As a 30 year old real estate developer and dealmaker, I often find myself navigating spaces where I am the only person that looks like me. It may seem like a small issue, but the hardest part of achievement is simply knowing what’s possible. In an industry that has been plagued by racist practices and policies, clear representations of success are fuel to my fire.
Everyone has valuable experiences. I am grateful for each of my mentors. At the same time, I also recognize that having brown skin is a unique experience. As a first-generation Haitian American I admit that I resonate with stories of people of color who have progressed as leaders in their field.
I recognize the importance of proactively seeking out those who have gone before me as the deals get larger and more ambitious. Consider this a list of the few, established players of color as well as emerging young leaders that inspire me. I consider these men real Black Titans™ in commercial real estate.
Black Real Estate Developers You Should Know
Victor B. MacFarlane. Since its founding in 1987, MacFarlane Partners was one of the first and now one of the largest, African American-owned real estate investment management firms in the United States. During his career, he has witnessed 5 recessions and monumental historical events. Mr. MacFarlane and his firm have invested $13 billion in urban properties. Today the firm controls eight million square feet of commercial space and 15,000 multifamily housing units. We should turn to him to help navigate the effects the pandemic on real estate investing.
Keith B Key. KBK Enterprises proves that passion and profit can coexist. He has a unique angle in that his experience comes from banking and bank consulting. Since 2004, Mr. Key has developed multi-family housing, commercial and mixed-used properties designed to leave a lasting positive improvement on the community. His model works. The firm has a track record of developing partnerships with other minority-owned firms and a reputation of urban revitalization. To date, the firm has closed over $1 billion in real estate transactions in Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA and New Orleans, LA.
Buwa Binitie. Upon graduating college, Mr. Binitie found himself unable to secure affordable housing. The risk of being without a home would be debilitating to some, but he used it as fuel to become what he represents today. As Managing Principal of Dantes Partners, Mr. Binitie directs the acquisition, development, management and financial activities of the firm. He began by redeveloping one- and two-unit homes, a long way from the hundreds of affordable housing units he has created today. The Nigerian-born affordable housing developer has helped his firm to close over $750 million in real estate transactions that equate to over 2100 units of workforce and affordable housing.
“Since founding Dantes Partners, Mr. Binitie and his team have closed over $750 million of unconventional real estate transactions that utilize low-income tax credits, new market tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and a various other forms of alternative financing. These efforts have led to the creation of over 2100 units of workforce and affordable housing.”https://dchfa.org/
Chris Senegal. Mr Senegal is the founder of Invictus Properties. Since 2008, his redevelopment projects bring new residents while ensuring existing residents are not displaced in the process. He is careful to not advance gentrification in his target neighborhoods. The real estate social media influencer uses crowdfunding to redevelop and build almost 300 units in the greater Houston area. Chris notably began his impact investing career by providing parolee housing for non-violent offenders.
Brandon Rule. Mr Rule is the 32 year old owner of Milwaukee-based Rule Enterprises. He has developed 149 units of quality affordable housing in neighborhoods currently facing gentrification. For example, Rule raised over $350,000 dollars of personal loans and grants for his project Seven04. At the time of this writing, the Rule Enterprises portfolio is valued at $112M of multifamily, grocery, mixed-use residential and retail holdings in Milwaukee and Washington DC with another $100M + in his development pipeline. Rule is now launching RE-INVEST, a mission based real estate crowdfunding platform.
Ryan Williams. Mr. Williams was recently honored as one of Forbes 30 under 30 for his work revolutionizing how tech and real estate can interact. He graduated from Harvard then moved to Goldman Sachs and Blackstone before leaving to found Cadre in 2014. His firm works to give every investor access to commercial real estate with a mix of private equity and technology. Cadre now boasts over 100 employees and has been rated a great place to work. They currently have an 800 million valuation and continue to take on new ventures.
David Alade. David Alade is a founding member of Century Partners in Detroit. After 8 years in investment banking, he put theory into practice with his 2015 move to the motor city. The firm focuses on sustainably oriented development of 1-3 family properties in the city’s historic district. His intention is never to displace residents, and he ensures this happens by working with local non-profits as well as consulting existing communities. He is a great example of how we can properly support Detroit.
“Alade’s firm was recently selected by the city of Detroit to rehabilitate 115 homes as part of the $4 million redevelopment of the Fitzgerald neighborhood.”https://www.crainsdetroit.com/awards/david-alade