Aug. 30, 1962 — June 19, 2019
For Rhonda Adele Ricks, president and CEO of R+A+R Development, the success of her career in real estate development in Buffalo didn't show up on a balance sheet.
It was driven by passion and paid in joy.
"She mentored a lot of men and women who were interested in being developers," said her sister, D. Stephanie Ricks-Albert. "She told them that they needed to identify projects that they had a passion for, where they had seen a need and wanted to address that need."
In January, Dr. Ricks talked about the joy of her work with Buffalo News reporter Jonathan D. Epstein. "The joy comes in looking at the tenants and showing them a better product than they’ve been accustomed to, as far as what affordable housing should look like, and what the expectations should be, which makes them better tenants and helps with their self-esteem and that of the kids, too," she said.
Dr. Ricks died on June 19, 2019, in her Buffalo home after a short illness. She was 56.
She was born Aug. 30, 1962, in Buffalo, the second of four children of Mary and Clarence Ricks. As a 5-year-old, she accepted Christ at Second Temple Baptist Church.
Dr. Ricks attended School 74, West Hertel Middle and Lafayette High School, from which she graduated in 1980. She earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from Morgan State University in Baltimore, then enrolled in the University at Buffalo, where she earned a master’s degree in education administration and a Ph.D in higher education administration. Described as "a lifelong learner" by her family, Dr. Ricks graduated in 2012 from the University at Buffalo Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Dr. Ricks was the first female New York State Minority and Women Owned Enterprise certified housing developer in Western New York, and her firm was among the first developers to commit private-sector money to the city's East Side.
She worked in community outreach for LPCiminelli, then became compliance monitor on Buffalo’s $1 billion dollar school reconstruction project. Dr. Ricks also consulted on the construction of Westminster Commons senior housing at Adams and Monroe streets.
R+A+R Development's first signature project was the redevelopment of former Public School 59 at 769 Best St. into the 59-unit Parkview Apartments, which opened in July 2017.
Her company was a partner with Stuart Alexander & Associates in the $50 million project to transform the former Buffalo Forge Manufacturing Co. into the Forge on Broadway, which contains 158 apartments.
In 2017, Dr. Ricks predicted that the East Side would be the next focus of redevelopment.
“I believe there’s a lot more opportunity, and I believe there’s a lot more coming,” she told The News. "There’s no place else to go but on the East Side of Buffalo, because every place else has been developed or somebody owns it. So if you want to get something done, you’ve got to come to the East Side."
Dr. Ricks was known for her dedication to her family, especially her two sons, Domonique E. and Denzell M. Washington.
"At the top of her list of accomplishments in her life was the overwhelming joy of becoming a mother," her family said.
For her sons, she stressed the importance of "having an exemplary work ethic and quality education."
Her family recalled that when Dr. Ricks spoke to her sons about a health issue, her sons, who are living out of the area, responded, "We’re coming home!" Her family recalled that "she emphatically replied, 'Domo, do not leave your job, and Denzee, finish school!' "
Her family described Dr. Ricks as "a proud Buffalonian" who celebrated the city's rich culture and heritage.
Dr. Ricks received many awards, including being named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2017 Black Achievers gala and receiving a citation from the Afro-American Police Association of Buffalo. She was appointed to the Buffalo Preservation Board last year, was a trustee of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, a board member of the Library Foundation of Buffalo and Erie County and vice president of the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Coalition.
Besides her sister and sons, Dr. Ricks is survived by her mother, Mary E. Ricks-Stephens; another sister, Elett D. Ricks-Chambers; a brother, Clarence H. "Bud" Ricks; a grandson; eight nephews and two nieces; aunts and uncles; great-nieces and great-nephews; and cousins.