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Inner-city Entrepreneurs Get Schooled by the Pros to Rebuild Their Communities

June 26, 2001

LOS ANGELES -- Latino, Asian and African-American entrepreneurs from across the United States are on the University of Southern California campus this week to learn the fundamental real estate skills needed to revitalize their inner city neighborhoods. "We teach them to run their spread sheets and structure their deals so they can reach their well-intentioned goals," said Stuart Gabriel, Ph.D., one of the founders of the Summer Program in Real Estate at USC.

It's a challenge that has been embraced successfully by recent graduates who can lay claim to building a high school in Watts, starting affordable housing in suburban Los Angeles and building a shopping center in an area devastated by the city's 1992 riots. That civil unrest was the catalyst for the program created by professors from USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate, the Mayor's Office, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles and volunteers from the private sector.

Current students include former heavyweight champion Buster Mathis who heads a residential and commercial development firm in Florida; Heriberto Barrios, an executive with the National Farm Workers Service Center in Oxnard, Calif. with a goal to develop affordable housing; and Los Angeles real estate agent Patricia Lankford who became a mother at age 13, graduated from college and now works with a non-profit women's group to create housing in the inner-city.

This week the Lusk Center faculty is calling upon the city's leading real estate developers, bankers, architects and urban planners to lend their technical expertise, networking and team-building skills to help the 28 students enrolled. It's the only program of its kind in the country.

The program was founded on the belief that real estate development is essential to the economic growth and self-determination of any community, according to Gabriel, who is Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. Program Director David Dale-Johnson, Ph.D., also a founder of the program, said this year's class includes mortgage bankers, non-profit housing developers, attorneys, real estate brokers and others from the private and public real estate sectors all seeking to "jump-shift" their real estate development career path. Volunteer instructor Stan Ross, Chairman of the Lusk Center Board, said the classes successfully integrate economics with social policy.

"Non-profit doesn't mean you don't make money. You simply can't achieve the social good without the economics," Ross pointed out.

The courses, taught by USC faculty and other real estate experts, include real estate finance, financial analysis, investment modeling, market analysis, real estate law, project design and site planning. The highlight of the program is a feasibility study in which students apply what they've learned in developing a "real world" project. This year's project is a parcel of industrial land in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to a burgeoning residential and commercial area. During the two-week program, the students will have an opportunity to hear from successful developers who are revitalizing LA's urban core including Tom Gilmore, the catalyst behind the Old Bank District redevelopment project.