Habitat for Humanity to focus efforts on Midtown neighborhood

Launching three-year, $9 million campaign

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brian Sonderman announces the organization's plans to expand its neighborhood revitalization efforts to communities east of Washington Park.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity has announced plans to expand its neighborhood revitalization efforts to Milwaukee’s Midtown neighborhood over the next three years.

After focusing primarily on Milwaukee’s Washington Park neighborhood since 2013, the organization is expanding its work eastward with a $9 million commitment to the Midtown neighborhood. The organization will focus its efforts on the area that encompasses North Avenue to Lisbon Avenue and from 30th to 25th Streets.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brian Sonderman announces the organization’s plans to expand its neighborhood revitalization efforts to communities east of Washington Park.

“It’s an area that has a lot of vacant lots owned by the city, it has a number of blighted properties and foreclosed properties, but it also has a core group of residents who are desirous of seeing the same kind of revitalization that’s happened (in Washington Park),” said Brian Sonderman, executive director of Milwaukee Habitat.

After the organization completes its work in Midtown, Habitat will shift its focus to the Harambee neighborhood with what Sonderman expects to be a $16 million to $20 million investment in that community.

Work will include new construction projects, rehabilitation of existing homes and critical repairs. Sonderman said Habitat will also work with residents on non-housing related community development projects to encourage neighborhood engagement, as it has in Washington Park.

Sonderman announced the organization’s plans outside a rehabilitated home in Washington Park, alongside representatives from Thrivent Financial, Wells Fargo and Komatsu Mining Corp., which have been the main corporate partners in the efforts to revitalize that neighborhood. Those companies have also signed on to continue supporting the work in Midtown.

“They are invested in the neighborhood as much as they are invested in Habitat,” Sonderman said. “And, to me, that’s a significant strength.”

Sonderman pointed to a number of positive outcomes in the Washington Park neighborhood, including a 48 percent decrease in violent crime on the blocks that have been revitalized and a nearly 20 percent increase in residents who say that they feel a part of the neighborhood since 2013.

“This model of what has happened here is being replicated in other areas,” Sonderman said. “That’s one of the best testaments to what’s happening here — that other neighborhoods would say, ‘What’s happening in Washington Park and how can we replicate it?’”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.