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Menkiti Group Expands Investment Team, Aims To Improve Capital Access For Diverse Developers

The Menkiti Group CEO Bo Menkiti and Senior Vice President of Capital and Investments Melissa Lee

D.C.-based developer The Menkiti Group has made two new hires as part of a strategy to invest in more projects and to help young developers of color access capital. 

The company announced Thursday it hired Melissa Lee as senior vice president of capital and investments to lead its MG Capital and Investments division, and it hired John Daniels as director of investments. 

Menkiti Group CEO Bo Menkiti told Bisnow he made the hires for two main reasons: to help expand the company's relationships with capital sources and to help invest in diverse real estate entrepreneurs as they work to scale their portfolios. 

He said the latter strategy is part of his mission to improve access to capital for emerging developers of color. He said he has already done this in some situations where developers needed capital for projects they were pursuing, and the new hires will help Menkiti Group expand those efforts. 

"We're excited about formalizing a role in helping capital tap into the emerging talent that we know exists in the real estate industry in a way that can impact communities," Menkiti said. "It's about democratizing the real estate industry, but also ensuring that you’re tapping into a whole swath of talent that’s been underrepresented in the real estate industry in the past."

Lee has two decades of experience in a variety of investment management roles. She has spent the past three years as managing principal of Lee Squared Consulting Group, according to her LinkedIn profile. Before that, she served as chief financial officer of the Sheridan School, as director of treasury operations for WMATA and as senior investment analyst for the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System. 

Daniels has about seven years of experience at firms including The NRP Group, Vista Consulting Group and Treacy & Co., according to his LinkedIn profile

"We are looking forward to the collaborative ways in which we can shift the real estate paradigm to create multi-layered investment opportunities that unlock the overlooked potential of places and people,” Lee said in a release.

In addition to emerging developers, Menkiti also aims to direct more investment to emerging neighborhoods such as Anacostia, where the firm is working on its MLK Gateway project. The first phase of the mixed-use project broke ground in January 2020 with a 20K SF office lease from technology firm Enlightened, and in July 2020 the developer landed a 55K SF lease with a D.C. agency for the second phase. The developer is using the opportunity zone program to finance the project. 

Menkiti Group has developed in several other emerging D.C. neighborhoods, and it has expanded to Worcester, Massachusetts, where it is also using opportunity zone capital for multiple projects.

"We invest in real estate projects that fit our investment thesis around the evolution of neighborhoods, and we’re also investing in some high potential real estate companies that we can support," Menkiti said.