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Sherman Phoenix Aims to Build Opportunity From Ashes

LaToya Dennis
The burned BMO bank site will house the Sherman Phoenix when it opens in 2018. The bank plans to relocate.

It’s been nearly one year since unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood captured the nation's attention.

Police in riot gear were deployed to bring control to the area, where people were damaging police cars and setting buildings afire. What set off the unrest was the fatal police shooting of an African American man.

Yet some who flocked to the neighborhood were there to protest the poverty and joblessness impacting many of the city's residents.

Now, there’s a capital plan underway to raise $1 million to help create opportunity from the ashes. The effort is called the Sherman Phoenix.

It will be both a business incubator, and a cultural hub for the neighborhood. JoAnne Sabir, along with Juli Kaufmann, is bringing the project to life.

"The Phoenix is a place of possibility... This project is most certainly, and will be, a reflection of the culture and the beauty of the community in which it rests."

"The Phoenix is a place of possibility. Practically it will entrepreneurs on a spectrum those who are well seasoned and those who are beginning to have a home to have a hub. For us, this project is most certainly, and will be, a reflection of the culture and the beauty of the community in which it rests," Sabir says.

The model will allow community residents to become owners who reside within the hub, she explains. Everything from wellness services to food vendors to beauty will be located there along with a space for cultural events. 

Sabir says input from the community was, and is, key in brining this all together. "It's a sense of we know exactly what we need, we just need the resources to advance it."

While this knowledge existed in Sherman Park before the unrest, there's now a lot more energy and anticipation to get things done, she says.

"The critical point for me is that it is happening. And how can we ensure that this becomes a replicable model so that it happens more."

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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