Kelly Powell

CoreNet NYC DEI Committee Celebrates Black History Month with Kelly Powell, Architect

April 2022

During February, we highlighted the important contributions of Black Real Estate Professionals in New York now and throughout history.

Norma Merrick Sklarek, the “Rosa Parks of Architecture”

As the first Black woman to pass her license exam in NY in 1954, the first Black woman to pass in California in 1962, the first Black woman recognized as owning her own architectural practice (1985-1989), and the first Black woman to become a member (1959) and then elected a fellow (1980) of the AIA, Ms. Sklarek was truly a trailblazer. Notably, among many other projects, Ms. Sklarek designed the US Embassy in Tokyo (receiving very little credit for her work) and the Terminal One Building at LAX.  Ms. Sklarek has been honored by the Association of Black Women Entrepreneurs, the California State Legislature, the Goodwill Board of Governors for her work on the behalf of people with disabilities, NOMA and the AIA. Howard University also offers an Architectural scholarship in her name.

Allies’ Corner: Practical Ways to Use Your Privilege:

  • Be culturally aware; recognize others’ holidays, pronounce names correctly, and do not stifle cultural expression.
  • Actively seek out protégées/mentees from traditionally marginalized groups.
  • Be proactive and educate yourself on how to be a good ally. Don’t ask or expect the Black people around you to teach you how. That may put them in an uncomfortable position and adds to their workload!
  • Check back for more practical ways to affect positive change in your workplace in the next issue!

Check back for more practical ways to affect positive change in your workplace in the next issue!

Meet Kelly D. Powell. They sat down with us to tell us about some of their successes and challenges in Commercial Real Estate.

What/who has been your biggest keys to success in your career?

I’ve been very lucky to have individuals in my life, beginning in childhood, who encouraged my creative nature and provided sound advice as I grew into adulthood.  Whether it was questions about “which grad school should I apply to?”, advice about teaching my first architectural studio, or even if I should make a leap and take on a huge corporate position with a global retailer…I have been successful in aligning myself with smart but above all—GENUINE people who are motivated by their own drive to mentor and teach--despite their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and above all mine!

If you could give younger you a word of career advice, what would it be?

I would tell young Kelly D. Powell to not get discouraged and or feel depressed  because you don’t think you are preforming at the level of your academic peers or a job is not what you thought it would be…Architecture is a lifelong process of education whether you stay in the industry or not and know that as a result of that multi-faceted view you have on the world—YOU WILL ALWAYS BE THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE ROOM!

Kelly D. Powell is an architect whose career has been a unique exchange between practice, client representation and academia. Prior to starting her own consulting practice, 222 East Society, Kelly held key leadership positions within design firms such as Davis Brody Bond and Perkins + Will as well working directly on behalf of major global corporations including the Hudson’s Bay Company and CBRE/American Express. Projects have spanned across North America, the Middle East and Africa; ranging from global headquarters to the interior planning of educational, institutional, and civic buildings— winning numerous awards alongside the innovative teams. 

Academically, she has taught at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Architecture and The Georgia Institute of Technology within its Paris, France program. For her early academic research, she was awarded the highly prestigious Rome Prize in Architecture from the American Academy in Rome; being the first African American to win the architecture fellowship in the institution’s 125 year history. Prior to that, Kelly served as the Resident Design Fellow within the University of Detroit-Mercy’s Detroit Collaborative Design Center. 

Kelly is a member of NCARB and is licensed in the states of New York, New Jersey + Michigan and is a former President of the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects—nycoba|NOMA. Under her leadership, the J. Max Bond, Jr. Lecture was instituted and is now an annual event sponsored by the organization in partnership with the New York Center for Architecture/ NYC AIA. Recently she completed a 5-year term as the President of the Society of Fellows/American Academy in Rome while also serving on the Academy’s Board of Trustees. She is a graduate with honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology [MARCH] and is an Alumni Board member of the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor Taubman College [BSArch].

Currently, Kelly is the Executive Director of Portfolio Planning + Management within the City of New York's Department of CityWide Administrative Services Real Estate division covering a portfolio of over 27M square feet of City-Owned and Leased properties

Sarah D’Annibale, M Moser Associates