“My vision for the future of REAP is to build upon past success to have a profound impact on a commercial real estate industry that is now uniquely open to diversifying its workforce,” says Manikka Bowman, the new executive director of Project REAP (Real Estate Associate Program), the nation’s leading change agent for advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in commercial real estate.
She adds, “Project REAP is uniquely positioned to collaborate with industry leaders to ensure companies have a pathway to achieve their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) goals and diverse talent has an opportunity to lead at every level of commercial real estate.”
G. Lamont Blackstone, REAP’s chair of the board, says, “Manikka brings a special combination of skill sets and experiences that span the commercial real estate sector, advocacy and public service. She has impressed our board with her keen insights of what is necessary to mobilize support for a cause — particularly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Her experience in the Boston metro also coincides with a talent market we wish to grow and serve.”
She joins REAP following a yearlong search for the ideal candidate to helm the nonprofit organization created in 1997 and launched in 1998. The needle has not moved far enough. Bowman notes, “The percent of persons of color occupying leadership roles in commercial real estate remains minimal. They are the end-users; but are not part of the teams that shape the built environment.”
Her tenure begins at a pivotal juncture when, she says, “Our nation collectively experienced a racial reckoning. Now is the time to leverage the moment to have a lasting impact. We need to push the industry to offer opportunities that create a pipeline to the C-suite.”
REAP has graduated over 1600 diverse professionals from its topical and comprehensive program in commercial real estate. It has conducted in-person sessions in major cities throughout the nation including New York City, Chicago, DC, Dallas, Atlanta, Columbus, Kansas City, and LA and, since 2020, a series of virtual programs. REAP has partnered with the Urban Land Institute, the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world, to create a unique learning experience: the ULI/REAP Academy which offers a curriculum comprised of live and streaming courses taught by top-level executives, professionals and entrepreneurs in commercial real estate.
Bowman formerly served as the director of policy for the ULI Boston/New England District Council where she led policy research and provided CRE thought leadership to the area market. She also oversaw the ULI Technical Assistance Panel program which aids cities and towns tackling challenging land use issues and launched Pathways to Inclusion which connects CRE professionals of color to the organization’s Boston network.
She is the former vice-chair of the Cambridge School Committee for Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) where she negotiated four contract agreements over the past two years with the educational union — ensuring students and staff had access to safe, in-person learning conditions. Bowman also chaired the CPS’s Buildings and Grounds Committee providing oversight to a trio of redevelopment projects totaling over $500 million.
A Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree, Bowman was a regular contributor to Banker & Tradesman, a major publication covering Massachusetts’ financial services and real estate industries and has written for numerous other outlets. She also leads a recently launched development firm. Bowman serves on the board of Abundant Housing Massachusetts, a nonprofit committed to expanding housing opportunities in every community in the Commonwealth. She is a proud alum of an HBCU, Bethune-Cookman University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and holds dual master’s degrees in Divinity and Urban Policy from Columbia Theological Seminary and Georgia State University.
This month, Project REAP also elected the following as officers for its Board of Directors: Chair G. Lamont Blackstone, principal, G.L. Blackstone & Associates; Vice-Chair Erica-Nicole Harris, vice president, Wispark LLC; Vice-Chair Akil Hameed, CEO FASS Real Estate; Treasurer Michael P. Kercheval, executive director, University of Colorado Real Estate Center; Secretary Katrina Rainey, real estate portfolio manager, McDonald’s Corporation. Most are newly elected to the board officer roles.
REAP also elected five new board members, all seasoned professionals in CRE: Alan Barocas, retired senior executive vice president of leasing, General Growth Properties; Angele Robinson-Gaylord, senior vice president of store development, Rite Aid; Katrina Rainey (see above); Jimena Sayavedra, associate, industrial real estate specialist, Newmark; and Giselle Battley, senior director, global head of early career talent, JLL. Excluding Alan Barocas, the new board members are alumni of Project REAP; Battley connected to REAP through JLL, the founding sponsor of the ULI/REAP Academy. Visit https://www.projectreap.org/