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Developers transform historic Harambee building into community draw

February 11, 2021
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MILWAUKEE — Jazz music is making a return to Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood in time for Black History Month.

A historic building on North Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, just north of West Concordia Avenue, is getting new life.

The hum behind the counter mixed with a beat Thursday morning.

On the other side of it will soon be the soundtrack to Sam’s Place Jazz Cafe.

“You can walk out our back door or front door and come right across the street and listen to some of the best jazz you’ll here in the nation,” owner Sam Belton said.

It’s the atmosphere Bader Philanthropies envisioned when it purchased the historic building and spoke with neighbors.

“It was, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where we can go gather with people that look like us, with food and entertainment that we like, and we could call it our own?'” Bader Philanthropies Engagement Vice President Franklin Cumberbatch said.

Bader Philanthropies invested nearly $5 million into buying and renovating the building.

While Sam’s Place is not open quite yet, a clinic upstairs is now in operation.

Shalem Healing is a nonprofit holistic health clinic that will provide services to anyone, regardless of insurance.

“The focus of the health care clinic is to provide health care,” health director Dr. Robert Fox said. “There’s no question everybody has bottom lines, but the bottom line is at the bottom of my priority list.”

Bader Philanthropies’ priority is to give the community what it wants.

“You have to keep that in mind, this is for the people, and that’s why it’s so great to know the idea originated with them,” Cumberbatch said.

Belton said his cafe will have live music and will open Feb. 22.