THE MICHAELS DEVELOPMENT CO.'S Karyntha Cadogan is a woman on the move—whether it's traveling back and forth to the public housing rehab project she's leading in Mississippi or in her workout gear helping Philadelphia residents become more active. Her work in and out of the office exemplifies her dedication to these communities and their residents, and keeps her reaching for more knowledge and experience.
Cadogan, who graduated from Georgetown University, started her career in New York City doing marketing for a modeling agency. But she says that job left her unfilled professionally and personally. “I didn't think I was doing enough to help people, only serving certain agendas,” she adds.
That's where her journey to the affordable housing industry began. She decided to go back to school and, with a love for buildings and history, to pursue historic preservation. After graduating from Columbia University's historic preservation graduate program in 2006, Cadogan worked as a research assistant at the Fannie Mae Foundation. There, she had her eyes open to what was going on in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when local officials were considering rebuilding and making housing affordable. Just as the foundation was folding, she decided she wanted to be on the ground to create affordable housing.
“Theoretical conversations are interesting for education, but I wanted to understand [affordable housing] and do it,” she says.
So she joined a community development corporation in North Philadelphia, the Women's Community Revitalization Project. She assisted with the nonprofit's affordable housing development pipeline and consulted with nonprofit daycare centers that planned to construct or renovate their existing facilities.
However, she wanted to take on more work on the affordable housing side and continue to build her skill sets. An opportunity to work at Marlton, N.J.-based Michaels Development, one of the nation's largest affordable housing owners and developers, presented itself.
She joined the organization in March 2010 as a development officer and has worked on two main projects over the past year and a half—Living Springs, a 100-unit seniors low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) development in Delanco, N.J., and Frank Berry Courts, a 113-unit 4 percent LIHTC public housing rehab project in Meridian, Miss.
After the financing closed on Frank Berry Courts, Cadogan's boss, Ava Goldman, handed the project over to her. Construction got under way in September 2010 and, in August, was about 75 percent complete. Cadogan says she enjoys taking on the challenge of seeing the project through from closing to completion. She travels to the site almost monthly and has worked closely with the Meridian Housing Authority, the architect, the finance providers, the contractor, and the lease-up team to make sure everyone is on the same page and on time.
“She takes her job seriously, and I think her outlook is unlimited,” says Goldman, a senior vice president at Michaels. “She is personable, caring, and smart. She brings everything to the table."
When she's not working, Cadogan manages uGO, a venture that she co-founded with a friend in 2009 to promote healthy lifestyles and community connectivity in underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods that have residents with high incidences of obesity, heart disease, and cancer. The uGO challenges include neighborhood chats on how to be healthier, fitness programs, a walking and running group, and a 5K race at the end.
The program recently became part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign in Philadelphia.
“We think of it as a community development tool,” Cadogan says. “You invest in your individual body, and you'll then start to work with your neighbors on larger issues."