LeBron James' new House Three Thirty aims to boost Akron's families and economy
The LeBron James Family Foundation is creating a network of support for young people and families in Akron, and the new House Three Thirty center is the latest extension of the NBA star's promise to his hometown.
The center — with an open house tomorrow on Akron’s annual 330 day (the day the calendar coincides with the area code) — aims to provide job training to Akron families, along with creating an economic engine that will benefit the foundation and the city.
Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said the facility — inside the sprawling former Tangier restaurant and event center — has already created 45 jobs for parents of James' I Promise School students, their family members, teachers, volunteers and even I Promise students themselves.
They spent almost two months training in multiple disciplines, including how to operate a Starbucks branch, culinary skills and event hosting.
"In everything we do as a foundation, it's all about making our kids, parents, and people across the community believe there can be more in their lives than they ever dreamed possible," James said in a press release.
"We designed House Three Thirty to create opportunities and open doors to show them that anything is possible, and that they can do it right here in Akron," he said. "We believe House Three Thirty will be a staple for our city, and we can't wait for people to come and experience it."
Campbell said a few main attractions will be open to the public during the open house tomorrow — the Starbucks, a JPMorgan Chase "Community Space," which is a full-service bank paired with financial coaching, and a retail shop with branded apparel — in addition to a communal hang-out space.
By June, the hope is to open LeBron James’ Home Court — a museum taking fans through his life and career — along with the full-time opening of the retail shop and a sweets shop selling local ice cream and candy. Until then, just the Starbucks and Chase Community Space will be open.
The long-term plan, Campbell said, is to build further vitality into the city and within its families with a range of supports, from education to housing.
“We’re in our I Promise world; if you go two blocks that way,” she said, gesturing outside House Three Thirty, “it’s our I Promise School. We’ve bought the building across the street which will be our I Promise HealthQuarters. If you go two blocks this way, it’s our I Promise Village, our transitional housing. If you go a little bit further this way, it’s our I Promise housing.”
The “HealthQuarters” will offer primary care, labs and a variety of other health services, Campbell said, while the I Promise housing complex will provide 50 units of affordable housing to I Promise families.
Other amenities that will open over the next year or two in the former Tangier space, according to lead project designer Katherine Reedy, include:
A taco shop. A wine tasting room. A cabaret and theater, which will provide a space for I Promise School performances. A large “town hall” available for rent for weddings and other events and a sports bar bearing LeBron James’ name.
Along the way, Reedy and Campbell said, more employees will be brought on and trained to operate the various facilities.
New worker LaRissa Jackson, a mother of four, including a daughter at the I Promise School, said her coworkers and managers are very supportive and she's learned a lot recently.
“The experiences and the opportunities and the family and relationships we're developing, the healthy relationships, the positive vibes, it’s awesome,” Jackson said.
Fellow employee Sundae Davenport, a mother of a former I Promise student who now attends Kent State University, noted I Promise families get a lot of support outside of the school building. For example, they were the first to hear about the new jobs at House Three Thirty.
Davenport said the workers also receive additional benefits on top of the seven weeks of job training, including free haircuts and hair styling done out of a small salon in the employees' breakroom.
Reedy, with the LeBron James Family Foundation, led a tour of the building showing plenty of new amenities and artwork featuring James. They included a commercial kitchen that will serve as a learning space and a resource room for employees to get toiletries and other essentials to help them come to work ready. Many of the new stores and facilities are named after corporate sponsors, like Smucker’s, Old El Paso and PepsiCo.
Campbell said the facility, outside of providing job training and support for families’ financial wellbeing, is meant to generate further revenue for the foundation so that it can continue its work in Akron. That could mean “hundreds” of employees eventually staffing the building to generate further economic opportunity for residents.
“This is a dual facility,” she said. “There’s a philanthropic component and there’s a revenue component. So we do have to open and start booking events and doing all of that to help us fund that.”
The more revenue that comes in, the more support services the foundation can bring to Akron, she said.