Developers team up to build large mixed-use community in Milwaukee's north side
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Three Milwaukee developers are working to breathe life into a place they call the true heart of the city. The trio have taken over a vacant building in the 30th street corridor, and together, are creating a massive living and creative space.
On CBS 58 Sunday Morning, Kim Shine explored the much-anticipated Community Within the Corridor.
They want to see their city grow - in an area that's been left behind.
So, these three friends are planting seeds.
Que El-Amin, Rayhainio Boynes and Mikal Wesley are creating their version of change.
"So we always had the big dream. I just think it was perfect timing for us to finally get the space to actually implement the dreams," said Boynes.
They are reimagining a space that, decades ago, was a thriving centerpiece of Milwaukee industry.
"In the previous years, this was the area where commerce happened," said El-Amin. "So, you had a lot of the industries in Milwaukee, so everybody either lived around here, had a business around or worked in the factories."
This is the 30th Street Industrial Corridor - in the city's 15th aldermanic district.
It's been home to many companies over the years, including Master Lock and Harley-Davidson.
Soon, it will welcome the new Community Within The Corridor.
"A lot of people are focusing on developments closer to the Fiserv arena and things of that nature but if you hop on Fond du Lac right here, we're five minutes from downtown. So, this was just an area I felt that needed some love and attention and transformation," said Boynes.
The developers are revamping the former Briggs and Stratton building - which has sat vacant since the 1980s. Like this structure, they feel this neighborhood and this community has been largely forgotten about.
"Our north side is always, well I won't say always, but typically not invested in as much as other areas in the city and so we need these types of projects, these types of investments in our neighborhoods," said Wesley.
"What we all have to realize is if the Black community thrives Milwaukee as a whole thrives," said El-Amin.
El-Amin is the owner and principal of Scott Crawford, Inc., a real estate development company in Milwaukee.
His firm, and Minnesota-based, Roers Companies are heading the project with a team of others.
"So this is the west block of the Community Within The Corridor. On this side we will have 67-units, apartments," said El-Amin as he gave CBS 58 a tour. "We'll have a mix of townhomes, one, two and three-bedrooms. Where we're standing here will be the main-lobby area."
The Community Within The Corridor is a $66-million effort that's been brewing for more than four years. The nearly seven-acre site will hold 197 affordable housing apartment units and almost 60,000 sq. ft. of commercial and recreational space.
"The need for affordable housing is great," said Wesley, who is the Corridor's project manager.
He's also President of Urbane Communities, a Milwaukee-based real estate development and investment firm.
"You'll see different affordable housing projects go up, they'll have waiting lists, they'll be filled fairly quickly, so we know that the need is there," said Wesley.
Three years ago, Mayor Tom Barrett launched his 10-year, 10,000 Homes Initiative.
The Corridor project, which fits into this plan, is receiving financing from the city, as well as, other tax credits, grants and private funding. It's also gotten major support from district alderman Russell Stamper. He spoke to the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee in June of 2020.
"It's with great pleasure to be able to sponsor this file and it's even more heartfelt to sponsor, and get behind these gentlemen, and their aspirations to build a better city," said Stamper to the committee. "They've stayed committed to the area, committed to this project and it's just a testament on what they're going to bring to the neighborhood."
The team is also working, intentionally, to rid the stigma of affordable housing.
The Corridor will host a variety of amenities including childcare, STEM after school programming, a laundromat and a small grocer.
Boynes, also known as rapper Ray Nitti, will head the site's Creative Corridor.
"We'll have a dance studio…studio space - recording space, arts space, media (film) space and other programming," said Boynes.
He said it's a space for Milwaukee's artists to stay connected in the city.
"Where our creative community in Milwaukee can thrive and we can stop perpetuating the narrative of you have to leave Milwaukee in order to become successful, because of the lack of platforms, spaces, opportunities and resources. And, for us, the creative corridor is showing that that is not the case," said Boynes.
"If you look at Bay View that's how Bay View got started, as an artist community that then grew out of there," said El-Amin. "So, we see the same thing happening here - without the gentrification."
Not only are these friends and business partners excited for the future, neighbors are as well.
Monique Bateman has lived in the Metcalfe Park Neighborhood for 22 years.
"I feel safe because I know the area but yet when the outside interaction comes in it takes away the security that you think you've built up," said Bateman.
She is known around this community for providing meals and other help to those in need.
She hopes the Corridor brings families back to the neighborhood.
"Hopefully it will pick up the pace for a lot of families, changes, growth, income, everything should make it better - let people see the light that there is. There's possibility over here," she said.
And ultimately, Bateman said she appreciates that three, intelligent Black men had the strength and courage to tackle such a project.
"Because they should have more of a feel of what we want and what we need versus someone of another race coming in and trying to convince everyone that this is for them," she added.
The groundbreaking for the Community Within The Corridor is Friday, June 18, from 2-5 p.m.
The development is scheduled to open in Summer 2022.
As they build dreams in this neighborhood, the team is inviting neighbors to get involved and to take ownership of this space.
They want the Community Within The Corridor to be a place that connects real people to real opportunities, resources and to each other.
"This is where we can thrive, this is where I can go to Black-owned stores up and down Center Street and really start pushing economy in the area. So, I want our young generation to know that this is for them," said Boynes.