Chris Webber, partner announce $50M cannabis facility in SW Detroit

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — NBA Hall-of-Famer Chris Webber and his business partner announced plans Tuesday to construct a $50 million cannabis operation in Southwest Detroit, the first phase of what will eventually be a $175 million production, dispensing and training facility in Southwest Detroit.

Housed in a former industrial building at 2599 22nd Street, the business named Players Only will provide training and jobs for hundreds of Detroiters, the former University of Michigan basketball star said. Cannabis company Cookies, with stores in Michigan, will provide a training program called Cookies U.

Chris Webber, right, is joined by his WebberWildWillis Foundation partners, Lavetta Willis, left, and Jason Wild for the ceremonial groundbreaking for Players Only Facility in Southwest Detroit on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Willis is co-owner with Webber in the development.

“We’ll train thousands of individuals for the cannabis industry…” Webber said during a ceremonial groundbreaking of the $50 million initial phase of the development. “By Cookies being one of the best brands in the country … we can have job placement for you.”

The 180,000-square-foot Players Only Facility will feature a 60,000-square-foot cultivation area, an 8,000-square-foot dispensary and a private cannabis consumption lounge. Construction is set to begin this fall.

The dispensary is expected to be complete by March 2022, Webber said, adding that the cannabis lounge will open in eight months and the cultivation part of the project in 18 months.

Webber said there is no timeframe for the second phase.

The development sits along Michigan Avenue less than a mile away from where Ford Motor Co. is renovating the Michigan Central Depot in Corktown into the centerpiece of an innovation hub that will eventually be home to some 5,000 employees.

“This is an area that has been desperately needing investment and for folks to come and recognize the history and the attribute of this community,” said Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch, who presented a proclamation to Webber from the commission. “Chris has always been Detroit. He has always pushed Detroit wherever he was.”

Lavetta Willis, Webber’s business partner for the Players Only development, said that training will cover the gamut of the cannabis industry, from seed to sale. The program will also offer a virtual GED program and financial literacy. 

Rendering of the $175 million cannabis operation and training facility in Southwest Detroit.

“We’re trying to get people from the community,” she said. “We don’t need to go outside of the community. Right here in Detroit is where we’re going to select people for the training.”

Willis said the focus will be to include those who have been excluded from the industry, particularly those in the Black and brown communities, whether they want to be business owners or not.

“Some people don’t want to be business owners so we want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to participate in this growing, amazing industry,” she said.

The facility announced Tuesday is part of Webber’s ongoing investment in Detroit.

One component is the WebberWildWillis Foundation, a nonprofit focused on Black and brown communities negatively affected by the war on drugs. Its work includes support of efforts including expungement clinics.

“To me, the barrier is very high because of what we had to deal with as a community,” Willis said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN