By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The ThriveOn Collaboration is making major moves this year. The group recently announced that it officially purchased the vacant building that once housed Gimbels and Schuster’s Department Store, 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., and that the building will now be known as ThriveOn King.
For the past few years, the ThriveOn Collaboration, which consists of the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Royal Capital Group, has been meeting with residents of Brewer’s Hill, Harambee and Halyard Park. The group’s focus is on creating an equitable, healthy and thriving Milwaukee through neighborhood development.
The building will house Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s headquarters, office space for the Medical College of Wisconsin, apartments and more.
Kevin Newell, the president and CEO of Royal Capital Group, noted that the collaboration and partnership among the three entities made the purchase possible.
This project isn’t about the construction and the brick and mortar, but about what’s inside its four walls, Newell said. He said once construction begins, things will move quickly.
Construction is expected to begin in spring of this year, according to the press release. There will be job fairs, open house tours and more as part of the group’s effort to continue neighborhood engagement.
“The heart of this project is really about community,” Ken Robertson, the executive vice president, COO and CFO of the Foundation, said. “Our North Star is about community voices.”
While residents from the three neighborhoods have been invited to attend viewing sessions, the group also formed a community advisory council, which consisted of 15 neighborhood voices. Dalvery Blackwell was one such voice.
Blackwell, who has lived in Harambee her whole life, said it’s been exciting to watch the transformation of the neighborhood.
“My experience as serving as a member of the council has been great,” she said. “It’s been very time consuming but it’s worth it.”
The council recently reviewed and selected grant proposals for various groups. Blackwell said the council focused on groups that support the youth, employment training and community engagement.
The ThriveOn Collaboration awarded $30,000 in grants to Jacarrie Kicks for Kids ($7,500), Imagine MKE ($7,500), Collier’s Training Institute ($7,500) and WestCare Wisconsin ($7,500), according to the press release.
Greg Wesley, the senior vice president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that community voices are essential to the group’s work. This is a generational commitment, he said.
The ThriveOn Collaboration plans to concentrate on early childhood education, health and wellness (this includes access to food and food security), affordable housing, social cohesion and economic opportunities.
“The name is just the beginning,” Ellen Gilligan, president and CEO of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, said. “The real transformation is just around the corner.”
She said the group wants to create a Milwaukee for all, and this includes recentering communities and reimagining philanthropy.
Alderwoman Milele Coggs applauded the group’s efforts and noted their intention to work with residents. It will be an example on a local level and national one, she said.
To learn more about the project, the collaboration and its second grant cycle, go to thriveoncollaboration.org.