March 15: “Chasing the Dragon” Showing at St. Luke’s UCC

In case you missed the first showings earlier this year, St. Luke’s United Church of Christ will be offering another viewing of “Chasing the Dragon.” This is an important film with a sobering message — one everyone should see.

Chasing the Dragon advertising-page-001

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Robbery Reported at Tri-City Bank; Suspects Later Caught


Thankfully no one was hurt. From the South Milwaukee Police Department …

On March 10, 2017 at about 11:07 am, the South Milwaukee Police Department responded to the 2115 10th Avenue (Tri City Bank). One subject entered the bank, walked up to the teller window, demanded money, and fled the scene in a vehicle. A short time later three subjects were taken into custody by St. Francis Police Department. No one at the bank was injured. The amount of money that was taken is unknown at this time.

Here is coverage from CBS 58.

Well done, SMPD, and all the other departments who assisted.

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Full Council Agenda: A Special Honor, Adopt-a-Tree, Road Projects, Pedlets and More


Lots on the agenda, and lots accomplished, at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. I already wrote about the passage of funding for a development of Caterpillar redevelopment strategies. Among other news …

  • We honored a local hero — Fire Capt. Glen McCoy — for a recent award.
  • The council voted to create a new Adopt-a-Tree program, where we’ll be partnering with property owners to plant up to 50 trees this summer, starting in neighborhoods where we’ve removed trees in the past three years. This Beautification Committee initiative is the latest example of how we’re stepping up our game in urban forestry. Look for more details in a future blog post.
  • The council also voted to get a head start on spring construction projects, agreeing to advertise for bids for 2017 road construction projects on Southtowne Court, Drive and Place, as well as Montana Avenue (Fifth to Ninth Avenues).
  • The council also approved additional study of — and the development of guidelines we can use in allowing them — around pedlets, a cool outdoor dining option popularized in West Allis and other communities. Two Milwaukee Avenue businesses are exploring the concept. West Allis is an innovator with pedlets, a modified version of the more common parklet.
  • We became the first community to adopt the aerotropolis redevelopment plan — another example of our city’s commitment to a regional approach to economic development. Check out the press release here, and here is Business Journal coverage.
  • We also passed a resolution endorsing the League of Municipalities efforts against “dark stores,” an unreasonable effort by some big-box retailers to reduce their assessments. Read the resolution for some real-world — and hard-to-comprehend — examples from across the state that legislation could prevent.

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Partnering to Help Answer, “What’s Next for the Caterpillar Site?”

Cat aerialBringing new life to the Caterpillar property might be the most challenging redevelopment and reuse project we’ve faced in the history of South Milwaukee.

I want to tackle that challenge head on. And we are.

On Tuesday, the South Milwaukee City Council approved spending up to $23,000 to contract with Graef Consulting to assist and advise the city, as we seek to partner with Caterpillar, One Liberty Properties (owners of much of the Cat site), and broker Colliers International in several key areas we think will aid in redeveloping the site.

Among the anticipated deliverables …

  • A plan for potential reuse of the office space, expected to be the most challenging part of the property for redevelopment. This includes reuse concepts, parcel division options and a perspective on potential incentives and grant opportunities. We’ll also be taking a tour of the Century City site in Milwaukee, the former home to A.O. Smith and Tower Automotive, and apply learnings here.
  • A marketing plan and profile for South Milwaukee and the downtown area that Colliers — and the city, for that matter — can use to help generate interest in the site with developers, business owners and others.

As I’ve written about, Cat is maintaining a manufacturing presence in South Milwaukee, and that’s good news. But much of its property south of Rawson Avenue is or is becoming available as professional workers continue to move to Arizona in the months ahead.

We’re focusing this early work where we feel we can do the most good.

Interest in the soon-to-be-vacant manufacturing space has been relatively strong — not as much for the office buildings. Our efforts will fill gaps that may lead to bringing new life more quickly to that portion of the site. Colliers has told us as much.

It comes down this: We, as city leaders, can’t sit idly by and simply wait and see what happens with this, hoping that a positive reuse and redevelopment comes before us. We need to be as proactive as possible, take a seat at the table and be a partner in determining just what Caterpillar 2.0 looks like in South Milwaukee.

Our city was born around the Mill Pond, but it grew up around Bucyrus, and now Caterpillar. This property is too important to the proud past and promising future of this city for us to be bystanders.

We will do everything in our power to get this right. This work is a good first step.


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Sound and Simple Safety Advice: Keep Your Lights On

A note from South Milwaukee Police Officer Mike Hill …

After working a 4a-8a morning shift recently, I was able to make an observation that working dayshift hours does not allow. I was surprised by the number of houses that have no exterior lighting on during the night/morning hours. Driving through your neighborhoods and trying to see if garage doors were open, people in driveways or going through yards was almost impossible given the darkness. I would pass three houses with no lights on, and find one with lights on. If I were up to no good, I know which house I would avoid and which houses were easier for me to hide in the darkness. What I also noticed is that house numbers were impossible to read. If you needed medical/fire/police assistance to your house, and we can’t see your numbers, that can slow down response times! Lighting is one of the most effective and cheapest ways to prevent and/or reduce crime. Please turn your lights on at night!


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Looking Ahead to Lionsfest

Planning is underway for South Milwaukee Lionsfest 2017, but this much has already been decided: It’s returning to the same location at 16th Avenue, south of Rawson.

Please spread the word, and mark your calendars for July 28-30!

Thanks to Masjid Al-Huda for being gracious hosts for this iconic community event.

The South Milwaukee Lions also welcome any suggestions for making the festival even bigger and better. Let them know what you think — post your comments below.


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Made in South Milwaukee: Cheata Bikes

Add this to the list of “cool stuff made in South Milwaukee.”

I had the pleasure recently of visiting the folks at Cheata Bikes Milwaukee, who have based their growing motor bicycle business in our fair city, at 2300 10th Ave.

Not sure what a motor bicycle is? Check out their website

Motor bicycles have been around for more than 100 years! The original motor bicycle has its roots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harley-Davidson entered the marketplace offering an affordable means of transportation in the early 1900s.

Whizzer, another U.S. company, began producing motor bicycles in the early 1940’s for World War II defense workers. Eventually Whizzer produced the Model F to sell to the general public.

Following WWII, a European company, Ducati, produced a motor bicycle called the Cucciolo. In 1948 Ducati sold more than 200,000 motor bicycles. These bicycles all had single-cylinder engines capable of about 35 miles per hour.

As time progressed, these bicycles lost their pedals, grew bigger and became more powerful—evolving into the motorcycles we see today.

Cheata Bikes brings the motor bicycle back full circle! Our Cheata Bikes facility is located in South Milwaukee in a historic turn of the century 8,800 sq. ft. building not far from where it all began at Harley-Davidson.

The building houses their corporate office, product development center and manufacturing facility, in downtown South Milwaukee.

The building itself has a great story. Built in 1923, it was home to the Doerman Shoe Mfg. Co., employing 150 people and manufacturing the popular “Great Scott” children’s shoe line until closing in 1956. It later served as a temporary home of the South Milwaukee Library, then home to operations for Bucyrus and Pyramax Bank.

Now, it’s home to motor bicycles.

Owner Ravi Bhagat tells me sales have been steadily increasing and are robust in 2017, with a marketing model that combines word of mouth with regular “sightings” at trendy locations like the Pfister, Iron Horse, Intercontinental Hotel Milwaukee and Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee, and other restaurants and hotels locally, and even a design studio in California.

The idea: The more people see the bikes — which start at $1,795 — in action, the more they want ride one.

Here is what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had to say last summer …

“Everybody wants to sort of stand out,” Bhagat said, “and these things really stand out.” 

Bhagat, 53, is casting a line into a small but potentially rewarding pool, applying professional machining and finish … to the sort of hybrid vehicles garage tinkerers have been building for decades.

After a couple of years marked by fits and starts, Cheata has set up production in South Milwaukee. There, in a former Bucyrus-Erie building Bhagat owns, a small crew puts together bicycles that feature both working pedals and a 49-cubic-centimeter, four-stroke gasoline engine. The motors and frames come from China, but the bikes are assembled with extensive local input.

The wheels are built and trued in South Milwaukee. An Oak Creek company machines the sprockets for greater precision. A West Allis firm does sheet-metal work. Performance Coatings in Oconomowoc finishes off the aluminum frames with multilayer paint jobs.

The result? Yet another really cool product with strong local ties — made in South Milwaukee.


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