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Virginia Union, Steinbridge Group Announce Largest Investment in University’s History

February 02, 2024 11:00 AM

RICHMOND, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Virginia Union University announced today that impact investing firm Steinbridge Group will invest approximately $40 million to enable Virginia Union to unlock the value of its 100-acre real estate holdings in Richmond’s North Side. The investment will empower the University to develop underutilized parcels of land for commercial and residential uses.

“The executive leadership at Virginia Union University demonstrated a strong capacity to take advantage of this program, and housing barriers in the surrounding community revealed a significant need for more affordable options”Post this

The Virginia Union investment is the first iteration of Steinbridge Group’s $100 million commitment to HBCUs and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). In November 2023, the firm announced its first commitment of private capital to help transform underutilized assets owned by the nation’s HBCUs and MSIs. Steinbridge, in conjunction with the Student Freedom Initiative, has plans to continue expanding investments to develop impact-focused real estate around HBCUs and other MSIs. These investments will serve to address the funding gap between HBCUs, MSIs and other community impacting organizations.

Steinbridge selected Virginia Union in collaboration with the Student Freedom Initiative (SFI), a not-for-profit founded by Robert F. Smith (Founder, Chairman, and CEO, of Vista Equity Partners). SFI was founded to serve as a catalyst for freedom in professional and life choices for students attending HBCUs and other MSIs through reducing students’ debt burdens and by using data to increase the competitiveness of HBCUs. SFI’s rigorous examination process considered Virginia Union’s land ownership, capacity to execute an expansive development project, and leadership positioned to galvanize the initiative. Steinbridge and SFI will provide opportunities for other HBCUs and MSIs to learn more about qualifying for the investment in the near future.

“Virginia Union is going places we have never been before, statewide and nationally, because students and the community have high expectations of this institution,” said Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, President and CEO of Virginia Union. “The Steinbridge investment will enable Virginia Union to create new sources of income, which will further strengthen our ability to create opportunities for students and the community. As the oldest African-American-owned, continuously run nonprofit, and as an anchor institution for Northside Richmond, we have a historic responsibility to drive the economic community development of this side of town.”

“Our commitment to Virginia Union is not merely financial, but it is a declaration of support for the institution and its vision,” said Tawan Davis, Founder and CEO of the Steinbridge Group. “By partnering with Virginia Union, we are helping to ensure that HBCUs thrive as pillars of excellence and economic possibility today and for generations to come.”

At a reception during Virginia Union’s Founders Day, Tawan Davis, Dr. Lucas, and leaders from the Student Freedom Initiative will appear with members of the Richmond community to announce the initial details of the partnership–a development on Richmond’s North Side that will be designed by Richmond-based KEi Architects. The initial sites slated for development are University-owned parcels where Steinbridge will develop 130-200 market rate and affordable residential homes. Martin Architectural Group will provide design support. As part of the initiative, Steinbridge and Virginia Union will collaborate to help graduates to become homeowners, building wealth in communities that are at risk of displacement due to the impacts of gentrification in transitioning neighborhoods.

Dr. Lucas emphasized that Steinbridge is making an investment, not a donation. He said Virginia Union would use the investment to generate value from its underutilized real estate, following a model that has enabled many large universities around the country to prosper.

"The executive leadership at Virginia Union University demonstrated a strong capacity to take advantage of this program, and housing barriers in the surrounding community revealed a significant need for more affordable options," said Dr. Mark Brown, President and CEO of the Student Freedom Initiative. "The population in Richmond, VA is 44% Black. As property values and tax assessments continue to increase, these community members face growing barriers and many have been forced to sell their homes in areas they have long lived and worked. As the city faces a 35,000-unit housing shortage, this partnership will help many in the community find stability and will help to grow economic potential for the entire region."

The announcement follows Virginia Union’s recent unveiling of its 10-year, $500 million master plan. The plan is driven by rising interest in the University, which posted record enrollment in the Fall 2023 semester, pushing its number of students above 2,000 for the first time. Virginia Union University has risen to the country’s 39th best HBCU (according to the most recent U.S. News rankings), entering the Top 40 just five years after not being ranked.

About Virginia Union University
Virginia Union University is a premier liberal arts institution and publicly serving HBCU with recognition as a private institution through the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. Founded in 1865, Virginia Union University was originally established to give newly emancipated slaves an opportunity for education and advancement. Today, the University is a center for excellence focusing on preparing and developing today’s students to become advanced leaders of tomorrow. Virginia Union University’s programs offer a broad range of both undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities in high-demand fields that advance liberal arts education, teaching, research, science, technology, civic engagement, and international experiences.

About Steinbridge
The Steinbridge Group is an impact investment company with an initial focus on impact through real estate. The company is currently positioned to develop a pipeline of up to $1.3 billion of impactful real estate projects by acquiring, renovating, and developing homes to lease and sell to working families in major cities throughout the United States. Steinbridge recently launched its $100 million Capital Commitment to HBCUs and other institutions to catalyze the institutions’ underutilized real estate assets into economically productive uses in ways that positively impact the institutions and the communities that they serve.

The Steinbridge team includes leading professionals with global experiences across real estate and finance with billions of dollars of investing, acquisitions, asset management, construction, development, and leasing experience.

About Student Freedom Initiative
A single purpose nonprofit organization, Student Freedom Initiative’s vision is to reduce the wealth gap through the lens of education. This vision is achieved through four pillars and associated outcomes: (1) Commercial alternative to Parent PLUS loans (Reduce student debt burden), (2) Internships & Certifications (Increase job readiness), (3) Comprehensive Support (Increase student persistence), and (4) Minority Serving Institutions (“MSIs”) Capacity Building (Increase resilience and competitiveness). Student Freedom Initiative collaborates with community-based organizations, businesses, and governmental entities through public-private partnerships to make sustainable, systemic changes to support the MSI ecosystem.

Student Freedom Initiative has received contributions or recognitions from Robert F. Smith, Fund 2 Foundation, Cisco, Jane Street, Prudential Financial, CapitalOne, Visa Foundation, First Republic Foundation, Walmart.org, Base10, Pivotal Advisors, Bivium Capital, and the Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice Subcommittee on Education. To learn more, visit StudentFreedomInitiative.org or find us on Twitter @StudentFreedom.

Contacts

Media:

Virginia Union: gneely@vuu.edu

Steinbridge:
BerlinRosen: Steinbridge@berlinrosen.com

SFI:
Nefertari Carver: ncarver@laurelstrategies.com