Making Development More Equitable and Sustainable

Anyeley Hallová set her sights on a career in sustainable development as early as 1997. As a child, her family spent two years living in drought-affected northern Nigeria, helping to inspire her interest in the field. Her interest in sustainable development grew after studying abroad in Costa Rica, and Hallová would go on to work in urban design at AECOM, where she worked on major projects in the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Europe, as well as the United States.

After moving into real estate development, she served as development manager for Gerding Edlen Development (now Edlen & Co.), where she worked on student housing, civic projects, and public-private partnerships, and then as a partner with project^ for 12 years, with a focus on shepherding development projects through entitlements and construction.

In 2020, Hallová launched her own firm, Adre, to focus on real estate projects that seek to create wealth for the Black community and for other underrepresented groups. She has also been very engaged with civic work. She is currently serving as Chair of the U.S Green Building Council, and she also serves as Chair for Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission, working to improve housing equity and climate-friendly planning. She holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard University and a master’s degree in city planning from MIT. Think Wood spoke with Hallová about how developers can make their projects more eco-friendly and equitable while using mass timber.

Meyer Memorial Trust HQ: Building exterior and public entry
Meyer Memorial Trust
Photo Credit: Jeremy Bittermann

Think Wood: Your career pathway as a developer is unique. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into sustainable real estate development?

Anyeley Hallová: Yes, my journey to development is a long one. After completing an undergraduate degree in environmental systems technology, I went abroad to Costa Rica to study sustainable development in the 1990s. This experience inspired me to pursue a career that would involve working with the three pillars of sustainability—economic viability, social equity, and environmental stewardship. I eventually went into city planning and then got a degree in landscape architecture. 

I participated in the ULI Hines Student Competition, which was my first exposure to development; I later began practicing as an urban designer and working with developers, but found that sustainability wasn’t always part of the equation. This drove me to switch to development. I thought if I could become the client, I could dictate the terms of the engagement and focus on more sustainable development. After gaining experience working in the field and after completing the Meyer Memorial Trust Headquarters—a project that made equitable design a central focus—I could not help but want to incorporate social equity into all of my future projects. For that reason, I started my own company with the intention of focusing on social equity issues as rigorously as I do sustainability.

You bring an important perspective that has been missing in real estate development. Can you talk a little more about that, and your firm’s mission?

The obvious thing that sets me apart is that I am a Black woman. Statistics show that less than 1% of developers are Black and/or Hispanic. So if you take Black and then if you take women, I don’t even know that there’s a stat that’s that small. As a result, I bring something really unique to the table with my lived experience as a Black woman. Having lived through certain experiences and having a passion for community—when you have that at the top leading a development project, it can empower and change the dynamics of the team, allowing them to focus on and push the limits on issues related to equity and sustainability. We want to bring innovation in sustainability and innovation in social equity. 

You’ve also been an early adopter of mass timber construction. What got you started in tall timber and the idea of using more engineered wood in development projects? 

We got our start, essentially, with the U.S. Tallwood Building Prize. At my last development company, we had a client who really focused on sustainability and saw an opportunity to explore more sustainable materials—which led us to explore mass timber more. That project eventually became Framework. While the project was never built, the R&D resulted in the first permitted high-rise made from wood in the United States, and was instrumental in the changes to the International Building Code that allow for taller wood buildings throughout the entire United States. The same team members went on to do Oregon Conservation Center and some worked on the Meyer Memorial Trust Headquarters. Both of these projects incorporate mass timber in pretty innovative ways. And Adre is now working on The Killingsworth Project—a creative commercial building focused on seismic resilience and equitable outcomes.

Rendering Credit: project^ | LEVER Architecture

Can you share more about The Killingsworth Project?

The Killingsworth Project is a three-story creative workspace focused on seismic resilience. It’s located within the historically Black community in Portland, Oregon. We received partial funding for it through the Softwood Lumber Board and the USDA Forest Service’s 2022 Mass Timber Competition. It’s designed with an innovative CLT rocking-wall technology to be seismically resilient with the ability to rock and recenter after a major earthquake with “little to no damage.”

We just finished the schematic design and are now in design development. We’re following a performance-based review process with the City of Portland, which we’ve just kicked off. Peer reviewers are reviewing our work. We’ve been permitted at the city level, and are looking for investors and applying for grants to support the innovation side of the project.

Sounds like the project is gaining good traction, and has a growing number of supporters. 

Yes, we are getting good interest in the project. We are going to have tenants in the building that all have a passion for these issues and care deeply about diversity, equity, and social responsibility. And we’ve had interest from a regional bank in terms of providing more potential funding. 

What are some ways mass timber can help boost sustainability and, at the same time, help make development projects more equitable?

I also believe it’s important for us to ask:  Who is this building for, and who is going to benefit from it? Are they included in a truly meaningful way? There are many biophilic and health benefits to being in a wood building. And with more equitable development, those benefits can be felt by all communities, not just those in typical class A spaces.

The Killingsworth Project
Rendering Credit: Adre | LEVER Architecture
Williams & Russell Project
Rendering Credit: Adre | LEVER Architecture

Are there any future projects on Adre’s horizon that you’re really excited about?

There’s one project—the Williams & Russell Project—that is bringing it all together for us. Historically, the site once was part of a thriving Black community in Portland and the goal is to revive this urban space for that community once again. We responded to an RFP coordinated by Williams & Russell Community Development Corporation and we were successful in our proposal. This project includes three different components: The first is a Black Business Hub for organizations and companies vested in growing Black business in Oregon, which will use cross-laminated timber. Secondly, an Affordable Homeownership Project—20 homes—for Black residents, and we’re currently thinking that it will be built using light-frame wood construction. And the third is an affordable apartment building, which will be supported and led by PCRI, a local community development corporation that focuses on Black-serving initiatives like this. It’s an exciting project for us. It will help people who have been displaced due to gentrification come back to the neighborhood. It will increase home ownership and is in line with Adre’s focus on intergenerational wealth creation for the Black community. 

We also received a grant for the project from the Energy Trust of Oregon, as part of what they called a Net Zero Fellowship, to essentially understand the feasibility of making this a net-zero campus—net-zero energy, waste and water. It’s exciting as this project is really comprehensive—it taps into all of the environmental, sustainability and equitable values we are working towards at Adre.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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