Deshea Agee: Why the King Drive project is good for its neighbors
With a rich legacy of nearly three decades, the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District (BID #8) has been working to improve the district by fostering a culture of revitalization that has attracted local entrepreneurs who embrace the commitment to hard work and strong character that the area was founded on.
Now experiencing an unprecedented growth in commercial and housing development, the quality of life has never been better and continues to grow every day. The work to ensure equity, access and opportunity continues, along with a supported vision to ensure the same investment and support visible in the south end of the King Drive business district is equally visible and felt on the north end.
Efforts in the area led commercial property owners to petition the City of Milwaukee to expand BID #8. Property owners in the proposed boundary were sent invitation postcards to share feedback on the proposed expansion. Postcards were sent stating BID services and listed days and times for three two-hour virtual meetings in June and three two-hour virtual meetings in July with the executive director.
Phone or email contact attempts were made to property owners not responsive to postcard mailings. Door-to-door visits were made to businesses in the proposed expanded boundary. The City of Milwaukee sent certified mail to affected property owners inviting public comments before or during a meeting of the City Plan Commission. One in-person meeting was hosted for affected property owners on August 13 at King Hall, 3415 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It was also broadcasted virtually. Property owners were also sent personalized letters from the BID that included proposed neighborhood improvement services and an estimated BID member fee.
In brief, services referenced street cleaning, graffiti removal, technical assistance with building improvements, commercial tenant recruitment, incentive grants and placemaking. With this information, the proposed expansion garnered strong support of property owners and businesses in the expanded boundary, and others.
On August 17, the City Plan Commission held a public hearing on the proposed expansion. After hearing all public testimony of those in opposition and support, the commission voted unanimously to approve file #200377.
Residential property owners will not contribute financially to the work of the business improvement district. Neighborhood beautification, public space improvements and building enhancements are benefits residents can anticipate with the boundary expansion.
In talks with residents of the 5 Points neighborhood, support for the expansion exists along with a desire to work together to improve the area. Of more than 80 commercial properties to be added, two objections were voiced by property owners contributing to BID operations.
Misinformation and scare tactics can be used to bully people. Terms like gentrification, displacement and redlining can spark outrage, particularly in the times we are living in.
There is no evidence to suggest an expansion of the business improvement district at this time will cause these to occur. There is overwhelming evidence that show economic opportunities for men and women of color have increased in the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District in recent years. This includes new businesses opened, new grant programs offered, property redevelopments and improving public spaces.
Finally, with the documented support of property owners, it is my hope to continue the work of improving our community and establishing the best King Drive in the nation.
One we all can be proud of.
In the September 22 meeting of the Milwaukee Common Council, the resolution was approved for the annexation of territory to Business Improvement District No. 8 (Historic King Drive), in the 6th Aldermanic District. The file was sponsored by Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs.
“Across the country there are many cities that have a King Drive running through them, but too often those King Drives see disinvestment and do not hold up to the name they represent,” said Alderwoman Coggs. “Thanks to the work of so many partners, including the Historic King Drive BID, we have been able to grow our King Drive into a thriving, diverse sector that is one of the very best in the nation. The expansion of this BID will help ensure that all of King Drive will continue to grow and be a staple of our city.”
Deshea Agee is the executive director of Historic King Drive Business Improvement District #8 and a resident of the Rufus King neighborhood.