Hope Street Ministry to start construction this week for new community center

A rendering of Hope Street Minsitry’s planned Shechem community center. (Rendering: Galbraith Carnahan Architects)

Hope Street Ministry will start construction this year for its new community center on Milwaukee’s north side, a project more than five years in the making.

The 13,000-square-foot center will be built on an empty lot at the intersection of 26th Street and Capitol Drive, directly to the east of the nonprofit’s existing building at 2510 W. Capitol Drive.

Hope Street first took an interest in the site about six years ago, when there was a vacant, city-owned building on the property. Leaders with the organization envisioned installing a basketball court there for youth to use.

“We realized there was a lot more we could fit in there than just a basketball court,” after touring the facility, executive director Ashley Thomas said.

The nonprofit went on to purchase the building from the city for $1 in 2017 and tore down the condemned structure.

Plans for the center – which will be called Shechem, meaning a place of refuge – include a gym, classrooms, cafe and event spaces, and it’s intended to serve people living in the nonprofit’s housing, the 53206 zip code and broader Milwaukee community.

Thomas said the organization secured funding from Hartford-based Forte Bank last week, paving the way for it to commence construction later this week. It has also raised nearly $1 million in donations for the project to date, including gifts from the Bradley Impact Fund, Stackner Family Foundation, Herb Kohl Foundation, Pick Charitable Trust, Doolittle Charitable Trust, Batterman Foundation, We Energies Foundation and LFF Foundation.

Construction is expected to be completed by next summer.

The facility will complement Hope Street’s existing three-story, 24-unit building located at 2522 W. Capitol Drive, where the ministry provides housing for about 50 men, women and children.

The organization serves those in recovery and in transition, including individuals seeking sobriety or financial stability or those coming out of abusive situations.

“This is typically their last stop before being on their own and fully equipped to live on their own and flourish,” Thomas said.

On average, single adults stay in Hope Street housing for about eight months, while families stay an average of 11 months.

Thomas said the new community center will complete the organization’s housing model by providing more resources and opportunity for people to learn and develop new habits.

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