Nadiyah Johnson’s $5,000 investment into the Sherman Phoenix project became a real-world introduction to real estate development, and she’s taking knowledge from that experience to lead her own project not far away.

Johnson’s mother brought the Sherman Phoenix investment opportunity to her attention, so she called co-developer Juli Kaufmann in 2018 to see if she could participate. They worked out an agreement within two days. As an investor, Johnson receives quarterly reports on Sherman Phoenix’s rent collections, expenses and long-term budgeting for building upgrades such as signage.

“Becoming a community investor gave me the get-up-and-go to start my own project,” Johnson said. “I was able to wrap my head around what it would take for a smaller operation to be successful.”

That insight, more so than the financial return generated on her $5,000 investment, is the wealth Johnson has gained from the experience.

Johnson is applying knowledge and relationships generated through the Sherman Phoenix project to a development she is leading at 3803 W. Fond du Lac Ave. It is connected to the building Johnson’s mother owns for her Allstate Insurance Co. agency.

Johnson wants to convert it into the Milky Way Tech Hub where people in the surrounding community can access computers and other hardware. It would be the center of Johnson’s mission to make Milwaukee a tech center where women and people of color can thrive. The building also would house Johnson’s Jet Constellations software company.

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