At a recent neighborhood meeting in Bay View, a developer unveiled plans for a new mixed-use development along South Kinnickinnic Avenue. The plans call for two six-story buildings with up to 230 residential units and 27,000 square feet of retail space.
The project is planned for sites along Kinnickinnic that include a vacant lot and the former Bella’s Fat Cat building, which has sat empty ever since the restaurant closed in 2010.
But instead of being excited about a major development replacing a long-vacant building and a desolate lot on the neighborhood’s main commercial street, several of the dozens of residents who attended the meeting to learn about the project booed when it was presented. One called the project a “monstrosity.”
Located along Lake Michigan on Milwaukee’s south side, Bay View has long been known for its attractive, historic single-family homes. It’s a highly desirable neighborhood where houses put up for sale don’t sit on the market for long.
But the neighborhood is now experiencing significant change, all because it’s such an attractive place where lots of people want to live. In recent years, a handful of apartment developments have cropped up on or near Kinnickinnic Avenue. Alderman Tony Zielinski, who represents Bay View, has supported dense residential development along KK, but has insisted that the rest of the neighborhood maintain its single-family character.
The surge of development has boosted the businesses along Kinnickinnic, which obviously benefit from increased population density within walking distance.
Yet some residents oppose the changes coming to Bay View, concerned about increased traffic and a shift in the character of the neighborhood.
Sure, two new six-story buildings will stand out on KK, but not dramatically so, especially with other similar projects nearby. It’s just not the drastic change that some of the neighborhood’s residents fear. By comparison, look at the 30-story residential tower planned in Bayside, a village in northeastern Milwaukee County, as part of Cobalt Partners’ OneNorth project. Now that would stand out!
Yes, another apartment development will add some traffic along Kinnickinnic Avenue, but that’s a good thing. There is no way the addition of 230 residences is going to create total gridlock on the street. More traffic means more customers for every restaurant, bar and store along KK. Would neighborhood residents really prefer a dead street with no traffic and vacant buildings, like the former Bella’s Fat Cat?
Bay View is a big success story for Milwaukee and the city needs to find ways for more neighborhoods to thrive similarly.
The neighborhood’s residents should embrace the economic development and increased vibrancy that is coming to Bay View. Yes, growth comes with challenges, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Other neighborhoods in Milwaukee that are struggling with crime and poverty would love to have Bay View’s “problems.”