The Commons

Download the The Innovations and Wellness Commons case study.

To view a gallery of images, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

Walnut Way’s The Innovations and Wellness Commons, aka, The Commons, is a current project of Fix Development.  Fix serves as co-developer providing guidance for project decisions involving funding, financing, design, tenant recruitment, construction and property start-up for this catalytic development project.

Phase I construction was completed with tenant occupancy occurring in Fall 2015. Phase II is now under development.

Background

The Commons traces its origins to the Lindsay Height Quality of Life Plan, a 4- year inclusive community planning process to improve neighborhood social, economic and physical conditions, funded by the Zilber Family Foundation in 2008.

Development of the plan was led by Walnut Way Conservation Corp. a 501c3 organization committed to sustaining an economically diverse and abundant community through civic engagement, environmental stewardship, and by creating venues for prosperity.  Chartered by neighbors in 2000, Walnut Way challenges the cycle of poverty in the Lindsay Heights neighborhood by engaging, educating, and employing residents to take leadership roles in revitalizing their community.

Located in a Milwaukee central city area bounded by N. 8th Street to N. 20th Street and W. Locust Street to W. Walnut Street, Lindsay Heights is home to a population comprised of 99% African American and Latino residents, 52.9% of whom live below the poverty line, a statistic that is more than double the average for Milwaukee as a whole. The foreclosure rate in the area has reached crisis level with more than half of the commercial properties currently standing vacant and many homes blighted from absentee ownership.

Yet, since its purposeful beginnings, residents and partners have worked together with Walnut Way to successfully:

  • Drive out crime and create a close-knit neighborhood of caring residents
  • Build a vibrant community center from a formerly dilapidated drug house
  • Restore century-old homes and help construct new owner-occupied homes
  • Transform 12 vacant city lots into productive gardens and fruit orchards
  • Install 40 rain gardens and rainwater cisterns
  • Offer programs for all ages that promote health and wellness, art and culture, and education and training.

The Commons represents Walnut Way’s next step forward in efforts to promote the neighborhood’s transformation as reflected in the Quality of Life Plan.

The Project

The Walnut Way community’s vision of  “health and wellness” includes physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, financial, and environmental aspects of wellbeing and they have declared themselves ready to make healthy choices easy choices. To that end, they set three major goals for The Commons:

Social and Cultural Impact:

  • Create sustainable programs, products and services of restoration and healing, providing access in which individual wellbeing and neighborhood quality of life are cultivated.
  • Nurture and enhance connections among neighbors, organizations and valuable resources to improve individual health and quality of life, and strengthen a neighborhood culture of wellness.

Economic Impact:

  • Deepen shared investment in the neighborhood through a comprehensive economic strategy for enterprise development, leading to the creation of job training and employment opportunities for residents.
  • Design and position worker- owned businesses by leveraging the programs and financial resources of the Commons’ anchor institutions.

Environmental Impact:

  • Build a beautiful, environmentally sustainable campus that will be a catalyst in restoring vitality to the North Avenue commercial corridor.
  • Expand the Walnut Way campus of gardens and neighborhood environmental center, to a commercial location.
  • Engage the best ecological practices in architecture design and structure for this commercial facility
  • Incorporate craftsmanship in preservation and the use of sustainable materials
  • Provides shared space for community gatherings and environmental education.

Those are goals that align with Fix Development’s development definitions and quadruple bottom line goals.

Prospective Tenants

The Commons project site, located at 1609-1615 W. North Avenue, includes a vacant lot and an existing building.  The development will rehabilitate the historic building (Phase I) and construct a new adjacent building (Phase II) that will form a hub for health and wellness services, economic development, educational and training programs and neighborhood organizing efforts in Lindsay Heights.

This hub of activities will emerge through integrated programs and services provided by a cadre of tenants.  Fix Development has helped facilitate the discussions leading to Letters of Intent that will form the basis for eventual lease agreements with nine prospective tenants.  Together they represent 100% occupancy of the anticipated 20,000 square feet building and potentially 35 new jobs.  Those organizations and businesses include:

Outpost Natural Foods, a locally-owned co-op grocery store chain the provides quality organic and locally produced foods, products and educational supports that promote personal and environmental health and meet the access needs of their owners and customers for healthy eating and living well.

The Juice Kitchen, an entrepreneurial local business featuring completely vegan raw juice and vegetarian food bar advancing the goal of providing healthy, tasty, affordable food and healthy eating education for Milwaukee central city residents.

Jobs Work/The Milwaukee Community Business Collaborative, Inc. (MCBC), an employment organization focused on creating job opportunities for chronically unemployed individuals who are motivated to change their circumstances by supporting the development and growth of successful for-profit businesses within Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods.

Aurora Health Care-Integrative Medicine Group, an evidenced-based combination of modern or conventional medicine with holistic medicine to help people on their journey to health and wellness.  They will offer acupuncture services at The Commons.

Milwaukee Center for Independence, an established, Milwaukee-based organization that will open a commercial kitchen offering on the job training at the Commons. The MCFI Hospitality Academy provides on-the-job training for individuals with special needs and other barriers to success who are interested in working in the hospitality industry.

Independent Wellness Services A suite of dedicated spaces, master-leased by Walnut Way for subleasing to independent wellness practitioners for the provision of services such as reiki, massage, nutrition and other wellness services, complementing acupuncture provided by Aurora Health Care and providing access to a full continuum of holistic care.  These spaces are also designed to enable local wellness entrepreneurs the opportunity to build their business and client base.

Walnut Way Conservation Corp. will maintain offices in the building for some administrative and program staff and will include general assembly space that will be available for use by other tenants and the general public.

Photo Gallery

 

  • Outpost_LR
    Interior of Outpost Natural Foods Co-op
  • Kitchen_2_LR
    Interior of MCFI Kitchen
  • JuiceKit_LR
    Interior of The Juice Kitchen
  • Fondy_4_LR
    Interior of Fondy Food Center office
  • Exterior_LR
    Exterior of Phase I
  • Corridor_LR
    "Jenz Wall" interior wall
  • Proposed Complete I and II
    Rendering of Phase I and II