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.