MILWAUKEE — After five years, Deshea Agee is stepping down as the Executive Director of Historic King Dr. BID #8 to pursue other opportunities.
"I thought it could really be a good time to see what other avenues could be pursued to really help our city as a whole," Agee said. Agee told the Milwaukee Business Journal he will join Milwaukee minority real estate firm Emem Group LLC.
Looking back, he said the best part was "being able to attract new businesses, Black and Brown-owned businesses right here in the neighborhood. And just building what we call the best King Dr. in the nation."
Over the years Agee supported the creation of 20 Black and Brown owned businesses, expanded the BID (Business Improvement District) to include an additional 80 properties and was involved in the development of Victory over Violence Park. And that's just a handful of the initiatives he was involved in.
"It's been exciting to be a part of that under Deshea's leadership," said Historic King Dr. BID #8 Board Chair James Phelps.
The job wasn't always easy because of the negative perception that often follows Martin Luther King Jr. drives in the country. Agee said he's even had businesses tell him they don't want a King Dr. address.
"Speaking from a national perspective, you know Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. drives, boulevards, avenues have an image of being blighted, disinvestment, being unsafe," Agee said.
Historically, Agee said, Milwaukee's King Dr. has also suffered from that stigma. But he said that's not the case anymore.
"I really want to be able to have my kids on the street in the future, maybe riding a streetcar and being able to have an experience that, but for me being here, working at the BID, they wouldn't be able to experience. And that's the same for so many others," Agee said of the legacy he leaves behind.
Agee's last official day is Friday, but he'll be around for the next few months to advise part-time as the board begins its search for a new executive director.
Phelps said the board is looking to bring "on someone else to be able to have that vision, have that same drive in order to continue the work that has already begun."
Some of the work the next director will continue includes:
- Traffic calming and streetscaping
- Business retention and attraction
- Finalizing Victory Over Violence Park