Mayor Tom Barrett and Ald. Khalif Rainey joined officials from BMO Harris Bank and Compass Properties under a tent Thursday afternoon to ceremonially break ground on a new "smart" bank branch in the Sherman Park neighborhood.
The one-story branch, at 3637 W. Fond du Lac Ave., will replace the BMO Harris Bank across the street that was damaged in a fire set during unrest in the neighborhood following the shooting of Sylville Smith last August.
The new building – designed by architects at Cedarburg's Groth Design – is expected to open by autumn. A temporary branch opened in the drive-in windows at the old location last September.
The Neoclassical former branch building – which opened in 1927 as the Sherman Park State Bank and which later became part of BMO Harris via acquisitions of The Northern Bank and M&I – will be transformed into a wellness incubator that will include a variety of services, including restaurants.
The project – spearheaded by The Juice Kitchen’s JoAnne Johnson-Sabir and Fix Development’s Juli Kaufmann – as Johnson-Sabir told BizTimes, will be "a hub for entrepreneurship and wellness services. ... A community-owned model ... that will feature makeup artists, yogis, jiu jitsu (and) a plethora of restaurant options, all with entrepreneurs who are looking for a home and support."
"You can see from what’s going on here today, that BMO Harris is genuine in its commitment to Milwaukee and the Sherman Park community," said Barrett as light rain fell at the groundbreaking.
"What we are seeing here is a commitment to this community. This is all about believing in this community, investing in this community and moving this community forward."
In its new 2,200-square foot building, the new bank branch, meanwhile, will offer smart ATMs, that don’t require debit cards, a team of bankers, video conferencing with specialized bank professionals and free Wi-Fi for customers.
"Our new branch, which will be open in the fall, will be our very first Smart Branch in Wisconsin," said Chris Michalski, BMO Harris Bank Regional President for Retail Banking, Southeast Wisconsin. We’re excited to bring this optimal balance of cutting-edge technology and exceptional customer service to our customers in Sherman Park.
"I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our Sherman Park customers. They’ve been very patient, and incredibly supportive throughout this entire process. I speak on behalf of the entire Sherman Park branch team when I say thank you to them."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.