Christopher Webley wanted to forge a new path in real estate development, one that would allow greater participation among people of color. In 2015, he founded NEW RULES Benefit Corporation, a communal real estate marketplace in Minneapolis.
"The real estate space is extractive, and I believe participation has to be intentional," Webley said. "We talk about gentrification as something recent, but it's been happening for hundreds of years. I didn't see anybody leading the charge to maintain and occupy space in Black and brown communities, and I wanted to model a different set of behaviors in the real estate place."
Part shared work and living space, part artist collective and event space – NEWRULESÒ grew into an innovative mixed-use property where the community could gather. It will celebrate its fourth anniversary Oct. 15.
Blazing a trail in the real estate world has meant that Webley is often the only Black developer in the room at meetings, not to mention the youngest. Securing financing and gaining permits and liquor licenses also were costly endeavors in terms of time and money.
When protests began to take place across Minneapolis, Webley initially wasn't worried about his Northside business. It was known as a local gathering place, one where he worked to create a vibe of "intentional openness" with music blaring and wide, open garage doors inviting people in. He had provided food, clothing and temporary shelter for protestors, and despite the pleas from a local council member, he was resistant to boarding up his business.
Then the bricks came through the windows and doors. Local residents began patrolling to keep looters out. A second building under construction suffered water and smoke damage.
Webley plans to use the BeyGOOD grant money to sustain day-to-day operations, make repairs and pay for continued construction. He hasn't generated income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and potential visitors have been hesitant to return to indoor event spaces and shared workspaces since his reopening.
"I have a great appreciation for Black leaders stepping up to help Black businesses as Beyonce did," Webley said. "This first group of businesses selected could be part of a landmark consortium working with intention to generate more funding for Black businesses."