An arts and cultural center with hopes of altering Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood has estimated total construction costs of nearly $55 million, officials from The Bronzeville Center of the Arts told The Daily Reporter.
The Bronzeville Center of the Arts (BCA) would like to build a 50,000-square-foot museum and events space to replace the former Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources building at 2300 N. King Drive, nonprofit officials said. Gov. Tony Evers visited with the arts center officials on Thursday and proposed $5 million to help build the center as part of his $3.8 billion budget for projects across the state.
“We talked about the importance of a project like this not just in Milwaukee, but the project as a state aspect and how we believe it has the ability to bring tourists from all around the country,” BCA Executive Committee Chair and Milwaukee attorney Kristen Hardy said in an interview with The Daily Reporter.
The center plans to request $54.9 million from the state at the next State Building Commission meeting on March 23, an agenda showed. Gov. Evers recommended $5 million in cash and $49.9 million as a gift, a document summarizing agency requests and the governor’s recommendations for state building projects showed.
“The Bronzeville Center for the Arts would be a part of elevating the entire state as a cultural tourism destination, specifically in experiencing the rich history and culture of African Americans,” the building commission document said.
“Black leisure travelers account for $129.6 billion dollars in spending nationally, and cultural activities ranked in the top six (out of the 20 most cited travel activities) for Hispanic, White and Black travelers for activities participated in traveling to Wisconsin,” the document added, crediting a study from the Longwoods Multicultural Survey.
The project also received a $25 million gift from an anonymous person, Hardy said. The center will plan on a donation campaign and talk to private donors and other organizations who are invested in the arts, she added.
When the 3.4-acre center project wraps up in 2026, it will share the neighborhood with America’s Black Holocaust Museum and businesses on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. “We stand on the shoulders of all these other businesses that are around the area,” Hardy said.
The project will include art exhibits, space for programming, a garden for community youth and a public plaza, Hardy said. BCA is already planning an office and art gallery on 507 W. North Ave., which will help steer ideas for the museum with community input, Hardy said. The gallery on North Avenue is expected to be completed in fall of 2023.
Milwaukee-based M&E Architects+Engineers will work with HGA and Design Principal Peter Cook to design BCA’s project, arts center officials said. Milwaukee real estate firm Emem Group will serve as the owner’s representative, which means they will work as part of the project team but under a separate contract with the owner.
“Hiring local is one of the things that matters to us,” Hardy said. “They also have experience with projects in the Bronzeville area. That deep knowledge is really what we leaned into when hiring all these folks.”