AKRON, Ohio — The LeBron James Family Foundation’s House Three Thirty is designed to be practical and educational, with a touch of magic.
The multi-use complex will extend the programming for I Promise School students and their families, and offer opportunity and entertainment for the community, said the foundation’s Executive Director Michele Campbell.
On Wednesday, known as 330 Day in Akron, the foundation opened the doors of House Three Thirty for the first time, allowing the community to take a look inside the former Tangier Restaurant & Cabaret. Akronites were in line when tours began at 10 a.m.
Much of the building is still under construction, with an anticipated January 2023 opening, said Campbell. She can tell you the specific use for each room or area in the facility, and the thought process behind the designs, which were created by foundation staffer Katherine Reedy.
That goes for everything, from the expanded lounge-like restrooms to the kitchens and wine room to the LeBron James museum, which will be the only place on Earth to see James memorabilia, from his Akron childhood to his current NBA star status, she said.
The entrance to House Three Thirty will be something to see when it’s ablaze with neon signs representing every business that partners with the foundation, Campbell said. There will also be outdoor seating for a coffee shop.
House Three Thirty, immediately to the right, is a spacious area where JP Morgan Chase will provide financial planning assistance for I Promise families and community members. At 17 years, Chase is the foundation’s longest partner, Campbell said, so it’s appropriate that the financial institution be the first brand visitors see.
“They serve at all of our events. They volunteer. They know our families. They welcome our families,” she said.
Because House Three Thirty is designed as a workforce-training facility, much of its design is to support workers.
An entire area called “The Block” is dedicated to workers, with lockers and changing areas stocked with toiletries and beauty supplies, a laundry area with ironing boards, a barber shop, beautician and braiding station — all designed to work as inviting as possible.
“We believe it's all about the culture you create, and providing a place that people want to get up and come to work every day,” she said. “That's what this will be for our students, our families and our community. The culture and the environment that we create for our employees is very, very important to us.”
Transparency underlies everything, Campbell said. Many walls throughout the building will be completely transparent and large windows are designed into hallways to peek into various rooms.
A touch of magic is in the design of some of the rooms. Campbell pointed out a secret pizza room that will be used as part of workforce training.
Pizza will made in an area that will feel like “grandma’s Italian kitchen,” she said. If the pizza turns out well, the pizza light at the exterior entrance will be lit up, and pizza will be served until its gone.
In another area, a bookshelf becomes a hidden doorway into a secret coffee room, which will double as a conference space. Teachers will be encouraged to bring in their favorite coffee recipes to try out, she said.
House Three Thirty will be a place for people to visit who are coming to town for special events, she said. It’s also for Akronites who used to frequent the Tangier, which for decades hosted live shows, banquets and special events.
"They reminisce when they were here for shows 20 or 30 years ago,” Campbell said. “They have these memories here and we want to bring them back and we want people to make new memories here.”
Communities interested in creating their own version of the I Promise School. Often reach out to the foundation, Campbell said. They are often invited to Akron, so with the opening of House Three Thirty, they’ll be able to see I Promise philosophies in action.
In the former Tangier fountain room will be the only LeBron James-themed sports bar in the world, Campbell said. The large bar will have windows and a loft, and plenty of TVs for people to gather with friends to watch sporting events.
“(Katherine Reedy) from my team is designing a sports bar that tells the story of LeBron’s basketball career, from when he was a young child through the NBA so everything in there will be representative of that basketball career,” Campbell said. “It's going to be really cool.”
Anyone who ever went to Tangier for a banquet likely walked down the hallway lined with autographed photos of movie stars, TV personalities and musicians. Now, that hallway is lined with empty frames, to enable people who come to House Three Thirty to create new memories, Campbell said.
The Cabaret performance area, where Akronites saw many national acts, will retain much of its character from its Tangier days, as a tribute to the George family, who owned Tangier for decades, Campbell said.
The Sweet Shop will house local companies’ goods — Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Metropolis Gourmet Popcorn, NORKA Beverages and Malley’s Chocolates Z — and offer training opportunities in retail sales.
The Old El Paso Taco Shop will enable Taco Tuesdays at House Three Thirty. With large windows to see into the kitchen, the restaurant also has a training kitchen for workers, Campbell said.
The Smucker Hometown Hall will be a private and community events space, while a wine room and a den will host smaller gatherings.
“A building of this magnitude and with this many different things happening in it, there's a lot of opportunities for different career paths,” Campbell said.
House Three Thirty is just outside downtown Akron at 532 W. Market St. It is two blocks from the I Promise School and close to the I Promise Village, which provides transitional housing for I Promise families dealing with homelessness.