“How do I create momentum in systems that stimulate change in communities and organizations?”

Roderick Hardamon, impact agent, developer, collaborator, author, and philanthropist, uses this question to guide his professional and personal ambitions.

Access, Drive, Resiliency

First hired by Salomon Brothers, Inc., Hardamon had a successful career on Wall Street, specializing in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He credits that training and experience with sharpening his edge. The firm’s access to opportunity allowed him an entrance point to propel his professional journey while providing him with a global perspective.

“Back then, M&A bankers didn’t always specialize in a specific industry,” Hardamon said. “I had to get smart on almost all industries, and do so very quickly, deal by deal.”

He credits his family upbringing with instilling resiliency in his character and work ethic.

“Analytically,” Hardamon said, “my specific experiences made me much more dynamic. When you transition from analyst to leader, you learn how to inspire folks. It taught me when individuals have the opportunity, there is no limit to what they can do.”

Additionally, Hardamon was the North American Head for Citi Alternative Investment Services with over $250B in assets under administration. He also served as the Co-Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, where he was responsible for Citigroup’s global banking and capital markets businesses.

After decades of professional success, Hardamon experienced a gradual, almost-sublime sense of purpose and began to make the conscious move from purely seeking commercial success to a devotion of creating real impact through his business efforts.

“For me,” Hardamon said, “there was no choice. The time just felt right to leverage my personal and professional experiences to deploy capital where it’s needed. So, I decided that it was time to come back home to a place where my passion is fueled, which is Detroit.”

His evolution from senior executive to impact investor is rooted in his need to help people. Taking the knowledge and training from his career, Hardamon realized he had a unique, societal lens. And he wanted to translate those skills into growing his hometown.

Roderick Hardamon

Upon moving back to Detroit, he founded and chaired URGE Development Group, a real estate firm committed to improving communities through innovation and value creation. He also serves as CEO of URGE Imprint, a boutique management consulting firm focused on transforming organizations during times of disruption.

When it comes to real estate and development, Hardamon sees the positive influence it can have on communities.

“You have to do well if you’re going to do good,” Hardamon said. “You can have community impact goals, but you also need to be in a solid financial place to accomplish that.”

Access to Capital, Development, and Projects

Figuring out how to take the skills he learned on Wall Street and translate them into positively impacting localized communities—especially the ones he’s from—became his new objective.

“Development in this country has a significant influence on policy,” Hardamon said. “Therefore, broad groups need to participate. My goal was to go into the communities that people may have forgotten and are disinvested in. That’s a form of equity. It’s important to give people access to opportunities for new structures and housing, especially longstanding community members.”

Hardamon explains there’s an additional layer of consideration for broad, diverse groups of individuals seeking real estate development opportunities, especially in a city like Detroit, whose racial makeup is majority Black.

“I was also focusing on how to create pathways for new developers to have access to capital, development, and projects. It’s important to think about the diverse neighborhoods we invest in, as well as how to create more opportunities for more developers of color to be part of this mix.”

The Detroit Institute of Arts’ Cultural and Spiritual Impact

Another way Hardamon seeks to promote equity in the Detroit metropolitan area is through his involvement in one of the Detroit Institute of Arts auxiliary groups, Friends of African and African-American Art (FAAA). One of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ oldest auxiliaries, FAAA is committed to raising public awareness and appreciation for the artistic legacy of indigenous Africans and peoples of the African Diaspora.

Hardamon has always had an affinity for the arts; while he’s not an artist by trade, he’s always wanted to be a collector. When a friend of his asked him to join the board of FAAA, Hardamon quickly moved up the ranks to be an executive member, treasurer, and vice chair. Now, he serves as the chair of the board.

“Art is a gateway to diversity and access,” Hardamon said. “I wanted to figure out how to make sure art feels accessible. It’s the same mission I have when it comes to real estate and capital.”

Hardamon’s curiosity about how to best broaden the reach of the DIA and FAAA, and African American art, throughout Detroit and the U.S. guides his work. When the FAAA membership group took a trip to Art Basel Miami Beach in 2022, Hardamon saw that members felt protected, welcomed, and educated. This trip spurred individuals to invest in collectible pieces of art. The trip was made possible through the partnership with William Blair Wealth Advisor and Managing Director Robert Rumley.

“The trip to Art Basel was designed to reduce the perceived barrier to collecting art many people have and provide more access to opportunities for a broader audience,” Hardamon said. “Robert understands the necessity of creating access from all perspectives, and he was critical to driving this idea home while ensuring a successful inaugural trip.”

Hardamon provides additional opportunities for people to become more familiar with artwork and collecting art by combining his affinity for the arts with his real estate and development expertise. Using art as the foundation for architectural design and placing art in all his development projects, the artwork is infused into each development. To Hardamon, adding artwork into properties directly translates into spreading access to art throughout communities.

Circle of Impact

In addition to FAAA, Hardamon has served on a variety of boards, including The Council of Urban Professionals as Chair Emeritus, Detroit Developers Roundtable, Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, and as a founding member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for Morehouse College Business Department.

“There are a lot of places that need help,” Hardamon said. “And when there’s an organization that adds value to communities, it speaks to me. I go all in.”

By playing an active role in all these different organizations, Hardamon is connected to diverse perspectives that others may not always have. He looks at social and equality issues from various vantage points and lenses—something he believes is one of his biggest strengths.

“The more I experience, the more I understand,” Hardamon said, “the more it allows me to be impactful to others. Also, it helps improve how I’m helping the organizations I’m involved with. I not only impact the organizations, but they impact me in return. Then, I can impact even more organizations. It becomes this virtuous circle of systemic impact.”