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Sherman Phoenix sees valuable teaching opportunity in DNC visitors

Posted at 7:39 AM, Jul 29, 2019

MILWAUKEE — The 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next summer is expected to draw 50-thousand visitors to the area.

Across Milwaukee, businesses and venues large and small are hoping to cash in on the DNC-related tourist bump.

In Sherman Park, businesses inside the Sherman Phoenix are hopeful the facility will be a hot commodity during the DNC.

JoAnne Sabir, co-developer of the Sherman Phoenix and owner of two businesses inside -- Shindig Coffee and Sauce & Spice Pizza -- said the 20-thousand square foot facility houses almost 30 small businesses.

She’s already begun the process of reaching out to local, elected officials with connections to the Democratic National Committee. The Sherman Phoenix is also ramping up its public relations efforts to be on the DNC’s radar.

“We want visitors to know, what are the tangible things for sale here?” Sabir said. “But also, what are our event spaces? What spaces do we have available for them?”

Sabir said the Sherman Phoenix is in the process of updating its website to feature a catalog-like breakdown of the businesses and event spaces available within the building. The goal is to appeal to DNC visitors.

Sabir is hopeful the DNC business boost will extend out to areas like Sherman Park, and not be confined to Downtown Milwaukee.

"It's not an 'either/or' proposition. It's an 'and,'" Sabir said of DNC activities Downtown and in other parts of the city. "Most cities highlight their surrounding communities, and so Milwaukee shouldn't be any different."

"There are tremendous assets, businesses, that rest outside of the central city. It's time for us to highlight those," she said.

Sabir hopes visitors to the Sherman Phoenix will walk away from the facility viewing Milwaukee, and the Sherman Park neighborhood, as a community full of hope and resilience.

That's because the Sherman Phoenix occupies the old, BMO Harris Bank building that was badly damaged after violence, looting and arson broke out in Sherman Park during the summer of 2016.

Sabir said community leaders decided to develop the Sherman Phoenix to meet a need for a safe gathering space in the neighborhood.

"The lesson, and the model, is that even in hard times, there are lessons to be learned," Sabir said. "What do you do with those lessons? How do you implement what is learned and listen to those voices?"

She's long hoped the Sherman Phoenix would be a national model for other communities, and said more people could become aware of the development as the eyes of the political world are on Milwaukee during next summer's DNC.