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Altamonte Mall looks to add Black-owned stores by helping pay for setup, offering guidance

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Altamonte Mall is trying to attract Black-owned businesses through a program that will help fund the setup of new stores there.

Brookfield Properties has committed up to $25 million toward the Partner to Empower Program over the next five years.

In addition to money to help build out the stores with things such as flooring and lighting, the program will include business planning and guidance, networking opportunities, and a retail workshop, said Michelle Isabel, regional vice president of retail business development for Brookfield.

Isabel said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel that the program has been in the works for almost a year. With the death of George Floyd many people became aware of the systemic racism that Black communities are facing, she said, and her company is now trying to help break down those barriers.

“We’re excited that we’re able to use Partner to Empower to help them open their businesses, to help them establish generational wealth, to help close the racial wealth gap that exists today in our communities,” Isabel said.

All minority groups are encouraged to apply, but in Central Florida the program will be focused on Black-owned businesses. Applications will be accepted through June 18 on the company’s website.

The goal is to open 20 to 25 stores in the Southeast this year and to expand the program nationwide to 250 stores in the next five years, Isabel said. She did not put a number on how many could open at Altamonte Mall, saying it depended on how many people apply.

“Our program is not temporary,” Isabel said. “Again, it is to help minority businesses and Black businesses to open stores in our malls, to grow, to expand, and if someday their dream is to franchise, then we want to make sure that we participate in that as well.”