Shechem Greenhouse project seeks to stimulate growth in Milwaukee workforce

A new community development project, the Shechem Greenhouse, will seek to stimulate growth in the Milwaukee workforce.

The $5 million project, undertaken by nonprofit Hope Street Ministry in partnership with Galbraith Carnahan Architects and Beyer Construction, will be named after an ancient biblical city of refuge. Fundraising for the project is underway.

The 21,000-square-foot facility will be located at 2510 West Capitol Drive, near Hope Street Ministry’s community housing building in Milwaukee. It will hold a physical greenhouse as well as an athletic court and assorted office spaces to be used for counseling, GED tutoring and more.

“The earliest greenhouses were built to cultivate exotic fruits and vegetables in harsh climate conditions. This greenhouse will do the same thing for the people of Milwaukee,” said Ashley Thomas, (pictured here) executive director of Hope Street. “It is a place for people who have been profoundly affected by the toxic environment they grew up in, their own poor choices, and drug or alcohol abuse.”

Services will be offered at the facility through various programs including: Integrative Wellness, Addiction, Forgiveness, Education, Family Dynamics, Life Skills and Job Preparedness, and Healing from Trauma.

“We believe this is the next step in our mission,” Thomas told “We are charged to be an increasingly healthy part of our community.”

And a healthy community is a working community, she says.

The in-facility greenhouse will be used to teach “hard skills” to be used for jobs at nurseries and greenhouses, as well as in crop protection. Thomas said the nonprofit is seeking a farmer to act as an in-house instructor for agricultural skills.

Tablemaker, a for-profit table and furniture company owned by Hope Street, will be located on the first floor of the building. It will provide opportunities for learning job skills that can be leveraged in Milwaukee.

“We want to teach people in our community the skill of woodworking. People can be hired directly for that,” Thomas said. “They can use those skills for various jobs in the community.”

The facility will also include a cafe in which inhabitants can learn to cook, prepare food and wait tables. Along with that, Hope Street will provide workshops on job searching, resume building and interviewing.

Crucially, these services and programs are meant to support people that are “background-challenged” by giving them the chance no one else would.

And the nonprofit aims to help not just struggling adults, but the entire family unit.

Thomas says teenagers in the program will get instruction on practical, everyday skills that will help them obtain employment after school is done. That includes basics such as what to wear to an interview, how to maintain eye contact in a professional context, and giving a firm handshake.

She added that, aside from dance classes and other youth engagement programs, there are opportunities to do real work in the facility such as cleaning and teaching classes to other youth.

“Hopefully, we will be able to provide them with opportunities to do some initial employment,” Thomas said.

The monthly cost to stay at the facility will be $400 for an individual, and $500 for a family.

Nick Carnahan, of Galbraith Carnahan Architects, said his team of eight collaborated with Hope Street on the project because they “gravitate toward owners who care about the world outside of their project.”

“Shechem is a great example of that,” Carnahan said. “Their concerns are for the community.”

If all goes well, construction is set to begin in February 2018, with completion expected by December of the same year. Hope Street has secured the right to purchase the lot, and is “working closely with the city” on moving the project forward.

–By Alex Moe