The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. today announced it has awarded a $250,000 Community Development Investment Grant for construction of the Sherman Phoenix project.
The Sherman Phoenix is to be an entrepreneurial and wellness hub, which is being developed in a former BMO Harris Bank branch at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave. that was damaged by fire during civil unrest in the Sherman Park neighborhood in 2016. The 20,000-square-foot space is set to open this fall.
Developer Juli Kaufmann and The Juice Kitchen owner JoAnne Johnson-Sabir are leading the fundraising and development of the co-working space, which Kaufmann described as a cross between an indoor mall and a public market. The number of participants has grown, and the space will now have 20 small business tenants – a mix of food, wellness, beauty and retail – mostly owned by people of color.
“I stand in the sense of possibility,” Johnson-Sabir said. “We will have a spectrum of entrepreneurs.”
But Kaufmann and Johnson-Sabir still have to raise another $1 million to get the project off the ground. Remediation and construction are underway in the space. The $2.5 million that has been raised so far came from about 50 investors, who included angel and crowd investors as well as philanthropists, Kaufmann said. The City of Milwaukee is also providing $215,000 in tax increment financing.
“We are certainly pounding the pavement every day, pounding the payment for that final million,” Kaufmann said.
At the event, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch championed the project for its community and statewide impact.
“We’re very excited not just about the WEDC’s contribution, but also about the entrepreneurs who will live their business dreams here,” Kleefisch said. “The people who will hire their friends and neighbors, the people who will have customers and clients right here in Sherman Park and the Milwaukee area.”
“Some of you know that outside my day job, I love enterprise, I love venture capital, I love co-location spaces,” Abele said, noting the project would harness pride, capacity and ability that were always in the neighborhood.