Marvin Wilmoth has spent the last 12 years pursuing a new real estate development model. It’s currently coming to life—with help from JPMorgan Chase—in upstate New York on the banks of the Buffalo River.
Wilmoth is the Managing Principal and Co-founder of Generation Development Group. He’s developing a mixed-use, mixed-income housing solution in Buffalo called Silo City on the site of a former early-1900s grain mill.
“It is surreal being on the other side of the table,” says the Florida-based Wilmoth, who worked in Investment Banking for J.P. Morgan and now works with the firm on one of the larger mixed-use deals in New York state. JPMorgan Chase’s Community Development Banking group provided Generation Development Group with a construction period letter of credit and will be the lead servicer during the construction period.
“The JPMorgan Chase underwriting team was incredibly flexible during a challenging market environment. The team understood the greater purpose of providing quality housing opportunities for those in need of affordable options. Never once did they lose sight of the community we were working for.”
The goal for Silo City—like other Generation developments—is to provide housing that improves residents’ quality of life. This mission involves addressing systemic issues such as housing and wealth inequality, educational disparities, chronic disease and food insecurity. JPMorgan Chase’s involvement is part of the firm’s recently announced $30 billion commitment over the next five years to help advance U.S. racial equity and provide economic opportunity to underserved communities, especially the Black and Latinx communities.
In high school, Wilmoth’s YMCA mentor noticed his love of math and suggested he explore a career in finance. He interned with the debt capital markets group at JPMorgan Chase as an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, then joined the firm in 2004. “I was drawn to the complexity and challenge of finance,” he says.
As part of the financial institutions group, Wilmoth was involved in debt, equity and mergers and acquisitions transactions and helped raise over $2 billion dollars of capital for growth companies.
The business management skills he learned at JPMorgan Chase, such as creating pitch materials, paying attention to detail and managing client relationships, are now “an integral part of Generation’s successful operation,” he says.
The idea for a new real estate model came to Wilmoth after he left the firm and studied real estate development at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Over the years, the idea evolved. In 2018 it got a boost after he and his business partner, Anthony Ceroy, raised capital from private investors.
For each development, the key is talking with community members about their needs early on. “We design solutions based on feedback from our community partners and then back into a financial structure to best achieve a collectively desired outcome,” Wilmoth says.
"Everything we do is through the lens of human-centered design. We’re trying to provide unique solutions for communities, nudges to improve quality of life and make lasting impact."
— Marvin Wilmoth, Managing Principal and Co-founder of Generation Development Group
Silo City, a destination for residents of all income levels, races, religions and genders, is the model’s initial test case. To address Buffalo’s high rates of obesity and increase access to affordable, nutritious food, the development will include a hydroponic farm. Generation will also commission local artists to paint murals throughout the development, inspiring residents to walk around more and experience their neighborhood.
“Everything we do is through the lens of human-centered design,” Wilmoth says. “We’re trying to provide unique solutions for communities, nudges to improve quality of life and make lasting impact. Our goal is to expand the narrative around successful community development to more than just financial metrics.”
It’s an industry in much need of reform, he says. In 2019, one in four renters spent more than half of their incomes on housing, according to State of the Nation's Housing 2020 from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. At the same time, a Knight Foundation and Bella Research found only 2% of the 889 real estate investment management firms included in its study were minority-owned. This not only underscores the need for significant investment of capital in affordable and workforce housing, but also comprehensive systems change to promote racial equity.
In addition to his role in real estate, Wilmoth also serves as Vice Mayor of North Bay Village in Miami-Dade County, where he’s focused on sustainability and resilience efforts. His passion for service came in part from his mother, a retired Spanish teacher, and father, an Army and Navy veteran. Both immigrated from Honduras.
As if Wilmoth weren’t busy enough, he and his wife Jodie are now the proud parents of a baby boy, Blake. He envisions a world for his son that’s more equitable and sustainable.
“The common denominator for me is always providing opportunities for others,” he says. “In real estate, it should be about providing ecosystems to help everyone engage and continually learn. By overcoming creative inertia around systemic issues, we can build resilient communities for future generations.”