State to allocate $5 million in federal COVID relief funds for community center development on Near West Side

A rendering of Concordia 27

Last updated on May 12th, 2022 at 02:05 pm

Gov. Tony Evers announced today his plans to allocate $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help support the redevelopment of a 12,000-square-foot vacant building at 2724 W. Wells St. on Milwaukee’s Near West Side into a comprehensive community center to be known as Concordia 27.

The state intends to invest the federal COVID relief funds with Near West Side Partners to leverage an additional $5 million in private investment and enable construction work to move forward on the $16 million project, spearheaded by local residents and being managed by Near West Side Partners, Wiegand Enterprises, and Quorum Architects.

A resident-driven project born from community priorities and the 2021 Appreciative Inquiry Summit supported by the Harley-Davidson Foundation, Concordia 27 will help address six inequities in the community – housing insecurity, health disparities, trauma, food insecurity, unemployment and transportation access – and bring service providers and resources together under one roof to provide access to nutritious food, health and wellness services, job training, entrepreneurial space, housing and transportation.

Concordia 27 will include:

  • Daily fresh, affordable meals-to-go to address food insecurity for more than 1,000 residents.
  • Nutritious school meals for more than 15,000 low-income students at 106 schools in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha.
  • A commercial, demonstration and incubator kitchen operated by Milwaukee Center for Independence to provide culinary workforce training opportunities for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities and people previously incarcerated.
  • 30 affordable housing units for senior citizens and working families.
  • Gathering space to foster community engagement.
  • Dedicated commercial spaces for nonprofits Milwaukee Center for Independence, Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee and Near West Side Partners to provide nutrition, wellness services, housing resources and expanded minority business entrepreneurial support.
  • Access to transit through MCTS’s Bus Rapid Transit line.

“Whether it’s financial security, affordable childcare, health care, and housing, or access to reliable transportation, so many factors play a critical role in the success of our kids, our families, and our state, and that’s why a space like Concordia 27 is such an important asset,” said Evers. “I am proud to announce we are partnering with Near West Side Partners and investing $5 million dollars to support this important project and see it over the finish line. By serving as a centralized hub of collaboration, innovation, and service, Concordia 27 is both uplifting the local business community and increasing the level of services available to individuals throughout the Near West Side and beyond. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about connecting the dots, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact Concordia 27 will have for the nearly 40,000 residents that call the Near West Side their home.”

The Concordia 27 project will also create new full-time job opportunities, space for community engagement, and support entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“Funding from Governor Evers will ensure the vision of Near West Side residents can come to life,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of Near West Side Partners. “We are actively seeking support from others in our community to amplify the state’s investment and maximize the impact of Concordia 27 and its community-driven offerings for the long haul.”

Ned Daniels, Jr., chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi, spoke on the importance of the state recognizing the Near West Side as an area that could use investment and continued commitment.

“I’ve been here since the 80’s and the Potawatomi… we’ve called Milwaukee our home for hundreds of years. We will continue to do so. That’s why we continually invest in this community, including here on the Near West Side,” Daniels said.

Jochen Zeitz, CEO of Harley-Davidson, said since he started in his role two years ago, company leadership has taken the initiative to ask the Near West Side community what kind of help is needed.

“The Harley-Davidson Foundation has renewed its commitment to the Near West Side and brought together diverse stakeholders, including residents, through our Appreciative Inquiry Summit to ignite change and accelerate projects like Concordia 27,” Zeitz said.

The buildings that will become the home of Concordia 27 were purchased nearly seven years ago by Rick Wiegand, owner of Wiegand Enterprises. He said when he initially made the purchase, he always had the vision of redeveloping the property into something that would be a positive influence to the community.

“Concordia 27 will restore historic buildings and initiate the reactivation of a significant commercial corridor in a neighborhood that is well-positioned for revitalization,” Wiegand said.

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Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.

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