introduced me to Rosanne. I started by working on several projects for Community Solutions and eventually took on the full real estate portfolio.
You’re really skilled at what you do and could probably do it anywhere. Why do you choose to give your talents to Community Solutions everyday, instead of someplace else?
There are few, if any, other organizations with both the interest and capacity to push the leading edge of what is possible in the field of social impact real estate development. Through the amazing work of Rosanne and the team over the past thirty years, the organization has rightly earned a reputation for high-quality and high-impact work that puts people first. This really allows us to work creatively, as investors and partners are willing to trust us with new models and new approaches.
I am also very drawn to the spirit and the energy of the CS team. This is a company that prides itself on getting things done and improving people’s lives. Given the challenges and frustrations inherent in development work, it really helps to be working with smart, motivated teammates who share my passion for making a difference.
What’s one story that best captures your reason for doing this work or the impact you feel you’re making here. Tell us something we might not see or learn about otherwise.
I am very excited about the work that we are doing to bring a new veteran housing solution to the Denver community. We are raising private social-impact equity from local investors and using it to support the acquisition of housing for veterans experiencing homelessness. This is the ideal project from my perspective, because it creates a new and replicable model for housing homeless veterans without relying on a new source of government funding. This is particularly important in high-cost, low-vacancy markets. Not only will the model allow more veterans to obtain housing, but I believe that it will open the door to more social-impact investing in homelessness and other areas. None of this would have been possible without the CS team and the reputation of the company and its leadership.