Last updated on May 7th, 2020 at 10:22 am
Two first-time developers have plans for another entrepreneurial hub along Fond du Lac Avenue in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood.
Nadiyah Johnson and Oby Nwabuzor are raising $300,000 to redevelop 3803 W. Fond du Lac Avenue, a 5,100 square-foot building that currently houses Johnson’s software company Jet Constellations as well as her mother’s insurance company.
The renovated building would also have space for Jet Constellations’ social impact arm, Milkyway Tech Hub, which focuses on building a supportive ecosystem so people of color and underrepresented individuals can thrive in Milwaukee’s tech community.
“Milkyway Tech Hub aims to create this narrative that Milwaukee is a very diverse and inclusive tech hub and one way to do that is to have a physical location,” Johnson said. “Being able to actually have space in the urban community where people can have access to resources around digital technology.”
The 3803 W. Fond du Lac Ave. building is located about two blocks northwest of Sherman Phoenix, which is also an entrepreneurial hub with restaurants and several other businesses. Although Sherman Phoenix is currently closed due to COVID-19, Johnson and Nwabuzor hope to build off the momentum that it had established in the neighborhood pre-pandemic.
Johnson and Nwabuzor plan to renovate the 3803 W. Fond du Lac Ave. building into a maker’s space to include a co-working area, a lounge, conference room and auditorium for Milkyway Tech Hub programming. Johnson’s long-term goal is to operate a startup accelerator out of the new space.
“I wanted to have a place where people can convene, launch their startup, network and things of that nature,” Johnson said.
Although Johnson invested in the Sherman Phoenix project, this is her first run at a development project of her own. Johnson is partnering with Nwabuzor, who in 2019, founded Envision Growth, a company that focus on urban regeneration through the redevelopment of existing properties.
Nwabuzor, a Milwaukee native, has spent her whole academic and professional career exploring the connection between vacant properties, urban planning, and social and economic barriers.
“I wanted to start looking at how we can make sure our communities are more sustainable and more economically sound and doing that through urban regeneration,” said Nwabuzor, American Heart Association community impact director.
For Nwabuzor, the impact of the Milky Way Tech Hub is two-fold. The project will bridge the divide in the city between people of color and the tech and STEM career paths while stimulating economic activity in the neighborhood.
“If you create long-term economic value for the community and residents, then you also push more dollars into that community and you keep jobs there,” Nwabuzor said. “If you’re circulating money into that community, then that community is going to continue to grow.”
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