Sherman Phoenix reopens for public gatherings, launches nonprofit arm

Hosted grand reopening celebration on Tuesday

Sherman Phoenix. Photo credit: Clyde Anderson

Last updated on June 18th, 2021 at 11:37 am

Sherman Phoenix has officially reopened for public gatherings.

Milwaukee’s central city entrepreneurial hub, located at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave., hosted a grand reopening celebration for the community on Tuesday, marking the post-pandemic return of gatherings and events.

Despite the hurdles of the past year, the hub’s 29 tenants have remained in business, some initially pivoting to curbside, carry-out or wholesale operations. The building itself has also been open for in-person service five days a week, but in the interest of public health, the atrium and community gathering space has largely remained closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $3.5 million Sherman Phoenix redevelopment project opened in late 2018, breathing new life into a BMO Harris Bank branch building that was burned during civil unrest two years prior.

“The power of what we started and the embers of our unbreakable spirit has continued to glow,” said JoAnne Sabir, co-developer of the Sherman Phoenix. “The doors will be swung back open in a great celebratory fashion, and we are excited to welcome our community back in to renew themselves by being with us – and with each other.”

The grand reopening event included free barbecue by Who’s Cooking Kitchen, self-guided tours, a photo booth and live DJ. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers also made an appearance.

“We are ready to be with our neighbors again,” said Monica Cooksey, co-founder of Sauce and Spice Pizza, a Sherman Phoenix tenant. “Ready for a refreshed vision. Ready for everyone to feel the family reunion vibes ounce again.”

Also on Tuesday, Sherman Phoenix officially announced the launch of its new nonprofit arm: the Sherman Phoenix Foundation. The effort, which aims to “collaborate with leaders working to build inclusive and just economies for communities of color,” has been in the works since the 2020 social justice uprising in response to the killing of George Floyd.

Previously known as the Sherman Phoenix RISE Alliance, the foundation is fueled by Madison-based American Family Insurance’s pledged investment of $300,000 — $100,000 per year over three years.

The nonprofit organization will lead all programming at the Sherman Phoenix that brings cultural and economic vibrancy to the hub, including technical assistance for its small business tenants, wellness programming, educational offerings and arts and cultural events.

“American Family Insurance is committed to being an advocate and supporting partner of the Sherman Phoenix – investing in its STEAM and entrepreneurial initiatives within the community as we progress towards confronting and ameliorating equity and wealth gaps,” said Ranell Washington, community and social impact advisor, American Family Insurance. “This multi-year partnership allows the Phoenix to continue advancing learning, mentoring and ideation for its 25+ businesses, and be a place-based community anchor for youth and adults.”

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Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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