For Immediate Release

Local Architectural Designer Wins Better Buildings, Better Blocks Grand Prize

(from left to right: Chase L. Cantrell, Kimberly Grey, Damon Dickerson, and Dietrich Knoer)

(from left to right: Chase L. Cantrell, Kimberly Grey, Damon Dickerson, and Dietrich Knoer)

Detroit, Michigan, March 30, 2018 - Building Community Value recently concluded the fifth cohort of its Better Buildings, Better Blocks initiative, which teaches Detroiters the basic skills necessary to complete real estate development projects in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. On the final Saturday of class, program participants presented detailed development project proposals to their peers and a panel of judges made up of real estate, finance, and other business professionals. The judges, choosing from a pool of candidates selected by class members themselves, chose Damon Dickerson as the grand prize winner of $2,000 and Kimberly Grey as the second place winner of $1,000 to help spur their projects forward. This award includes contributions from First American Title Insurance Company, PM Environmental, Inc., and The Platform LLC.

Upon receiving the award, Damon expressed, “I've always understood the importance of real estate development but how to access it was a totally different story. After participating in the Better Buildings, Better Blocks program, I have a stronger real estate development foundation on which to build. The program's administrators were patient, thorough, and urged us to ask questions and participate in dialog to ensure we received the most from each class session. Their unwavering support, coupled with quality information, equaled a winning program for me!”

Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and selected as one of 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, Better Buildings, Better Blocks is a program held at the U-M Detroit Center and open to any adult resident of Detroit, Highland Park, or Hamtramck, Michigan. Over the course of three months, the community-based education program, taught by Dietrich Knoer, CEO of The Platform, guides participants through the basics of small-scale real estate development, including identification, acquisition, financing, leasing, and project management.

In addition to regular coursework, which requires attendance at six in-person sessions, engagement with a standard textbook, and review of additional online video lectures, the program requires each student, individually or in groups of two, to present a capstone project proposing a residential or commercial real estate development in one of the target geographies.

(Image created by Damon Dickerson for his project “The Bundle.” Presented here with permission.)

(Image created by Damon Dickerson for his project “The Bundle.” Presented here with permission.)

Damon, a respected architectural designer in Detroit, presented his proposal for a residential project on Detroit’s east side, which seeks to rehabilitate two currently vacant two-family homes and an adjoining vacant parcel. On the vacant parcel, Damon proposes to add two micro homes, something that he views as an underutilized option to fill in gaps in Detroit’s urban fabric.

Kimberly Grey presented her proposal for a residential project on Detroit’s west side. “I have always had an interest in design, historic homes, and community development but realized that I was missing pieces of the puzzle to successfully make a beneficial impact on my community,” Kimberly explained after the course. “Better Building, Better Blocks provided all of the missing pieces and resources that I need to now do so confidently. With the invaluable support of my wonderful classmates and the program’s instructors, I am even more excited to put everything into practice. Even prior to completing the program, the knowledge helped me, as a realtor, support other investors in making decisions that focus on benefiting people and not just the bottom line.”

Elizabeth Luther, one of the guest judges who is the Detroit Program Manager for a national community development financial institution known as Capital Impact Partners, also explained that she “was inspired by the thoughtful presentations for real estate development projects that will, over time, revitalize Detroit's neighborhoods parcel-by-parcel. It would be great to see some of these graduates implementing their projects and scaling up in the coming years."

For additional information regarding the program, which is currently offered twice each year, please visit our Programs page or contact program staff at

About Building Community Value: Building Community Value is a Detroit-based non-profit organization inspired by the rich history embedded in Detroit's many neighborhoods. Its mission is to spur catalyst real estate developments outside of the city's central business district. It has offered the Better Building, Better Blocks program since 2016, in collaboration with the University of Michigan and The Platform.  To support its programming, you may make a donation here.
About The Platform: The Platform was established in 2016, when the acquisition of the iconic Fisher Building brought Peter Cummings and Dietrich Knoer together. With more than 60 collective years of experience—and a legacy of successful development projects in Detroit—they made a conscious decision to build a platform that would contribute to the city’s resurgence. They assembled a team of young professionals poised to be the next generation of developers through ongoing mentorship and hands-on experience. The Platform’s vision includes developments that create quality residential and retail opportunities along the Woodward corridor, as well as the neighborhoods that embrace the whole of the city in equally vibrant and sometimes unexpected ways. 
About the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. The foundation invests in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Its goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which it believes are essential for a healthy democracy.