Answering Some Key Questions Downtown


Success in downtown South Milwaukee must be long-term success.

There are no quick fixes. Instead, we must build a foundation of strong policies, programs, and approaches that transforms the passion we have for revitalization into action.

We’re doing that with our new Downtown Revitalization Grant recently, with new Milwaukee Avenue streetscaping coming in 2017 and with our stepped-up business outreach efforts. We’re doing that with an unmatched downtown events calendar — including  last night’s well-attended Guardian Credit Union outdoor movie. And we’re doing it with the “ownership” work that is now underway.

I’m especially excited about that last piece. The city, working with Graef, our consulting partner, has formed a workgroup of nine local business and property owners, other residents and city officials (including me) to help us answer key questions facing us as we continue the work in our city center.

The goal of this group: Deliver a set of recommendations for action as early as next spring, bringing to life strategy No. 1 in the downtown we passed in May. That strategy reads: “Organize a downtown revitalization structure to build local capacity and credibility to conduct successful work over the long-term.”

In doing so, we will answer key questions like:

  • Who should “own” our downtown revitalization efforts in South Milwaukee? Should it be some sort of nonprofit association, or our local chamber of commerce, or the city, or some sort of hybrid? Is a downtown ownership group even necessary at all?
  • And should our efforts involve a taxing entity like a business improvement district — one that can assess property owners to fund an executive director and efforts like marketing, building rehabilitation, streetscaping, events and more?
  • What role should the Main Street program play? The program has certainly worked in other communities, but is it the right thing for us? Should we make an application?

We’ll find these answers after site visits to four or five downtowns in the region, additional study and meetings of the group. I can’t wait to begin.

This “ownership” work has the biggest potential for driving long-term success. If we figure this out and do it well, it will enable so many other efforts that will drive the positive change and promising future we need in our city center.

It will take time, but we will do this right. I’m as excited as ever about the opportunity in front of us.


Filed under South Milwaukee

8 responses to “Answering Some Key Questions Downtown

  1. Frank

    Erik any comment on trying to get historical preservation credits?

  2. Rocandroo

    I think the people of South Milwaukee are tired of waiting, tired of meetings and tired of promises that never happen. It is time for the work to be done. So many surrounding communities have been building, updating and revitalizing their cities/communities’ for years and South Milwaukee is still lagging behind and working at a snails pace. We just went through another summer of no updates to the downtown… When will it be our time? When will the building start? When will South Milwaukee be the next up and coming area to go to?
    A quick fix? Nothing seems to get fixed around here. Let’s be real, the downtown has been neglected for decades, it’s an embarrassment to this city. Grant park has been neglected for years and Marquette Plaza is nothing more than an eyesore and a magnet for crime.
    This all just sounds like more bureaucracy to me.

    • Rachel

      I completely agree with you. I’ve lived here now for 3 yrs and the “downtown” is still the same ghost town that it was when I moved here. Can’t we class this place up??? Think downtown Cedarburg. I’m over the vacant buildings and dive bars. If we don’t have quality places to shop, eat, and hang out, we will NOT have quality residents. I also completely agree regarding the Marquette Plaza. What a dump!! It seems like the powers that be care more about just getting someone to fill a vacant space than they do about the quality of the establishment. Remember how excited the mayor was for “This n That” on Milwaukee Ave…’d that one turn out???

  3. Lynn Arts

    Please don’t reinvent the wheel go to other communities like Wauwatosa, Oak Creek, Greendale and ask them how they accomplished their downtown transformation. Why do young professionals want to move to those cities? It is because they have shops that are relevant, hip restaurants, promote families health and well being plus great schools. Our downtown is the going no where fast and it has been the same for the last 20 years. The city needs to get $ invested into the buildings and start marketing and rebranding the city. Who is taking on the brand image of this community. We have some great homes and schools to offer young professionals – let’s get going fast not slow. Another study another wasted year. Create chaos and blow all existing ideas. Why is Caterpillar moving their engineering jobs to Arizona? My guess is It so hard for them to attract talent to their jobs. Stop and take a look at the downtown business community. If you were a professional would you want to say this is your downtown the way it looks now? it is old and run down looking.

    We have lived here for 20 years, but I can tell you the downtown is not what kept us living here. Start with the strengths of the city: Grant Park, Lake Mich, schools and the green space. This is not that hard can we start with a brand proposition – get going you are a marketing professional. No more studies. Give the buildings to young professionals to start business.

    Think out of the box. Boring ……….same old same old. Instead we have Walmart and Burger King that has come into our community has new business development.. Think upscale move the needle. Most of the buildings are sitting empty give new business owners a tax break like you did for Walmart. Connect with University of Wisconsin- Madison or Milwaukee Urban Development Schools and offer internships to have bright minds work on this project. It is not that hard. Brand Management 101.

    • Rocandroo

      Hallelujah! Finally, someone who gets it!!! I couldn’t agree more! This is not rocket science and change should not take this long.

  4. I agree with the upper comment, but we also have to get who ever in charge to see that home owners and landlords keep their home in decent condition, that will also attract young people. I see some homes that are so neglected and nothing is done by the city to make them look good. It,s like living in the inner core. Eric has done all he can and the rest of our officials to do their jobs and not just collect paychecks.

  5. South Milwaukee Resident

    Instead of spending money on a consulting firm…take a walk down East Silver Spring in Whitfish Bay, or Oakland Ave in Shorewood, or Broad Street in Greendale. All small communities with awesome down town districts. What is South Milwaukee waiting for?????

  6. JE

    Whitefish Bay per capita $52,360 median $106,699
    Cedarburg per capita $36,719 median $77,392
    Shorewood per capita $40,929 median $61,740
    Greendale per capita $32,347 median $63,626
    South Milwaukee per capita $24,015 median $48,795

    face facts folks; South Milwaukee is a great place but its not in the same league with these other locales.

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