Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Civic Accelerator Returning

Co:Lab pairs young professionals with business improvement districts to address problems.

By - Oct 7th, 2019 12:22 pm
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The Big Impact at the Sherman Phoenix. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Big Impact at the Sherman Phoenix. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Co:Lab, a civic engagement program focused on creating real-world solutions to problems facing Milwaukee’s commercial corridors, will return for a second year.

The program, which had a pilot cohort earlier this year, is a partnership between NEWaukee, The Commons, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and Startup Milwaukee.

“We intend for Co:Lab to serve as a resource for young professionals eager to ‘do more’ in their hometown and to have a true impact by using their skills to support local neighborhood organizations,” said NEWaukee CEO Angela Damiani in a statement.

Participants in the 2020 program will work with Clarke Square, Lindsay Heights and Riverworks.

“The Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative is pleased to welcome the unique Co:Lab partnership to the neighborhood with a focus on W. National Ave,” said Ian Bautista, Executive Director of the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative. “With growing momentum literally being built, we know that we must be prepared to harness that positive energy along with seeking the necessary financial, social, and market resources that will help this commercial corridor live up to its potential.”

The first installment ran from March through May with 17 individuals spread across three teams working with Historic Mitchell Street, Granville and Near West Side Partners business improvement districts.

The groups pitched their solutions at The Big Impact event held at the Sherman Phoenix. The Mitchell Street team won, securing $5,000 in funding from event ticket sales and funding from Concordia University Wisconsin, the We Energies Foundation and Wells Fargo.

“Through our work with The Commons, we’ve met countless emerging leaders passionate about addressing social challenges in Milwaukee,” said Michael Hostad, Executive Director of The Commons. “Co:Lab presents a unique opportunity to explore those ideas and provide a platform for implementation.”

The Mitchell Street plan is centered around activating public space behind the Modjeska Theatre as public green space and repurposing the theater itself as a community center. The Granville group, which took third place and earned $599, envisioned a talent attraction strategy targeting workers of all backgrounds for the area around the former Northridge Mall, while the Near West Side Partners group pitched a community workshop space near Harley-Davidson‘s corporate headquarters along N. 35th St.

Startup Milwaukee president Matt Cordio told Urban Milwaukee that the Mitchell Street and Granville groups are still pursuing their ideas, while the Near West Side Partners team has invested the $1,000 it received from The Big Impact in a campaign to “elevate employee awareness of the neighborhood” with some of the partner companies.

To apply to participate in the program, visit CoLabMKE.com. Participants, many of whom in the first cohort were employer-sponsored, are required to pay a $500 participation fee.

Jeramey Jannene serves on the advisory board of NEWaukee.

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