Milwaukee County has received a $250,000 state grant to support construction of The Sherman Phoenix, an entrepreneurial and wellness hub in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.
The Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will help fund the transformation of a fire-damaged bank on West Fond du Lac Avenue into an innovative commercial development that will house 20 businesses, most owned by people of color.
“The Phoenix will not only provide Milwaukee’s entrepreneurs and innovators with affordable space to pursue their dreams, but it will help revitalize the entire neighborhood,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who joined county, city and community leaders in announcing the grant Tuesday. “This will become a gathering place for the community and will enhance the cultural and social vibrancy of Sherman Park.”
“Sherman Park has historically been an incredibly vibrant section of Milwaukee County,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who also attended the grant announcement. “The Sherman Phoenix project positions this neighborhood once again to showcase our community’s strengths: diversity, entrepreneurship, opportunity and growth. The incredible support from WEDC will help ensure the success of this important project.”
The Phoenix is being built on the site of the former BMO Harris Bank that was damaged in a fire in the summer of 2016. It will house small businesses offering a variety of goods and services, including prepared foods, wellness services, and arts and cultural activities. The building also will have a food hall with an outdoor patio and gathering spaces to foster community building.
The Phoenix also will offer business support through mentorship, business coaching and networking. That support is expected to strengthen the Phoenix businesses and improve sustainable growth. The project is expected to create more than 75 jobs.
Construction is now underway and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018.
“The Sherman Phoenix is a response to the call from the community to create more equitable economic opportunities for entrepreneurs of color,” said Juli Kaufmann, co-developer of the project. “We are grateful for this significant public support, which is a critical part of our collaborative funding package enabling our innovative real estate model.”
“It is a gift to be able to walk this journey with so many inspirational entrepreneurs who are bringing their products and services to The Sherman Phoenix,” added co-developer JoAnne Sabir. “Their brilliance breathes life into our shared vision for a greater Milwaukee for all of us, together.”
The WEDC funding is a matching grant and will help offset construction costs. The $1.8 million project is also being supported by business leaders, community organizations and the Wisconsin Preservation Fund. The City of Milwaukee also is providing $215,000 in Tax Incremental Financing support for the project.
“The power and spirit of the people who live and work in Sherman Park has always been evident, and they have vowed to bring back hope and progress to a place that has been a flashpoint for change,” said Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, whose 7th Aldermanic District includes The Sherman Phoenix site. “I have wholly embraced their spirit and I welcome the generous partnership brought forth by the State of Wisconsin and WEDC. I look forward to watching this development blossom for the benefit of the entrepreneurs, their employees and for the people across this neighborhood and the community.”
WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. Awards are based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices.