UpNext is an editorial series highlighting eight burgeoning business and real estate developers in the city. Presented by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the series highlights Detroit professionals who are leaders, innovators, and influencers in their industry and community. This week’s UpNext professional is Roderick Hampton.
As a kid, Roderick Hardamon had a fascination with the board game Monopoly. Little did he know that fascination would inspire his career.
“Growing up, I had this love of playing Monopoly,” said Hardamon. “My family historically is from the South, and they owned property. Owning land and having some type of ownership was always front and center to me.”
Reminiscing on his adolescence, Hardamon recalled dreaming up big plans.
“My cousin and I used to look across the city of Detroit. I remember we were at the Renaissance Center once, and I vividly remember us talking about one day we’re going to buy that block, own that block, and own that block, but we were just kids. Youthful fantasies, fed by me loving monopoly, fed into my current business,” said Hardamon, a Renaissance High School alumnus.
After spending nearly two decades on Wall Street, Hardamon felt compelled to return to his hometown. Today, he runs URGE Imprint; a consulting firm focused on public sector work, real estate, and aiding small/medium-sized businesses. He is also the founder and chairman of URGE Development Group, which is geared towards revitalizing and reimagining neighborhoods while honoring the historical legacy of the communities it invests in. Both firms serve a common goal.
“In 2016, I knew it was time to come back home. While I appreciated and loved my experience in New York, and it was really beneficial to my career, my passion wasn’t there anymore. My passion was Detroit, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the resurgence that was happening here. I know I could only do so much investing from afar. I had to be here.”
In 2020, Hardamon’s Urge Development Group, along with partner N’Namdi Holdings, broke ground on the Osi Art Apartments, a $6.6 million apartment complex in the Woodbridge neighborhood.
“How do we have greater impact in the city of Detroit and southeastern Michigan by systemically impacting and providing opportunities to communities that often do not receive them,” said Hardamon. “That is my primary focus. How do I make sure there is a collective progress, a collective win in Detroit and southeastern Michigan?”
With plans to break ground on a commercial retail space with residential units in the Fitzgerald neighborhood at W. McNichols and Monica in the third quarter of this year, Hardamon acknowledges access to capital is essential and that women and minorities have struggled more to obtain it. As a developer, he looks to be a trendsetter and admits taking that route is not the easiest.
“Oftentimes, the projects we do are risky because we are going ahead of the curve. We’re investing in neighborhoods that people haven’t already “blessed.” It’s easier to invest in Downtown and Midtown because those have been blessed. It’s harder to invest in 6 Mile because people hope it comes back.”
Like any great Monopoly player, Hardamon thinks big picture. He looks to sustain and grow financial wins for generations to come.
“My view is 10, 20, 30 years because I am focusing on creating generational wealth and helping others see how to create generational wealth,” said Hardamon. “I make the decisions, and the investments that I think will have a generational, transformational opportunity even if I do not get to reap the immediate benefits. If I don’t get the yacht, I’m okay with that.”
He operates to make sure residents, especially those who have remained loyal to Detroit, are included in the city’s resurgence. He embraces his role of bringing representation in economic development to the forefront.
“It’s about providing images for those who look like me, for those who feel like me, to see themselves in a light they may not have ever imagined.”