Investing in Detroit
Ex-NBA star aids neglected neighborhood
November 5, 2007
BY ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Local sports legend Derrick Coleman has traded in his basketball jersey for a white-collar shirt and is setting about breathing new life into his childhood neighborhood, which bears one of Detroit's deepest scars.
The retired NBA star is now a developer and entrepreneur, his latest project being the opening of a Snyx Sneaker Studio in a new 1,400-square-foot retail plaza on Linwood near Clairmount.
Coleman, who still has a home nearby, hopes to open several other business ventures in the west-side neighborhood, including a catering hall, farmers market, car wash, laundry and restaurant. He has purchased several parcels of land and says he plans to spend up to $6 million to accomplish his vision of transforming the fortunes of his old neighborhood, which was the starting point of Detroit's 1967 riot.
"People I talk to tell me there has been no new" commercial "development in that community for 40 years," he said. "I've been working hard on this project and everybody is excited about it. We can have commerce in our neighborhoods and our community."
The Snyx store is the third in a fledgling chain of sneaker stores Coleman is involved in with partners in Chicago. The shop sells Nike apparel priced from $75 to $280, including the signature shoes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Rasheed Wallace.
"This is a real opportunity to create jobs and give people hope," Coleman told the Free Press on Friday. "The vision is to get rid of these vacant lots and start businesses and help people."
The store, which opened Tuesday, is part of a $1-million strip mall project that will house Snyx, as well as the Barber Lounge, a Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs restaurant and a bill payment center.
Financing for the project came from Comerica Bank, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and Coleman. In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided a $300,000 grant.
Along with the commercial strip mall project, Coleman is involved with former Detroit Pistons great and businessman Dave Bing and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and Detroit native Jerome Bettis in the development of the city's waterfront.
Coleman also has started the Derrick Coleman Foundation (www.derrickcolemanfoundation.com), a nonprofit focusing on providing education, health and recreational programs for young people in the city.
"This is Derrick's community, and he's always made a commitment to the community," said Jeanne Wardford, president of the Derrick Coleman Foundation.
That's why Coleman sees the project on the corner of Linwood and Clairmount as a stepping-stone to the rebuilding of the community that helped launch him on a professional basketball career.
Coleman, 40, was born the summer of the riot.
The '67 riot began that July 23 when police vice squad officers raided an after-hours nightclub on the corner of 12th Street and Clairmount, near the site of Coleman's strip mall.
A melee that followed the raid resulted in five days of rioting, the torching of more than 2,000 buildings, the arrest of more than 7,000 people and 43 deaths. President Lyndon B. Johnson dispatched National Guard troops to the city.
"My vision is to keep creating opportunities and services in that community," said Coleman, who was a basketball star at Northern High School in Detroit and later at Syracuse University. He played mostly for New Jersey and Philadelphia in the NBA, and was on the Pistons squad in 2004-05. "It's going to be a viable community and come back to life like before the 1967 disturbances."
Contact ALEJANDRO BODIPO-MEMBA at 313-222-5008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.