Closed Cream City Hostel to become sober living facility

Cream City Hostel. Photo courtesy of Bader Philanthropies Inc.
The former Cream City Hostel. Photo courtesy of Bader Philanthropies Inc.

The operator of a sober living facility in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood plans to move into the shuttered Cream City Hostel.

4th Dimension Recovery Center will occupy the former bank building-turned-hostel at 500 E. Center St., on the edge of the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods, beginning May 1, said CEO Jason Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said the plan is for the nonprofit facility’s six current residents to move into the facility initially, followed by another six new residents over the next couple of months. Though the building had a capacity of about 50 people as a hostel, 4th Dimension will cap its capacity at 25 residents.

In late 2020, the hostel’s ownership group, RiverBee LLC, announced plans to transform the hostel into the city’s first housing cooperative, after the hostel was forced to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gonzalez said the idea of converting it instead into 4th Dimension’s new home emerged out of his conversations with Juli Kaufmann, managing member of RiverBee and president of Milwaukee-based Fix Development.

Gonzalez started 4th Dimensions in 2013, then as a teacher who had recently become sober, by offering two beds in his Riverwest home for others working toward sobriety. That grew over time to become a structured program, in which residents can choose 3-month or 6-month supportive stays. Separately, Gonzalez operates a for-profit 4th Dimension clinical treatment center, at 1216 N. Prospect Ave., that offers day treatment, intensive outpatient and aftercare.

He reached out to Kaufmann to discuss fundraising strategies to help 4th Dimension scale up its operations, which led to the idea of occupying the hostel space.

“We’re in a phase where, after COVID, we wanted to look at a more sustainable model,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez then connected with philanthropy leader Linda Neff, who helped the organization reach an initial $25,000 fundraising goal to support its move.

4th Dimension continues to raise funds to support its plans to convert some existing areas to “holistic space” for yoga, meditation and other components of the sober living community’s program. Gonzalez said the building’s industrial kitchen and large back yard will allow 4th Dimension to host community meals, host 12-Step meetings and open the space to the extended community.

“I’m thinking a lot of that will happen within the next year,” Gonzalez said.

4th Dimension will initially lease the facility from RiverBee, with plans to eventually buy the building. It is working to raise $1.7 million to that end.

Gonzalez said 4th Dimension plays an important role in the city’s sober living ecosystem, offering 16 of the 22 sober living beds available for women.

“It’s very limited for women, which is one of the reasons why when the pandemic hit, we knew we had to continue because if we shut down, there will really be no options for women out there,” he said.

Gonzalez said the location of the former hostel will allow 4th Dimension to serve both the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods.

The neoclassical brick building has had a variety of uses over the years. It was built in 1927 to house the Holton Street State Bank, and following the bank’s closure in 1960, it was used by groups including the Boys & Girls Clubs, Centro Del Nino and a charter school before becoming vacant in 2006. RiverBee convened more than 40 local investors to purchase the building and turned it into the Cream City Hostel in 2019.

“The building itself was once a bank that invested in the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said. “Now we see it as time to reinvest in the neighborhood in a different way.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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