Baking purpose into commercial real estate development

Strategic Advice

Investing in a transitional neighborhood


TriVersity Construction bakes its purpose and values into the healthcare and community projects it completes. But when it came time to expand with a new corporate headquarters, investing in a transitional neighborhood brought unique challenges—and opportunities.


  • Outgrown office and working space
  • Traditional financing criteria that can limit real estate investment options
  • Considering a specific property that needed a lot of improvements


  • Creative approach to building the commercial real estate financing package
  • Underwriting the project as owner-occupied instead of as an investor real estate project
  • Supporting community partnerships and business diversity, for long-term growth

TriVersity Construction


Cincinnati — founded in 2005


Commercial construction specializing in urban/community and corporate projects


Annual revenue
$104 millionDisclosure 1






Truist client since 2016

Find common ground with partners and involve the community.

Commercial real estate is evolving. Companies, banks, and communities are working closer on lasting solutions that are good for both businesses and people. A great example is TriVersity Construction, a community-focused commercial construction company in Cincinnati. When it came time for TriVersity to find a new headquarters, they made a commitment to move into one of the city’s transitional areas called Walnut Hills. Truist brought a shared purpose—and creative financing options. Here’s how the partnership unfolded.

Triversity CEO Mel Gravely on the partnership with Truist

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[Mel Gravely, CEO, TriVersity Construction]

Mel Gravely: We are thrilled that Truist is the banker for this facility. It's the largest investment we've ever made. Everyone around our table, on our side, wanted to do business with Truist, because it was evident from the start that they were going to be the right solution for us.

Again, I'm not talking about the terms of the deal. I'm talking about the creativity and the flexibility and the interest in what we were really trying to accomplish.

Work with partners that share your values and vision.

“We all have that same goal,” says Jim Watkins, president of TriVersity Construction. “What is going to make life better for folks that come to this particular facility, and (assist) how they support their families?”

Don’t overlook transitional neighborhoods.

“Walnut Hills is in the process of redevelopment,” says Mel Gravely, CEO of TriVersity Construction. “It’s a heavily residential area with great small retail popping up. We’ll be the largest employer in Walnut Hills when we move in. That gives us a chance to add to the vibrancy of those retail establishments.”

“I tell young bankers, ‘What you do matters.’ If you don’t think that, go to a company picnic, and look at all the families who are dependent on the decisions that the owners make—and that you make in conjunction with the owners.”

Andy Hawking

Truist Market President, Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

Andy Hawking, Truist Market President for Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, agrees wholeheartedlyDisclosure 2 “We want (Walnut Hills) to be a thriving, safe, prosperous place for the residents here, for the people who locate their businesses here, and for the small retailers that are popping up all over this community. We think we can be a catalyst for that.”

Be flexible and explore creative deal options.

When TriVersity invited Truist to bid on financing the project, Gravely was already committed to the Walnut Hills neighborhood and had a specific property in mind. Hawking and his Truist team quickly realized that a traditional commercial real estate financing structure might not work.

“Most other banks looked at this as an investor real estate project,” Hawking says. “So, they were applying vacancy rates, they were applying stress rates, they were looking at manager costs. They were looking at a lot of different factors that are specific to investor (focused) real estate.

“We looked at this as an owner-occupied project, and we were the only ones to do it. That gave us a lot more latitude on how we underwrote, and how we looked at the cash flow.”

That flexibility in exploring options helped Truist put together the winning package for TriVersity.

Keep track of the big picture by building long-term relationships.

Both entities see the project as a component of a long-term strategy to support diversity in businesses and invest in up-and-coming neighborhoods. For example, Truist contributed $3 million to the Minority Business Accelerator fund of Cincinnati.

Gravely says he’s thrilled that Truist won the business, and he values the partnership.

“It’s the largest investment we’ve ever made ... and Truist is our partner in it,” Gravely says. “I’m thrilled because Truist took a long-term view of our relationship, and this was the opportunity that brought us together.”

“Diversity of people in the creation of wealth is one of the secrets in changing our nation—and getting us back to the promise of America. Truist is right there with us, and so of course, that lines up with my personal values and the values of our organization.” 

Mel Gravely

CEO, TriVersity Construction

“I see the partnerships that continue to build,” Watkins says. “I see the personal touch, not just being an entity. As we try to partner with our customers—that’s part of our mantra—we see that same thing in Truist.”

How your business can get there

Mel’s advice: Find partners that share your values and support your vision. Then work backward from big-picture end goals to find creative ways around challenges along the way.

  The results:A spacious new headquarters with state-of-the-art meeting space and amenities; Sustained economic activity with 100 jobs brought to the Walnut Hills neighborhood; A long-term commitment for continued community-driven growth

Mel Gravely
CEO, TriVersity Construction

“When you grow minority companies of scale, you end up with diverse philanthropy. You end up with diverse wealth. You end up with a community that makes decisions in different ways.”

Andy Hawking
Truist Market President, Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky

“Our purpose is to inspire and build better lives and communities. You look at some of the TriVersity values and you see things like ‘committed to empower people,’ ‘committed to fairness, equity, and diversity.’ And those things resonate with Truist.”

Jim Watkins
President, TriVersity Construction

“I see the partnerships. I see the personal touch, not just being an entity, but a partnership. As we try to partner with our customers—that’s part of our mantra, that we want to be partners—we see that same thing in Truist.”