A wish list for downtown Milwaukee

When I was asked to share my downtown dream with you in the Small Business Times Commercial Real Estate & Development Book, I immediately thought, “Hmm … That’s easy enough.”

Other than my children, this city is the love of my life. I admit, like many other urban aficionados, that downtown Milwaukee is on an upward trajectory. It has been a tremendous experience for me to be able to play a role in the revitalization of downtown Milwaukee in my position as executive director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.

Growing up in a family that lived in the city of Milwaukee that regularly visited downtown, I have heard tales and actually witnessed firsthand the changing winds of our urban experience. The good ole’ days, the urban flight and now the resurrection, if you will.

Today, our downtown landscape has so many elements that make it successful, a really powerful sense of place, a boom in the residential market, a community rich in the arts and an abundance of culture. World-class attractions, and despite what some may say, pretty efficient parking. We have clean and safe streets and sidewalks, minimal blighted buildings, and accessible and attractive parks and public spaces with phenomenal natural water elements. Great sports teams, first-class hotels, restaurants and clubs.

Our built environment and preservation of historically significant buildings is widely appreciated. We have over 78,000 employees for the companies that are proud to call downtown Milwaukee home. Our downtown is definitely inviting, exciting, friendly and on the map. 

Now, given all that, I admit we are not perfect. Perfect is not what I am looking for. I like the grit that comes with the urban experience.

However, if I could wave a magical wand and 10 wishes were granted, my wishes for downtown Milwaukee would be:

1. A balanced transportation plan. I know you’ve heard this one again and again. The reality is that something has to happen. Our leaders need to find a solution and not give up until an agreement is reached. Whether that means rapid bus transit, streetcars, rail or the creation of a regional transit authority – could we have some movement here please?
2. Development of a downtown retail strategy. What we are ready for is a rockin’ retail community that supports all of the niches identified, from coffee shops, shoes stores, apparel, accessories and gifts to home decor and more. Retailers will be reflective of our eclectic community. We’ll support the unique and dedicated retail community in downtown Milwaukee so well that their success story will make others want to locate here.
3. Continued growth and diversity in our residential market – we love the empty nesters and the young professionals. Let’s continue to increase the amount and variety of housing to include more families downtown. We’ve got the great neighborhood … Let’s use it!
4. Because of the great quality of life we offer, we will have a dedicated, highly trained and educated workforce that loves the city. This strong workforce will become a draw for businesses both in retention and recruitment.
5. The Brewery and the Park East Corridor will be fully developed with sustainable housing, commercial and retail components.
6. This might sound simple, but how about clean, professional, well-trained, polite and knowledgeable taxi cab drivers.
7. Completion of our comprehensive way-finding system to make downtown more user-friendly. From the moment a customer enters downtown on the interstate until they park their car or get off the bus, we want to gently guide them along the way in a clear and efficient manner without cluttering the landscape. We’re on our way – let’s just get it finished.
8. A really strong Downtown Milwaukee branding campaign that will once and for all convince Milwaukeeans that we have one of the greatest downtowns in the country!
9. Fully embrace and celebrate our diversity.
10. FREE PARKING! This will never happen, but I bet it sure got your attention.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display