By Karen Stokes
On Saturday, March 16, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin visited Milwaukee to tour Sherman Phoenix. This is her first visit to the facility since it’s official opening on November 30, 2018.
“I am delighted to join everyone here at Sherman Phoenix,” Senator Baldwin said. “I had the honor of visiting a few months back before any tenants moved in. I had to wear a hard hat for most of the tour.”
Two years ago, co-founders JoAnne Johnson-Sabir and commercial real estate developer Juli Kaufmann led the redevelopment and joined forces with others including the Senator to bring life to their vision.
Last year Senator Baldwin successfully secured a $750,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services–Office of Community Services (OCS) to help close the funding gap for the Sherman Phoenix Project. The federal funds were awarded to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) for their efforts directly supporting this project, including providing quality business and financial educational programming and one-on-one technical assistance to the Sherman Phoenix tenant entrepreneurs and business owners.
On the tour, Baldwin was joined by Wisconsin State Senator LaTonya Johnson, co-owner Juli Kaufman and members of WWBIC. Baldwin enthusiastically conversed with tenants, employees and customers throughout the tour.
She tried a ginger shot with Manaan Sabir, owner of Shindig Coffee, talked to Angela Mallett about healing herbs and natural health solutions at Honeybee Sage Wellness & Apothecary and learned about Adija Greer Smith’s journey to ownership of Confectionately Yours.
The Senator referred to Sherman Phoenix as a beautiful idea and celebrated the remarkable facility while reflecting on the unrest in August 2016, that destroyed many businesses in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
“All I remember about this neighborhood a couple of years back is the sight of the unrest, the violence and a lot of neighborhood and community turmoil. People are proud to have grown up, worked and have been a part of Sherman Park,” Baldwin said.
Senator Baldwin was in Milwaukee at the time of the unrest and had an opportunity to meet with faith-based and community leaders and law enforcement at the 3rd District Police Station to discuss the crisis and brainstorm solutions.
“So, to be standing here 2 1/2 years later and see that something tragic turned into something so helpful, it is heartwarming. It took a lot of people working together,” Baldwin said.
The project broke ground in May 2017 with a $4 million fundraising goal. Sherman Phoenix is a 20,000 sq. foot facility housed in the former BMO Harris Bank at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
Currently, Sherman Phoenix houses 29 tenants and have plans for more in the near future.
“We have two vacant spaces in the basement however they are under contract, so we are building out the final spaces for four new tenants that we will be announcing in about 60 days,” said Kaufman.
“To come back now to see it bubbling with life and excitement, it’s really humbling to be here and see all that’s happened,” said the Senator.