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Beckham Unplugged

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Photography by Gabriel Montgomery

Phillip Beckham III is a man about town cutting deals at City Hall and on the city’s low end, putting in the work to be the change he wants to see. A staple amongst the business community, you’ve seen him around, but do you really know who he is?  I sat down with the Real Estate Investor, Hotel Owner, and Entrepreneur to talk about his vision for redeveloping the city’s south side.

The Blueprint

Beckham lived for a short time off 47th and Wabash and later moved to Harvey, Illinois as a youth. After graduating from Thornridge High School, Beckham enrolled at Iowa State University where he jokingly says he majored in “football and networking.  I caught up with Phillip at his favorite coffee shop, Sip & Savor, or “ground zero” as he calls it.  The pieces are all coming together for Phillip Beckham III, although it’s not surprising, he was destined for greatness. Phillip talks candidly about his family’s entrepreneurial spirit, paying homage to both sides and doting on his rich family history.  He was born into entrepreneurship, coming from a family of historical Black businessmen.  He often shares pictures of the Beckham family showing how proud he is of his family’s living legacy.  

Phillip grew up watching Black men achieve great things while uplifting each other and the community, he saw Black men building a life of freedom.

You can tell he has a deep admiration for his family’s ambition to build generational wealth and he is proud to wear the Beckham name. “Phillip Beckham III is very important to me because I’m the third generation Beckham that has never worked for anyone.” In fact, he says “The only checks I’ve ever gotten are from Beckham, they have Beckham on it, they were signed by Beckham and my name was on it.”  Phillip feels fortunate to have a blueprint to follow and an opportunity to continue the Beckham legacy in the exact same neighborhood as his grandfather.

His maternal grandfather was a farmer and owned 200 acres of land in Mississippi supplying white-owned grocery stores with livestock and more, which was very rare. His paternal grandfather, Phillip Beckham was one of the first licensed Black contractors and master carpenters in the city of Chicago during the great migration.  P.L. Beckham & Sons Construction built 50 homes in the Morgan Park area and homes in Bronzeville.  

In the 1940’s his grandfather and other Black business owners from Bronzeville created the Negro Chamber of Commerce and held its first business expo. In the mid-1960s his father, Phillip Beckham II, started a transportation company with a fleet of school buses.

Can’t Knock the Hustle

Phillip Beckham III stands on shoulders of great men. He is walking into his destiny like a boss, and reshaping the world of Black Chicagoans. Taking a page out of his grandfather’s book and bringing it full circle, Phil gathered a group of professionals for coffee at “ground zero” to have a meeting of the minds to help him figure out how to assist budding businesses. After putting his resources together in one room, something magical happened at ground zero and the Mid-South Business Association & Resource Center (MSBARC) was formed. You may have heard of MSBARC, a nonprofit organization that offers business development and top-notch coaching in professional development, finance, web design, and retail specialists for entrepreneurs. He gets a kick out of mentoring business owners and watching their vision come to life from the beginning, “we’re a hand-holding company,” says Phillip, Founder, and Executive Director of MSBARC.  

Phillip is fully grounded in his roots as he carries on the Beckham legacy but his grandfather isn’t the only person who inspired the idea behind MSBARC, he also speaks highly of Chicago 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell. Her leadership at a nonprofit organization she led prior to becoming Alderman impressed him so much he named part of his organization after hers. There’s no way around it, Phillip Beckham is a good guy who always finds a way to pay it forward while still paying homage.

No reasonable doubt

His parents would say “whatever business it is, it’s still people,” so he is intentional about fostering new relationships and nurturing old ones.

When opportunity knocks, Phil always answers.  A master craftsman aware of his strengths and weaknesses, he jokes “I can't build stuff, I can tear stuff up… but I always understood the deals and I always understood the people,” something he says he learned from his mother. He fondly recalls his mother’s ability to draw people in, “I watched her work rooms, I watched her and how she connected with people and for me that’s all business is, a connection and finding out what the other person needs, fulfilling that and not doing it to get something in return, but to make sure that they have a trust and they think of me even when I’m not in the room for other deals.”  If you’ve been around Phil it’s easy to see he’s a people magnet and the people he attracts are some of the city’s heavy hitters.

Phillip makes the work of a real estate developer look easy but when you live out of your integrity the right opportunities will find you. If the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” was a person, that person would be Phillip Beckham. While he may not be good at building with his hands but he’s an expert at building relationships. “Everything I’ve always done has been based on relationships.” I guess the proof is in the pudding, Phil has only been in the real estate development game four short years and already landed a sweet multi-million dollar deal. For the first time banks were competing to give him money to bring his vision to life, picture that.

He’s not only building in Chicago, Beckham signed a deal to build a boutique hotel in Miami. Phil is taking relationship building to another level and says the key is to never say no. He admits he may not know how to do everything but “I don’t say no I figure it out, I just get on the ledge, I jump and I build my wings as I go down and I enjoy it.”

Empire state of mind

Good things happen to good people and the good times are rolling for Phillip Beckham III.  Life has come full circle for Beckham as he is developing in the very community of his early years. He has positioned himself to reimagine one of the most historic areas in the city right along the Green Line train station at 43rd Street.  His latest venture, 43 Green, is a game-changer for the Bronzeville community.  This joint venture between The Habitat Company of Chicago and P3 Markets, a boutique real estate developer where Phillip is the Managing Partner, is exactly what the community needs. The multi-million dollar, multi-phase 43 Green project is a high-quality, transit-oriented development that offers a mix of affordable housing and market rates with ground-floor retail space that will house some of your favorite local businesses. Celebrities, visitors, and friends alike are stopping by to take pictures and posting them to social media using the hashtag #43Green. Chicago native, actor Larenze Tate, recently stopped by the site to take a tour of the new affordable property, posting a video of himself in a hard hat overlooking Chicago on 43rd Street. The city is proud of the new innovation on the south side.

The ten-story, 100-unit residential building located on Chicago’s low end at 43rd Calumet has Studio, 1 and 2-bedroom units plus indoor and outdoor amenities and is being marketed to young, early career professionals. Phillip wants to create an atmosphere where community members won’t need to move from the south side neighborhoods they are connected to for better housing; he’s bringing better housing to the south side with a downtown vibe and affordable prices. A groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 1 took place last July and the building is on schedule to open for occupancy this May. From the looks of it, 43 Green is what the community has been missing, they already have a waitlist of 500 potential residents.

Groundbreaking for Phase II of the 43 Green Development is set to take place later this month.

When he’s not closing deals or mentoring the youth he’s hanging with his tribe of close friends and his amazing children, a son and twin daughters, who are by far his greatest accomplishment. He brags about how excited he is to be in the “cool dad” realm where his kids are now asking to hang out with him.

Phillip is a simple man with grandiose ideas and the means to make those ideas turn into new realities. A creature of habit forging his own way while sticking close to his roots because it gives him a sense of familiarity, which is what his entire life’s journey has been based on. He is a visionary with a passion for helping others and a heart for change. Whether he’s assisting startups or going over floor plans, Phillip Beckham III is a visionary. Becham is part of building better Black communities, opening doors on the south side of Chicago and fulfilling a vision that has been years in the making.


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