Mayor Tom Barrett announced the launch ReFreshMKE, the city of Milwaukee’s first sustainability plan, this morning at Erie Street Plaza.
“Refresh MKE is a call to action around a community-endorsed set of goals and strategies that spurs economic growth while preserving our finite natural resources for our children and our grandchildren,” said Barrett. “Our climate is telling us that the old ways won’t work anymore. Refresh MKE is our roadmap on how to do more better, but with less.”
Barrett announced the plan overlooking a flotilla of canoes and kayaks – along with Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s debris river skimmer named Lynyrd Skymmr – parading down the Milwaukee River. Members of Barrett’s “Green Team” were also in attendance at the event.
Barrett keyed on two “catalytic projects” in the announcement – a public-private inner harbor redevelopment project and the revival of the HOME GR/OWN initiative.
“HOME GR/OWN is the initiative that we had submitted to the Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge, which deals with food sustainability and transforming foreclosed properties into urban gardens,” said Barrett.
The Milwaukee Inner Harbor Redevelopment Project is focusing on sustainable development in a 970-acre area that stretches from Erie Street Plaza on the edge of the Historic Third Ward to the Basilica, said Barrett.
Regarding the inner harbor project, the sustainability plan says, “Given a level of investment comparable to Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward to capitalize on the Inner Harbor’s unique assets, the area has the potential to become a vibrant urban district with employment centers and a restored neighborhood fabric built along a working, modern and progressively operational waterfront.”
This sustainability initiative is the result of 18 months of planning and organizing with Barrett’s appointed “Green Team.” The leader of the “Green Team,” Matt Howard, the city’s environmental sustainability director, said the project is organized by eight issue areas: buildings, energy, food systems, human capital, land and urban ecosystems, mobility, resource recovery and water.
“We feel this is a comprehensive road map for community sustainability,” said Howard. “The mayor and I and the Green Team really feel that this provides the vision and new ideas for Milwaukee to be a center of sustainability, innovation and thought leadership in our country; I truly believe that.”
Howard also listed many “Green Team” partners in this initiative, including individuals from Walnut Way, Center for Resilient Cities, the city of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, Midwest Environmental Advocates, the Department of City Development, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, and the Redevelopment Authority along with corporate partner, Colorado-based CH2M Hill.
Howard said the initiative’s funders include the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Brico Fund, along with corporate partners MillerCoors, Johnson Controls and The Water Council.
“Refresh MKE is a comprehensive effort,” said Howard. “It’s not just a planning document, it’s a call to action and it’s a path forward for creating a more sustainable city.”
The city’s first sustainability group, or “Green Team,” was an idea brought to the mayor by Julilly Kohler, and was assembled in 2004, said Barrett.
“When I formed Milwaukee’s first public-private ‘Green Team’ in 2004, I honestly never imagined the spirit of that work would continue into my third term as mayor,” he said. “The 2005 ‘Green Team’ report helped guide city policies and projects. The city of Milwaukee implemented the vast majority of their recommendations between 2005 and 2012, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability. In order to build off that important early work, I appointed a new Green Team in 2012, and charged them with developing the city’s first sustainability plan, Refresh MKE.”