Communities First, Inc.’s Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder Essence Wilson was recently selected from more than 500 entries as one of Real Estate Forum’s Women to Watch in their September issue. She is recognized for her efforts toward raising more than $37 million in capital from a variety of funding sources for affordable housing and mixed use projects. Wilson’s efforts helped the organization develop Oak Street Senior Apartments and Swayze Court Apartments in Flint which are complete and occupied. Communities First, Inc. also recently began construction on a redevelopment of a historic school building on the west side of the city, Coolidge Park Apartments. When complete, Coolidge will consist of 54 apartment units, more than 9,000 square feet of commercial space and a community center.
Wilson owes her passion for real estate development to her background in mechanical engineering, management and human services. She sees this work as the perfect opportunity to integrate a desire to help people with redesigning the physical landscape of cities. Wilson is active in a variety of organizations, including Flint Institute of Music, Pierians, Incorporated and Commercial Real Estate Women of Detroit.
Twenty five years ago, the Real Estate Forum began recognizing the contributions of women to the real estate industry. Although still a male dominated industry, the real estate industry is appealing to more women and diversity in the field continues to grow. According to Wilson, “Being a woman allows me to offer a different perspective in a room full of men. That perspective is not necessarily better, but it’s important to have diversity in conversations that affect the quality of life of others.”
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Communities First, Inc. is a Flint based nonprofit Community Development Corporation which was founded in 2010. The priorities of CFI are affordable housing, economic development, green programs, and quality of life programs. CFI is committed to building sustainable, equitable communities in distressed areas. The organization is the developer of Oak Street Senior Apartments and Swayze Court Apartments located in downtown Flint and has amongst its programs Culture Shock and Green Life. More information about Communities First, Inc. can be found at communitiesfirstinc.org.