By Dylan Deprey
Though Bronzeville’s thriving Black neighborhoods, businesses and jazz infused camaraderie has lost its shine since its “Golden Era” (1940-1960), the reincarnation of this prosperous neighborhood has come, and with a likely addition it arrives at no better time for Milwaukee.
Elected officials, community organizers and the community joined in celebration as the America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) will move its 5-year online stint and back into something more brick and mortar, as part of the Historic Garfield redevelopment project.
The $17.4 million project will transform the vacant Garfield Elementary School (2215 N. 4th Street) into the Historic Garfield Apartments, 30 high-quality units for mixed-income housing.
The other adjacent property will be developed for the ‘Griot,’ a newly constructed building with 41 residential units and 8,000 square feet of commercial space. This space will be the ABHM’s new home.
The museum is set to re-open its doors Spring 2018, and is projected to bring over 10,000 visitors annually into the Bronzeville neighborhood.
“My father is smiling right now, and is hoping that the hard work we’ve put in so far will continue,” said Virgil Cameron, the son of the late Dr. James Cameron, America’s Black Holocaust Museum Founder.
Dr. James Cameron, the only known lynching survivor, opened the museum in a Milwaukee storefront in 1984. He worked to builds public awareness of the harmful legacies of slavery in America and promoted racial repair, reconciliation and healing.
Through years of educating and expansion the museum closed its doors due to financial difficulties with the recession in 2008, following Dr. Cameron’s death two years earlier.
The museum was preserved online over the past five years, and with the help of Head Griot Reggie Jackson and hundreds of volunteers working behind the scene, has reached over 1.5 million people a year.
During the presentation, Alderwoman Coggs noted that her first meeting after being sworn in nine years ago was with Jackson, and since then she has worked solidify Cameron’s legacy in stone once again.
“The state of relations amongst people is a little less humane than when the museum first opened. There is no greater time in history for the museum to be returning to have dialogues about race and equity,” Coggs said.
Melissa Goins, Maures Development Group, LLC, said it took almost two and a half years to successfully arrange the funds and many organizations, including partner development firm Jeffers & Co., to redevelop the once culturally rich neighborhood back to its original state.
“What makes this project so powerful is the intentional cultivation with which so many layers have been woven together to make a truly catalytic development,” Goins said.
Along with housing the ABHM, Goins said the purpose of the project was to provide quality houses for all income levels while also reconnecting Bronzeville to Halyard Park and Downtown. Just like its predecessor, the redevelopment will give local artists the opportunities to showcase their talents as well as providing green and gathering spaces.
The project is also set to create over 115 jobs through construction, property management and the museum. Forty city residents will also receive onthe- job training through an innovative partnership with Employ Milwaukee and the Northcott Neighborhood House.
Maures Development Group, LLC is the only female and minority-owned development businesses in the State of Wisconsin.
“If it took 400 years for a woman of color to break ground on a $17 million development in the city, don’t be too easy to quit when the going gets tough,” Goins said.