Near West Side Partners kicks off action with $1 million initiative

As Near West Side Partners, Inc. reimagines the future of Milwaukee’s Near West Side, the organization and its five pillar institutions have announced a $1 million initiative designed to tout the area’s assets while curbing crime.

NWSP, a nonprofit established in January by Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson, Marquette University, Millercoors and Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, is branding the initiative as “PARC,” or “Promoting Assets and Reducing Crime.”

PARC, to be funded by all five anchor institutions over the next three years, was announced during a press conference held Tuesday at Harley Davidson University. The first part of the initiative centers on highlighting the neighborhood’s assets through staff who will roll out projects in housing, commercial corridor development, neighborhood branding and safety. Those four working teams were announced along with the nonprofit’s inception. The working teams are now focused on collaborating with area residents, employers, employees, students and visitors to frame specific neighborhood objectives and visions.

Through those visions, the working teams aim to enhance the neighborhood’s brand and public perception in order to improve the neighborhood’s dynamics and open up opportunities for economic development.

Among the Near West Side’s neighborhood assets are its diversity of employers, in terms of industry and size, as well as its geography, population of schools, cross-sector relationships, according to Rana Altenburg, vice president of public affairs at Marquette University and president of the NWSP board of directors.

Altenburg also cited the area’s culture institutions as key assets, including the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art and the Pabst Mansion.

“To take our shared neighborhood to the next level, we must better leverage these assets and ensure that residents, employees, students and visitors feel safe,” said Marquette University president Michael Lovell, Ph.D. “PARC will give us the tools to do that.”

On the safety side of PARC, NWSP will assemble residents, businesses and area organizations to activate what the nonprofit describes as “strategic, data-driven, place-based interventions” that tackle the root causes of crime.

Among the safety resources to be introduced to the neighborhood is a Community Prosecution Unit headed by a full-time assistant district attorney and a full-time community prosecution coordinator. Those personnel will collaborate with the Milwaukee Police Department, government agencies and community-based organizations to reduce and prevent crime, particularly incidences of domestic violence.

Additionally, PARC’s aim to reduce crime will include a neighborhood development initiative in which full-time evidence builder and community organizations positions will be based in the Near West Side to reinforce safety and spur economic development.

PARC’s data-driven component will largely be supported by Marquette University’s Center for Peacemaking, which will work with DataShare to collect and evaluate public health and safety data points that will direct PARC’s objectives moving forward.

The bottom line centers on enhancing neighborhood safety in order to draw sustainable development to the area, according to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, who represented the Milwaukee Police Department’s hands-on role in advancing NWSP.

Both the police department and the City of Milwaukee have been designated key partners of PARC.

“Safe neighborhoods become prosperous ones,” Flynn said. “Through this private-public collaborative, we will not only enhance safety, but help create greater economic prosperity for the Near West Side.”

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