Growing South Milwaukee, Downtown: Ground Broken on Community Garden

11949335_864854156927016_4380484016283767433_nExciting news from Growing South Milwaukee about their new location in the 1300 block of Milwaukee Ave. …

Thanks to Dennis at UW-Extension Community Gardens & Micro-Farms for turning the soil at our community garden yesterday! Our plan is to let this uprooted sod dry out, add compost, till one more time and be ready to plant late season crops by Mid August. We will put together a list of suggested crops and share soon!

Thank you to our wonderful gardeners for your patience. We can not wait to grow with you!

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Financial Health: Moody’s Reaffirms South Milwaukee’s Aa2 Bond Rating

Moody’s has reaffirmed the city’s strong Aa2 bond rating, as part of its review of the recent $2.7 million refinancing of debt in tax incremental districts 1 and 2.

From the Moody’s press release

moodysThe Aa2 rating reflects the city’s mature, landlocked tax base near the City of Milwaukee (A1 stable); healthy financial position; above average debt burden with rapid principal amortization; and moderate pension liabilities.

So, generally really good news, with some watchouts around risk factors like “deterioration in the city’s tax base and/or demographic profile, material declines in available reserves and liquidity and increases to the debt or pension burden” — common items for communities like ours from ratings agencies.

For more context, I asked Jeff Belongia, our longtime bond counsel from Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co., for his thoughts at Tuesday’s council meeting.

He said we are a solid Aa2, two steps away from a top AAA rating, and cited our strong financial management practices, more-than-adequate cash reserves, and our “proactive” approach to revitalization of the city, especially the former Bucyrus campus, of which rating agencies have taken notice.

“You are in a really good position,” he said. “The city is doing a good job.”

From our city administrator, clerk and treasurer, to our common council, I thank all of the city staff and elected officials who have gotten us to this point, and I look forward to building on this strong financial foundation.

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Keeping it Local: Artists Chosen for Crusher Statue

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Exciting news today, as Chris Smith announced he has chosen an artist to construct Da Crusher statute planned for downtown.

And, better still, she has strong South Milwaukee ties. Congratulations, Beth Sahagian!

From the NOW story

Vanguard Sculpture Services, owned by Beth Sahagian, signed a contract for construction on July 18. They were the choice out of four bids and GoFundMe organizer Chris Smith said Sahagian’s South Milwaukee roots played a role in the decision.

“I have no doubt because she’s from South Milwaukee that I think it was very clear to all of us that she recognized the importance of The Crusher to this city,” he said. “That is just something that really shone through in her bid.”

Sahagian, who went to school with Crusher’s children and nieces, chose artist Thomas Holleran, a Milwaukee native, to create the sculpture. She chose Holleran because he is “an outstanding figure sculpter that can capture the essence of a person.” She said she also wanted someone local so the family and all those involved could have access to the process.

“For me, this is just going to be a lot of fun,” Sahagian said. “Reconnecting with all these people I knew growing up, I’m looking forward to it, and the artist is just beside himself.”

Smith saw some of Holleran’s previous work and said “the level of detail is amazing.”

Holleran will first work on a clay miniature of the statue to present to Smith and The Crusher’s family for approval. Smith said he hopes the full-size statue will be completed by June 1. No location for the statue has been finalized, but city staff and Mayor Erik Brooks are in discussions of a few possible locations, according to Smith.

The full amount raised during the GoFundMe campaign will be utilized for the project, but no specific numbers were revealed.

“Vanguard is a renowned fine art foundry with over 20 years of experience,“ Smith said. “We appreciate Beth taking on this project at a discount because she recognizes the importance of it to the city of South Milwaukee.” … 

Vanguard Sculpture Services, 3374 W. Hopkins St. in Milwaukee, has worked with many different artists and she herself designed a number of sculptures along the Milwaukee Riverwalk. Additionally, the company had a hand in the Mary Tyler Moore statue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well.

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Downtown Art: Serendipitous Designs to Unveil Mural on July 29

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Here is a great way to end Heritage Days …

Add this to your calendar, and celebrate the latest investment in downtown South Milwaukee, through public art.

From Jamie at Serendipitous Designs & Gifts

Come celebrate the addition of our new mural by artist David Melvin! Light refreshments will be available, and look for tons of sales! Blues Addiction will be playing from 6-8 at this event! Great band- you won’t want to miss them!!

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Help Wanted: Library Friends

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Your South Milwaukee Library needs new Friends!

Interested? Mark your calendars now and attend an informal gathering to help start an exciting, new Friends of the SML from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13, at the library, 1907 10th Ave.

Please consider stepping up to support and advocate for this community institution and its vital mission.

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Curb Appeal Awards: Submit Your Entries Now!

With the new Curb Appeal awards, the South Milwaukee Beautification Committee is looking to award South Milwaukee businesses, homeowners and civic organizations who devote extra effort to their property’s beautification, through landscaping and other street-facing efforts.

Judging criteria include utilization of color, appropriateness of architecture of the structure, originality, lawn upkeep, and decorative exterior structures. Properties also will be judged on the overall exterior appearance of their buildings.

Judging will be occur in early August, so get your nominations in!

We are accepting nominations on our Facebook page or on our online form.

Multiple entries are welcome.

More details on our city awards program here, including the new Rocketober awards this fall and the return of the Light Up South Milwaukee holiday lights awards.

Note: We decided to not hand out Patriotic Display awards, due to lack of entries. The Beautification Committee will discuss potential modifications to the program, or not continuing it, at its meeting on Monday night. 

We handed our Garden Tour “Best of Tour” award earlier this week.

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South Milwaukee Common Council Approves New Bucyrus, Downtown TID

As the sale of a large part of the former Bucyrus campus draws nearer, we continue to take real actions to enable redevelopment of the property, and other challenging parcels in and around our downtown.

The latest example: The South Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday approved the boundaries and project plan for Tax Incremental District No. 5, and making TID 2 a “donor TID” to potentially provide early funding for the new downtown district.

From the Milwaukee Business Journal

South Milwaukee elected officials approved a $5.7 million city funding plan to help a New York investor redevelop the campus that Caterpillar Inc. is vacating and to encourage other companies to revitalize surrounding properties.

The spending through a tax incremental financing, or TIF, district would promote an area in the heart of the community to businesses, rebuild infrastructure and potentially offer incentives to developers. Most of the properties where city officials want to encourage private investment are along Milwaukee and 10th avenues. 

The largest property in the redevelopment plan is 29 acres north of Milwaukee Avenue. That campus was the home of Bucyrus stretching back to the late 1800s. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) has operated there since acquiring Bucyrus International Inc. in 2011, but the manufacturer announced it will be out by the end of this year. Those office and production operations are moving to land Caterpillar owns north of Rawson Avenue in South Milwaukee, and to other locations, including Tucson, Ariz.

Caterpillar’s move prompted planning by the city to support redevelopment of the approximately 750,000 square feet of office and industrial buildings on the former Bucyrus campus. During that effort, New York real estate investor Reich Brothers LLC emerged to buy the property. Reich Brothers has not detailed its plans.

“We’ve got to get this right, and we’ve got to be partners in getting this right,” said South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks “It’s the heart of our city. Our city grew around this campus and around Milwaukee Avenue. It’s a top priority for me.”

The city TIF plan endorsed this week offers between $560,000 and $2.17 million to redevelop the Bucyrus campus. That includes $205,000 in grants the city has already raised, or would apply for.

Reich Brothers is expected to buy the South Milwaukee property this month. It currently belongs to One Liberty Partners Inc. of New York state, which has leased it to Caterpillar. … There’s also money in the TIF district for nearby properties that have redevelopment potential. Those include the former Bucyrus Erie employees club building on 12th Street, properties at 1010 and 1012 Milwaukee Avenue and properties on 10th Avenue.

The TIF plan was approved by the Common Council on Tuesday. Before becoming official, the TIF district requires final approvals during a July 24 meeting of a Joint Review Board comprised of representatives of other local taxing districts, including Milwaukee County and the South Milwaukee School District.

That TIF district would pay off the planned city spending with property taxes generated by new development in the area. The TIF plan predicts $24.1 million in new developments between 2019 and 2034.

More details in my previous post on this … and much more to come as start redeveloping the campus and continue our work on Milwaukee Avenue and beyond.

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