A proposal to pedestrianize a half-block of Ivanhoe Place east of Farwell Avenue between the Crossroads Collective food hall and Hooligan’s tavern, on Milwaukee’s East Side, could soon get a financial boost.
Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s administration recently submitted a proposal to allocate $3.9 million in tax increment financing to fund traffic calming and pedestrian enhancements along the East North Avenue corridor, as well as a “new public space on Ivanhoe Place.”
According to the proposal, the improvements would be aimed at implementing a 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 as a guide for later, more specific streetscaping decisions, is a bit broader than a 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 E. Ivanhoe Place. The plaza would be about 4,000 square feet in size and would require the removal of 12 metered parking stalls, according to the BID board, while still maintaining garage access to Educators Credit Union, at 2243 N. Prospect Ave., 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 board letter states.
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 pedestrians.
For developer Tim Gokhman, managing director of Milwaukee-based New Land Enterprises, which owns the Crossroads Collective food hall, the proposed TID funding for the Ivanhoe Place plaza would be the realization of something he has long hoped for.
“Without the funding, there’s no project, and that has been one of the positive differences with this administration. They understand that investment in infrastructure is not an either/or, and that a successful North Ave (which meets Ivanhoe Place at its intersection with Farwell) will pay dividends and positively affect other areas,” said Gokhman, who has advocated for years for some kind of pedestrianization of Ivanhoe Place. “Milwaukee has been far behind its peers in placemaking and great public gathering spaces. We have some catching up to do, and this is a critical step in that direction.”
Funded by new projects
Officials are counting on three developments to create the bulk of the new property value – and resulting increment – necessary to fund the $3.9 million in public infrastructure improvements envisioned along East North Avenue. Those include a 53-unit, mixed-use apartment building being developed by Ryan Pattee and Shar Borg in the 1500 Block of East North Avenue; developer Kendall Breunig’s plan to transform a former dairy processing plant at 1617 E. North Ave. into a 17-unit apartment building with retail on the first floor; and the potential redevelopment of 1431 E. North Ave., the site of the former Judge’s Irish Pub, which was recently demolished.
The 1500 and 1617 East North Avenue projects alone are expected to generate $8.85 million in incremental value by the year 2025, a TID project plan states.
The $3.9 million in TIF funding proposed for East North Avenue – and the creation of the TID itself – must still be approved by the city’s Redevelopment Authority, the Common Council, and the area taxing bodies represented on the city’s Joint Review Board.