James Johnson-Piett

Principal, CEO, Urbane Development

New York, NY

Accelerate Collaboration, Prioritize Equity  |  Community Economic Development, Food and Agriculture, Technical Assistance

James catalyzes wealth generation in under-served markets throughout North America through investment in neighborhood small businesses and community anchor institutions.

James is responsible for the overall management of operations and strategic vision for Urbane Development, a community development venture based in New York City. His work focuses on strengthening small businesses operating in under-served communities through market intelligence, technical assistance, and access to capital. Under his leadership, Urbane has worked with over 1000 small businesses, attracted or retained over 1.1 million square feet of commercial/community facility space, and helped raise over $50M in capital in over 25 communities throughout North America. Urbane also acts as a co-developer of commercial and mixed-use real estate in under-served markets in New York and Detroit.


  • Urbane designed the Green Grocer Project, a comprehensive grocery attraction and financing program managed by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation to stimulate fresh food retail development in the city of Detroit. James designed the program and trained DEGC staff; to date the program has helped deploy over $45M in direct investment since 2011.
  • Urbane is co-developer of Flatbush Caton Market, an existing 50 vendor indoor Caribbean flea market in Brooklyn that will be repositioned within a new 200K+ SF mixed-use facility. The new facility will include 20K SF of commercial space, 15K SF of community facility (business incubator and product fabrication labs), over 250 units of affordable housing, and a trade center focused on Caribbean business to business and import/export opportunities. James is leading the development team in structuring financing for the market redevelopment, creation of a 2-year pop-up market during construction, in 2017 and overall market management post-construction, slated for 2019-20.
  • Urbane partnered with Opportunity Finance Network + the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Finance Collaborative, where James provided group and 1-on-1 mentoring/coaching, business attraction strategies, and advisory services to the 24 mission-driven CDFIs and Credit Unions seeking to increase lending to minority, woman-led, and low-income-based businesses.
  • Urbane launched the Bodega Bootcamp™ workshop series and curriculum that offers retailers, communities, and funders across North America a crash course in developing a sustainable grocery business model focused on the “grocer as change-agent” model of store operations and marketing. James has led Bodega Bootcamps™ in over 10 communities including Detroit, Philadelphia, and Toronto.