CLEVELAND — An underserved area in Cleveland will have a boost of new life come fall of next year. A big development project, named for a notable figure in the black community - Madam C.J. Walker - is in the works for the Hough district.
"It’s on Hough and Crawford. It’ll be about a 16,000 square foot facility. We think we’ll do our small part by having a federal credit union be our anchor tenant, and then we’re also looking at a small grocer," says the developer behind the new retail project, Kareem Abdus-Salaam, of Maryland-based real estate and project management firm Structures Unlimited.
The Hough neighborhood is what’s considered a “food desert;" the closest grocery store with fresh produce is 5 miles away from the development area.
"We wanna have something where people can get fresh fruits and greens and vegetables," says Abdus-Salaam.
"If you live further up Hough or anything, you can come down here and get your groceries if you need it," says Hough resident Dale Martin, Jr.
Abdus-Salaam - who's from New York - says neighborhoods like Hough, which have been plagued by crime and poverty, aren’t typically on a developer's radar.
"Hough neighborhood reminds me a lot of the neighborhood I grew up in - Yonkers. Oftentimes, African-American communities, Hispanic communities, are always looked at as an afterthought," says Abdus-Salaam.
With a price tag of around $5 million, Abdus-Salaam says the Madam C.J. Walker Business Center will rejuvenate the neighborhood and be a catalyst for change.
"It'll be a way to get other people to look at Hough and to look at other communities like Hough and say there’s money in this community. The community deserves to have the same amenities that major communities have," says Abdus-Salaam.
Madam C.J. Walker made millions as a Black skin and hair care entrepreneur, selling products in Cleveland in the early 1900s. Walker was the first documented self-made female millionaire in America. Now, the New York native will forever live in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood through the Business Center.
"It will provide an opportunity of hope, because a lot of these neighborhoods, such as the Hough neighborhood, a lot of these people feel forgotten about," says Hough resident Karyn Alexis.
The development plan has already been approved by the city, and investors are on board.
In the next 60 days, developers will hire subcontractors, HVAC teams, fire safety coordinators and others.
The project is slated to be completed by fall of 2022.