Northside Harambee residents leverage national investment and improve quality housing, safety, employment, services, and financial opportunities for residents
When Thrivent Financial for Lutherans was looking to make a significant investment in a local community in 2005, Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood was well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity.
Because of LISC’s expertise in neighborhood planning and comprehensive community development, Thrivent came to the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) for advice. “Nationally, Thrivent was looking for a community with certain characteristics – one with a large percentage of Lutherans; one with a strong, well-run Habitat for Humanity program and one with an established framework for engaging residents in comprehensive neighborhood planning. Milwaukee has all three elements. LISC Milwaukee had worked in Harambee and the neighborhood was a natural choice given the rich history of resident engagement combined with great need,”said Leo Ries, executive director, LISC Milwaukee.
Thrivent agreed, and made a total investment of 2.5 million in the predominately African American, north side neighborhood hard-hit by the economic downturn. Despite its economic challenges, Harambee is a highly organized neighborhood with a rich history of activism and resident engagement. During the 70’s and 80’s, the neighborhood became very well-organized with over 100 active block clubs.
Thrivent’s $2.5 million investment included $900,000 to Habitat for Humanity for the construction of new homes, $1,075,000 to the Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative (HGNI) ($75,000 for comprehensive neighborhood planning, $500,000 for implementation of these plans, and $500,000 for a loan fund and business expansion fund). An additional $500,000 went to Hope Schools for the construction of a new high school on Port Washington Road.
“The Thrivent Builds program has allowed Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity to build and repair a lot of homes in partnership with low-income families. But you can build the best home in the world, and a family will still struggle if they don’t have a safe street, or a job, or learning opportunities for their children. The Harambee Great Neighborhoods Initiative demonstrates how agencies and residents can work together to improve the whole community,” said Brian Sonderman, Executive Director, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity.
Thrivent’s investment was, in part, the result of groundwork laid by a collaboration of private foundations, corporations and government agencies called the Milwaukee Neighborhood Development Collaborative formed in 2005. The partners included the Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Helen Bader Foundation, Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), Northern Trust Bank and United Way of Greater Milwaukee. Through a deliberative process, the MNDC selected the northern section of the Harambee Neighborhood for their investment of a collective $1 million for 2006-2008 . The area was selected based on its revitalization potential, the convergence of public and private assets that could be linked and leveraged, the strong social networks in the neighborhood, proximity to “neighborhoods of strength”, and the presence of effective lead organizations.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans joined the MNDC by virtue of its commitment of $75,000 toward the comprehensive planning process in Harambee, and the work of the MNDC was carried on by the new Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative (HGNI) from 2008 to present. HGNI is the main coordinating body for Harambee’s revitalization efforts and consists of a steering committee and subcommittees for each of the main goals of the plan. Northcott Neighborhood House serves as the fiscal agent for HGNI.
“Thrivent started with an investment through our national partnership with Habitat, and it grew from there. We could see how organized and passionate the neighborhood leaders were and we gave them a planning grant to create a Neighborhood Action Plan. This plan triggered a $1 million investment for comprehensive neighborhood revitalization efforts. Harambee leaders have taken this investment and leveraged over $30 million in public and private funds to support their plans. A 1 to 30 return on our investment in three years was well beyond our expectations,” said Rudi Pakendorf, Director, Member Engagement and Growth, Thrivent Financial For Lutherans.
LISC worked with residents to develop the Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative Neighborhood Action Plan detailing critical priorities, goals, strategies, and resources needed to accomplish the plan. The HGNI steering committee was created to oversee efforts. Impressed with Harambee’s Neighborhood Action Plan and broad participation of residents and partners, Thrivent made a final $1 million dollar investment in 2007 toward the achievement of the comprehensive neighborhood plan. Nine priority areas are outlined in Harambee’s Neighborhood Action Plan, and each priority has a volunteer committee responsible for implementation: 1) Neighborhood Image, 2) Housing Market, 3) Physical Conditions, 4) Health and the Environment, 5) Neighborhood Leadership, 6) Community Connections, 7) Employment and Workforce, 8) Public Safety, 9) Arts and Culture. “Our accomplishments are the result of residents pulling together, block by block, to build a better future for ourselves and our families. The Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative has been so successful because it goes beyond building new houses and planting gardens in vacant lots—it’s about bringing people together and accessing the passion and talents of our residents. Thrivent’s investment has helped us do all of this, ” says J. Allen Stokes, Chairman of the HGNI Steering Committee, and Executive Director of the Inner City Redevelopment Corporation. The results are remarkable. In the three years (2008-2011), the Harambee has:
Improved housing conditions by building new quality homes, and helping residents maintain current homes. Total new homes = 167, Total renovated homes = 99.
- The Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity partnership resulted in 44 new homes and rehabilitated homes. Thrivent employees volunteered more than 80,000 hours working side-by-side with new homeowners.
- Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation completed King Drive Commons II and III, multi-unit apartment complexes with business centers, covered parking, community and gallery space, townhouses and single-family homes. King Drive Commons III will soon feature a street level fresh food market and deli operated by Growing Power. These are now home to 48 families. Earlier this year MLKEDC received an allocation of Affordable Housing Tax Credits from WHEDA to develop Phase IV of the King Drive Commons revitalization effort, which will include 45 units of housing and 5,000 square feet of commercial space for locally owned small businesses.
- Maures Development Group built an affordable multi-family 24 unit apartment complex, called Heart and Hope Apartments. Heart and Hope features indoor parking, an on-site playground, and original local art.
- An additional 37 homes were rehabilitated by Allied Churches Teaching Self Empowerment (ACTS) and others, allowing home owners to address code violations and stay in their homes.
Centralized financial and employment services
- Riverworks Development Corporations created a onestop shop for job training and placements, financial education and coaching, and access to public benefits. This Financial Opportunity Center is based on LISC’s national model and evaluation systems. Data shows that by participating in two or more services, clients see significant gains in their personal income and wealth. To date, 500 individuals have enrolled in one or more services over the last two and a half years.
Reduced crime along King Drive
- Concerned business owners and residents along King Drive (called King Drive Partners) successfully worked with police to reduce crime within the King Drive Business Improvement District (BID).
- Since inception of the partnership, the area has welcomed dozens of new businesses and gained more than $200 million worth of new commercial and residential development, due in part to drops in real crime and improvements in how the area is perceived.
- In 2010, King Drive Partners was selected for a national Metlife Foundation Award for Community-Police Partnerships (more than 700 communities applied). Created healthy food and recreational options
- Clinton Rose Park, and three new “pocket parks” have been created for neighbors to use for gardening, socializing and playing.
- Each of the five clusters completed a beautification project to improve existing outdoor areas.
- Opening soon, Growing Power’s new fresh market will feature a deli as well as fresh fruits and vegetables available on MLK drive. Improved the Five Points Exchange area.
- This area is an important gateway to the Harambee neighborhood. The new Hope School to the north and Heart- Love Place to the south, have created strong anchors for this distressed area.
- The City of Milwaukee has taken control of four abandoned properties and has scheduled demolition. The City also made infrastructure investments to improve roads and make them more pedestrian friendly along Keefe Avenue and Port Washington Road (in 2012).
- Approximately, $2 million has been leveraged for façade improvement in the Riverworks Center Area. Post Foods improved their business façade near the Five Points Exchange. There is also early investment by the State of Wisconsin to build a women’s correctional facility in the area.
Worked with the City of Milwaukee to create a Targeted Investment Neighborhood (TIN)
- The Targeted Investment Neighborhood (TIN) initiative helps sustain and increase owner-occupancy, provide high quality affordable rental housing, strengthen property values, and improve the physical appearance and quality of life of neighborhoods. TINs focus resources for three years on a small area, generally six to twelve city blocks.
- TIN was expanded in the HGNI area (6 blocks east and 1 block south). Number of parcels included in TIN increased from 716 in 2010 to 1,275 in 2011 – 78 percent increase.
Expanded neighborhood arts and culture opportunities
- Launched 10 Gallery Nights for local artists coordinated with the downtown gallery night series
- Visual artist Reynaldo Hernandez taught drawing classes for 35 Harambee youth
- Beerline trail mural was developed by Hernandez and 6 area students to beautify the new Beerline Trail walking path
To mark these accomplishments the Harambee Great Neighborhood Initiative, Habitat for Humanity and LISC Milwaukee hosted several events on Thursday, August 18th. A bus tour highlighting successes throughout the neighborhood from 10:30-12noon. A press event hosted by the new Growing Power fresh market at King Drive Commons III features speakers who have played a significant role in Harambee’s success. A community luncheon celebration followed from 1-3pm at HeartLove Place featuring Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford, a 20 minute video on Harambee, and an art exhibit.