Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Sherman Phoenix Continues to Rise

Committee approves financing support for Sherman Park market.

By - Sep 19th, 2017 10:06 am
Sherman Phoenix Commons Rendering. Rendering by HGA.

Sherman Phoenix Commons Rendering. Rendering by HGA.

The Sherman Phoenix project continues to rise out of the literal ashes of a former BMO Harris Bank branch at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave. The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee today approved a $225,000 grant to help support the development of the market.

The project, which would cost $2.5 million, intends to convert the building into a public market space with a variety of vendors focused on everything from health and wellness to food and art according to developer Juli Kaufmann. All of the businesses in the building would be owned by people of color.

Partners Juli Kaufmann of Fix Development and JoAnne Sabir of The Juice Kitchen intend to acquire and redevelop the 24,887 square-foot bank building that had its interior burned during the August 2016 Sherman Park unrest.

The city would support the financing of the project through the creation of a tax-incremental financing district that will grant the project $225,000. Those funds would then be repaid through increased property taxes on the development.

The TIF district, which would include 10 area properties assessed at approximately $1.3 million, would also contribute $100,000 to establish a dedicated fund for facade grants in the area, $50,000 to improve a nearby city-owned parking lot and $25,000 for administration and staff time. According to city senior economic development specialist Dan Casanova, incremental taxes from the properties would pay off the debt associated with the $400,000 district in 22 years (by 2039). Casanova previously told the commissioners of the Redevelopment Authority that despite the tight budget, “we think this is a risk worth taking and its a relatively small dollar amount.”

The developers are still attempting to raise additional funds to complete the financing for the project. A crowdfunding campaign is active on Indiegogo with 49 backers, including this scribe, contributing a total of $12,570 to-date.

Area alderman Khalif Rainey noted that he can’t wait to try the yoga studio and eat chicken wings at Buffalo Boss, although presumably not in the same visit. Committee chair Jim Bohl noted that “this is the stuff we love to see.”

The project was unanimously endorsed by the zoning committee.


3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave. After the Fire

More About the Project

Originally built for the long-defunct Sherman Park State Bank in 1926, the interior of the building contains only the charred remains of the former bank. The damage from the fire renders the project ineligible for historic preservation tax credits, which makes an already challenging project more difficult to finance.

Kaufmann and Sabir have raised more than $1 million to-date and the TIF grant would put them over the half-way mark. Kaufmann noted that Bucks vice president Alex Lasry and philanthropist John W. Miller have also invested a total of $150,000. They are also seeking to raise more funds from philanthropic grants and local investors. According to Sabir, the rents from the project will sustain the building’s operations and return six percent to project investors.

At a press conference in August announcing the project, the partners announced that The Juice Kitchen, Funky Fresh Spring Rolls, Embody Yoga, Sabir’s Karate Center, Hello Beautiful, RSVP Confections, Queens Closet Consignment Shop, #DreamsNeverExpire!, Sister Locs, Rees Barbershop, Studio 69, a nurse practitioner and Buffalo Boss would be tenants in the project. Sabir stated at today’s hearing that there is still space for more tenants in the market.

In response to a question at the Redevelopment Authority hearing on the project, Kaufmann noted that the building is overparked. A substantial parking lot is included in the property immediately north of the bank.

The project is expected to employ about 45 people once it’s up and running. HGA Architects is leading the design of the project.

BMO’s New Bank

While they’re exiting the building, BMO Harris Bank isn’t exiting the area. In May I covered BMO’s plan to reopen in the areaCompass Properties is developing a 2,200 square-foot “smart branch” facility for the banking giant at 3637 W. Fond du Lac Ave. The new facility is scheduled to open in November.

At a ceremonial ground breaking for the bank Mayor Tom Barrett praised the commitment of BMO to the neighborhood, noting that it was within days of the unfortunate August events that BMO senior executive Jud Snyder and Barrett sat down to discuss BMO’s commitment to Milwaukee and Sherman Park.

The bank is currently operating a temporary bank branch in the drive-thru area of the former bank.

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