In 2019, BRicK welcomed Michelle E.L. Merritt to the team to manage the stakeholder engagement planning and Opportunity Zone prospectus work in North Lawndale. Michelle continues to advise BRicK clients , including the South Suburban Mayors and Managers, on community engagement and community economic development, building on over 15 years of relevant experience. Concurrently, Michelle is also a Relationship Manager with Chicago TREND Corporation and, most recently, Michelle helped facilitate the Chicago Prize application and selection process, as well as the initial implementation. of the Chicago Prize Finalists’ work plans.
Michelle is experienced in working in complex, cross-functional, multi-disciplinary environments and has focused her career on amplifying community and stakeholder engagement. Most notably she managed a $7.5m community and supportive services (CSS) budget to support the relocation process for families returning to mixed-income housing. She also led the formation and program design of a 501c3 non-profit organization that reinvested developer fees back into the community. With a unique talent for collaborating and engaging diverse communities and neighborhood stakeholders, Michelle is known for her patience under pressure.
In 2017, Michelle co-developed the community programming for an award-winning initiative in Bronzeville focused on creating a hyper-local ecosystem of micro-businesses, activated to disrupt the historical disinvestment of a distressed commercial corridor. She led the outreach and engagement of small and micro-business entrepreneurs, and developed the marketing, events and social media promotions plans.
In 2015, Michelle began working as an independent consultant providing strategic planning and project management services, including co-lead facilitator for the community planning and public engagement process for the Master Land Use and Quality of Life Revitalization Plan for Roosevelt Square, a mixed-income community.
From 2006-2015, Michelle was Vice President of Community Relations for a prominent Chicago-based real estate developer. Her work at the firm included, leading the community engagement process for the Master Planning of ABLA Homes and the Redevelopment of Lathrop Homes. In addition, she managed Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) contract compliance to ensure local contracting and hiring goals were being met by the professional services and general contracting teams.
Michelle received her Master of Arts Management in Entrepreneurship and Arts Management from Columbia College and her Bachelor of Arts in History from Hampton University in Virginia.