WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Eric Heisig reports, “The development will be called the “Madam C.J. Walker Business District,” named for the prominent Black entrepreneur who made millions selling hair products to women in the early 20th Century. While Walker lived in Westchester County, outside New York City, agents for her company sold products in Cleveland.”
The developer behind a new retail project in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood aims to inject more life into a long-distressed area while nodding to a past Black hero of the United States.
The 16,000 square-foot building will sit on a one-acre piece of land at Hough Avenue and Crawford Road. Of that, a quarter of the space will go to a yet-to-be-named credit union, while the rest will be for small shops.
Kareem Abdus-Salaam of the Maryland-based real estate and project management firm Structures Unlimited, which is developing the site, also said he wants to have some space be used as an incubator for startups.
Abdus-Salaam said he wants the development to be “the busiest small place in Hough.” He said he is still working to finalize what tenants will make up the space, which can hold up to eight businesses in addition to the credit union.
The development will be called the “Madam C.J. Walker Business District,” named for the prominent Black entrepreneur who made millions selling hair products to women in the early 20th Century. While Walker lived in Westchester County, outside New York City, agents for her company sold products in Cleveland.
Abdus-Salaam is also from Westchester County, and said at a City Planning Commission meeting on Friday that he was inspired by Walker because she played a large role in providing economic development opportunities to distressed areas after Reconstruction ended.
He said in an interview he was waiting to speak with an engineer, which will happen in the next couple of weeks, before committing to a construction timeline. Still, construction on what Abdus-Salaam said was a $4 million development should finish by fall 2022, in an area of Cleveland that has seen new projects in recent years but still struggles to emerge from a decades-old reputation marred by crime and poverty.
The Planning Commission on Friday gave its OK to the project. Commissioner Lillian Kuri praised the plans, saying “it’s been a while since I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by commercial projects like this.”
The brick building with fiber cement siding will have a pitched roof.
Architect Ibrahim Hakki said it was designed to fit in with the nearby homes and “to bring in a residential feel into a district that also is a major thoroughfare.”
Kuri said the project “kind of brings back kind of a better vision for what neighborhood retail can be, in a way with texture and focus on the pedestrian, but also has a way for people to come by car. It is just really wonderful.”
The building will also feature a mural honoring Walker. Commission Chairman David Bowen also said that “you’re actually bringing forth (Walker’s) legacy in a beautiful way and I appreciate it.”
Abdus-Salaam, who has developed projects across the country, said he centered on Hough when looking at opportunity zones, which are part of a federal program designed to spur private investments while giving investors the opportunity to delay or avoid paying capital gains taxes. The site he is buying from the Cleveland Land Bank actually sits right outside the parts of Hough inside the opportunity zone, but Abdus-Salaam said he does not plan to ask to have his land included.
He said at Friday’s meeting that the aim of the project is to give opportunities to “budding entrepreneurs who live in the community, and develop a sense of place so that they can have the great opportunity to do what needs to be done for their families.”
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.