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: http://visualizemilwaukee.blogspot.com/2006/09/starting-out-condos-on-beach.html.
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: http://www.jamestharris.com/
6) FuelMilwaukee.org : 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” !