I was deep in thought at my favorite coffee shop, “Sip and Savor”, located in the heart of Chicago’s Bronzeville community on 43rd st. I heard a steady stream of people coming into the shop and making a bee line to the table of an unassuming well dressed man who seemed to be adored by most everyone who passed through. I looked over at him as I sipped my caramel apple cider, and continued on with my work. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to interview Philip Beckham III, in the midst of researching him I was finally able to put a name to a face and everything clicked. Of course Philip Beckham III would be the center of the universe in Chicago’s iconic Bronzeville community, he was not only an early supporter of Sip and Savor, (previously known as “The Sip”), he was embarking on changing the landscape of the community with his development company P3 Markets. His inaugural project is aptly named 43 Green and is a 91 unit 27 million dollar project located on the south side of 43rd and Calumet Ave just steps from the 43rd st CTA Green Line stop.
I asked Philip what prompted him to get into development, his answer went back generations, his grandfather Philip Beckham was among one of the first Black licensed contractors in Chicago in 1918. Equipped with a sixth grade education and a no holds bar attitude he formed PL Beckham and Sons, his grandfather’s company transformed the Morgan Park community by building more than 50 homes, and rehabbing countless properties in the Black Belt of the city. In 1966 with only 2 buses and a vision Philip Beckham II founded Beckham Transit, a school bus company that shuttled school children across the southside of the city. His company grew from a two van operation, to a major player in transit, with more than 100 buses and dozens of employees, Philip Beckham III sold the company in 2010 in a deal that would have made his late father proud.
In 2016 Philip founded MSBARC (Mid-South Business Association and Resource Center), a non-profit with an aim to build Black businesses to scale by walking them through the important steps needed to create, maintain and expand their operations. To date MSBARC has impacted over 200 businesses. Philip displays his commitment to his community by helping to create a strong business corridor in the Black Belt, similar to the one that existed in the 1900’s. In 2018 he received a call from Alderman Pat Dowell informing him that no one had responded to her RFP (Request For Proposal), for a swath of land that had been vacant for years. With no development experience, Philip saw an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. Philip envisioned a plan to anchor what he refers to as, “Downtown Bronzeville” with affordable, accessible, chic housing that combines Black culture with access to fine dining, hip boutiques and entertainment venues. After months of rejection from developers he found a partner who shared his vision. The Habitat Corporation and developer, Juan Saldana partnered with him to make his vision a reality. Months after cementing his partnership, Philip secured the 27 million dollars needed for the project, and will break ground in 2021, a world wind turnaround time in the development world.
I asked Philip about the fears that some in the Black community have raised about being priced out of the housing market, his response was that there are many apartments affordably priced in Bronzeville. The problem is that in the social media age, young people want to pivot from college to half a million dollar homes and that’s just not feasible. His advice, live in a smaller affordable space until upgrading to a larger space is sensible. By remaining focused and practicing fiscal restraint home ownership in the Black Belt will be within reach. Philip knows a thing or two about focus. He has fond memories of working for his fathers transit company from, cleaning and driving buses with his brother to sitting at the helm of the company. He believes that there are levels in life and one must appreciate them while climbing the ladder. He continues his legacy by having his twin daughters and son accompany him to meetings with developers and city officials. Continuing his family legacy of uncovering opportunities that have a lasting impact on this generation and the ones to come.