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Historic King Drive BID designated first Main Street Community in Milwaukee

The announcement in Milwaukee on August 22 was attended by elected officials and community partners, held concurrently with 12 statewide events as part of the first-ever Wisconsin Main Street Day.

The Historic King Drive Business Improvement District (BID) No. 8 in the city of Milwaukee has been designated as a Wisconsin Main Street community by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), joining a select group of communities that have demonstrated a sustained commitment to revitalizing their commercial districts.

The BID, which was created in 1992, is the state’s 34th currently active Wisconsin Main Street community. It is the only organization in Wisconsin to earn the designation in 2017.

The Historic King Drive BID was accepted into the Wisconsin Main Street Program after an extensive application process that highlights local achievements as well as numerous ongoing projects that will continue to improve and enhance the business district.

The organization received the designation at a ceremony Tuesday at Pete’s Fruit Market on North Martin Luther King Drive that was attended by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; WEDC Board President Lisa Mauer; Deshea Agee, executive director of the Historic King Drive BID; and other state and city leaders.

“For more than a quarter of a century, the Historic King Drive BID No. 8 has worked closely with city officials, community leaders, businesses and residents to promote the unique businesses in the neighborhood while successfully recruiting new ones,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “Thanks to their efforts, the district has seen $400 million in investment since 1992 and has a bright future ahead of it. We are proud to welcome the Historic King Drive BID as the newest Wisconsin Main Street community.”

“We are excited to be a part of the Wisconsin Main Street Program,” said Agee. “As we work toward bringing new businesses and creating more vibrancy in the commercial district, the Wisconsin Main Street program will provide valuable tools and resources to help make Milwaukee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive the best of the nearly 900 King Drives in the nation.”

The Historic King Drive BID No. 8 is also the first Wisconsin Main Street community to be part of the National Main Street Center’s new Urban Main initiative. This is a national initiative that will provide support to older and under-resourced commercial districts in urban centers all around the country.

The announcement came as state officials joined local leaders in 12 communities around the state to celebrate Wisconsin Main Street Day, which highlighted the important role that downtown business districts play in economic development.

“The Connect Communities Program helps local leaders leverage the unique assets of their downtowns and commercial districts by providing them with access to training, resources and networking opportunities with other downtown organizations,” WEDC Secretary Hogan said. “This program and the Wisconsin Main Street Program have a proven track record of helping to spur thousands of new businesses, and we are looking forward to the same success with our newest Connect Communities.”

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, WEDC Deputy Secretary and COO Tricia Braun, and other officials visited the communities to celebrate the success of the Wisconsin Main Street and Connect Communities Programs. The Wisconsin Main Street Day tour included the following communities: Ashland, De Pere, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Port Washington, Princeton, Ripon, Shullsburg, Tomah, Viroqua and Wausau.

The Wisconsin Main Street Program, which was launched in 1987 and is overseen by WEDC, is a comprehensive revitalization program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts in Wisconsin. After a thorough application and review process, WEDC selects communities to join the program, which is part of a nationwide program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. These communities receive technical support and training needed to ensure that their downtown districts continue to thrive as centers of community activity and commerce.

Communities selected to participate in the Wisconsin Main Street Program receive free technical assistance aimed at enabling them to professionally manage their downtown or historic commercial district to better compete with alternative commerce centers.

Since the program’s inception, Wisconsin Main Street communities have created more than 2,600 net new businesses and nearly 14,000 net new jobs. They also have generated more than $1.7 billion in public and private investment since then, and are renovating more than 250 buildings per year.

“There’s no doubt that a vibrant downtown is critical to the overall economic health of any community,” said Governor Scott Walker, who has officially proclaimed Aug. 22 as Wisconsin Main Street Day. “A great downtown is a quality-of-life amenity that is important to workers and their families, and that’s good news for local companies looking to attract and retain top talent to keep their businesses growing. Wisconsin Main Street Day is a great way to recognize the accomplishments of local downtown organizations and the many volunteers and staff members who are committed to making their community a better place to live.”

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