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Milwaukee to open new business center

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee leaders hope economic development will be spurred by a new commercial center built at the site of a bank that was burned down two years ago during unrest over the fatal police shooting of a black man.

The $4 million Sherman Phoenix is scheduled to open in November, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The center stands at the site of a former BMO Harris bank, which burned down amid protests against the shooting death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith.

The development symbolizes rising from the ashes and rebirth, officials said. It has received $250,000 worth of state grants and $215,000 of city money, as well as philanthropic donations, angel investors and local investors.

More than 20 businesses will go into the space, including a jewelry store, a nail salon, a paint-and-drink studio, a vegan restaurant and a yoga studio.

The center will offer the small-business owners resources and a support system. The tenants, many of whom are entrepreneurs of color, will have access to workshops, mentors and coaching sessions.

Business owners of color rarely have access to such support, said JoAnne Sabir, a developer and future Sherman Phoenix tenant.

“There is access to capital that a lot of black-owned business are not aware of, there are angel investors that black-owned businesses have not been tapped into,” Sabir said. “So it’s really opening up the sphere of opportunity.”

Sherman Phoenix will bring together various resources in one spot, said Beth Haskovec, commercial revitalization program officer for Milwaukee’s Local Initiatives Support Corp.

“You know they could go to one place to get a loan, they could go another place to get access to business coaching, they could go to a third place to get mentorship — that’s a lot of work for somebody who is trying to run a business,” Haskovec said.

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