Deshea Agee stepping down as King Drive BID executive director

National search underway for replacement

Deshea Agee
Deshea Agee Credit: Andrew Feller PHotography

Deshea Agee is stepping down as executive director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District No. 8, and a national search is underway to find his replacement.

Agee will remain in a part-time advisory role for King Drive BID until a replacement is named.

James Phelps, president of Milwaukee-based JCP Construction and King Drive BID board president, estimated it will take about three or four months to select and onboard a new executive director. The BID is working with a consultant, Executive Search Partners, in recruiting a new executive director.

Agee said he’s stepping down in part because he wants to build on the success King Drive has seen and help other parts of the city. Agee did not reveal what his new role will be, but said he will remain in Milwaukee.

“My commitment to helping build Milwaukee was also something that helped to influence this decision for me,” he said. “In terms of looking at King Drive, I can tell you I’ve spent a significant amount of time in this neighborhood over this last five and a half years, and have done my best to try to support the businesses and grow this area. … Over time, I got to drive around the city a little bit more and said, ‘You know what, I bet I could be as impactful in other parts of the city as I have been here.’ ”

Indeed, the BID has racked up numerous successes over the last several years.

The corridor has brought in new businesses such as Bronzeville Collective MKE, Gee’s Clippers, Jewels Caribbean, Pete’s Fruit Market and America’s Black Holocaust Museum.

It has also seen the movement of companies into the area, such as Bader Philanthropies Inc., the ThriveOn Collaboration, Dohmen Company Foundation, American Family Insurance’s planned Milwaukee office and potentially Milwaukee Public Museum and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. King Drive was the subject of a 2020 BizTimes Milwaukee cover story.

The BID also recently expanded its boundaries to encompass more than 80 new properties in the Harambee and Haymarket neighborhoods.

“Since the BID’s been around but especially in the last five years since Deshea has been executive director, (we’ve had) a lot of great accomplishments, and very happy and lucky to have had him for the time we’ve had,” Phelps said.

The new executive director, whoever it may be, will be asked to lead a number of major initiatives that King Drive BID has underway.

This includes a potential mixed-use project along King Drive somewhere between North Avenue and Burleigh Street. Phelps didn’t reveal the specific site, but said an entity of the BID should be taking over the site within the next 30 to 60 days. It is also working with a design firm to determine the feasibility of a project there, and plans to recruit a developer to make it happen.

It is also working on traffic calming and streetscaping initiatives. King Drive is getting a road diet, which includes shrinking the driving lanes from two to one, adding bike lanes and turn lanes at intersections. That work is to begin this summer. Agee said the BID wants to build onto that with a more comprehensive streetscape design.

King Drive BID’s other major efforts include continued business retention and attraction, and Victory Over Violence Park, which is to be finalized through projects in the next two years.

“We have never been more excited about the future of King Drive,” said Phelps. “We look forward to finding the next visionary leader who will help us continue to make this the best King Drive in the nation.”

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