Marilynn Davis Joins HR&A

HR&A is proud to announce that Marilynn Davis has joined the firm as our newest Senior Advisor.

Marilynn, who most recently served as the Chief Real Estate Officer at Clark Atlanta University, will help expand the firm’s impact across Atlanta and beyond.

Marilynn’s career has placed her in leadership roles across sectors, including Assistant Secretary of Administration at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nominated by President Clinton, Managing Director of the New York office of real estate development firm IMC Octave, CEO at landscape architecture firm, Martha Schwartz Partners and other roles at FleetBoston Financial Corporation (now a part of Bank of America), American Express Corporation and General Motors Corporation.

In April, Marilyn will represent HR&A on a panel at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Spring Meeting in San Diego — Redefining Excellence in Real Estate with Equity at the Core.

Learn more about Marilynn’s story below.

What inspired you to join HR&A following such a defining chapter of your career at Clark Atlanta University (CAU)?

For over 150 years, CAU has provided young African Americans with the intellectual and leadership tools to shape “the future of the global community.” As the institution’s first-ever Chief Real Estate Officer, we aligned our 50+ acre portfolio with our mission by actively seeking to generate revenue while also reinvesting in the Atlanta community in which the University is situated.

CAU is successfully leveraging the booming real estate market in Atlanta to create economic opportunity and prevent displacement of our neighbors. As we see in Atlanta, universities, cities, and real estate professionals are uniquely positioned to develop projects that meet financial metrics, but also provide avenues for economic and social uplift. Joining HR&A enables me to advance these opportunities across the country as part of a firm operating with equity as an intrinsic part of the solutions it proposes to clients.

How do you approach turning vision into action, especially for projects that feature public, private and community stakeholders?

The most successful development projects enable public, private, and community priorities to converge. While the community remains engaged, and their concerns actively addressed, public leaders advance solutions to improve quality of life for all residents. The private sector acknowledges the connectivity between developing visionary projects and sustaining good quality of life to attract the talent that they will need to sustain their investments. In addition, it’s critical that we incorporate the perspective of education systems, cultural, non-profit, and philanthropic institutions in building ecosystems that lead to successful planning and development.

How can the Atlanta Metro region continue to address equity through real estate and economic development?

This region is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom from an array of industries, so a critical precedent for promoting equity exists. Historically, large-scale real estate development has been conceptualized as projects in isolation, rather than parts of communities that embrace housing, education, culture, and public space for everyone. Large-scale real estate development should be considered the ultimate platform for building an ecosystem that will interact with and respond to the needs and aspirations of the people who the project will inevitably impact.

What are three of your favorite things to eat, see and do around Atlanta?

  • Ponce City Market: This former Sears warehouse on the Atlanta BeltLine features curated food and retail concepts alongside public event space, as well as commercial and residential property. This is where I eat, meet friends, and explore. The historic renovation has been a catalyst for the resurgence of the Old Fourth Ward community, and I hope the broader corridor along the BeltLine continues to more fully prioritize inclusive development.
  • High Museum of Art: The exhibitions and programs are remarkable while also being accessible to a range of visitors with various experience in the arts.
  • WCLK 91.9 FM: Check out CAU’s 24/7 jazz station, which features live programming and the best from the Marsalises, Coltrane, Davis, and others. You can support the non-profit station from anywhere in the world via their app.

What advice would you give to a young person exploring a career in real estate and urbanism?

A liberal arts education empowers a young person to embrace their intellectual curiosity and find creative solutions. Since building cities and developing real estate present a multitude of challenges with monumental impacts, I strongly encourage young people not to limit their exploration. Rather, dive into a wide range of relevant topics, from history, architecture, and design to economics, sociology, and science. This diverse knowledge can expand can a young person’s perspective, enrich their life, and prepare them to lead.