I’m proud of what we accomplished in 2015. But it’s nothing like what we’ll deliver in the new year. Together.
Indeed, 2016 will be a watershed year for South Milwaukee. And I’m excited to help drive this positive change.
For me, it always starts downtown, and 2016 will be a critical year for the future of South Milwaukee’s city center. The work on our first-ever downtown plan will be wrapping up in the next couple of months, and then the hard work begins: bringing ideas big and small to life that will restore vitality to our central business district. I can’t wait to begin.
We’ve delivered some real momentum in 2015. We’ll build on that in 2016, and beyond.
Events will continue to be a big part of what we’re doing downtown.
I love events. They build community, business and buzz – and make South Milwaukee a great place in which to live, and visit. And we are becoming famous for them. The farmers’ market returns for its eighth outdoor season this summer, joining a growing list of terrific downtown events that have come to life in the last year, including food truck festivals, outdoor movies, trick-or-treating, and Christmas on the Avenue. And that’s just the start. From Rocketober to Heritage Days to July 4th to Community Night Out, and many more in between, South Milwaukee will become increasingly famous for its collection of family-friendly events. And I’m quite hopeful this will be the year we bring a lighted Christmas parade to South Milwaukee. Something like this, in Manitowoc. More details soon.
We’ll also step up our economic development work when it comes attracting and retaining sustainable small businesses. The key word is “sustainable.”
We work hard every day on these efforts, and we’ve seen some real wins here in the last 15 months, with establishments like The Tap Room, MKE City Sippers, Nomi Coffee, Board Game Barrister, Ferch’s Beachside, JB’s Tee Shirt Factory and Burger King opening their doors … and longstanding businesses like DB Tax & Financial Services, Styled Aesthetic, Moran’s Pub and Ace Hardware reinforcing their commitment to South Milwaukee with plans to expand or renovate. We’ll work every day to make sure we don’t stop there. And we’ll help through an enhanced small business incentive program in the works.
We’ll also drive continued investments in our green spaces.
The upgrades to Grant Park last year will pay off big time in 2016 and beyond. Sand volleyball is returning, having Ferch’s Beachside open all summer and regular grooming will bring new life and energy to the beach. The newly resurfaced Oak Leaf Trail will attract even more users to our city, and the Sprecher Traveling Beer Garden is returning this summer, for an even longer run. Stay tuned for details.
We’ll also begin the hard and important work of revitalizing the Oak Creek watershed. The work to create a more vibrant watershed – environmentally, ecologically, recreationally – for the long term begins now. (Speaking of Oak Creek, the new Beech Street foot bridge over the creek is also complete, and it’s impressive. Check it out in the new year.)
Bringing beauty to South Milwaukee extends beyond the parks.
Our new Beautification Committee has some big plans for 2016. From targeted neighborhood beautification efforts to public plantings to holiday decorations to being a key voice on streetscaping improvements downtown, this group will make a big and visible difference in 2016.
One focus area for this group, and the city overall, is urban forestry. Tree removals have to continue, as we continue to combat emerald ash borer and deal with dead and dying trees, making up for lost time. But we have to get into the replanting business, and we will. Our new Arbor Day celebration is just the start. We’ll deliver and execute a stronger plan in 2016.
I also want to put us on the path to Tree City USA status in 2016. I’ve been coveting this for a while. It’s mostly symbolic, but it’s validation of the work we’re doing, and will do, around urban forestry. One hundred ninety-six Wisconsin communities can boast of this status, including Cudahy, Oak Creek and Franklin. I want to be No. 197.
One other initiative that looks to sprout this year: a community garden. Growing South Milwaukee is taking root, and I’m confident you’ll see a garden in South Milwaukee in 2016. Stay tuned.
Throughout all of this, we’ll never lose site of why we’re doing every day — working our hardest to deliver to the best city services we can. My pledge in 2016: to continue to find ways to improve and innovate. One great example from 2015: the move to automated garbage collection, which has delivered a significantly more efficient, safer and cleaner service for everyone. We will continue to invest in ideas like that to make us better at what we do. We have to. In 2016, that will include everything from investments in energy efficiency to continuing to investigate partnerships with surrounding communities on services, as we look for creative ways to continue to do what is expected of us — and more.
In other words, we have lots to do. And I can’t wait.