Photo Credit: Lila Aryan
Brandon Rule has developed roughly $50M in affordable housing projects through his company Rule Enterprises and has an additional $180M currently in his development pipeline. On Friday Madison 365 reported that the City of Madison, WI has recommended that Rule be awarded the contract to develop a 30,000-square-foot grocery store, 150-unit apartment building and 345-space parking garage on a city owned lot. In the words of Muhammad Ali, “Rumble young man, rumble!”
You don’t find a lot of Black people in commercial real estate and if you meet a Black real estate developer, consider yourself fortunate. Even in 2019, the few Black developers who do exist are generally overlooked when governments seek firms for big projects — development projects which Black taxpayers partially fund. Given the historical context, what Rule is endeavoring to do is a big deal. Rule successfully developed several affordable housing and mixed-use projects in Milwaukee, prior to bidding on this project — he beat out several other development firms who also submitted bids. The setting of Wisconsin and Madison, specifically, has particular significance.
Wisconsin is unique in Black history. The state refused to honor the Fugitive Slave Act, which required northern states to return runaway slaves to their masters. Still, there is a disconnect between that history and the present reality. In Dane County, where Madison sits, roughly 6 percent of the population is Black and yet the incarcerated population is around 50 percent Black. In 2018 there was great celebration over the state’s rebound from the economic crisis and yet, Wisconsin’s Black unemployment rate was still higher than that of whites, at the height of the crash in 2009. There is certainly something amiss in Wisconsin and yet there is hope, all at once.
The victory isn’t quite yet complete, for Brandon. The City of Madison’s recommendation comes with one contingency, that Rule secure a commitment from a grocery store by January 16. Still, what Brandon is doing is amazing and indeed inspiring. Brandon is a young man doing big things, in a city where his presence is sorely needed.