Ariam Kesete is at the forefront of Milwaukee’s real estate development, known for her innovative approaches to community building and sustainable development. As the founder and CEO of AK Development, Kesete has led the charge in revitalizing neighborhoods through over 100 property rehabilitations and introducing a groundbreaking rent-to-own housing model. Her latest project, a net-zero energy mixed-use building in South Milwaukee, epitomizes her commitment to environmentally sustainable development.

Ariam Kesete’s story is one of continuous growth, driven by her commitment to innovation and community betterment. Her experiences and insights serve as a beacon for professionals in the real estate development sector and beyond, emphasizing the transformative power of perseverance and a forward-thinking mindset.

Ariam Kesete

Ariam is a member of the AMDP Class 24, and has taken several open enrollment programs to complete her elective requirement. She answered a few questions of ours in April 2024 after taking Building Decarbonization 101.

You took your first program with us in 2022, when you signed up for Affordable Housing. What was your motivation in signing up?

I’ve always believed in the power of homeownership to transform lives. My drive to enroll in the Affordable Housing program stemmed from a desire to confront and surmount the barriers to affordable housing access. This program aligned perfectly with my goals, offering insights and strategies to make affordable living a viable option through my projects.

Why did you choose to apply to the AMDP (Advanced Management Development Program)?

I was drawn to the AMDP because I saw it as a golden opportunity to refine my leadership skills and deepen my strategic thinking. The program’s comprehensive approach to addressing the complexities of the real estate sector promised to enhance my business acumen, paving the way for both personal and professional growth.

Can you share your experience with the AMDP, especially after completing two of the three on-campus terms?

The AMDP has been transformative. It has reshaped my leadership style and broadened my strategic horizon. The challenging curriculum and the exchange of ideas with peers have sharpened my decision-making and enabled me to approach my projects with a more nuanced perspective. This program has been crucial in preparing me to navigate the complexities of today’s real estate world.

What are your key takeaways from the Building Decarbonization 101 program?

Participating in the Building Decarbonization 101 program was eye-opening. It fundamentally changed my approach to development, placing a greater emphasis on sustainability. Learning about energy efficiency and renewable energy has not only aligned with my commitment to the environment but also inspired me to set new benchmarks for my future projects in terms of sustainability and carbon footprint reduction.

Reflecting on the interview conducted in 2017, what advice would you offer to your younger self?

Looking back, I would tell my younger self to brace for the highs and lows with resilience and adaptability. The path of real estate development is fraught with challenges, but each obstacle is a stepping stone to greater achievements. I would encourage my younger self to stay focused, persevere, and never lose sight of the impact our work has on communities.

Since the 2017 interview, what significant milestones, challenges, or achievements have you encountered?

The journey since my last interview has been a rollercoaster of milestones and challenges. Launching the rent-to-own model and initiating the net-zero energy project stand out as pivotal moments. These experiences have not only spurred my growth but have also reinforced my dedication to pushing the envelope in sustainable and community-focused development.

Looking ahead, what are your ongoing development journey and future aspirations?

As I look forward, my passion for sustainable and impactful real estate development burns brighter than ever. I’m particularly excited about projects that marry environmental sustainability with genuine community benefits. My journey is a constant learning process, and I’m eager to explore new horizons that challenge the conventional boundaries of development.