After hitting a $52 million jackpot in 2010, a South Florida businessman used his winnings to start his very own real estate company. Now he’s looking to invest that money back into a downtown Ft. Lauderdale community once known for its thriving Black business district.
Entrepreneur Miguel Pilgram of The Pilgram Group says he is committed to reviving and preserving Sistrunk Boulevard, the “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest Black community,” that runs through the city’s business district, Black Enterprise reported. The street was named after African-American physician James Sistrunk who helped establish Broward County’s first Black hospital in 1938.
The booming boulevard fell into ruin after desegregation, however, as it was plagued by gun violence, drugs and abandoned buildings. In an effort to give the community a much-needed face lift, Pligram has already bought three buildings and has plans to build a jazz lounge, restaurants, retail space and a performing arts center, according to the news site.
“It’s a commitment that I feel I have to go to that community and put my money where my mouth is,” he told NBC Miami. “For me, it’s preserving the community as a whole.”
Pilgram said he’s seen what happens when such historic communities are neglected, adding that he chose Sistrunk because the area reminded him of his hometown of Memphis, Tenn. More importantly, however, struggling communities like it are often the target for big-name developers who strip the areas of their history, culture and longtime residents. Activist and lawyer Edduard Prince said it’s an experience locals have dealt with before.
“The Black residents of the community know that they’re in a prime location,” Prince said. They know that they have been fighting for years, and developers are drooling over the property.”
Pilgram is working to keep that from happening, however. According to NBC Miami, he plans to break ground on one of his projects within the next few months and hopes to have it finished by this time next year.