Retail development in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood is said to be named after famous black entrepreneur Madam CJ Walker

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – The developer behind a new retail project in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood aims to bring more life to a long-suffering area and nods to a former black hero from the United States.

The 16,000 square foot building will stand on an acre lot on Hough Avenue and Crawford Road. A quarter of the area will go to a credit union to be named, while the rest will be used for small businesses.

Kareem Abdus-Salaam of Maryland-based real estate and construction firm Structures Unlimited, who develops the website, also said he wants to use some space as an incubator for startups.

Abdus-Salaam said he wanted the development to be “the busiest little place in Hough”. He said he’s still working to pin down tenants for the space, which can house up to eight companies in addition to the credit union.

The development will be called “Madam CJ Walker Business District”, named after the prominent black entrepreneur who made millions selling hair products to women in the early 20th century. While Walker lived in Westchester County, just outside of New York City, her company’s agents sold products in Cleveland.

Abdus-Salaam, also from Westchester County, said at a meeting of the town planning committee Friday that he was inspired by Walker for playing a huge role in providing economic development opportunities for needy areas after rebuilding ends.

In an interview, he said he was waiting to speak to an engineer about what would happen in the next few weeks before embarking on a construction schedule. Still, construction of a $ 80 million project should be completed by the fall of 2022 in an area of ​​Cleveland that has developed over the past few years but is still struggling from a decades-old reputation tarnished by crime and poverty to emerge.

The planning commission approved the project on Friday. Commissioner Lillian Kuri praised the plans, saying: “It has been a while since I was so pleasantly surprised by commercial projects like this.”

The brick building with fiber cement cladding receives a gable roof. Architect Ibrahim Hakki said it was designed to blend in with nearby homes and “bring a sense of living to a district that is also a major thoroughfare”.

Kuri said the project “is somehow bringing back a better vision of what retail can be in the neighborhood, in a way with structure and focus on pedestrians, but also with a way for people to get by car. It’s just wonderful. “

The building will also feature a mural in honor of Walker. Commission chairman David Bowen also said that “you actually create” [Walker’s] Legacy in a beautiful way, and I appreciate it. “

Abdus-Salaam, who has developed projects across the country, said he focused on Hough when looking at the zones of opportunity, which are part of a federal program designed to boost private investment while giving investors the option of paying capital gains taxes delay or avoid. The property he is buying from Cleveland Land Bank is actually just outside the portions of Hough within the opportunity zone, but Abdus-Salaam said he has no intention of asking for his land to be included.

He said at the meeting on Friday that the goal of the project is “to provide opportunities and feel for the community for budding entrepreneurs so that they have a great opportunity to do this with their families do what needs to be done. ”



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