Walker & Dunlop Partners With Black Commercial Real Estate Network

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The Black Commercial Real Estate Network (BCREN), an advocacy group launched in the summer of 2020 with the goal of amplifying the voices of Black members of a largely white industry following the tragic police-involved killing of George Floyd, has formed a strategic partnership with Walker & Dunlop (W&D) that will provide extensive networking opportunities through the brokerage giant.

“Our partnerships are critical to our mission,” said Derith Jarvis, executive director at BCREN. 

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“The partnerships not only provide financial support for professional development programs and events that provide connection to opportunities, they play a critical role in moving the organization forward.” 

W&D adds to a growing list of CRE firms that joined BCREN as partners or sponsors, including JLL (JLL), Meissner Commercial Real Estate Services, Onyx Legacy Group, Allan Bailey Johnson Group, Keller Augusta and the Black Developers Forum. BCREN now has more than 1,000 members across all aspects of the CRE industry.

Susan Mello, group head of W&D Capital Markets, said the partnership is part of the brokerage’s  commitment to increase diversity at a firm- and industry-wide levels. Mello, an executive sponsor of the W&D’s Black Empowered Network, said she hopes to leverage the partnership with BCREN to hold networking events, webinars and mentoring arrangements that promote various professional opportunities in the CRE industry.

“We’re very committed to diversity both internally and externally,” Mello said. “We believe that this partnership is a way that we can help influence, contribute and impact the goals of increasing diversity within the commercial real estate sector.” 

In addition to pushing for more diversity at W&D, Mello has also targeted expanding access to capital for Black developers through her involvement with CREUnited, an alliance created in 2021 with the aim of increasing representation of underrepresented groups and increasing their numbers of assets under management.  Since forming, CREUnited partners have closed more than $500 million of transactions with corporate partners along with providing access to technology offerings that help women and minority partners grow their portfolios. 

Jarvis said inking agreements with new partners like W&D sends a strong message as BCREN nears its four-anniversary and the momentum for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives has waned in some circles. 

“These partners are saying, ‘We believe there’s work to do and we support you,’” Jarvis said. “In a time when catchphrases like ‘DEI fatigue’ are prevalent, that provides a much-needed boost for those of us volunteering to do this work off the sides of our desk to keep going.”

Andrew Coen can be reached at acoen@commercialobserver.com