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Community Progress Welcomes Four New Board Members

April 25, 2022

Credit: Jack Soltysik/Community Progress

Vince Bennett, Michael Nutter, Karen Freeman-Wilson, and Toni Griffin join the Center for Community Progress board of directors.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 25, 2022 — The Center for Community Progress (Community Progress) is pleased to welcome to its board of directors Vincent Bennett, CEO of MBS Properties, Inc.; Karen Freeman-Wilson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League; Toni L. Griffin, founder of urbanAC; and Michael Nutter, former mayor of Philadelphia. All four are accomplished leaders in their fields, with experience in community development, local governance, and uplifting racial equity.

Vincent Bennett is the CEO of MBA Properties, Inc. and president of McCormack Baron Salazar, a company focused on community and urban redevelopment in central cities across the United States that have deteriorated through decades of neglect and disinvestment. Over the nearly 30 years that he has held this role, Bennett has facilitated communication with local community organizations, elected officials, residents, lenders, foundations, and agencies in the development of housing transformations and large-scale neighborhood master redevelopment efforts.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to join the board of Center of Community Progress, whose goals of equitable and inclusive transformation of neighborhoods through intentional changes to public policy and implementation of best practices is aligned with my professional and personal work in urban core communities throughout America. I look forward to supporting this exceptional organization and team of outstanding professionals,” said Bennett.

The Honorable Karen Freeman-Wilson is the president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, an organization that works to achieve equity for Black families and communities through social and economic empowerment. Prior to this role, she served as the mayor of her hometown, Gary, Indiana, from 2012 to 2019. Freeman-Wilson was the first female mayor of Gary, and the first Black female mayor in the state of Indiana. Her previous roles also include serving as Indiana attorney general, director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, and presiding judge of the Gary City Court.

Toni L. Griffin is the founder of urbanAC, llc. a New York-based planning and design practice that specializes in leading complex, trans-disciplinary planning and urban design projects for multi-sector clients in cities with long histories of spatial and social injustice. Griffin is also Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and leads The Just City Lab, a research platform for developing values-based planning methodologies and tools.

“Having worked alongside Community Progress staff on the groundbreaking Detroit Future City Framework Plan, I’m excited to assist the organization’s leadership bring just, equitable, and bold solutions to our cities most intractable land challenges,” said Griffin.

The Honorable Michael A. Nutter served as mayor of Philadelphia from 2008 to 2016. During his tenure, Philadelphia City government received more than 150 awards for innovative programs, good government practices, and excellence. He previously served Philadelphia’s fourth district as a city councilmember for nearly fifteen years. Since leaving public service, Nutter has served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and is presently the inaugural David N. Dinkins Professor of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Policy at Columbia University/SIPA.

Community Progress’ board of directors is chaired by Jeanne Wardford, program officer for Family Economic Security at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and includes leaders in community development, philanthropy, and racial equity from across the country. The four new board members bring expertise in state and local governance, planning, and redevelopment to help Community Progress continue to grow and better serve the places where we work.

Community Progress President and CEO Dr. Akilah Watkins said, “I’m excited about our new board members partnering with Community Progress as we expand and amplify our work, especially in communities that have faced discrimination and disinvestment historically and today.”

For interviews or more information on Community Progress, email [email protected] or call (877) 542-4842, ext. 153.


About the Center for Community Progress

Founded in 2010, the Center for Community Progress is the national leader for building strong, equitable communities where vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties are transformed into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods. Today, Community Progress has affected change in more than 48 states and seven countries through leadership education and collaborative systems, policy, and practice reforms. Simply, we work to transform “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places.”  For more information, visit

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