Planning work proposed for streetcar extension to Walker’s Point

Proposal also calls for pedestrian and bike infrastructure upgrades

The Hop

The city of Milwaukee could devise plans for a Walker’s Point streetcar extension as part of a new $1.3 million spending proposal. The proposal also calls for pedestrian and bike infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

Money for the infrastructure upgrades and streetcar planning would come from a tax incremental financing district.

Specifically, $900,000 would be used for pedestrian and bike improvements on South Sixth Street, from West Virginia to West Washington streets, and on West Mineral Street, between South Third and South Sixth streets.

Another $250,000 would be used on planning, design and engineering for a proposed extension of the Hop streetcar into Walker’s Point.

Another $50,000 would add bikeshare stations. There would also be $75,000 in administrative costs.

“This funding would allow us to do some initial planning and engineering for the Walker’s Point (streetcar) extension, which will enable us to solidify cost estimates for the extension and put us in a better position to compete for future federal funding,” Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Department of City Development, said in an email.

The city would borrow money through bonding, and pay it back from new property tax revenue generated resulting from development projects and rising property values.

A project plan report did not specify what route the streetcar extension might take. City officials did not immediately comment on the possible route.

The Hop now runs a 2.1-mile loop downtown, though a 0.4-mile lakefront extension will be added with The Couture project.

An attempt to extend the streetcar into Walker’s Point and Bronzeville failed to gain Milwaukee Common Council approval two years ago. A major point of contention in that proposal was that the Walker’s Point extension would only go to the intersection of First Street and Pittsburgh Avenue.

City officials have said there are a number of options for the Walker’s Point extension. Possible end points include Sixth Street and National Avenue, or First Street and Greenfield Avenue.

TIF districts are used to facilitate development within or nearby their boundaries by making infrastructure improvements or offering development incentives. Expenses are paid back through increased property-tax revenues.

The existing TIF district the $1.3 million would come from was created in 2015. It originally provided $2.48 million to rebuild South Fifth Street between West Virginia and West Scott streets, and $50,000 for bike amenities.

The latest spending proposal for the TIF district follows recommendations laid out in a 2015 strategic plan for Walker’s Point and a 2009 plan for the Near South Side.

Those plans call for the creation of a creative district or corridor for Fifth and Sixth streets at National Avenue, and to rebuild the corridors as “complete streets” that better accommodate bike and pedestrian traffic. The objective is to create “a more walkable and bikable community and (improve) the aesthetics of Walker’s Point,” according to the project plan.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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