Neighborhood Developers Initiative

About Neighborhood Developers Initiative

Community Desk Chicago’s Neighborhood Developers Initiative (NDI) is a $2.7 million investment that will build the capacity of three South and West Side organizations to take on real estate development projects at the local level. The three community-based organizations are Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Teamwork Englewood, and South Shore Chamber Community Development Corporation.

The NDI Approach


Ensuring developments are done not only in communities, but for and by communities – all while penciling out and generating a profit. NDI builds capacity of local leaders to work alongside developers, funders, and investors to ensure that real estate projects succeed.


Each community’s needs and goals are unique and therefore cannot be met through a cookie-cutter process. That’s why NDI is taking a customized approach – meeting participants where they are to provide the kinds of inputs they need to build on current economic opportunities in their community.


­­Too often, community-based organizations must spend precious time patching together myriad resources to reach their goals. NDI aims to be a one-stop-shop for skill development, project vetting, seed money, and relationship building with funders and investors – all required for success in real estate development efforts.

The NDI Supports

Building Knowledge

NDI will provide structured learning, coaching, and technical assistance focused on building knowledge around real estate development and creating the necessary plans to be successful. This includes calibrating existing operations to support development activities, creating a staffing plan and new legal structure(s), and outlining development strategies.

Advancing Development

Building off their training and community knowledge, NDI will help participants define their development role to support implementation of existing community plans and other emerging development efforts focused on community ownership.

Providing Seed Capital

NDI will assist organizations in launching their development plans with support for at least one actual project, which will include both seed capital as well as funding to support a development staff person for two years.

The NDI Leaders

NDI focuses on both organizations as well as the leadership of those organizations. Meet the leaders participating in our collaborative, customized, comprehensive training approach.

Juan M. Calderon
Puerto Rican Cultural Center

Juan has served as the Chief Operating Officer of The Puerto Rican Cultural Center since 2012. He has years of experience in community organizing, particularly working with the Latino LGBTQ community. At the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Juan oversees Vida/SIDA, an HIV prevention, care, and housing program along with several programs that focus on education, housing, public health, early childhood education, employment, urban agriculture, violence prevention, and arts and culture initiatives. In addition to his work within communities, Calderón is active in policy efforts in the Chicago City Council and the Illinois General Assembly.

Calderón sits on the Chicago Board of Health as a member/commissioner, appointed by the Chicago City Council. He also sits on the Board of Directors and serves as the Treasurer of the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. Currently he serves as the Secretary of the Richard Yates Local School Council and Stowe Elementary Local School Council as well as a member of the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty. 

His efforts have been recognized by La Voz del Paseo Boricua’s “Top 10 Under 30”, Windy City Times’s “30 under 30”, DIFFA Chicago, IVI-IPO Gay & Lesbian Caucus -Glynn Sudberry and leadership award from the National Center of Sex Education, Havana Cuba. Mr. Calderon has a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Cecile DeMello
Teamwork Englewood

Cecile DeMello is a community organizer, urban planner, and policy maker with more than 15 years of experience. She currently serves as Executive Director for Teamwork Englewood, an organization focused on improving the quality of life for residents and stakeholders of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood by facilitating economic, educational, and social opportunities. 

She has been at the forefront of Chicago Public Schools reform efforts, leading legislative and policy change to better protect students and plan for educational success. For ten years, DeMello was the co-executive director of Blocks Together, a community organizing and development organization on Chicago’s West Side. She created citywide practice change in economic development, school reform, policy accountability and violence prevention. 

DeMello is a wife, mother of three and proud Englewood resident. She holds master’s degrees in not-for-profit management and urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a co-owner of SoulBoricua, which specializes in Afro-Latino menu and products and healthy eating education.

Tonya Trice
South Shore Chamber Community Development Corp.

Since 2014, Trice has served as executive director of both the South Shore Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and the South Shore Chamber Community Development Corporation (CDC). These sister-agencies have a shared mission: strengthening South Shore’s commercial corridors and providing economic viability to the community. The Chamber is a membership-based organization that advocates for and supports local business owners, while the CDC focuses on broader issues of economic development, such as identifying and developing community assets and building wealth in South Shore.


How can you get involved?

Community Leaders

Looking for guidance on how to move your project from vision to reality? Need advice on how to better connect with funders and investors? We can provide a sounding board to bring your plans to the next stage of development. 

Funders & Investors

Looking for a great project that advances greater equity and community goals? Reach out to us to hear about great projects that meet your goals.

“When you work in community, you often have to patch together resources – one capacity-building program here, one grant there – and sometimes programs don’t fit neatly into what we’re trying to do … But with NDI, there’s no cookie-cutter approach that we have to fit into. They are providing really customized consulting on the projects we already want to move forward … This is exactly what grassroots community initiatives really need.”

— Juan M. Calderon, Chief Operating Officer, Puerto Rican Cultural Center