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By Jeramey Jannene, Urban Milwaukee

The Bronzeville Center for the Arts (BCA), a quickly growing Milwaukee nonprofit focused on showcasing African American art, is moving full-speed ahead on its proposal to redevelop the former Wisconsin Department Natural Resources site at the corner of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and W. North Ave.

BCA won a competitive bidding process in 2022 to buy the site for $1.6 million and intends to develop a “world-class art and cultural center.”

The organization has conceptual plans to develop a 50,000-square-foot facility at the 3.4-acre site, including an auditorium and exhibition space, as well as a green space with a sculpture walk.

The complex, the nonprofit announced Tuesday, will be designed by Milwaukee-based M&E Architects+Engineers with support from HGAMichael Emem‘s Emem Group will serve as BCA’s owner’s representative.

“BCA exists to increase our collective knowledge and engagement with African American art, art history and artists,” said Kristen D. Hardy, BCA board president, in a statement. “As a Black-led firm with deep roots in our community, M&E Architects+Engineers shares our vision and is the right partner to help us bring it to life.”

M&E is led by Isaac Menyoli. The firm is based out of the Westown neighborhood, with an office in the Steinmeyer Building, 205 W. Highland Ave. M&E was founded in 1989. The firm has worked on a number of health care, commercial and education projects and served as a consultant on several other projects.

“Without art, there is no culture,“ said Menyoli. “This is an incredible opportunity to help define the look and feel of an institution that will represent the African American arts community for generations. Coupled with an array of development projects underway in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood, this project will be both a tribute to the rich history of the neighborhood and an investment in its future.”

The larger HGA will provide design and technical support. Milwaukee-based, Black-owned Zoe Engineering will also provide support.

“Developing the design in partnership with M&E Architects+Engineers is an excellent opportunity to combine our unique skills and experience to create something remarkable,” said HGA’s Peter Cook.

“The vision for the BCA is to bring African American art and artists to the forefront of our collective knowledge,” said Emem, who was previously engaged on the project as the owner’s representative and helped hire the design and engineering team. “I believe we have the right team in place to do just that.”

The partners are expected to host a public input process to refine the project’s design, amenities and interior programming.

“The BCA’s destination arts museum will be an incredible addition to a revitalized Bronzeville,” said area alderwoman Milele A. Coggs. “Milwaukee’s Bronzeville is the place to be – from The New York Times to local and national investors. the world is taking notice and projects like BCA’s arts museum are the reason why.”

BCA is also moving forward on a gallery space, workshop and office space development at 507 W. North Ave. It will redevelop an existing, two-story building as office space and a one-story building as a gallery.

The BCA developments build on a number of other efforts underway in the area, including The Griot apartments (which houses America’s Black Holocaust Museum) and ThriveOn King development from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Greater Milwaukee Foundation. A number of other smaller projects are planned within the King Drive corridor.

Conceptual renderings of the proposed center were produced by Wilson & Ford Design Studios.

BCA would demolish the two-story, 33,995-square-foot office building at 2312 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. that was constructed in 1983. A portion of the existing structure was built in 1911 as a Neoclassical-style bank branch. The DNR vacated the building in 2021 as part of a relocation to the Menomonee Valley.


See this article on Urban Milwaukee.