By choosing Susan Lloyd to lead his $50 million initiative to "rebuild" Milwaukee, Joseph Zilber is tapping into her wealth of experience in neighborhood revitalization work in Chicago.
Lloyd, who will be the gatekeeper of Zilber's plan to help low-income neighborhoods in Milwaukee, has an impressive resume. From 1993 to 2007, she worked for the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, first as a consultant and then for about 12 years as an employee.
The foundation is one of the nation's largest independent foundations and had $7 billion in total assets at the end of last year. The MacArthur Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places and understand how technology is affecting children and society.
Lloyd's work with the MacArthur Foundation focused on grant-making and community and economic development. The two initiatives she was most associated with were public housing transformation and the New Communities Program, which is very similar to Zilber's Neighborhood Initiative, making Lloyd a good fit to lead his efforts.
The New Communities Program, which is a long-term initiative of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Chicago, supports comprehensive community development in 16 lower-income Chicago neighborhoods.
"She really did trailblazing work," said Andrew Mooney, executive director of LISC Chicago. "This was the first time the foundation had made a long-term commitment at that level for a community development program. The program has literally reinvigorated the community development field in Chicago. It has led to a number of successful projects, both real estate and social development projects."
The New Communities Program in Chicago is a partnership with LISC, community-based organizations and city-wide resource organizations. Zilber's Milwaukee initiative will take a similar approach, coordinating with Milwaukee LISC and other community organizations to maximize their effectiveness and to provide the resources they need to succeed.
"The program in Chicago and the promise in Milwaukee is to involve community residents in the development of five-year quality-of-life plans that are then carried out by the local organizations and other organizations that want to see improvements in the neighborhoods," Lloyd said. "There is a set of community plans specifying not only what communities need and want, but who's going to do the work. People have made decisions to commit to them, and you also have an infrastructure in place to actually get the work done."
The structure of the Chicago program, collaborating with other community organizations, attracted additional investment. The MacArthur Foundation provided $21 million during the first four years of the project, which leveraged an additional $274 million in investment in the neighborhoods from a variety of public and private sources. For the second half of the program, the foundation will make a $28 million investment that it expects will leverage another $500 million in investment in the neighborhoods, Lloyd said.
"(The program) attracted a lot of financial resources," she said. "Public and private funders began to look at these 16 distressed neighborhoods in a very different way. They saw the neighborhoods as places where they could invest, and they also saw this infrastructure of community-based organizations that were working cooperatively. It was very useful for other foundations, particularly national foundations who may not have the on-the-ground capacity to develop programs, that they can see the opportunity to invest in neighborhoods in a very structured way."
The success of the New Communities Program in Chicago convinced Zilber that Lloyd was the right person to lead his $50 million Milwaukee neighborhood initiative, and he named Lloyd a senior advisor of the Zilber Family Foundation.
"I think we have the best in Dr. Susan Lloyd," said Zilber. "I found that I could not do the things that she could do. She's been well-trained with the MacArthur Foundation. It's unbelievable what she can accomplish that I never could accomplish."
Lloyd said that Zilber himself is a big reason that she agreed to lead his neighborhood initiative.
"There is something very compelling about his deeply held passion for Milwaukee and his absolute commitment to doing whatever it is that he can do to help ensure the prosperity of Milwaukee in the future," Lloyd said. "It has been an unbelievable experience to come to know someone who wants for other people what he had and what he believes all people should have, and that is an opportunity. He recognizes all of the things that contributed to making him who he is, and his company what it is, and he wants that for other people."
Zilber, the founder of Milwaukee-based real estate firm Zilber Ltd., said his neighborhood initiative is such a big endeavor that it is like starting another company. That would make Lloyd the CEO of that company.
One of Zilber's most important business practices has been to hire talented employees and treat them well so they are loyal to the company. Some of Zilber's top executives have been with his firm for decades. Hiring Lloyd fits that philosophy, he said.
"You put people in the place where they can do the best work," he said.
Lloyd will be the prime contact for organizations that want to receive some of Zilber's funds and for individuals and organizations who want to make contributions to the initiative. Mike Mervis, Zilber's assistant with Zilber Ltd., also will provide assistance to Lloyd.
The Zilber Neighborhood Initiative will fund community plans in 10 neighborhoods and a small number of programs that benefit multiple neighborhoods. The community organizations that receive funding will execute plans in hopes of making the initiative a success.
"If we have the right help, it will work," Zilber said. "It could not work if I tried to do it myself."
So far, $5 million of Zilber's $50 million commitment has been doled out to a handful of organizations.
The Milwaukee chapter of LISC will receive $1.6 million over four years to provide technical support, marketing and communications, and financial assistance to community organizations as they develop and carry out plans for improving the social, economic and physical conditions in neighborhoods. LISC helps nonprofit community development corporations working to improve distressed neighborhoods.
United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee will receive $900,000 over four years to deliver technical assistance in human services program design to community groups and to develop and manage performance monitoring and management systems for Zilber's initiative. United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee is a family of eight neighborhood centers providing a safe haven and supportive environment for families.
The first two of the 10 neighborhoods that the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative will try to improve are Lindsay Heights (bounded by Interstate 43, Center Street, North 20th Street and Walnut Street) on the north side and the Clarke Square neighborhood (bounded by Pierce Street, 16th Street, Forest Home Avenue and Layton Boulevard) on the south side.
"We thought that those are two neighborhoods that had the ability to be great neighborhoods again," Zilber said.
Four more neighborhoods will be selected in 2009, and four more will be selected in 2010 for the Zilber initiative.
However, the work in Lindsay Heights, where Zilber grew up, will have special significance to him.
"(Zilber) has taken me to the neighborhood where he grew up two or three dozen times," Lloyd said. "We have walked the streets, we've driven around. He has told me what it used to be like and what he believes it could be again. It wasn't a wealthy neighborhood by any means, but it was a neighborhood that people who were born into had all of the opportunities. And he feels distressed that children coming into particular neighborhoods may not have the benefit of those same resources, and he wants to see and contribute to putting them back in place. And anybody who has spent any time at all with Mr. Zilber realizes that when he puts his mind to something, it's going to happen."
Zilber's initiative is selecting lead community groups for each neighborhood effort. Walnut Way Conservation Corp., a community development organization serving the central city, will receive $875,000 to support work in Lindsay Heights. Journey House, a community organization that works to increase education, reduce unemployment and crime, strengthen families and revitalize neighborhoods, will receive $875,000 to support work in Clarke Square.
"I think it offers so much hope and capacity for a tremendous lift up for our neighborhoods," said Sharon Adams, program director for Walnut Way Conservation Corp.
"(Zilber's contribution will provide) opportunity, opportunity, opportunity," said Michele Bria, executive director of Journey House. "It allows us to have the capacity to build depth and deepen our work within the neighborhood. At the end of the day, that means moving more families out of poverty."
The Zilber initiative will increase the effectiveness of community nonprofit organizations by not only providing them with additional resources, but also by bringing numerous organizations to work together, said Leo Ries, executive director for LISC-Milwaukee.
"What (Zilber) is really investing in is a process of residents coming together, determining what they want their neighborhood to look like and creating a plan to accomplish that," Ries said.
Walnut Way and Journey House are also each receiving $250,000 grants from the Zilber initiative for special projects. Journey House will use its $250,000 to match, dollar for dollar, contributions to a capital campaign for a new community center at Longfellow School. Walnut Way will use its $250,000 to launch a food co-op business and other economic development ventures along North Avenue.
The Zilber initiative also has contributed $250,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Milwaukee to support the A Brush with Kindness program to paint and repair homes in Milwaukee.
The groups receiving funding from the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative will be on a short leash. They will be reviewed every four months. Although Zilber will have patience. He repeatedly said, "Nothing happens overnight." the community organizations will be required to demonstrate that they are making progress, or they will be replaced in the program.
"Every four months, we will look at what those particular organizations have done," Zilber said. "If in four months they don't get up to speed, they will be dropped, and others will take over. We hope we have picked the right ones."
With everything that is in place, Lloyd said she believes that the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative can succeed in making a major difference in the quality of life in Milwaukee's low-income neighborhoods.
"I think that Milwaukee has so much promise and that it's at a really important juncture in the city's history and evolution," she said. "These plans may be a good opportunity to invest in Milwaukee in ways that lift the city and position it in a global economy. I know it can sound overly ambitious to connect local efforts with a global economy, but I honestly believe you have to connect those two in order to understand what's possible in neighborhoods, and also to understand how to prepare people for the future."
GETTING INVOLVED For more information about participating in the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, contact Susan Lloyd at 414-274-2417 or email@example.com