Crain’s Detroit: A Special Report, Women in Real Estate: Amelia Patt-Zamir

Company: Method Development

Title: Principal

Age: 34

Years in development/real estate: 10

Education: Lahser High School; University of Michigan; Columbia University

Developments completed:

  • The $350 million Viola Back Bay project in Boston, which includes a 156-room hotel, 88 condominiums, 85 apartments and 20,000 square feet of retail space.
  • A $130 million mixed-use project in Washington, D.C., that includes 303 luxury apartments and more than 90,000 square feet of retail space, including a Walmart Inc. store.
  • FD Lofts, a $3.5 million project that turned a former Detroit Fire Department building into 31 condominiums at 3434 Russell St. in Eastern Market.

Developments in the works:

  • A $1.25 million project at 304 Erskine St. in Detroit that would convert an old 4,000- square-foot mansion into multiple multifamily units

What led you to get into real estate development in the first place?

Growing up the suburbs, I often visited downtown Detroit to attend Tigers games and shows at the Fox and Fisher theaters. However, my most memorable visit was when my father drove the family around Detroit to show us his childhood home in the University District and my grandfather’s former factory on Glendale Street in Rosedale Park. I learned that my family had a long history as innovators, manufacturers and supporters of Detroit’s cultural realm.

During my lifetime Detroit became the poster child of the post-industrial devastation that blighted American cities. I could not fathom how Detroit, once dubbed the “Paris of the Midwest” and later the “Arsenal of Democracy,” could have experienced such utter decline. As a college student in Ann Arbor, I joined Cityscape Detroit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to urban renewal and architectural preservation. After graduation, I moved to New York to study architecture and real estate development with the aim of
returning home with the skill set needed to make an impact. It was this passion to partake in Detroit’s revitalization that ultimately led me to become a developer.

What sort of challenges, if any, have presented themselves to you as a woman developer?

We all saw how important 2017 was for women in that recent high-profile events shed light on discrimination that is unfortunately still commonplace today. We are living in the #MeToo movement, so I imagine the challenges I’ve faced in the workplace aren’t any
different from those other women face in male-dominated fields whether that be finance, medicine, politics or law.

Now, as a female entrepreneur, I’ve experienced distinct challenges than as an employee. When you have major corporation backing, I’ve found people are more receptive to taking direction from a woman. Since going out on my own, I’ve faced sexism and doubt along the way from surprising sources. It’s ironic because I have more decision-making power than before, and yet, I’ve experienced more pushback from external sources. I’ve had to work hard to find new ways to establish my authority. It’s a constant balance of humility and confidence to make sure I’m motivating others while garnering respect.

What advice do you have for women looking to get into the development industry in Detroit and/or the suburbs?

A developer is ultimately a visionary who sees opportunities where others might see only challenges. Believe in yourself, your vision and commit your resources to projects you are passionate about.

Secondly, identify a role model who inspires you. At each milestone in my career, female mentors have helped me learn and grow. In a male-dominated industry, it can be challenging to find a mentor with whom you can identify and share similar experiences. I’ve been fortunate to have several throughout my career, and I’ve always made it a priority to nurture these relationships. Although less prevalent than their male counterparts, women in high-powered positions I’ve found derive joy in giving back to the up-and-coming generation of female real estate professionals and developers. Even if you feel you are “bugging” busy people (as women have the tendency to feel), believe in yourself and reach out to those who inspire you because it’s likely she will be flattered and take pride in knowing her efforts are blazing a trail for more women in the industry. Iwould love to hear from aspiring real estate professionals, both men and women in the Detroit area.