Related Midwest Blog

Curating Connections Networking Event Fosters Conversation and Celebrates Community Development

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Related Midwest hosted a vibrant gathering of partners, colleagues and community leaders in our on-site lounge. This event marked the beginning of a series of networking evenings, called Curating Connections, that bring together Related’s diverse partners to network and learn from others in the construction, development and architecture industries in Chicago. Last week’s gathering was themed around community development and featured a panel discussion from experts in the field.  

The evening kicked off with a wine tasting session curated by local tastemaker Derrick Westbrook. As the first Black sommelier featured on the cover of Wine Enthusiast as a 40 Under 40 Tastemaker, Westbrook brought not only his expertise but also a unique perspective to the event. Attendees were treated to a lesson on the art of wine tasting, followed by the opportunity to sample bottles paired with delectable charcuterie. This inclusive approach to wine appreciation set the stage for an evening filled with enriching conversations and community building. 

The heart of the event was the engaging panel moderated by Michael Ellch, Senior Vice President of Development at Related Midwest. The discussion brought together thought leaders and visionaries deeply who could speak to the impact that community development has in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Panelists included Phillip Beckham from P3 Markets, Jorge Perez from Lake Effect Development, Ann Lui from Future Firm, and Sandya Dandamudi from GI Stone.  

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of these speakers provided a comprehensive exploration of how equitable, diverse and inclusive practices can shape communities for the better. During the panel, Phillip shared how he became a community developer in Bronzeville and what it means to the neighborhood to have a Black development team behind a new mixed-use building. Ann spoke to her architecture firm’s commitment to working on impact-driven projects and being a true partner with her clients on their work. Jorge talked about his company’s goal to bring more development into the Southeast side of Chicago, an area often left out of the conversation. Sandya, who has partnered with Related on a number of development projects, shared her journey to make the trades more inclusive and welcoming to women and people of color.  

Curating Connections continues with two more events in 2024 focused on construction and architecture, and will feature even more opportunities to connect and collaborate.