South side neighborhoods poised for redevelopment

Six properties in Milwaukee’s Layton Boulevard West and Clarke Square neighborhoods sit on the cusp of redevelopment, following a charrette held Tuesday to brainstorm plans for their futures.


The charrette, led by Community Design Solutions of UW-Milwaukee, challenged sets of area architects to devise and then revise visions for each property in line with community and marketplace needs.

The goal of the day-long event, which was hosted by the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning, was “to take a look at these six underutilized sites and identify feasible urban redevelopment concepts that could bring investment to the neighborhood, bring uses that they might need and also bring additional investment to those areas,” said Carolyn Esswein, director of Community Design Solutions. The UWM design center provides students and faculty opportunities to advise development projects that will spark positive change.

Community Design Solutions previously headed successful charrettes for sites on Doctor Martin Luther King Drive, in Bronzeville and in Riverworks.

In light of those charrettes, Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan reached out to Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, Inc. and the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative earlier this year to explore the benefits of a holding a charrette for the city’s south side.

“There’s a lot of investment that’s been taking place in the neighborhood, and that’s why we thought it was a great time for the charrette,” said Natanael Martinez, economic development manager at LBWN.

The two nonprofit community development organizations selected sites in each of their vicinities – sites “that were underutilized and had the potential to be redeveloped based on land value and ownership,” Esswein said.

Sites of opportunity in the Layton Boulevard West neighborhood are located at: 3514, 3516, 3522, 3524 and 3528 National Ave.; 3733 and 3737 National Ave.; and 3220 and 3238 W. Pierce St. Sites in Clarke Square are situated at: 2110, 2130, and 2134 W. National Ave.; 2127 W. National Ave.; and 2008, 2012, 2016, 2026, 2028, and 2034 Greenfield Ave.

LBWN identified sites that are highly visible, that have real opportunity for future development and with property owners ready to retire or sell, according to Martinez.

The organization also sought sites in close proximity to recent developments to further build upon neighborhood revitalization efforts, he said.

Similarly, Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative selected sites along the area’s main thoroughfares, what Ian Bautista, executive director of the organization, describes as “landmarks” that will help create momentum and buzz around future development.

Architects participating in this week’s charrette included American Design, Korb Tredo Architects, Miller Architectural Group, Arcint Architecture and Hofman Architects, Quorum Architects, and Engberg Anderson. Each firm was assigned one of the six sites to analyze and redesign. After presenting their initial ideas early in the day and receiving feedback from stakeholders who attended the charrette, each team went back to the drawing board to flesh out their ideas for a second round of presentations.

Ideas that emerged for Layton Boulevard West neighborhood included redeveloping the 3500 block of National Avenue into a mixed use site of residential and retail space and converting the property on Pierce Street into a fitness facility on the ground level with housing above. In Clarke Square, proposals included transforming the 2100 block of National Avenue into a makerspace, where a variety of tenants could produce food or retail items, and redeveloping the 2000 block of Greenfield Avenue into townhomes, veterans’ housing and a futsal field.

Looking to next year, Esswein will compile a report summarizing each idea and will release it by February. She also plans to present the results of the charrette at a community meeting so that the public can weigh in on each idea.  

The next steps will hopefully involve securing the interest of developers or issuing a request for proposal for the sites, she said.

LBWN and the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative will also remain heavily invested in the steps ahead.

“We’re looking to take these plans and engage different partners to discuss the possibilities of each development and see how we can move them forward,” Martinez said.

Tuesday’s charrette was funded by the Zilber Family Foundation, the Milwaukee Department of City Development and LISC Milwaukee.

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