By Eric Ruble
Danny Bakewell Jr. and his daughter, Taelor, don’t just share a love of their family real estate development firm, they also share a certificate of graduation – earned more than 20 years apart – from the Ross Minority Program at the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.
Their multigenerational achievement began in 1997, when Bakewell Jr. was on the lookout for ways to strengthen his success in the world of real estate development and contribute to the Bakewell Company, a business founded by his father in the 1970s.
Then, he found the Ross Minority Program.
“(Ross) gave me a real confidence that I could advance in this business,” said Bakewell Jr., who is also executive editor and chief of staff of Bakewell Media, which owns The Los Angeles Sentinel, among other media outlets.
Most of the Bakewell Company’s 4 million square feet commercial project portfolio was and is in Southern California, and all of its properties are in areas with large communities of color. Even as recently as 2012, 89% of commercial real estate developers were white, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The Ross program was relatively young when Bakewell Jr. enrolled. It started following the civil unrest of 1992 to help rebuild Los Angeles in a way that better empowered community participation. Today, the intensive executive education program continues to focus on real estate finance. Over the course of about five weeks, students participate in group projects and complete a real-world case study.
Twenty-four years after Bakewell completed the program, he still finds himself using the lessons he learned. “The key to being a good developer is having the ability to see around the corner — to be able to know what’s coming before anybody else,” he said. “I’ve created some relationships with people who I work with to this day who were in my Ross class.”
Taelor Bakewell (Annenberg ‘15) proudly joined her father by completing the program’s winter 2021 session.
Currently a crisis management specialist with Southern California Edison, Taelor said she enrolled in Ross to better prepare her for getting involved in the Bakewell Company. She said one of Ross’ biggest attributes was the diversity of its students. “I’m meeting people who are my age who are starting their career in this space – similar to me – but also people who have been in this space for years,” she said.
“It’s time for a new generation of our family to step up and help out. I can sit in a room with my dad and my grandfather and really understand and actually contribute to the conversations that are being had.”
A key aspect of furthering the family’s legacy is ensuring communities of color reap the benefits of the development process. Bakewell partners with African American- and women-owned architecture firms, insurance companies and contractors. “We operate them with a sense of pride. And as a result, the community takes great pride in what we develop,” Bakewell Jr. said.
“In many cases, we create the opportunity for them to participate in major projects that they normally wouldn’t. That’s been a philosophy that was started by my dad that I carry on, that Taelor carries on, but it’s also what makes our projects successful.”
It’s a mission that Taelor is eager to continue.
“I knew the Ross Minority Program would help me get to that level and help me gain the confidence to be able to help build my family’s company and our legacy,” she said.
As the development landscape has changed over the years, the Bakewell Company has evolved accordingly. But its dedication to local communities of color hasn’t wavered.
“It’s what gives us the credibility that the community wants us to be the developer,” Bakewell Jr. said. Likewise, Ross has continued its mission of empowering local leaders in real estate.
“If you want a full understanding in a very concentrated timetable of what the development world looks like, I don’t know of any better program in the country than the Ross Minority Program,” Bakewell Jr. said.
The Ross Minority Program’s summer session is planned for June 9 – July 1, 2022. The application deadline is April 20, 2022.