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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the ThriveOn Collaboration?
The ThriveOn Collaboration is a historic, community-centered, place-based collaboration founded on a joint vision for a Milwaukee that is equitable, healthy and thriving for all. The Collaboration is committed to making generational investments in the well-being of Milwaukee communities aimed at eliminating racial, health, economic and social disparities.
Why was the ThriveOn Collaboration formed?
The ThriveOn Collaboration was born out of a common interest in making a catalytic, place-based investment that would improve the quality of life for the communities the organizations serve. Our intention is to join with the community and work in partnership with all residents to build on the vibrant history and assets in our city as well as solve persistent challenges. Together, MCW, GMF and RCG will bring complementary expertise on a range of strategies – guided by community priorities and data – to invest in the health, equity and economic well-being of people in Milwaukee through resident and community partnerships, improving social determinants of health and catalyzing change that leverages resources and investment.
Who are the collaborators?
The Medical College of Wisconsin, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Royal Capital Group are the lead collaborators, along with the residents of the Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. Other like-minded community collaborators will be identified over time.
Will the Collaboration have a physical presence?
The ThriveOn Collaboration’s investment in people and place includes the restoration and redevelopment of 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, once the home of Gimbels-Schuster’s Department Store. In its new life as ThriveOn King, the site will bring new resources and opportunity to the community, serve as the Foundation’s new headquarters and house MCW’s community engagement programs. Royal Capital is the developer for the approximately 455,000-square-foot project expected to bring over $100 million in reinvestment along the King Drive Corridor.
Why was 2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive chosed for the Collaboration's site?

Site selection was a rigorous process. Both qualitative and quantitative criteria were used to help determine the best site, along with gaining input from neighborhoods. In all, 20 sites were identified, with a focus on places where investment has been scarce and where opportunity was strongest for supporting communities of color disproportionately affected by disparities.

2153 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive was ultimately selected because it offered the greatest opportunity for catalytic impact and for realizing the vision of the Collaboration. The location has both historic and present-day significance in our community.

How is community engagement being done?

From day one, the ThriveOn Collaboration has been committed to a robust community engagement plan focused on building relationships, ongoing communication and shared decision-making processes. Engagement opportunities have included public visioning sessions, one-on-one interviews, community gatherings and activities, virtual and in-person office hours, deployment of neighborhood fellows, and resident participation on Collaboration work groups. The Collaboration has also established a Community Advisory Council, which advises on use of space and resources, including recommending grants in the ThriveOn neighborhoods.

This jointly managed process follows a model used by GMF that has been repeated in communities across the country and leads to strategic investments and engaged neighbors who serve as partners in the work.

What are the ThriveOn Collaboration’s key focus areas as identified by residents and partners?
  • Economic Opportunity – Supporting small businesses and enhancing equitable economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and the local workforce.
  • Housing – Investing in the availability of dignified and affordable housing for area residents.
  • Early Childhood Education – Investing in the quality, availability and sustainability of early childhood education in area neighborhoods.
  • Health & Wellness – Investing in access to health and wellness facilities, healthy food options and preventive health services in the area.
  • Social Cohesion – Supporting community in building positive social and business relationships, celebrating diversity and promoting a sense of belonging among neighbors.
What are some of the investments the Collaboration has made so far in the community?
  • African American philanthropists led an effort to raise $2 million through the ThriveOn Collaboration to establish an endowed chair to fund the health equity research of MCW professor Leonard Egede, MD, MS. Dr. Egede will be based at ThriveOn King and continue his work addressing societal factors that impact health and to improve well-being in Milwaukee’s Black community and beyond.
  • The ThriveOn Small Business Loans program has provided $780,000 in low-interest loans to 17 small businesses owned by people of color in Milwaukee, 80 percent of which are located in Halyard Park, Harambee or Brewers Hill. Funded through the Foundation’s impact investing program, the loans are helping business reopen, rehire, grow and sustain operations.
  • To date, the Collaboration has awarded $70,000 in grants recommended by the ThriveOn Community Advisory Council to community-based organizations and programs working in the three neighborhoods, supporting youth, employment and training, social connections and more.
  • In 2019, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation established the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund. Both the Foundation and the Medical College of Wisconsin are active in raising money to support and grow it. GMF provided $100,000 in seed funding to launch the Fund.
Will the ThriveOn King building include community space?
The first floor of ThriveOn King is focused on community use and needs. The program elements were developed through many visioning sessions and other ongoing interactions with residents and community stakeholders over the course of several years. Concepts were modeled after other successful efforts throughout the country, in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta and Baltimore. Primary elements include a cafe, neighborhood hall, community rooms, makerspaces, food demonstration center, conference rooms and prestige areas focused on art, culture and history. Many details are still being worked out for access and use of the various spaces, but designs and plans for activation will be shared with the public as they take shape. In addition to these community use spaces, the Collaboration is also planning to invest in early childhood education services and other healthy living components that are yet to be fully finalized but are in active development.
How many people will be located at ThriveOn King?

MCW will house most of its community engagement work in the space, with additional capacity for student use and flexible work space. Daily numbers will fluctuate as many of MCW’s faculty, staff and students will use ThriveOn King as a secondary location.

GMF will be moving its full physical plant and entire staff of about 58 employees to the site. Additional partners, as they join, will add to these numbers, as will the adjoining residential component.

Will there be housing included in the project?
Royal Capital Group estimates it will provide more than 80 units of residential housing for seniors and for families. The units will be available to a mix of different household incomes. The housing units are catalyzed by the Collaboration’s decision to partner together.
What type of parking is included in the development?

A parking structure estimated to include more than 300 parking spaces is being developed for the southwestern corner of the property with community input. Its façade is being designed with greenery and/or public art in mind.

ThriveOn will work with the city to maximize parking for neighborhood residents.

Will the historic aspects of the building be preserved?

Yes, a consultant is engaged to ensure the historic integrity of the building, and the Collaboration is working closely with the United States National Park Service. The original façade will be exposed and featured in the final design.

Engberg Anderson and Kahler Slater are the architect and design firms involved.

Approximately $12.5 million in historic tax credits were awarded for this building.

What is the timeline for construction of ThriveOn King?

The final permitting process is in place for the ThriveOn Collaboration construction at the former Gimbels-Schuster’s building on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Milwaukee. However, the ongoing challenges of the pandemic have pushed the construction timeline from fall 2021 to winter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the construction industry, and this project is seeing those effects. While this is an unanticipated and temporary delay for ThriveOn King, we are working through details to get every aspect of construction ready to fully proceed this winter.

In the meantime, we continue to engage neighborhood residents in the planning processes regarding the use and development of the space and as well as programming. Community input is a critical piece in our work in all phases of the development, and especially so as challenges arise along the way.

How is the Collaboration supporting neighborhood businesses?

The ThriveOn Small Business Loan program was established in 2021 to help build back jobs and economic participation in Milwaukee neighborhoods. The program is providing access to capital through low-interest loans with favorable terms, giving local small businesses the opportunity to reopen, hire or sustain or improve business operations in a variety of ways.

So far, $780,000 in loans has been distributed to 17 small businesses, all owned by people of color. Nearly 80% of the businesses are located in the Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. Of those approved for funding, 28% are in retail, 24% are specialty businesses, 18% are in the restaurant or food industry, 18% are in commercial real estate and 12% are in health care. Recipients also receive access to ongoing technical assistance to advance businesses’ long-term success. The loans are funded through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s impact investing program.

What are you doing to address concerns of displacement of longtime residents?

The ThriveOn Collaboration acknowledges the concerns residents have expressed about displacement, and Collaboration leaders are advocating for community-centered solutions wherever we have influence.

Rising taxes and the potential for displacement are products of systemic issues without a single cause and cannot be addressed by a single solution. These powerful trends began in Milwaukee long before the ThriveOn Collaboration was formed, as downtown development escalated and the prices of goods and services increased and moved north. Achieving change – particularly overcoming barriers based in current policy – will require a variety of long-term strategies and broad community ownership.

One tool put into immediate action has been the MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund. The integrated collaborative known as MKE United – in which the ThriveOn Collaboration is well-represented – is actively supporting anti-displacement strategies in conjunction with the City’s anti-displacement plan. The MKE United Anti-Displacement Fund was established at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation in 2019, and both the Foundation and the Medical College of Wisconsin are active in raising money to support and grow it. GMF provided $100,000 in seed funding to launch the Fund, which has helped numerous homeowners over the past two years – predominantly Black and Brown residents, a majority of whom are age 62 and older – pay the additional tax burden caused by the increase in their property tax bills.

As a good neighbor, the ThriveOn Collaboration pledges to remain engaged in this issue long-term, including by supporting long-time residents staying in the neighborhood and investing in dignified housing options residents want and can afford. When complete, our project will bring more than 80 units of affordable housing to the neighborhood.

Why is GMF moving?
Moving to ThriveOn King brings the Foundation closer to the community and the organization’s many partners. The Foundation began exploring a move in 2018 as it approached the upcoming expiration of its lease at Schlitz Park and amid growing space needs. The vision was for the Foundation’s physical location to be more than an office – to be an asset that benefits community. The Foundation’s Board authorized a process to identify facility options and evaluate how the organization could potentially leverage its location and physical space to increase social and economic impact in a manner that advances its mission, particularly, its commitment to racial equity and inclusion. The opportunity to collaborate with Medical College of Wisconsin emerged through that process, offering mutual benefit for their closely aligned missions and for the surrounding community and beyond. GMF’s entire staff and operations will be based on fourth floor of ThriveOn King.
What MCW programs are moving?
Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin, Kern Institute, Center for AIDS Intervention Research (CAIR), Institute for Health & Equity (Epidemiology), Community Engagement, Cancer Center Outreach, Comprehensive Injury Center, Center for Advancing Population Science (CAPS) will have dedicated space at ThriveOn.
Will there be clinical care at this site?

Patient care will not be provided at this site. MCW will perform academic and community engagement work at this location.  

Clinical partners already operate nearby, including the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin clinic on 6th and McKinley and the MLK Heritage Health Center.

How can I stay informed about the ThriveOn Collaboration or get involved?
Contact communityengagement@greatermilwaukeefoundation.org to be added to the mailing list for the ThriveOn Collaboration newsletter or to inquire about opportunities to join in the work. In addition, you can visit the website at ThriveOnCollaboration.org.