Destined for Greatness

Nonprofit teaches inner-city youth value of real estate knowledge

By Patrick Lantrip

A modest eight-unit apartment building in the shadows of the $200 million Crosstown Concourse may not carry the name value or financial gravitas of its massive neighbor, but for a group of local kids, it has the chance to change their lives.

Scholars who participate in Project Destined tour properties and will be able to value them from a real estate perspective and identify which assets provide a good long-term investment value.  (Submitted)

Located at 233 N. Bellevue Blvd., between Poplar Avenue and Overton Park Street, the apartment building was recently purchased by Washington, D.C.-based real estate investment and leadership training nonprofit, Project Destined.

“If you were an inner-city kid like I was, and you had a great jump shot or crossover at 14, some AAU team will find you, get you to some great college, insulate you from all the negative forces in your neighborhood,” Project Destined co-founder Cedric Bobo said. “But if you’re a geeky math student like I was, you just have to find a way to persevere and hopefully you’ll get to a good school.”

With this in mind, Bobo, a Memphis native, and his partner, Fred Greene, founded Project Destined hoping to transform minority youth into owners and stakeholders in the communities in which they live, work and play.

“What we try to do is almost AAU for business,” Bobo said. “We try to identify students early and give them an experience that is different, but also educates them. Sometimes you have to separate yourself from that environment to really see your potential.”

Bobo and Greene launched Project Destined a year ago and have already led real estate-focused boot camps in Detroit, Michigan, Memphis and Miami, Florida, that aim to teach high school aged kids all the dynamics of the industry, from how to source and how to execute a deal, all the way to financing, construction and leasing.

“We don’t approach things like a nonprofit, so all of the assets that we buy, we finance them privately,” Bobo said. “We bet on properties that we think are great assets and great teachable moments, but also ones that will earn a return, because a portion of the return we donate to a 501c3 that distributes scholarships.”

Much like a traditional owner-investor would do, the team at Project Destined tapped local sources to finance and manage the property, including Financial Federal Bank, which financed 50 percent of the acquisition debt with a nonrecourse loan with all fees waived, and local multifamily guru James Maclin, who owns multifamily business M&M Enterprises.

Participants in Project Destined evaluate properties to determine their real estate value and whether they would be good long-term investment assets. (Submitted)

The investment process began last June with an educational boot camp-style weekend at DCA, a creative communications consulting firm in Downtown Memphis. At the boot camp, student/scholars were exposed to lectures, case studies and site tours on real estate investment with featured local brokers, bankers and architects.

“As a collective group, we tried figure out where we thought some of the growth areas in Memphis were,” Greene said. “There is a lot of activity around the Medical District, so there was a lot more interest in this asset than ones that were further out.”

In particular, Greene said the students felt that with hospital jobs the Memphis Medical District offers, this apartment property would be a good asset in theory to look at from a long-term investment standpoint.

“We train kids in real estate investment with the idea that we are also going to buy multifamily property with them, where a portion of the profits from the multifamily goes to the scholars for scholarship capital,” Greene said. “By the end of the program, they are going to be able to look at any building Downtown in the city that they live in, and they are going to know exactly what it takes to value it.”