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.