Chris Webber breaks ground on planned $175M cannabis facility in Detroit

Chris Webber is breaking into the cannabis business.

He's diving in head first. The newly enshrined Basketball Hall of Famer ceremonially broke ground on the Webber Wellness Compound in Detroit on Tuesday alongside entrepreneur and business partner Lavetta Willis.

The plan? A $50 million compound that will include a dispensary, training and cultivation facilities and a private lounge to consume the site's product, according to the Detroit Free Press. In total, the compound will encompass 180,000 square feet in southwest Detroit.

And that's just to start. The cultivation facility that will initially take up 60,000 square feet is slated for a $125 million, 80,000-square-foot expansion after the initial stage is completed. A timeline for the expansion hasn't been set, but construction on the first phase is scheduled to start shortly with the dispensary slated to open next May and the lounge and cultivation facility to follow within 18 months, according to the Detroit News.

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  TNT commentator Chris Webber arrives for a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on December 13, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Chris Webber envisions the project as providing business "access to the community that was so unfairly targeted by unfair laws, racist laws." (Bob Levey/Getty Images) (Bob Levey)

Why cannabis?

Webber, a Detroit native who starred at the University of Michigan before embarking on a 15-season NBA career, told Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill in March that he envisions the business as an opportunity for Black citizens to benefit from the booming cannabis industry. Recreational cannabis was legalized in Michigan in 2018.

"Name one business where Blacks haven't been left out," Webber said. ... "First and foremost, this is about business and access to individuals who are qualified and giving access to the community that was so unfairly targeted by unfair laws, racist laws.

"Hopefully, there's a freedom with that. I've seen through family, friends, my community — families devastated by the plant that can cause so much healing and restoration. Now that others try to take advantage of it, it's funny that I'm even questioned on why I would do it when it's so obvious that in America, this needs to be done."

Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch told the News on Tuesday that he sees the compound as a hub of a revitalization effort in a part of Detroit that's "been desperately needing investment." Automaker Ford, meanwhile, is building a 30-acre site described as an "innovation district" that will employ 5,000 people roughly a mile away from Webber's compound.

Webber told the Free Press that the compound's training facility will offer a three-month job-training program targeting citizens from underserved Detroit communities.

The project is part of the $100 million private equity cannabis impact fund Webber launched in February alongside Willis and JW Asset Management's Jason Wild.