A major downtown Allentown developer and Easton’s Lafayette College are collaborating on a program to mentor at-risk youth to invest in real estate and manage properties in their community.
On Jan. 30, City Center Investment Corp. of Allentown and Lafayette’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship said they launched The Real Estate Lab, a program to teach downtown Allentown residents about real estate investing, with the goal of helping them become successful.
“We’re targeting at-risk youth,” said J.B. Reilly, president and CEO of City Center. “We’re trying to get young people that live in these neighborhoods to get involved in entrepreneurship, people that want to get out of gangs and re-focus their lives.”
The two partners are interviewing candidates for the program and the lab plans to begin offering classes in February.
“We’re trying to identify those young people that are looking for opportunity and purpose in their lives,” Reilly said. “We thought this was a great way to share our expertise and train and mentor young people who live in these neighborhoods.”
The Lafayette College program came about because the director of its Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Yusuf Dahl, was an at-risk youth himself. After hearing his story and seeing how it aligned with the Dyer Center’s mission, Reilly noted how that fit with the goal of The Real Estate Lab.
In 2017, Dahl graduated with a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University, having studied urban development and housing, but before that he operated a network of drug houses as a teen in Milwaukee and had been sentenced to prison for more than a decade.
After serving time, he eventually became a real estate investor, a response to foreclosures in his neighborhood. It’s those types of success stories that the partners behind The Real Estate Lab are hoping to highlight.
To provide a place for the initiative, City Center renovated a space at Sixth and Linden streets in downtown Allentown, Reilly said.
The space will offer several free programs, including a 10-week First Time Investor program, a Real Estate Entrepreneurship Access program and an Investor Club. The participants will learn how to acquire, rehabilitate and manage properties and learn about the additional business opportunities in the industry.