Rethinking Milwaukee Avenue: Streetscaping Upgrades Planned

Streetscaping shot

I hear a lot from local leaders who are jealous of what we have in Milwaukee Avenue — a traditional Main Street in a time where more and more people are discovering the benefits of shopping local and shopping small.

That said, that Main Street is in sore need of a facelift. And it’s getting one.

The South Milwaukee Common Council recently backed two measures that will make this effort a reality in 2018. First, the council in January voted 7-1 to spend more than $65,000 with GRAEF consulting for design services on Milwaukee Avenue streetscaping enhancements between Ninth and 12th Avenues, fleshing out a master streetscape plan approved by the council in December of 2016. In addition, $1.2 million for streetscaping was included in the 2018-19 capital project plan, passed 6-1 last week.

This puts us on a path to begin work in August (after Evening on the Avenue) and have it completed by the time the snow flies.

This will be a complete redo from front of store to curb in those three blocks, bringing new lighting, sidewalk, plantings, trees, benches, bike racks and more.

It’s long overdue. It’s hard for even the most ardent opponent of this to say the avenue doesn’t look tired. It’s almost barren of decorative streetscaping currently, despite the hard work of the Beautification Committee, Street Department and others, who have creatively maximized what is there in recent years.

It’s also old infrastructure. The lighting and wiring are more than 60 years old, and simply don’t work in long stretches, and the sidewalk is crumbling. Trees are dead.

In other words, the time has come for this investment, and I’m excited to see it become a reality, the latest example of us bringing to life the comprehensive and downtown redevelopment plan we passed in 2016.

Have a plan, work the plan. This is a key part of working that plan.

Of course, not everyone agrees with this investment, and I get it. We have a lot of funding priorities in this city, and some argue this should wait.

I say, we’ve waited long enough. Let’s make this investment now, making a very visible and lasting public commitment as we continue to build the foundation for long-term growth in our downtown. It’s a top priority for me as mayor.

There will be opportunity for the public to weigh in on this in coming months, especially the business owners downtown. Stay tuned for more information on those opportunities.

15 Comments

Filed under South Milwaukee

15 responses to “Rethinking Milwaukee Avenue: Streetscaping Upgrades Planned

  1. fenno

    The trend is away from malls so i think it is the correct direction to take. Requires persistance and unique kinds of small businesses as well as the traditional – ins, attorneys, banks, grocery etc.. hard work, no doubt about it.

  2. June Marie Ruszczynski

    I agree that we need a facelift. Our downtown doesn’t reflect the energy of our residents. Go to it, Mayor!

  3. Rose Flores

    We have waited long enough…LETS DO IT!!!. Go to it, Mayor

  4. Russ Sobolik

    Is this you wanted a tax increase for? What happened to firemen and police?

  5. SM Guy

    Thanks to that lone shining star on the Common Council Lisa Pieper for voting in favor of the rest of us. Keep up the good work Lisa.

  6. Frank Grate

    First 65,000 for a plan, 1 million plus to fix streets, sidewalks and lights.then what comes next to find the money to update the Downtown buildings. Lets start bring forth the possible sources of this money.

  7. Rocandroo

    This should be put to a referendum. We were told there wasn’t enough funding for necessities like the fire, police and paramedics…and somehow we find the funding for streetscaping. And another $65,000 is going to GRAEF Consulting, for what? We already paid them for a comprehensive downtown plan and we have one of their employees on the payroll too. Remember Stephanie Hacker our economic development director and employee of GRAEF. What has she done for the city to justify her being on retainer. The taxpayers are being taken for a ride!

  8. Rocandroo

    I would like a response Mayor Brooks. We just had to hear the big song and dance about all the budget constraints, rising costs and the HARD CHOICES that had to be made concerning the public safety referendum. But somehow, you were able to find $1.2 million for streetscaping, $65,000 for more GRAEF Consulting services, money for a new economic development director and $225,000 that went to the South Shore Chiropractor building. And of course, all that taxpayer money that goes to the upgrades on the buildings downtown that are private property. Meanwhile, our basic needs, public safety- police, firemen, and paramedics are funded last. Is public safety not a priority for our common council? Why is it not funded first, then use what’s leftover for economic development? I wouldn’t call this being good stewards of taxpayer money.

  9. Happy to respond. The short answer: We need to fund all of the above, and we are. Yes, we need to fund our services first, and that starts with our first responders. I am happy that voters agreed and passed the referendum. But funding our services is just the starting point. We have to do more. We also have to invest in the growth of our city, and we’re doing that too. That is why I’m proud to support local business growth with the funds for South Shore Family Chiropractic, among other investments we’ve made in small business in South Milwaukee. We will make more. And we’ll invest in infrastructure, as we’re doing with the streetscaping work, among other capital projects. We’ll also continue to invest in our economic development infrastructure, and that includes people. In other words, it’s not “either, or.” It’s “both, and.”

  10. Frank Millpond Gratke

    I opposed the referendum for 5% plus increase in taxes. Which comes to around $600,000 for yearly expenditures. However, not passing the referendum would have required some drastic cuts in services. There are basically two parts of the budget, yearly expenditures and capital expenditures. Capital can be paid back over many years.

    The police and fire are generally the last cuts. The Library would be moved to a 40 hour per week. With something like 11 to 6 M-F and 5 hours on Saturday. Health department would dial back services. The street department would lose a head or two.

    This along with increase in ambulance fess, municipal court fines and a lot of increases in permits and licenses. Even with tax increase, fees like the $2 for the entering the self deposit station went to $3 and library hours were cut.

    The capital expenditures are required to maintain long term health of the city. I agree you can not let the city fall apart. But the more complete plan you have generally the better results you have. The plan should include where your going to get the money.

  11. Rocandroo

    1) I don’t think you understand what the word priority means.
    2) It is intellectually dishonest to suggest that the public services referendum was transparent. It was passed by misleading the public about our funding needs. Clearly, if you can spend our hard earned tax dollars on all these other non-necessities, the claims made in that referendum were false.
    3) Taxpayers expect fiscal responsibility. Don’t spend money we don’t have.

    • Nitkah

      Your response is spot on….sad Mr Brooks is so single focused on what *he* wants….and $50,000 for “Make it Happen”?!?! This has to be a joke right?

      • SM Guy

        Exactly. Mayor Brooks never answered the implied question. I understand that his belief is that we need to do both. Fine, why wasn’t there a referendum of both then? Was it possibly because you can scare the citizens by threatening to take away public safety, but can’t scare them by threatening not to have benches for the bums to hang out on?

  12. I’m 100% behind giving the streets and sidewalks downtown a facelift. I don’t feel as though investing in the downtown is at all a non-necessity if we want to have any shot at attracting business owners that actually stay in the community. I mean, the city’s got a lot of potential, but what business owner that doesn’t have strong ties to SM is going to drive down Milwaukee Ave right now and say “this is where I want to run my business?” Fixing things up is a) long overdue and b) a good way to make a good first impression on people looking for a spot to do business.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion as to what “fiscal responsibility” entails, but personally I think it is quite responsible to invest in things that better our community and put it in a position to succeed, and that includes economic development and branding initiatives. For me, I’m happy my tax dollars are being used for initiatives that are actually proactive about improving the city after years and years of standstill, AND I’m happy to have contributed a “yes” vote toward increasing the tax levy this past November.

  13. Debra Wilhelm

    I would agree with the facelift. The downtown does look tired and reworking our downtown to make it more attractive to new businesses would be a great step forward. We have a beautiful park along the lake and we should be able to use that as an extension to attract visitors that go to the park into our downtown area and help create a more commercial center.

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