Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Vacant Building To Become Creative Hub

Tonda Thompson has big dreams for small building in Harambee.

By - May 26th, 2021 07:16 pm
128 E. Burleigh St. Photo taken May 26th, 2021 by Jeramey Jannene.

128 E. Burleigh St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“The mission is to create a safe space to learn (and) encourage entrepreneurship, self-determination and physical and mental wellness in the community,” says a city report.

But to get to that point, first-time developer Tonda Thompson is going to need to leverage those skills herself. She’s well on her way.

The Common Council unanimously approved selling Thompson the three-story, vacant building at 128 E. Burleigh St. during its Tuesday meeting.

Thompson will locate her new business, Valor Creative Collective, in the building. The collective will house a woodshop, photography and videography studio and resource center. The woodshop will be used by Thompson’s business, She Slangs Wood.

She already operates Vogue Dreams, a modeling mentorship program that could also use the building.

The HaRUNbee Walk/Run 5K, a race organized by the entrepreneur, will be based out of an apartment on the upper floors of the 3,264-square-foot building. The property is located on the corner of E. Burleigh St. and the appropriately-named N. Achilles St., just east of N. 1st St. in the city’s Harambee neighborhood. Thompson operates the run through her 501(c)(3), the National Coalition for Healthy Black Families.

Thompson is proposing to invest $361,000 in the building according to a Department of City Development report. That includes paying $3,000 for the property.

The city acquired the building, constructed in 1886, in December 2012 through property tax foreclosure. It was marketed for sale in 2019 as part of a trio of properties the city was trying to find new uses for. Each of those buildings has now found a new owner.

A Wisconsin Historical Society report says the building is best known as a home of Charles Schlathau Bakery. It’s also been a cleaner, real estate office, grocery store and print shop.

Thompson’s transaction did not go through the normal council meeting process. According to an email thread provided to Urban Milwaukee, area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs advocated for it to be presented to the whole council for immediate adoption on May 25th, shortly after DCD sent the resolution authorizing its sale on May 17th.

No council members objected. Coggs did not respond to a call for comment on why the sale was pushed through quickly. The sale was also sponsored by zoning committee chair Alderman Jose G. Perez.

The new owner will still need to file for any necessary permits to complete work on the building.

Thompson ran unsuccessfully for the open 5th District council seat in 2018.

128 E. Burleigh St.

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