“A flourishing neighborhood cannot simply be willed into existence. It takes a collaborative effort of dedicated businesses and individuals to cultivate a neighborhood that believes in itself.”
Since its inception in 1992, the BID’s mission has been to improve the King Drive District by fostering a culture that enjoys a trendy and authentic retail experience while attracting businesses who embrace the commitment to hard work and strong character that the area was founded on. And so far, expectations have been exceeded. In the past 15 years there has been over $400 million of new development in the BID. This type of success can only be achieved in a collaborative effort by people who believe in King Drive and each other. BID members, our partners, and the Harambee residential community are working together to cultivate a thriving community like no other in Milwaukee.
The King Drive BID neighborhood has a long, rich history beginning in the mid-1800s when German settlers migrated to Milwaukee and established a neighborhood by building homes, churches and schools. The area quickly became a self-sustaining economic zone as retail businesses opened up shop on Downtown 3rd Street, now known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. The community continued to grow. By the early 1900s, the northeastern section of the community became a large-scale industrial district, much of which still exists today. The neighborhood’s close proximity to the city and easy access to the Milwaukee Road rail line and the Milwaukee River system, encouraged block after block to be developed by manufacturers of shoes, beer, pianos, wooden toys and more. The largest of the factory was an auto body plant built in the 1920s that later became an American Motors manufacturing facility. In the 1920s, new ethnic groups moved into the neighborhood and among them were the first African-American families. These new African-American families followed the community-building pattern of their German predecessors, establishing new churches, establishing new businesses, and creating a diverse neighborhood with a distinct cultural flavor. Today the neighborhood is experiencing an unprecedented growth in commercial and housing development. The quality of life has never been better and continues to grow every day.