In Dining

The Ramona Building is slated for an utter transformation thanks to the 3 Story Project. (PHOTO: City of Milwaukee)

3 Story Project aims to empower neighborhoods through food

Chef Michael Feker, owner and chef of Il Mito and Zesti, has announced plans for a new community-based project in the Park West and Amani neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

The 3 Story Project is focused on transforming the historic Ramona Building at 3064-74 N. 27th St. into a community supported restaurant, grocer and indoor urban agriculture facility. The goal of Feker's new project is to increase access to affordable, nutritious food while fostering community, empowering local entrepreneurs and creating employment for neighborhood residents.

Feker, who says he was introduced to the neighborhood a number of years ago through consultation work with Aurora Sinai, notes his interest and connection to the community was strengthened through his family's volunteerism at the Guest House, a community shelter for homeless men, as well as his work with Auer Avenue Elementary School, which has included food-based education, as well as a more recent proposal to provide a hot breakfast program for students.

"My motivation for this project is focused on what matters, and that is to help the community," notes Feker. "And the best way I know to do that is through food and cooking.

"It's wrong for us to go into a community and make change without including the people who live there. It's about working with people, becoming part of the community, and empowering them. They just need someone to be with them and walk them through the journey."

Feker says that the project will be completed in multiple phases, the first of which will be the restaurant, followed by a hydroponic farm, retail grocer and a training facility. The concept for the restaurant, he says, will be based on recipes that are generated by the community itself.

Restoration and updates to the building, a Mediterranean Revival style apartment complex built in the 1920s, is estimated to cost over $500,000. Funds for the project will be generated through private donations as well as Feker's C.H.E.F. Foundation, a 501c3 he created in 2013 with the goal of empowering low-income individuals through training in the culinary and hospitality industry.

Feker says he hopes to complete the first phase of the project within the next year and expects to be able to launch the restaurant sometime in 2018.

"This is their project, it belongs to the neighborhood," Feker emphasizes. "I've been blessed with support from the community to make this happen, but I'm just a conduit for everything that's possible."

Watch OnMilwaukee for updates on the project, including a closer look at the historic property by Bobby Tanzilo.

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