James Johnson-Piett

Principal & CEO

James Johnson-Piett

As founding Principal and CEO of Urbane Development, James Johnson-Piett is an evangelist for a new kind of community development that emphasizes community anchor businesses and institutions as agents of change – solving local problems and elevating the quality of life for underserved communities.

With over 15 years of experience in various facets of economic and community development, James is responsible for the overall management of operations and strategic vision for Urbane Development. His work focuses on strengthening small businesses and community anchor institutions operating in underserved communities through market intelligence, technical assistance, access to capital, and place-based investment strategies.

 James and his team have provided feasibility and market intelligence for light manufacturing-, arts/culture anchored-, and mixed- use real estate concepts for government, non-profit, for-profit economic development and real estate development clients in many locales – New York City; Philadelphia, Hartford, Sonoma County, CA; Detroit; Honolulu; and Lincoln, NE. 

Currently, James is part of an 11-city cohort of BIPOC fund managers sponsored by the Boston Impact Initiative, Amalgamated Bank, and the Surdna Foundation. Representing Philadelphia and Brooklyn, respectively, James and the cohort are developing place-based blended capital funds that will invest in diversified assets focused on racial and economic justice.

James previously spearheaded the creation of a neighborhood-based market intelligence practice – piloted in LMI communities in Brooklyn – focused on Alternative Credit, Neighborhood Financial Health, Micro-Entrepreneurship, and Criminal Justice Fines/Fees research and insights.

Mr. Johnson-Piett designed the Green Grocer Project, a $55M revolving loan fund and comprehensive technical assistance program accelerating grocery development in Detroit; the program attracted the first chain supermarkets - Whole Foods and Meijer in Detroit in over 15 years, and was awarded the Silver Star Award from the International Economic Development Council as one of the top economic development programs in the US in 2016.