Riverworks Newsletter - May 2020
I hope that each of you and your family members and friends are safe and well. COVID-19 has changed our business operations; therefore, we are quickly adapting to a new way of life. Riverworks is working hard to meet the challenges, we are looking at new creative ways to help and serve the needs of businesses and residents. Currently, some of my staff members are working remotely, adapting to the use of technology. We are continuing to provide the highest level of service to our clients, business partners and others as we all work through these uncertain times. In fact, during this time we continue to operate a number of our essential programs; providing laundry service for the residents, litter pick-up and debris removal services to keep our community clean.
I am truly grateful to be employed and have all my staff working too; especially when so many non-profit organizations are not operational right now. It is because many of you have supported our organization over the years and that is why we exist today. Now more than ever, we need residents, businesses and funders to continue supporting our mission to make our neighborhoods and commercial corridors vibrant and safe.
Let’s continue to find ways to help our most vulnerable population; while adhering to the stringent social distancing restrictions. Together, we will make it through this crisis—Milwaukee Strong!
Be Safe and Stay Healthy,
Extraordinary Care from the Financial Clinic
Virtual Valet VITA Program Now Available!
Riverworks' Virtual Valet VITA program is taking an innovative approach to preparing taxes remotely. Offering an alternative to the traditional face-to-face site model, Riverworks' staff and volunteers can prepare tax returns dating back to 2016 through our secure technology. The Virtual VITA model will ensure that NO eligible individual will miss an opportunity to file their taxes and/or apply for the IRS stimulus check during COVID-19. If you, or someone you know, are in need of assistance, please check out the COVID-19 Financial Health Clinic page on our website to contact the Riverworks VITA team.
Testimony from a Riverworks VITA Client:
"My taxes have always been done in a timely manner, as I presented all the information to allow the tax preparers to do their job effectively. I appreciate Cashuana's professionalism and the knowledge that she constantly shares with me as a client. She always went above and beyond to assist me with my concerns, especially when I was under the impression that I owed the IRS over $20,000. I had just purchased a home and I was so scared that the IRS would take my house away, or place a lien on it. Today I received a refund check in the mail - I cried!!! I have not seen an income tax refund in the past 7 years; during these times, this refund is so needed. Again, I thank Riverworks Development Corp, and especially Cashuana, for all they have done for me and my family."
Things to Look Forward to This Summer!
Although the Safer At Home Order has changed how we interact with our neighbors, we have been adapting our practices so that we can continue to provide residents with practical assistance to help weather this pandemic. These changes have also meant that some of our community events, such as the annual Bloom & Groom plant sale, have been canceled. These decisions have been made with the public’s safety and well-being above any other considerations.
In collaboration with the Riverwest Business Association, the Riverwest Farmer’s Market is looking to coordinate another successful season. As an essential business we plan on a full season with plenty of produce, bakery, eggs, meat, honey and a sprinkling of other products for all your shopping needs. We are currently solidifying all plans as new protocols will be implemented in order to follow state health department guidelines. Please visit the market's website or Facebook page for more information - both will be updated frequently. The Sunday market runs from June 2nd through October 25th from 10-3 pm.
Spring cleaning can still happen on the street, as folks can concentrate on their specific yards with their household. We are providing a cleaning kit which consists of one small picker, gloves and a garbage bag. If you are interested in a cleaning kit please contact Ruth Weill.
The Harambee Neighborhood Improvement District (NID#7) will still be allocating funds for home repairs this summer and fall, though unfortunately was unable to hold the March Annual Meeting. As the NID is adjusting to new circumstances, we are hard at work to come up with solutions to support the neighborhood! Please stay tuned for upcoming information about how to apply by checking the website.
In addition to the NID, you may be eligible for other home rehab resources - Targeted Investment Neighborhood loan, Strong Homes Loan or the Compliance Loan Program, for example---that can help make critical, major repairs more affordable. Please contact Amy Rohan for more information or assistance with an application.
Please be aware of coronavirus-related scams and watch out for schemes tied to Economic Impact Payments. If you are a homeowner and have experienced financial hardships due to the pandemic, you could have mortgage payments postponed. Please note that this is not automatic and you need to contact your lender to see if you are eligible. Finally, if you are a renter and worried about not being able to make rent payments, there is important legal info and resources for renters during COVID-19.
Arts, Culture, Creative Placemaking
Art Lives On
Our hearts and minds go out to all art loving folks around the world. For the art makers in Milwaukee, we encourage you to check out the Milwaukee Arts Board and ImagineMKE websites for potential resources to keep you afloat during these tough times. Here at Riverworks, we're excited to be working with artists and the community to host virtual programming along the Beerline Trail. Unfortunately, we'll be postponing other events that we had planned, such as the Community Dinner and Fashion Cipher. In our efforts to bring you the exciting and innovative family-friendly programming that has come to define the Beerline Trail, we are looking for virtual programming options, opportunities to provide access to residents and ways to make the trail safely usable during social distancing. We'd love to hear from you as usual.
In tough times art will provide us creative ways through and out. Keep your ears and eyes open for our virtual programming. We look forward to seeing you online. The Beerline Trail is YOUR trail online and off!
Contact Rosalynn Wolfe Learn More or to Offer Suggestions
The Buzz in THE VIBE
Co:Lab Challenge Aims to Bridge the Holton Street Divide
Riverworks is always looking at different ways to strengthen the economic vitality of its service area in the community. One of Riverworks’ strengths is that it is located directly in between Harambee and Riverwest (on Holton Street) and has created THE VIBE as a space for positive economic change within both neighborhoods. THE VIBE is a co-working office space for entrepreneurs, businesses, creatives, and the like.
Most recently, Riverworks partnered-up with Co:Lab to recruit people who have amazing talent, passion, and compassion in developing sound solutions for the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods. Co:Lab is a program that is jointly presented by The Commons, NEWaukee, and Startup Milwaukee to accelerated civic impact across Milwaukee. The Co:Lab team of participants working with Riverworks in the 53212 zip code area just finished their project on April 23rd and have provided some encouraging feedback and solutions that Riverworks and THE VIBE will be implementing soon. Please check out all three projects and VOTE by Wednesday, May 6th!
A couple of the Co:Lab team participants are Bernard Davis and Jesus Maldonado. They are actual Members of THE VIBE and have a strong determination to create positive economic change by unifying the neighborhoods. Davis has a Masters Degree in Business Management; he volunteers his time on the Findley Foundation Board of Directors and has extensive experience as a Mortgage Broker. Maldonado has a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering; he is the President of the Milwaukee chapter of Prospanica, has worked for huge international companies like Goldman Sachs, and is currently a Professional Development & Talent Acquisition Consultant.
Riverworks and THE VIBE are incredibly grateful to all of the Co:Lab participants: Jesus Maldonado, Bernard Davis, Amy Hillegass, Dulce Duran, Steve Balistreri, Sanjana Segu, and Nick Stark for volunteering their time and for the amazing work they contributed to this critical project. Thanks so much and we look forward to implementing your recommendations! All the best of success!
For a limited FREE membership at THE VIBE, please visit our website.
Catch THE VIBE!
Workforce Development in Action
Riverworks Cleans & Coin Laundry Stay Essential Through COVID-19
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the City of Milwaukee deemed the services of Riverworks Cleans essential to keeping our neighborhoods clean and safe. We have been operating at full capacity, employing six Milwaukee residents. Our staff has been servicing various Business Improvement Districts, picking up litter, emptying waste cans, returning shopping carts, and removing graffiti five days a week. We have also stayed busy with our city contract during this pandemic. Our crews have stayed busy cleaning up illegal dumpings on city owned properties Since March of this year we have serviced 402 city properties, by removing 898 cubic yards of waste and debris. If you see our crews out working, please don’t hesitate to thank them for their hard work during this troubling time.
Throughout this period of time, our laundromat has also been deemed an essential service to the community. We have been able to enforce strict hygiene standards, and limit the number of customers at a time, to keep Riverworks Coin Laundry operating safely. We thank all our customers for their patience, and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Through this, we are able to keep our employees working, and offer our community members a safe place to launder their clothes. Contact John Cervantes to Learn More
Real Estate Development
The Beerline Plaza Green Infrastructure
As part of a larger initiative to bring Green Infrastructure and sustainable initiatives to the Beerline Trail, Riverworks is collaborating with MMSD, Fund for Lake Michigan, Walnut Way, Strand Associates, and the City of Milwaukee to bring a part of the Beerline Trail up to this new standard. The Beerline Plaza, located at 3334 N Holton St, where the trail crosses both the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, is meant to be a shared community space. In 2018, the first phase of this development was launched with a renovated shipping container stage and a large open space. Since then, we have held numerous events and programming activities on the site, and though we have had a ton of fun, we have noticed some areas for improvement.
So, you might be wondering, what new improvements are coming? The most noticeable improvement will be new stormwater trees to provide much needed shade and reduce the heat island effect that results from the summer sun baking the asphalt surface. The largest improvement will be the new pervious paver patio that will replace the existing area of mulch in front of the stage and across the trail. Finally, the most complex part of the project is the stormwater management plan; removing the retention pond to replace it with a bioretention basin, which is a depressed vegetated area that captures and stores stormwater runoff, slowing the impact on our stormwater sewers.
We anticipate construction to start in early fall of 2020, once all funding is confirmed. We look forward to this site being a catalyst for more Green Infrastructure improvement projects in the area. If you would like any additional information about the project or need any assistance with your own Green Infrastructure project, please reach out to the Beerline Plaza Project Manager, Kate Bartlett.
Countdown to Riverworks Week 2020!
Riverworks Week 2020 Planning Moves Forward
The 8th Annual Riverworks Week, a yearly celebration of the Business Improvement District's businesses, creativity, and community, will move forward in 2020; however, some aspects will be adjusted to ensure the health and safety of the public during COVID-19. Riverworks: Milwaukee's Creative District, plans 6 events during the third week in September - the 21st through the 26th.
Riverworks Week will look to feature a virtual and interactive showpiece over the week, through interviews, tours, and multiple community-involved competitions. More information and details will be released in the coming months. While you are waiting, check out some of our videos from last year!