The two Milwaukees

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:05 pm

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
It is hard to believe the contrast of what is happening in Milwaukee this year.
In the area in and near downtown, the city seems to going through an exciting renaissance. An apartment building boom is bringing in new residents and new life. Northwestern Mutual is building a $450 million, 32-story tower at its headquarters campus. Johnson Controls is contemplating plans for a new office tower. The lakefront is undergoing a historic transformation that could include a 44-story luxury apartment tower and a new plaza between the Milwaukee Art Museum (which is expanding) and the Summerfest grounds. Irgens is building a $101 million, 17-story office building. Plans are advancing for a new $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, and the owners of the Bucks plan to build another $500 million mixed-use district around the arena. New hotels are under construction downtown and in the Third Ward. That’s a significant list and there’s a lot of good news there.
Suburban communities are also getting in on the act with major mixed-use projects in various stages of development, including: The Corners in Brookfield, The Corridor in Brookfield, The Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa, White Stone Station in Menomonee Falls and Drexel Town Square in Oak Creek. More good news.
But all the excitement of the downtown and regional developments has been largely overshadowed this year by a troubling spike in violent crime in the city. The number of homicides in Milwaukee has already matched last year’s total.
Clearly something, probably a lot of things, needs to change. It was good to see Attorney General Brad Schimel, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, District Attorney John Chisholm and Police Chief Ed Flynn announce a plan to crack down on gun violence, but this should have been done sooner and it’s still not enough.
Police strategy, prosecution philosophy, the social safety net and the education system all need to be questioned, challenged and reexamined. A collective effort of the public, private and nonprofit sectors is necessary.
Some might think the violent crime wave in Milwaukee is just the city’s problem. But really, it’s a problem for all of us in the region and affects all of us in one way or another.
If we don’t find a solution, our region will continue to be less competitive economically with others around the world.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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