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A Dream Fulfilled: The New Bronzeville

Cut through, but not forgotten, the citizens of Bronzeville found themselves severed by the construction of two Milwaukee highways which paved through the center of their community. These highways, completed in the 1950’s and 60’s, leveled Bronzeville businesses, residencies, and cultural capitals, erasing much of what was once was heralded as a prominent center of culture and education for the African American community. However, it soon became clear that it would take more than a highway to destroy this hearty community, as its people fought for the redevelopment of the neighborhood they once remembered. 

Beginning in 1990’s, the rush to revitalize and redevelop this fractured community began, with community members Milile Coggs and Melissa Goins spearheading the charge. Believing in reunification of the Bronzeville community through affordable housing and cultural community spaces, the groundwork for this project with WHEDA began. 

Believing in Goins’s project for affordable housing in Wisconsin communities, WHEDA contributed over $5.7 million towards the project in housing tax credits, permanent loans, and construction financing to help this dream become a reality.

In 2017, the construction of this project was completed when two multifamily housing facilities opened their doors to allow citizens of Bronzeville affordable and impactful living arrangements. The first of these buildings, the Garfield School Apartments, is constructed on the foundation of a former public school. Reminding its residents of an earlier time, the Garfield school apartments evoke a feeling of nostalgia in the newly renovated building. The second building, known as the Griot, intends to pay homage to the community’s cultural heritage, recognizing its former struggles and opportunities. By providing open spaces for community and cultural events, the Griot serves to restore the historical significance of the community. 

 Showing our heritage and sharing our experiences not only fosters pride among families, but it restores hope, while encouraging a sense of community. We are grateful to be a part of the revitalized energy and economy that is occurring in Bronzeville.
 -Melissa Goins

Only through the vision of individuals, such as Goins and Coggs, would this development have been possible. Aligning with WHEDA’s mission to provide affordable and safe housing for Wisconsin communities, they not only to seek to invest in the community of today, but in the residents of tomorrow, providing a space where a once-severed Wisconsin community may grow and be reborn. With WHEDA’s assistance and involvement, the community has put its place on the map, one that will not soon be paved over.