The Historic King Drive Business Improvement District (BID) No. 8 in the city of Milwaukee has been welcomed into the Wisconsin Main Street Program as a sign of the organization’s commitment to revitalizing the commercial district within its borders.

The Wisconsin Main Street Program, administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, is a comprehensive revitalization program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of traditional business districts in Wisconsin. Participating communities receive free technical support and training designed to help their districts thrive as centers of community activity and commerce.

The Historic King Drive BID, which was created in 1992, is the state’s 33rd currently active Wisconsin Main Street Community. It is the only organization in Wisconsin to earn the Wisconsin Main Street designation in 2017.

Speaking at a Wisconsin Main Street Day event in August in which the district’s designation was announced, Historic King Drive BID Executive Director Deshea Agee said, “As we work toward bringing new businesses and creating more vibrancy in the commercial district, the Wisconsin Main Street Program will provide valuable tools and resources to help make Milwaukee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive the best of the nearly 900 King Drives in the nation.” Agee also shared his goal of zero business vacancies within the district. “Our work is not done until that happens,” he said.

Notably, the announcement of the Historic King Drive BID’s Wisconsin Main Street designation was made at the recently opened Pete’s Fruit Market at  2303 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  The site was originally considered for a Dollar Tree store before residents advocated for a fresh food market instead. That type of community engagement is critical to the Main Street Program’s success and is considered as part of the program’s extensive application process that also evaluates organizational readiness, local achievements, ongoing projects and future vision for the district.

As a member of the Wisconsin Main Street community, the Historic King Drive BID will benefit from best practices developed by program participants in Wisconsin and across the nation as it seeks to maximize the economic potential of the district.

The Historic King Drive BID is also the first Wisconsin Main Street community to participate in the National Main Street Center’s new Urban Main initiative designed to support older and under-resourced commercial districts in urban centers all around the country. The National Main Street Center has developed a suite of strategic services designed specifically to address the unique challenges found within the urban landscape. Other cities leveraging the center’s Urban Main services include Boston; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; and Orlando. “The Urban Main program will complement the existing services WEDC offers through Wisconsin Main Street and allow us to deliver relevant technical assistance outside our areas of expertise,” said WEDC Downtown Development Program Manager Darrin Wasniewski.

In addition to celebrating Historic King Drive BID’s milestone, Wisconsin Main Street Day featured events in 12 communities across the state highlighting the important role that downtown business districts play in economic development. Since the Main Street Program’s inception in 1987, Wisconsin Main Street communities have created more than 2,600 net new businesses and nearly 14,000 net new jobs. They also have generated more than $1.7 billion in public and private investment and renovated more than 250 buildings per year.