Investing in a Special Public Space, Downtown

Downtown came alive Thursday night, as more than 100 people watched Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys perform at the South Milwaukee Downtown Market.

It was a terrific atmosphere. The energy was real.

As mayor, it was a beautiful sight.

But as I sat there and took it all in, I couldn’t help but think what this might look like a year or two from now – once a grander vision for this space is realized and it becomes the special community gathering and event space it can and should be, the space our downtown (our city) deserves.

I’m happy to say we’re now on that path.

On Tuesday, the South Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved a motion for city staff to draft and issue a request for proposals for concept designs at the city-owned properties at 2109 11th Ave. and 1014-1028 Madison Ave. for public/institutional use

To be clear, this is not the final word on the site, and the council must still approve selection of a planning firm and any actual dollar investment in the space. But it’s a great start — a positive first step into making this site into a special, and lasting, redevelopment.

This is the almost ¾ of an acre of property at 11th and Madison used by the South Milwaukee Downtown Market and a variety of special events, from food truck festivals to Crusherfest to the Restore the Lagoon Festival this Saturday. In the recent past, we’ve also had outdoor movies there.

The space was previously home to a couple of bars and other businesses before the city, in 2005, began acquiring the properties as part of a tax incremental financing district — the same TID that will help fund redevelopment of the site as a public space — and razed them.

There was minimal interest over the years in redeveloping the parcel. As we marketed the site, the Market also invested in the space, with a wooden stage built as part of an Eagle Scout project, and picnic tables. Still, 2/3 of it has remained undeveloped.

Under these new plans, the entire site would come to life.

My vision: Transform it into something that will serve as an everyday gathering place and special event hub.

Among the uses we’ll look at as we begin this planning process this fall, in partnership with organizations like the South Milwaukee Downtown Market, Lions Club, Bucyrus Foundation and others, and at least partially funded through TIF …

  • Incorporation of market and green space;
  • Permanent restrooms;
  • Future band shell/sound amplifying capabilities;
  • Additional parking;
  • Buildings for quasi-public or institutional use;
  • Landscaping or other open space improvements like lighting; and
  • Possible child’s play area.

I also hope to celebrate our city’s history in this space, led by Bucyrus and the role it and South Milwaukee played in moving earth across the globe.

That said, I really don’t want to be too prescriptive in this process. Ideas will be welcome. Community involvement will be key. This will be your space, a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our downtown.

And when you combine it with the more than $1.5 million Milwaukee Avenue streetscaping effort, the city is stepping up investment in our city center like never before.

The momentum continues to build.

More details in this NOW article.

3 Comments

Filed under South Milwaukee

3 responses to “Investing in a Special Public Space, Downtown

  1. Louise Koszewski

    Wonderful! This makes us even happier that we moved to South Milwaukee! Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your energy and your vision!

  2. Vicki Riedel

    This is really exciting news and just the kind of “shot-in-the-arm” our community needs.

  3. John Zakrzewski

    Public and permanent restrooms are a necessity in any living community. Kudos to those with the foresight to make this a reality. Some may complain of the upkeep and expense of such a facility but think of the “outside” alternatives for those away from home and in need.

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