Graham Kilmer
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Volunteers Clean Up Abandoned Building in Harambee

Part of a series of community clean-ups organized by county Sup. Priscilla Coggs-Jones.

By - Jul 1st, 2023 01:21 pm

Community clean-up in Harambee. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Despite the sweltering heat and a week of smoky air, about a dozen people showed up Friday morning to clean up an abandoned building that has become an eyesore in the Harambee neighborhood.

The clean-up was organized by Milwaukee County Supervisor Priscilla E. Coggs-Jones with help from Riverworks Development Corporation, Northcott Neighborhood House and Fathers Making Progress. It’s part of a summer “Clean-Up Series” Coggs-Jones is hosting in various areas around her district. The next stop will be on Tuesday, July 11 at Walnut Way, 2240 N. 17th St.

Coggs-Jones represents District 13 on the board, which includes Harambee, Riverwest, Lindsay Heights, Triangle North, Franklin Heights, a sliver of the Amani neighborhood, Borchert Field, North Division, Brewers Hill and Halyard Park.

The clean-up Friday was focused on a vacant, blighted building sitting on the northeast corner of the intersection of E. Burleigh Street and N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The building, 3116 N. Martin Luther King Dr., came under the ownership of the City of Milwaukee through property tax foreclosure. In the past, it has been used by a funeral home and a daycare center.

The site may soon become home to a brand-new building. On June 5 the Bronzeville Advisory Committee gave a first approval to KG Development for a plan to develop an $18.9 million mixed-use building with 67 apartments. Most of the units would be rented at affordable rates, and the building would include three commercial stalls and a grocery store.

A week before Friday’s clean-up, Coggs-Jones organized an event called Pull-Up and Paint that encouraged local residents and children to paint some of the plywood. Attendees filled water balloons with paint and threw them at the plywood sheets and on the ground in front of the building. “And what some of the people revealed was that it was a stress reliever,” Coggs-Jones said.

The building has been an “eyesore,” some noted, sitting across the street from Rose Park on a prominent intersection in the neighborhood. Beyond the trash and litter picked up by volunteers, there were also signs that the property has been used for illegal dumping.

“You have this nuisance of vegetation, and then you wonder why we have nuisance behavior in our community,” Coggs-Jones said. “We’re a reflection of what we see.”

Volunteers mowed the grass and picked up trash, but much of the work Friday morning was focused on clearing out the bushes and trees growing up around the building and creating the unkempt, abandoned look Coggs-Jones wants to get rid of.

Sara Czarnecki-Reynolds, with the Riverworks Development Corporation, said trimming back the trees and adding some color to the boarded-up building was a way of letting the local neighbors know that someone cares about them and their neighborhood.

It will take the kind of investment proposed by KG Development to truly remake this corner, but for now, the clean-up is a positive start.

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Categories: MKE County

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