About: People

Heidie Joo Burwell

Heidie Joo Burwell, Principal.

Heidie has worked at Alembic since 2002. She manages the consulting activities of the firm and assists in its strategic direction and operations. Highlights of her work have included community planning initiatives in New York City’s Chinatown and Washington Heights neighborhoods and organizational development support to numerous nonprofits in New York City and the Gulf Coast. Previously, Heidie was a Program Officer at the Corporation for Supportive Housing, where her responsibilities included advocacy, fundraising, project management, research and analysis and contract management. Heidie also served as a corps member for City Year, and she was a project analyst at Penn, Schoen and Berland, a strategic market research and polling firm. Heidie graduated from Brown University with a concentration in Comparative Literature and received a Master’s in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Karna Gerich Cestero

Karna Gerich Cestero, Senior Project Manager.

Karna began working at Alembic in 2010, after more than 20 years of housing and community development experience in a range of urban and rural communities. Karna works at Alembic half-time, devoting her other time to raising three small children and her own consulting practice. Her areas of expertise include: affordable housing development, grant writing and funding research, neighborhood analysis and planning, review and implementation of housing and government agency housing policies, community outreach and organizing and housing and community analysis and feasibility studies. Previously, Karna served as the Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Rochester, Inc., a NeighborWorks® organization. Karna has also served in management positions at the City of New York’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She has a Bachelor of Science in City Planning from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in Urban Planning from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Michael Grote

Michael Grote, Director of Building Programs,
New Orleans Office.

Mike joined Alembic in 2008, and in that time has led the design and construction of projects in both New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including a 32-unit development in Pass Christian, MS and an adaptive reuse of a 100-year old school house into a fresh food market. He also works with the Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi and Unabridged Architecture in Bay St Louis. Previously, Mike served as Program Manager with Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit design and construction service provider. In that capacity, he managed a partnership with the Hope Community Development Agency (HCDA) to implement the Biloxi Model Home Program, a $1.5 million program dedicated to rebuilding the homes of low-income residents of East Biloxi. He was a visiting architecture lecturer with Mississippi State University’s Biloxi Spring Semester in 2007 & design/build instructor in 2009. Mike holds a Master’s in Building Construction-Design/Build with a Minor in Community Planning from Auburn University and a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Houston. Mike is also an adjunct lecturer in Tulane University’s Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development program, and has taught core curriculum and elective courses including Case Studies in Sustainable Real Estate Development and Topics in Real Estate Finance.

Jonathan Leit

Jonathan Leit, Director, New Orleans Office.

Jonathan joined Alembic in 2006 and established its New Orleans Office in 2007. With a background in real estate development, urban planning and organizational development, he works in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast to finance and implement neighborhood revitalization projects and provide capacity building assistance to local organizations. Highlighted projects include the adaptive reuse of a former school building into a fresh food market with community and office space; affordable rental housing developments in New Orleans; two affordable homeownership developments in East Biloxi and Pass Christian, Mississippi; and the creation of business, strategic and fund development plans for several organizations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Previously, Jonathan worked with Partners for Democratic Change, providing technical assistance to local organizations in Eastern Europe and coordinating a range of conflict management projects. He holds a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Columbia University. Jonathan is also an adjunct lecturer in Tulane University’s Master of Sustainable Real Estate Development program, and has taught core curriculum and elective courses, including Case Studies in Sustainable Real Estate Development and Topics in Real Estate Finance.

Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy, Director, New York City Office.

Mike joined Alembic in 2010 and manages the company’s affordable housing projects in New York City from pre-development through construction. Previously, he worked in the international development sector at the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, D.C. and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan. While in graduate school, Mike was a Summer Development Associate with AvalonBay Communities and a Development Analyst Intern with Enterprise Community Investment. Mike graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in International Relations and Spanish. He received a Master’s of City and Regional Planning and a MBA from Rutgers University.

Mark Reed

Mark Reed, Principal.

Mark has served as a principal at Alembic since 2005. Mark is also currently the founder and manager of the Contact Fund, a private investment fund focused on high impact community development in New York City. Previously, Mark was a Vice President of Portfolio Management at the Bank of New York, where he concentrated on North American corporate credit risk management. At the Bank of New York, he co-managed a $500 million bond portfolio and a $300 million credit derivative portfolio. Since 1997, Mark has served on the Board of Directors of Simpson Investment Company, a fourth-generation, family-owned business based in Tacoma, Washington. Prior to moving to New York, Mark managed an after-school program for public housing residents in San Francisco’s Mission District and managed a youth community center. Mark currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance from the Stern School of Management at NYU.

Nathan Stern

Nathan Stern, Project Manager.

Nathan joined Alembic in 2010. He provides project management services for the firm’s affordable housing projects in New York City from predevelopment through the lease-up process. His projects include the D’Addario Residence, completed in early 2013. Nathan’s areas of experience in project management include project financing and financial analysis, as well as construction transaction closings. He has also provided portfolio management assistance on behalf of our nonprofit partners. Before arriving at Alembic, he worked as an assistant in the accounting department at Rockwell Group, a large international architectural firm. Nathan has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Vassar College.

Benjamin Warnke

Benjamin Warnke, Principal.

Benjamin founded Warnke Community Consulting, the community development firm that grew into Alembic Community Development, in 1998, after a career in nonprofit consulting and real estate finance. Previously, Benjamin was a Senior Director at the Corporation for Supportive Housing and at the Enterprise Foundation. He also established and directed the New York Office of the Low Income Investment Fund, a national community development nonprofit financial institution. Benjamin is a trustee of the Mary McDowell Friends School; a Board Member of the American Friends Service Committee, an international Quaker service organization; a board member of Proteus Gowanus, a nonprofit interdisciplinary gallery and reading room; and a member of the Haverford College Corporation. He formerly served as Chair of the Board of Brooklyn Friends School. Benjamin received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Yale University.