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Co:Lab competition nearing completion, could rejuvenate MKE neighborhood

Posted at 7:03 AM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 08:33:22-04

Three groups of young professionals are competing for money to jump start a Milwaukee neighborhood.

It's part of a project called Co:Lab.

Co-founder Matt Cordio said Co:Lab reached out to business improvement districts around the city for ideas on how to improve each of their respective neighborhoods.

Eventually, young professionals who paid to be part of the Co:Lab program were divided up into three teams for an eight-week project in which they brainstormed ways to rejuvenate the Mitchell St., Granville, and Near West Side neighborhoods.

"The goal is, ultimately, to create something good that will have a positive impact on the neighborhoods we're engaged in," Cordio said.

For instance, the Historic Mitchell Street Business Improvement District tasked the young professionals focusing on that area with activating the Modjeska Theater.

Ryan Pattee, a board member of the Historic Mitchell St. BID, said the theater hasn't been used for performances in roughly a decade.

He'd like to see it turned into a space where the community can gather.

"We think that could have a nice ripple effect with some continuing development up the street," Pattee said.

Aneysha Bhat, a member of the Co:Lab team focusing on Mitchell Street, said her group hopes to turn the theater into a cultural center.

"We want to promote diversity, promote cultural unity, and to be able to bring the community together at this center," Bhat said.

Pattee said he's excited the plan includes breathing new life into the building, but also activating a large parking lot in the back with things like community gardens.

On Wednesday evening, all three Co:Lab teams will pitch their final proposals for how to improve each respective neighborhood to attendees at an event dubbed The Big Impact.

It's happening at the Sherman Phoenix and costs $25 to attend and vote.

The winning pitch goes home with all of the money raised through ticket sales.

Cordio wouldn't disclose how much money that is, but said it'll be substantial.

"This funding would allow us to at least prototype something in one of the neighborhoods," he said.

Bhat said - win or lose - she's grateful for the experience.

"I think this shows there are just so many opportunities for people to get involved, and to really embrace the culture of our city," she said.