Trio works to revitalize Philadelphia's urban neighborhoods with a focus on equity

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Trio works to revitalize urban neighborhoods with a focus on equity
A new movement is working to revitalize Philadelphia's urban neighborhoods one house at a time, with equity in mind.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A new movement is working to revitalize Philadelphia's urban neighborhoods one house at a time, with equity in mind. It all starts by leveling the playing field for diverse developers.

A new multi-million-dollar fund is taking applications from female and minority entrepreneurs. Its goal is to support developers who reflect the diversity of neighborhoods like Point Breeze, Gray's Ferry, Brewerytown, West Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia.

When you think of development and construction someone like Monica Miraglilo, a real estate developer with Miraglilo Properties, might not come to mind.

But this is Miraglilo's life work although it has not always been easy.

"It was very hard," she said. "I'm self-taught. I didn't have a lot of money. Women do have to work a lot harder in this business to prove themselves."

One issue is getting approved for financing. Roadblocks can include a lack of credit or collateral to a lack of prior experience.

But now to buy, rehab, and sell new single-family homes, Miraglilo has access to capital through the Aequo Fund.

Aequo means to "make equal" in Latin.

"One of the reasons we keep getting the wrong sort of end result is because we don't have a level playing field," said Ernst Valery, the Aequo fund founder. "Over 90% of the resources and real estate development go to white males. And most of those cities aren't majority white males."

The application states only "women, Black, Brown, or immigrant developers" can apply. Aequo provides all the capital to buy and develop a property and then gets 50% of any profits.

It means developers like Miraglilo can access capital without taking out a loan and without assuming any risk.

"So, this is giving people the opportunity to really pursue a career and have financial freedom while doing it," she said.

The fund is supporting the development of single-family row homes priced between $250,000 to $350,000.

Longtime Philadelphia real estate agent Maria Quattrone said the hope is each house will also have a ripple effect helping bring new businesses and jobs and lifting property values over time.

"It's extremely transformational," said Quattrone.

Aequo launched last year and is now at about $10 million, funding 10 developers and 69 properties in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond, Virginia, with big plans to grow.

Miraglilo hopes to grow with it and is paying it forward through her initiative called Girlbuild, which is designed to empower other women to follow in her footsteps.

"I want to empower them and give them the tools to build whatever they want," she said.