Milwaukee developer Juli Kauf-mann is partnering with a local entrepreneur to renovate a 100-year-old building in the city’s Silver City district into incubator space for professionals working in the neighborhood.
Tim Syth, Kaufmann’s partner on the project and head of community development consulting firm LushProduction, purchased the 3,200-square-foot building at 3524 W. National Ave. in late May.
Under Kaufmann’s mentorship, Syth is developing 5 Wise Workshop Development at the property. A membership-based co-working space serving entrepreneurs and artists will be located on the first floor, while the second floor will remain as two residential units.
Syth moved to Milwaukee from Madison in 2012, after spending time studying in Berlin, Germany. After working as the director of Bucketworks, Syth now serves as a consultant and is hoping to try his hand at commercial development.
Syth spent about three years looking for the perfect redevelopment opportunity in Silver City and after finding one, he turned to Kaufmann for her expertise.
As president of Fix Development LLC, Kaufmann was one of the first developers to see the potential for revitalization in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. Her projects there included the Clock Shadow Building and the Freshwater Fix building, home of Purple Door Ice Cream.
She has recently shifted her focus to the Lindsay Heights neighborhood on the city’s northwest side.
“I’m really interested in places where my traditional (real estate development) peers aren’t looking. The problem is I’m not from there, so I look for co-developers in those spaces with ideas who lack what I have, which is the development skill,” Kaufmann said.
She said if a unique catalytic project comes her way, she will pursue it. Otherwise, she prefers to partner with less experienced developers in neighborhoods that aren’t traditionally being redeveloped.
“When you live in your neighborhood and invest in your assets, it has a fundamentally different impact on how you care for it,” Kaufmann said.
Once the $180,000 project is complete in September, Kaufmann will walk away and 5 Wise will be Syth’s development.
Syth, who lives at Sixth Street and National Avenue, had originally planned on moving to the second floor of the building but said the long-time residents wanted to stay put, which he was more than happy to accommodate.
The building was built in 1916 and originally housed a jeweler. For the past 33 years, it has played host to Engine Blade and Prop, an outboard motor and propeller repair business.
As 5 Wise, Syth is envisioning the building as a place where five to 10 people can gather to work. The space will offer fast Internet, meeting rooms and eventually corporate consulting. Syth would also like to host evening events, such as spoken word artists.
“There is a whole group of professionals and middle income workers who do not have a place to go,” Syth said. “For example, we are actively courting general contractors who could go to the library, but they can’t bring a client to meet there. This would give them a professional business environment with fast Internet and a meeting space.”
Kaufmann believes Syth’s model will create momentum for the Sliver City area.
“Traditionally, a lot of disinvested or lower income neighborhoods tend to see nonprofit development emerge, which sometimes moves into economic development,” Kaufmann said. “Tim is a privately-owned, tax-paying entity and he is going to incubate other businesses that will be churning back into the neighborhood. It’s really growing the private sector from within.”