Sledgehammers that swung in the rain Tuesday for a demolition were also part of a celebration for the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce.
The group paid off the mortgage and now owns the former headquarters building on Martin Luther King Boulevard. It has the power to create a new future for the property instead.
“In 2019 when I arrived at the chamber we owed hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mortgage that we had been paying almost 40 years,” Chamber President Harrison Blair said.
The group abandoned the decaying headquarters building at 2838 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard 7 years ago and temporarily moved to the MLK Community Center next door.
The size of the crowd of supporters who gathered indoors at the MLK Center to mark the occasion Tuesday helped demonstrate Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce growth. The group now has about 800 members, eight times as many as there were a few years ago.
“Of course, during COVID season, as well. So, raising funds and doing those things was a bit of a challenge. Last year we were able to get those final components met and acquire the land and the title free and clear,” Chamber Board Chairman Randall Bryant said.
Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold said the chamber leaders could have just walked away from the decaying building, but they made a pledge to improve the community.
“The individual guys that are here just encourage me every day with their commitment to the commerce and the revolution,” Arnold said.
More support will be needed for the next steps.
First is the replacement of the old building with something to boost the neighborhood and Black businesses in even better ways.
“We want nearby community members, business owners, elected officials and faith leaders to come and dream with us, to strategically develop 2838 MLK in ways that could possibly impact the communities that we serve and specifically this community,” Blair said.
Bryant hinted that a major outside investment will be involved to help promote individual and business financial skills.
“We’re going to create a partnership with some large partners, which we’ll release soon. They’re coming to the southern sector of Dallas, to South Dallas, right here on MLK,” Bryant said.
Next is new development up the street on land the chamber also owns at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard.
“Our goal is to build our final headquarters there and be our new home eventually,” Bryant said.
Both of the chamber’s sites on MLK Boulevard are in between the old Forest Theater renovation site to the west at MLK Boulevard and S.M. Wright Freeway and the upgrades coming to the east at Dallas Fair Park after a November voter referendum.
“We want to seize this opportunity to make our MLK the nicest MLK in the nation,” Blair said.
Former Texas State Rep. Helen Giddings, also a former Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce leader, said Tuesday’s event was to preserve the legacy of past efforts and build for the future.
“So, I’m looking forward to all of the innovative creative things this chamber is going to do,” Giddings said.
Formed in 1926, the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce is the nation’s oldest operating African American Chamber of Commerce business group.
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