"We are either really stupid or we're on to something" - that's how Mark Lewis sums up the efforts of his company, Community 1st Development, a collaborative partnership between Lewis/ Klein Properties and R & H Development Company that focuses on urban residential development, neighborhood rehabilitation and commercial redevelopment.
Due to a slow-down in the housing market - specifically the modular housing market - Lewis and his partners were anxious to find an activity that would make it possible for them to sell new homes. They found a way to not only increase sales but also help redevelop distressed neighborhoods in Detroit and greater Wayne County. Through Community 1st Development, Lewis marries low to moderate income buyers with brand new homes close to their workplaces, providing savings on their utility bills as well as at the gas pump.
Although none of the Community 1st Development homes have been completed yet, Lewis said he is overwhelmed by the positive response from the community and also from the buyers themselves. He's excited to be able to provide affordable, efficient and environmentally-friendly housing to many people who are likely renting substandard units now.
A lawyer by training, Lewis completed his undergraduate studies at Michigan State University and law school at the Detroit College of Law and discovered quickly that practicing law was not for him. He found his calling at dinner with his mom and step-father one night, when his step-father (who was a builder-developer) encouraged him to join his company. The transition was natural to him - Lewis had spent previous summers at his step-father's developments cleaning and picking up after contractors. After working for his step-father for several years, he was given the opportunity to purchase the assets of the company upon the retirement of his step-father. This was about four years ago, and it cleared the way for Lewis/Klein Properties, which he started with his current partner in both Lewis/Klein and Community 1st Development, Danny Klein.
Lewis spends the majority of his day with the Community 1st team, even working late into the evening from his home office. Because of this, the Community 1st team has grown accustomed to emails from Lewis waiting for them at the office the next morning. The emails range from a follow up about something they have been working on to new ideas that came to him from something he read in...