Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

New Building for Bronzeville

Apartments and medical clinic coming to N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

By - Jan 31st, 2018 10:05 am
1940 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Proposal. Rendering by Continuum Architects + Planners.

1940 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Proposal. Rendering by Continuum Architects + Planners.

A unique partnership between the city, a business improvement district, developer and doctor will result in a $2-million, mixed-use building in Bronzeville on a site that has been vacant since the 1980s.

The Milwaukee Advanced Foot and Ankle Clinic will relocate from Wauwatosa to Milwaukee as part of the construction of a new building at 1940 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

The clinic is led by Dr. Mexton Deacon, a proud graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools‘ North Division High School and Marquette University. It was at Marquette where Deacon met Deshea Agee, who now leads the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District. Twenty years later that connection is paying dividends.

Agee has looked at developing the vacant site for more than a decade. He told the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee that he first explored a proposal for the site in 2006 when he was working for a private developer. Then during his nearly nine years at the Department of City Development, he was involved in preparing a request for proposals for the city-owned site.

But after becoming BID director in 2016, Agee learned that Deacon was looking for a new location for his practice and was able to connect the dots.

“Speaking with Deshea, this became a great opportunity because most of my patients are from the inner city,” Deacon told the committee.

Deacon, through a partnership with Que El-Amin‘s Scott Crawford Inc., will purchase four vacant lots for $40,000 at 1940-48 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and 227R W. Brown St. to assemble the 11,250-square-foot development site. The partnership was the only respondent to an August 2017 RFP by the city.

The group will construct a three-story medical office building with four apartments on the top floor. The first floor will contain a physical therapy area, while the second floor is planned as a surgical center. The 12,864-square-foot building is designed by Continuum Architects + Planners and received universal praise from the committee. “I think this is a wonderful design,” said Alderman Nik Kovac.

“For me, this is more than just a building, this is a statement,” said area alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. She said that this project is a sign of “the community reinvesting in the community.”

The committee unanimously approved the land sale. The proposed sale is scheduled to go before the Common Council on February 6th.

If Agee is looking to further redevelop the street, he might consider recruiting another Deacon enterprise to the neighborhood. Deacon’s wife Yollande Deacon owns and operates the highly-regarded Irie Zulu restaurant and Afro Fusion Cuisine catering at 7237 W. North Ave. in Wauwatosa.

Kindred Project Moving Forward Next Door

This rendering shows how the Kindred building will look after it is redeveloped. Photo courtesy of Melissa Goins.

This rendering shows how the Kindred building will look after it is redeveloped. Photo courtesy of Melissa Goins.

There is another project underway immediately north of Deacon’s building.

Reader’s Choice bookstore, Wisconsin’s last black-owned bookstore, closed in July 2017, but a partnership of Melissa Goins and JoAnne Sabir purchased the 3,504-square-foot building at 1950 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and plans to breathe new life into it.

Goins’ Cultivating Urban Plans & Economic Development (CUPED) Corporation will redevelop the building, to be known as Kindred, for two non-profits. The name is derived from a science fiction novel that includes time travel back to the era of American slavery and explores that idea that we are all connected.

Grateful Girls, an organization that works with females between the ages of 12 to 25 who have experienced trauma in their lives, will move into the building’s second floor. Jazale’s Art Studio, a youth-focused art studio led by brothers Vedale and Darren Hill, will occupy the building’s first floor.

Vedale is the first participant in the city’s pilot program to turn foreclosed homes into artistic community hubs. He and his family are slated to move into a nearby home.

The two-story building was originally built in 1900. CUPED acquired the building in late 2017 for $260,000.

The project is being supported by a grant and loan from Forward Community Investments.

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