By Callie Lawson-Freeman | Special to the OBSERVER
The Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) has closed on a pivotal deal to purchase groundbreaking Black lawyer Nathaniel Colley’s former office.
The sale of the building, recently designated for preservation as a historic landmark, continues a legacy of firsts in Sacramento Black history.
Built in 1967, the office was designed by James C. Dodd, the first licensed Black architect in Sacramento. Dodd was commissioned to design the building by Colley, the first licensed Black attorney in the city.
The gravity of the late trial attorney’s impact continues to enrich Sacramento, as Nathaniel Colley Sr. High School was opened in his honor this August in South Sacramento. The school serves high school students and young adults whose circumstances call for a nontraditional path, and even provides mentoring and training for trades.
Now, the building where Colley conducted legal work crucial in ending housing segregation is the first building the SBCC has ever owned.
The sale was brokered by Zoritha Thompson, CEO of Goree & Thompson Real Estate Inc. and a former SBCC board member who has been in real estate for more than 26 years.
The historic landmark went on the market at the perfect time, according to SBCC CEO Azizza Davis-Goines.
“We knew that we needed to really start considering investments, and hadn’t made a decision as to how we were going to do that. Then we received a call from a real estate broker’s office asking if we’d be interested in looking at the building,” she told The OBSERVER.
Davis-Goines recognized the historic nature of the building and proposed it to the SBCC’s Board of Directors who agreed that the building just “made sense” for the nonprofit organization.
”Following that legacy was just more of an honor for us than anything,” she said.
Finalized on Dec. 14, the deal marks a full circle moment for Davis-Goines and Thompson. “When I took this job 15 years ago, the Chamber had no resources. I mean, there was just nothing. The bank account was probably minus zero. It was a pretty bad time,” Davis-Goines said.
In those 15 years, she used her background in association management to bring the SBCC’s membership from less than 100 members to over 400, securing sponsors like PG&E, Wells Fargo, and SMUD.
“I remember at one point, going to Zoritha and asking her if she could loan the chamber money so we could pay the rent. Now we’ve come full circle, not only with this historic building but having her do the negotiations for us and making sure that the sale was a good sale,” Davis-Goines said.
“She did borrow the money for the rent,” Thompson recalled. However, years later Thompson credits Davis-Goines for taking the SBCC to the “next level,” and presenting the funds for the newly inked property deal.
“I’m so excited about this sale because it has so much meaning, and it has so much history. There were a total of three offers. And it was competitive. But we were able to win,” Thompson told The OBSERVER.
A visit to the historic building unearthed yet another first associated with the office.
“When I went over there I kept saying, ‘I know this building, I know this building.’ I couldn’t put my finger on how I knew it,” Davis-Goines said.
She was reminded by an SBCC member that the building was once home to a different non-profit.
“I worked there. It was like 30 years ago, at least…it looks totally different now from when The Birthing Project was there,” Davis-Goines continued.
The Birthing Project is an African American maternal and child health program that was founded in Sacramento in 1988. Since then, its concept has grown into a nationally-recognized model which has been adapted in over 70 communities in the United States and 13 countries worldwide, furthering the legacy of impactful inaugural Black efforts that have taken place at 1810 S Street.
Centrally located in midtown, the new SBCC headquarters will provide tangible resources to Black business owners in Sacramento.
“It’s just all around a very good investment, and it makes good business sense. I’m also excited that the Chamber is setting the example for Black businesses and all businesses to purchase property,” Thompson said.
Davis-Goines hopes the headquarters will provide members with as many tangible resources as possible to help grow their businesses.
The building boasts two conference rooms and a mailroom that will allow small businesses in need of a professional address to rent a mail flat, along with three of the seven offices being made available to rent on June 1.
“We’ll leave the building open for our small businesses who may have meetings that they want to hold in our conference rooms and we’ll have kind of a bullpen for small businesses to work in from time to time,” Davis-Goines said, noting that her ultimate goal is to provide back office support for members who can not yet afford accounting and human resources departments.
Entrepreneurs interested in joining the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce should visit https://sacblackchamber.org/about/