Effort to pedestrianize part of Ivanhoe Place advances with pitch to provide TID funding for plaza

A rendering of the proposed pedestrian mall on East Ivanhoe Place on Milwaukee's East Side.
A rendering of the proposed pedestrian mall on East Ivanhoe Place on Milwaukee's East Side. Credit: City of Milwaukee’s Gathering Places Feasibility Study.

A proposal to pedestrianize a half-block of Ivanhoe Place east of Farwell between the Crossroads Collective Food Hall and Hooligan’s tavern have may be getting a financial boost.

Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s administration recently submitted a proposal to allocate $3.9 million in tax increment financing district dollars to fund a number of “traffic calming and pedestrian enhancements along East North Avenue corridor, as well as a “new public space on Ivanhoe Place.”

The improvements would be aimed at implementing “catalytic project from the City’s 2009 Northeast Side Area Plan, which called for redeveloping a full block of Ivanhoe Place – between North Farwell and North Prospect avenues – into “a convertible plaza that can serve as a parking, delivery area, a drivable street, and a plaza or courtyard, depending on use, time of day and activity.”

That area plan, which was designed to serve a guide for more specific streetscaping decisions, is a bit broader that the proposal backed by the East Side Business Improvement District in late August.

The BID supported plan calls for the closure of Ivanhoe Place from the entrance at North Farwell and East North avenues to the entrance of Black Cat Alley, just to the east of the Sip & Purr Cat Café at 2021 East Ivanhoe Place The plaza would be about 4,000 square feet and would require the removal of 12 metered parking stalls, according to the BID board, while still maintaining garage access to Educators Credit Union and the alleyway.

The city’s 2022 Gathering Spaces Feasibility Study, an effort spearheaded by Johnson while he was still an alderman, lists Ivanhoe Place as being on the city’s Pedestrian High Injury Network, so “closing a portion of the street would reduce pedestrian conflicts with turning vehicles, create a quiet place in a busy commercial district, and expose more people to Black Cat Alley,” an Aug. 29 BID Boards letter states

Brady Street and beyond

The news of potential funding support for an Ivanhoe Place Plaza, comes as the Brady Street Business Improvement District studies the potential of pedestrianizing all or a portion of its commercial district, and as the Johnson administration has been actively embracing city planning and streetscaping efforts focused on making all of the city’s commercial districts safer for and more inviting to pedestrians.

The $3.9 million in proposed TIF funding proposed for the East North Avenue corridor must still be approved by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, the Common Council, and the area taxing bodies who are a represented on the city’s Joint Review Board.

If and when funding is approved, plans for the Ivanhoe Place Plaza could move forward right away, or there could be additional approvals needed from a public works standpoint.

It was not immediately clear on Tuesday whether any partial closure of Ivanhoe Place would require approval from say the city’s Public Works Committee.

As East Siders wait to see will come of the Brady Street study and the Ivanhoe Place proposals, the Johnson Administration is also making a pitch to utilize $4.6 million in increment from a Westown area TID and use the funds to design and construct public infrastructure improvements related to Fiserv’s plans to move their headquarters to HUB640, 640 Vel R. Phillips Ave. The spending would include $2.5 million for traffic calming elements, bike facilities, new pavement, trees, landscaping and traffic signals along West Michigan Street between the Milwaukee River and North 6th Street.

North Wells Capital, the owner of HUB640, would also receive a cash grant of $1 million for streetscape and sidewalk improvements around the perimeter of the building as part of the $4.6 million.

The project plans also include $750,000 for public art and informative kiosks memorializing and celebrating the legacy of Vel R. Phillips at the proposed Vel R. Phillips Plaza at 401 W. Wisconsin Ave.; $100,000 for a pedestrian path and lighting improvements at Zeidler Square; $75,000 for improvements to the West Michigan Street and North 6th Street intersection; and a $175,000 public infrastructure contingency.

Amendments to both the East Side and Westown TID plans are slated to be reviewed at a public hearing on Nov. 17.

The Westown TID plan amendments would also need to be reviewed Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee, the Common Council, and the Joint Review Board.

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Cara Spoto
Cara covers nonprofits, healthcare and education for BizTimes. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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