MIAMI –– David Wilson builds affordable houses in Liberty City. A product of the inner- city community infamous for its 1980 race riots, and a successful man by almost anyone’s definition, he is easily labeled as a role model for his contributions to the community.
But Wilson is clear about his intentions –– to make money. The founder and president of The Real Estate Resource Group said he can do more for his community by writing a check than he can by marching against social ills that adversely affect the black community.
Wilson graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High Community School in 1977 and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Miami in 1981. In addition to creating a multi-faceted real estate and financial services corporation, Wilson serves on the board for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the
Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosts film screenings, plays the guitar, speaks Spanish fluently, and listens to everything from opera to Tupac.
During an interview at his elegant office located in the Grand Hotel in Miami, Wilson, 48, told the South Florida Times that creativity factors significantly into his work, and that Liberty City has some of the best property in the county.
The Real Estate Resource Group is a conglomerate that includes a financial planning firm, a real estate development firm that builds single family homes, townhouses and office buildings, a commercial lending component, and an investment banking firm.
“We like to think we can handle most of our clients’ financial needs from soups to nuts –– which would include selling them their home, hopefully luxury, their office building, filling all their pension funds for them, [and] college education funds,” said Wilson, of Miami, as he described his business.
Wilson realized while studying at the University of Miami that his future would include finance.
“By the time I got to college, I realized that most things in this country move because of money,” he said.
His parents’ backgrounds (his mother was a maid and his father a mechanic) and his upbringing in a rough area of Liberty City provided no clue that a successful career in real estate development and financial services could be his. Wilson said money makes a difference in the lives of black people.
In addition to creating sizeable wealth through his 15-year-old company, Wilson is contributing to an area that he said is “an indigenous population to people of color.”
Wilson said the Liberty City of yesteryear was a bustling hub of businesses and middle-class professionals, and he sees no reason why it cannot experience the same rejuvenation that New York’s Harlem has.
“I remember all the retail activity and the businesses that were there, and you had all the professionals living there…the transition that took place in Liberty City is similar to the transition that took place all around the country in African-American areas after Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s murder,” he said.
Wilson has a theory about why Liberty City and other black areas fell into various states of decline. He also theorizes about why the areas are experiencing a recent rebirth.
“You had riots, whether it was Watts, or Oakland or D.C., and unfortunately that forced a lot of the business activity out of those communities and so they’ve been just sitting there,’’ the married father of two sons said. “And now what you see around the country is people are beginning to move back into those areas because of the location and proximity. It also offers a more comfortable quality of life that people will enjoy when you don’t have to run across the county because the kids are in school here, you work over there, their activities are over here, the shopping is over there.”
He is especially optimistic about Liberty City, a community that he said is “probably one of the better physically located properties in all of Dade county because of its access to everything, the beaches, downtown, hospital, business district, now the sports arenas as well as the performing arts center.”
William Diggs, president of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and Wilson’s co-host on the weekly radio show, “Business in the Black,’’ said Wilson’s upbringing in Liberty City serves him well.
“David is an interesting blend of street fighter and finesse player. He has the kind of common sense that most highly intellectual people don’t have,” Diggs said.
Diggs said the radio show, heard each Monday on WMBM 1490 AM at 2:30 p.m. is on hiatus until Oct. 1.
“David will open a business quicker than anyone I know, and make it successful,” Diggs said.
Elaine Black, president/CEO of the Liberty City Trust, an organization charged with providing affordable housing in the inner city, said that in a town where people promise to build affordable housing but fail to deliver, Wilson “puts his money where his mouth is.’’
Wilson’s company has built eight houses in the area that cost $210,000 or less, he said, adding that he plans to build “a total of 15 over the next 10 months.”
Because Wilson “really, really” likes what he does, most days do not feel like work, he said. This serious Warren Buffet fan likens structuring financial transactions to creating art or music.
“If you’re looking to structure a financial transaction to acquire something, there’s the standard way of looking at it and there’s the creative way of looking at it. The majority of the deals are done more creatively than people could ever imagine,” he said. “I try to encourage a lot of young black kids to go into this industry because
I think finance is very much creative. It’s like art, and culture and music. You come up with something creative and then people are willing to pay you for it.”
In addition to advising youth, Wilson has this advice for people of all ages: “It’s all possible. Whatever it is that they want to do, it’s extremely possible. There’s nothing that, if you really set your mind to it, that you can’t do.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. David Wilson