Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

$85 Million Bronzeville Project Now “ThriveOn Collaboration”

Project on track to open in early 2022.

By - Sep 10th, 2020 03:52 pm
Schuster's redevelopment. Conceptual rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

Schuster’s redevelopment. Conceptual rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

The proposal to transform the former Schuster’s department store at 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. into a multi-use home for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF), Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and over 70 apartments now has a name and a timeline.

The $84.5 million project will be known as the ThriveOn Collaboration, the two organizations announced Thursday afternoon in a virtual press conference alongside project developer Royal Capital Group.

The eastern half of the 400,000-square-foot complex, facing the King Drive commercial corridor, will be used as 131,000 square feet of Class A office space for MCW’s community-facing programs and GMF’s headquarters. A community space is planned for the first floor of the entire complex. Specific uses for that space are still being defined based on community feedback.

“Our partnership is much more than just a building,” GMF CEO Ellen Gilligan. “We believe in this collaboration because the community has been involved every step of the way.”

The collaboration has five target areas for which the partners will work to uplift the surrounding area: housing, early childhood education, health & wellness, social cohesion and economic opportunity. The development is surrounded by the Harambee, Halyard Park and Brewers Hill neighborhoods.

“We’re at the very beginning of all things we can do,” said medical college president Dr. John R. Raymond, Sr.

GMF has led fundraising for an anti-displacement fund that assisted 86 homeowners with their 2019 property taxes. Jointly GMF and MCW have provided $13.2 million in targeted COVID-19 relief, response and recovery related to food, shelter, health, education and economic stabilization said the partners in a release. GMF announced a $30 million, five-year equitable recovery commitment in August.

“I think the pixie dust, the real magic in this process, is that the community has been present,” said GMF chief financial officer Kenneth Robertson.

“One word that came up repeatedly is the ‘thrive’ word,” said MCW senior vice president Greg Wesley about the community collaboration and a number of neighborhood meetings.

In addition to the new office space, a total of 77 apartments — a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments — would be developed on the western portion of the complex along N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

The apartments and office space are scheduled to open in early 2022. “Hopefully January 2022,” said Royal Capital Group president Kevin Newell.

“We are looking to begin construction this fall,” said Newell. “We are marching down that path and I feel really good about it.”

The oldest building in the complex was built in 1907 as a home for Schuster’s Department Store and expanded many times. The Gimbels chain acquired Schuster’s in 1961 and operated the store until 1969. It was used as a warehouse by Gimbels (which eventually went out of business) until 1992 according to city records. It was then acquired by CH Coakley & Co. which has used the building for storage and office space. Many of the former department store fixtures, including escalators, can still be found in the building.

“I am most looking forward to the collaboration between the organizations and our neighbors and the people that come in the future,” said Halyard Park Neighborhood Association Lennie Mosley.

“The real power is in us collaborating and working together,” said area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. She and her husband recently chose to buy a house just west of complex near N. 1st St. and W. Garfield Ave, she said.

Mosley and Coggs were joined in a panel discussion by Tyanna McLaurin.

For more on the project’s complicated financing package, see our 2019 coverage of the city committing $12.6 million in future property tax revenue to the project. For more on the partnership and future community stakeholder events, see the project website.

March 2019 Unveiling

2015 Facade Exposure

Renderings and Site Plans

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