Gone are the circular lunch counter, the tables and racks of inexpensive clothing, the balcony lighting department. What was once the famous Goldman's, a south side department store that was in business for 111 years before it closed in 2007, is now 32,000 square feet of modern medical offices and equipment.

Though it's been operating since the very end of 2015, the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center held its grand opening in July. To better serve its mission to improve the health, peace and welfare of Milwaukee's urban Indian community, the center expanded by moving from South 11th and Mitchell Streets to a few blocks down the street to the old Goldmann's building.

A standing-room only crowd attended the grand opening that was like no other featuring Indian drummers in traditional costume, singers, and an Indian veterans color guard, all of which captured the spirit of the occasion.

Gerald Ignace, the founder of the original health center called it “a special day in my life.”

“The building of a comprehensive health care center came from an idea, a dream,” said Ignace. “Remember this center is grounded in American Indian values.”

Gerald's son, Dr. Lyle Ignace now runs the new clinic that has 12 exam rooms instead of the previous six so more patients can schedule appointments. Registered nurses are providing clinical services. Care management is carefully coordinated and a behavioral health specialist is helping patients deal with everyday challenges.

Two of WHEDA's financing tools were used to allow the growth of the health center and create an infusion of vitality into one of Milwaukee's most historic neighborhoods. In 2015, WHEDA allocated $5.5 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) to the project. NMTC help fund projects in low-income, highly distressed Wisconsin communities that will have significant economic impact. WHEDA also partnered with IFF to provide a participation loan of $1.7 million each.

“One of the areas we focus on is communities that traditionally have not had access to health care,” WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston said at the grand opening. “We do housing, but housing by itself does not make a community. Health centers like this build community. It's one of the most beautiful facilities in the city, an extraordinary project, and I'm amazed by it.”

Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also attended the Grand Opening and shared fond memories of the center's new location. Kleefisch recalled shopping at Goldmann's after stops at the many bridal stores Mitchell Street is famous for when she was hunting for a wedding dress. Kleefisch pointed to the areas she remembered having fabrics, lamp shades, and the men's department.

“Today, like a Phoenix, out of the ashes, a new model has grown for the community to come together,” said Kleefisch.

Services offered at the health center include primary care, internal medicine, OB/GYN, women's preventive health services, immunization, nutritional counseling, outpatient therapy for mental health and substance abuse, fitness programs and diabetes education.

The Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center was developed by Endeavour Corp., a Milwaukee-based development company with more than 25 completed NMTC projects.