Design study to examine redevelopment options for West Burleigh Street corridor

Study will include underutilized portions of Ascension St. Joseph hospital

St. Joseph Hospital

Last updated on August 16th, 2019 at 12:53 pm

A section of West Burleigh Street, which includes underused portions of Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – St. Joseph Campus, will be the focus of a design charrette that will examine potential redevelopment options for the commercial corridor on Milwaukee’s north side.

Ascension Wisconsin is giving a $10,000 grant to support the design study, which will focus on five or six properties on West Burleigh Street, from North Sherman Boulevard to North 59th Street, located within Business Improvement District No. 27. The St. Joseph hospital campus is located at 5000 W. Chambers St.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Community Design Solutions, a design center in the School of Architecture & Urban Planning, will work with neighborhood stakeholders and property owners on the design study.

Vanessa Koster, planning manager at Milwaukee’s Department of City Development, said the funding from Ascension will support focus groups that will be held leading up to the charrette, the event itself and stipends for participating architecture firms.

Ascension has been in a process over the past year of examining options for the St. Joseph campus. The health system has committed to providing primary, acute, emergency department and OB-GYN services at the hospital, and has sought community partners to lease remaining unused space at the campus.

Reggie Newson, chief advocacy officer for Ascension Wisconsin, said Ascension sees the hospital as a “catalyst and anchor” in the neighborhood.

“We wanted to come up with ideas about how we can strengthen the local neighborhood, the economic ecosystem on West Burleigh Street, because we view St. Joseph as an anchor,” he said. “And we want to be a catalyst for neighborhood plans, economic development strategies and investment in the Sherman Park neighborhood.”

In August, St. Joseph will host focus groups for residents, Ascension associates, BID representatives and funders. The charrette will be held sometime in September, Newson said.

Under consideration for possible redevelopment will be “existing properties or new properties around the St. Joseph campus,” Newson said.

“Certainly the aesthetics around campus are important to Ascension,” he said. “We want to look at the opportunity for streetscaping or urban design around the campus to create additional green spaces or things that make the corridor more aesthetically pleasing. And certainly if there are opportunities for developers to re-purpose and redevelop spaces that may be more impactful or provide services, whether green space or things that would address barriers for healthy outcomes for residents near our campus .. these are things we’re hoping to have a great dialogue about in the focus groups.”

Based on feedback from community members and other stakeholders over the past year, the health system has initiated several programs to address some issues that have been raised. Among them are a new partnership with the city health department’s Office of Violence Prevention and other health care partners to prevent gun violence, hosting a new Milwaukee Health Department-run Women, Infants and Children outreach office at St. Joseph, piloting an opioid recovery coaches program in the hospital’s emergency department, hosting a Blanket of Love program to educate expectant mothers, and partnering with Hunger Task Force to enroll seniors in a free food staples program.

However, some have raised concerns regarding the health system’s commitment to the neighborhood.

A coalition of community groups and unions last month said it was seeking to negotiate a legally-binding agreement with Ascension to hedge against any potential cuts to services at the hospital and hold the health system to providing specific community benefits.

St. Louis-based Ascension Health assumed operations of the former Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare hospital in 2016.

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