Visualize Milwaukee

My goal is to help Visualize Milwaukee. In particular, I want to keep a pulse on some of the commercial and residential real estate in the area. I have a slant towards revitalizing underutilized properties and areas within the city of Milwaukee. Welcome to Visualize Milwaukee! Let me know what you think, or if there are any areas you want me to cover.

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

I am software engineer by trade and enjoy real estate development as way to improve our community and always see something new each day.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Its all about the streetscaping

I have a theory I've been pondering about for the past couple months. Is the value and vitality of Milwaukee's commercial business areas tied to the number of pot holes in the street?
Nice roads = good business = higher taxes
Or is it the other way around:
Poor businesses = lower taxes = poor roads

As I drive around Milwaukee, there is a big mix. A few areas I've noticed:
S. 27th street: Lots of business, crappy roads = Everything seems low-end. I'm not staying here any longer than it takes to get into Walmart, grab my mega size shopping and get out.
Brown Deer Road: Scattered Businesses (some of which are nice, some not so much), poor landscape maintenance = I don't want to leave my car alone sometimes, much less walk around from one shop to the next
N 27th Street (SoHi): Old, beat up road, little/no landscaping = Business is low-end and struggling.
Villard Ave: Roads are OK, landscaping is fairly well maintained but needs a bit of TLC = Consistent business to support the neighborhood.

Then I noticed Silver Spring Road heading West from I-43:
- Pre Glendale: Nice streets, great landscaping = This is taking great advantage of Bayshore Mall, and feels like a nice area. New business are popping up as you get closer to Glendale.
- Glendale: Beautiful streetscaping and brand new streets = New businesses, new development, new public buildings
- 27th Street to Sherman Boulevard: Suddenly Glendale ends and the grass is dead, hasn't been cut, streetpoles are old = Closed up buildings... Eesh, get me out of here!
- Sherman to about 50th: New streets, and the landscape is pretty well maintained = Ahh, back in a nice area! No real business here though due the military base and great park.
- 60th Street: Landscaping is ignored again = Why is this - just as the businesses start again, the streetscape looks like ignored concrete. Once again, the businesses look low end.

So, my theory is: follow the city's street plans to build your business. As I write this, a corner I've mentioned before (76th & Good Hope) is under heavy construction. That intersection has some great benefits, but isn't a place you'll get many people to stop and shop. It just looks battered and run down. Even after the new Andy's and Starbucks (those buildings look great, but somehow you don't notice because the area around it doesn't). We'll see how the new Streetscape looks and if my theory holds water in a few months. There is still some open space for business, so now may be a good time to prepare your plans!

Maybe this is where the City should put its seed money while trying to improve some of the targeted districts. I remember seeing plans for the new streetscape in the SoHi district (N 27th Street), but they never happened. I wonder how much more improvement we would have seen there over the past 2 years with a brand new street?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Is Busy Good - continued on 76th Street

My post about Milwaukee's south side 27th Street made me think of my earlier post on the north side's 76th and Good Hope. Does 76th street need more business, or just a makeover to attract a few good businesses. As a followup on Good Hope, much of the unused space has been filled by the new private charter school, Destiny High School. I don't know anything about it, but if it is a good school, it may be a nice addition to the area. If its not a good school, ... Well, lets just say I'd hold off on investing until I walked through the school and was comfortable with their educational and security plans. I also don't know how a high school and an 'adult' video store can share the same property? There are still some buildings available, we'll see what happens!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is Busy Good - 27th & Howard Milwaukee

Not my usual cup of tea today - today I am criticizing a booming commercial district!

Last week I was shopping in the area at South 27th Street between Oaklahoma and Howard Avenue in Milwaukee. There is so much traffic going everywhich way it is crazy just trying to drive through, much less stop at one of the 6 million stores along this stretch. I swear every single store you could imagine is packed in here! But the area looks horrible, is overrun and feels outdated. If I were revitalizing a neighborhood this is the last thing I would want! Who would want to live there? All that shopping and traffic doesn't seem to have helped the residential neighborhood at all. Perhaps it has indirectly, in that several neighborhoods probably do their shopping here (I'd speculate a decent draw from Lincoln Avenue, Bayview, Cudahy, and others).

Imagine if something like this happened in the City at, say, 27th street and Wisconsin Avenue. Sure there would be more shopping for Marquette students and the Concordia neighborhood. But, I don't think mega-shopping is what is needed. What the city needs is their localized shopping needs to be met, along with some well targeted commercial draws to pull people from outside the neighborhood. Something like Roots, Ben Cycle, Marine Land Pets, or Soche (which, btw, keeps very busy despite the horrible service I received there! Maybe I'll become a critic next?). You don't want 50,000 people every day, but you do need a reason for people to come to you!

What do you suppose the city is doing with the massive tax revenue being received here? Maybe it could be used to give the area a better look and feel and traffic flow to help support the residential neighborhood surrounding it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A reader posted a simple question for me to tackle: “The state of Milwaukee”. He was excited by the diversity and change, assets of downtown and Lake Michigan, affordable living in the city, and differing ethnic backgrounds. But, now he can’t tell if Milwaukee is improving or decaying. See his whole text in the comments here:

Let me start by saying, I’m not a politician, not a city planner, and speak only of my opinion. On the topic of Milwaukee, I remain fully excited. Sure, I am frustrated just as often, but there are great things going on here. All the condos going up downtown, in Third Ward and RiverWest look great and bring a new vibrance to those areas. But do they help anyone other than the developer? In 20 years are those going to be empty buildings again, rented to criminals and drug dealers? Do condos improve the diversity and segregation in Milwaukee? Moving a bunch of well-to-do professionals into a single block doesn’t really improve segregation at all. On the other hand, we are bringing/keeping professionals in the city. The people of Milwaukee are going to be a lot more invested living in Third Ward than if they lived in Sussex or worse Chicago!! More $$ = higher taxes = more change (See my earlier post on Bamboo to see if those tax $$ really help the city as a whole).

And he asked about crime. I’m also not the police commissioner, but… Milwaukee’s crime drives me crazy. First, not to sound like an apologetic, but in my experience, it is really not any worse than other “big” cities. That said, our crime fighting has a long way to go. We have built a large wall of mistrust between our urban citizens and our police force. Much of the crime today is indirectly supported by our “no snitching” attitude. People know they aren’t going to get in trouble as long the crimes aren’t too “high visibility”. Unfortunately, that attitude is only made worse by an oftentimes non-responsive police force.

So, are we lost in misery here in Milwaukee? Nope. I’m betting on the positives continuing to drive Milwaukee to be a great place for all of us to live, work, and play.

Here are some great things that are happening in Milwaukee:
1) Arts/Museums: Our community continues to invest in these. Check out the new Pier Wisconsin Discovery World!

2) Main Street Milwaukee: Have you supported one or more of these? If you care about Milwaukee, go spend some time and money in these! This is a great program with city and national, government, non-profit, and private support. Stop by one of these areas next weekend, and next month, and the next month and check out the businesses and residential potential:
a. SoHi District: 27th Street around Wisconsin – State Street. Check out the new condos on Wells Street
b. Silver City District: National Avenue east of Miller Park. Stop by the Asian International Market or Senor Speedy’s
c. Mosaic on Burleigh: From Sherman Blvd to 60th St. Check out the new Community Enterprise Center
d. Lincoln Village from 6th St to 20th St. Tune your bike up at Ben’s Cycle, then head to Lincoln Pottery or Tres Hermanos

3) Neighborhoods already on the upswing continue to show me the potential of this great city.
a. Third Ward
b. River West
c. Martin Luther King Drive
d. Brewers Hill
e. And countless others! Some are driven by investors, some are driven by the city, and some are driven by the people who have been living in these great locations for 50 years.

4) Look at the continued commercial redevelopment along North Avenue. The people of Milwaukee have shown they will spend their money in the neighborhood, as long as the right services are there and crime is managed. Take a look at the Villard Avenue business district. The community speaks out, presses for change, and continues to support their local businesses. And everybody knows if and when a crime occurs – they look out for eachother.

5) You want to find a Milwaukeean who is proud of this fine city, check out James T. and read his blog:

6) : The MMAC continues to work with Milwaukee’s businesses and professionals to make Milwaukee a place that draws talent and business. Think about how the Packers worked within their team to attract “outsiders” like Reggie White. They said Green Bay is the place to be, and we are going to win. To me, that is what Fuel Milwaukee is about. This is an all-inclusive group welcoming people working in Milwaukee to have fun together, drive change, and attract people to come/stay here. I was at an event the other night, and met people who moved here from Texas, LA, Phoenix, and Florida. Why? For work – and because they liked what they saw – all those things listed in the first paragraph of this post.

To finish this up. Yes, Milwaukee is THE place to be. Stick around, get involved, and help this great city improve. I hope mjonthemove changes his tag name to “mjmilwaukee” !

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Milwaukee's Third Ward Plaza Delayed - Bamboo in the City

Bamboo in the City?

One area I haven't discussed yet is Milwaukee's Third Ward. That is mostly because everyone knows about it! There are bars, art, stores, the Milwaukee Public Market, and a trillion spectacular new condos. But in reality, there is still open space and foot traffic isn't exactly hopping (parking is always full so customers are there!). There has been a proposal floating around the city council for the past year or two to develop a new Bamboo Plaza in the area. I do think this plan would really help the area have a "stick around for awhile" feel to it. Not to mention walking around in living Bamboo is a real treat which I've only had in Bejing China. It was apparently nearly approved before being delayed this month due to some cost and conflicting contruction issues (

Who should pay for a project like this? DCD was originally set to foot the bill utilizing tax revenue from all the new Condo development. Who benefits more from this? The condo developers are already committed, so it doesn't seem like the city really needs this to attract development. Though a little extra investment by the city may help ensure those tax dollars keep rolling in. I wonder if that nearly $1M price tag wouldn't be better spent on another part of the city. Say, adding the bamboo near RiverWest which is still struggling with crime and could use another infusion of excitement. Or maybe along one of the concrete rivers flowing through the city today (for example, Lincoln Creek around Villard and Teutonia). I'll bet the Villard Avenue BID would appreciate it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Miller Park Area Revitalization

The area around the Milwaukee Brewer's Miller Park in West Milwaukee was pretty desolate for a long time. Canal Street was just a bunch of old dilapidated factories, train yards, and smoke stacks. That has been changing over the past few years though. Canal Street was given a boost by Potawatomi Casino. New development has been going on to improve the area on Canal and increase the draw to the area. This has been slow going. Canal Street came up to the top of everyone's minds last month with the disastrous explosion at Falk.

Another revitalization was started south of the Stadium to coincide with the opening of Miller Park. West Milwaukee has put a huge focus on improving Miller Park Way. What a great opportunity, and the village has taken advantage big time. If you haven't been over here, drive south from I-94 and check it out! In addition to the shops and buildings that have popped up over the past 5-7 years, there are new developments underway constantly. A good example is the old Hotpoint facility which is now a Pick'n Save. There is a new Menards underway as well. This area isn't just new shops either, the area includes long-term customers with new residential development as well. West Milwaukee continues to build on its vicinity to Miller Park. More opportunities are available here. Just look around for empty land, vacant factories, and under-utilized buildings.

And just for fun, check out the West Milwaukee web site to see video of the demolition of the Hot Point smoke stack:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Jobs - Continued Improvement in Milwaukee

I just read this at
Area added 8,500 jobs in past year... Milwaukee's net job gain in the last year ranked behind only three other metropolitan areas in nearby states.
It is great to see steady improvement in the Milwaukee job market. That doesn't mean everyone who wants a job has one yet, but it is a good sign. I still see people struggling to find jobs. In one apartment building, I had 3 different people lose their jobs last month. But I also saw several find new jobs throughout the year. Many of them at new businesses opening up near their home.