CLEVELAND — A new retail development in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood will bring new businesses and retail establishments to the area while also honoring Madam C.J. Walker, considered “the first Black woman millionaire in America” thanks to her homemade line of hair care products for Black women.
The development will be located on the south side of Hough Avenue at East 85th Street, according to the Cleveland Planning Commission.
Developer Kareem Abdus-Salaam of Structures Unlimited, based in Maryland, told News 5 that a portion of the space would be dedicated to Black entrepreneurs.
Salaam said the development models after Walker’s basic philosophy, that encouraged self-opportunity and self-help among African Americans by keeping money earned and money spent in their community.
“She [Walker] made sure that dollar turned over in the community four to five times before it left,” he said.
The space represents what can happen when like-minded people come together to create a business hub celebrating Black entrepreneurship.
"Not so much a nostalgic but a way to show folks we, too, can do this renaissance again to really turn that money in our community again in modern times because we have much more money. And in terms of GDP, we should be able to do that faster and quicker to revitalize our communities instead of waiting for handouts to come from the government," said Salaam.
A mural honoring Walker and her legacy, as well as other prominent Black Cleveland icons, would be featured on one of the buildings.
There will be a financial institution as the anchor in the development. An incubator space will also provide office space for budding entrepreneurs.
"Because if you look at the Hough district, there's not any — other than ATMs in the corner stores along Hough which charges horrendous fees, $2. 50 just to get your own money — no anchored banking institution within a mile and a half radius of that facility, which is criminal," Salaam said.
Salaam hopes a small footprint of thriving Black-owned businesses within a new banking and retail space featuring a healthy grocery store and community center will create an avalanche of change for the Hough community.
"We're not in it just to make money, we're in it to really show folks that we can revitalize our own community and we don't have to move out and wait till someone else develops it and then come back in paying higher prices to go back into our community," Salaam said.
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