By Ryan Velez
In theory, being a lottery winner seems to open up just about any path you want in life, especially if you were struggling before winning. However, in the news, you only tend to hear about the negative stories, like people who mismanage themselves into poverty or are taken advantage of by people they should trust. Black Enterprise reports the story of one lottery winner who is not only trying to avoid this cycle, but is using his winnings to try and uplift an entire Florida town.
Miguel Pilgram has already seen positive success from his windfall. After winning a $52 million jackpot in 2010, he used his money to launch the Pilgram Group, investing in properties across South Florida. A successful businessman now, Pilgram is setting his eyes on Sistrunk Boulevard. A former thriving main street for the Black community in Fort Lauderdale, the area has now fallen from grace, but Pilgram is looking to change that.
Running through the Black business district, Sistrunk Boulevard has been called, “historical heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest black community.” Even the name reflects this history, named after James Sistrunk, a Black physician who helped establish the first African American hospital in Broward County in 1938. Following desegregation, the area fell into decline, known more for gun violence and abandoned buildings for anything else.
To try and turn things around, Pilgram purchased three buildings and plans to build a jazz lounge, blues lounge, restaurants, and a center for performing arts.
“For me, it’s [about] preserving the community as a whole,” Pilgram told an NBC local affiliate station in South Florida, adding that Sistrunk was once a hub of “success for businessmen.” Some are a bit wary of the attempt to build up Sistrunk once again, as foreign developers have been eying the area for a while. The concern stems from the fact that it’s all too easy for outside interest to turn into gentrification, stripping the area of its identity while pushing out native residents.
“The black residents of the community know that they’re in [a] prime location, they know that they’ve been fighting for years, and developers are drooling over the property,” Prince told the station.
Pilgram’s plan for development, however, is to preserve the area for local residents. “I was raised in a similar environment,” he told The Sun-Sentinel. “There is a need, and in my mind, an obligation, to invest there.”