Gathering of notables tracks the route of proposed streetcar. And HGTV comes to town to film a straw-bale home.
More than 50 people gathered on a torrid Tuesday evening, September 10th, at the headquarters of Stone Creek Cafe, 422 N. 5th St. for an informal “Milwaukee Streetcar Social & Route Walk” led by City Engineer Jeff Polenske.
Stone Creek is but a stone’s throw from the glassy facade of the Milwaukee Intermodal Station; its 19th century industrial bulk is overshadowed by the elevated freeway that abuts it to the south. But it is there, under the freeway, in this wasteland of urban space, that our new streetcars will rest at night and be serviced and cleaned.
“We will be able to store three to four vehicles there initially,” Polenske told the crowd, while pointing to the abyss next door. An additional facility, or perhaps an addition to the facility will be needed to house future cars for the proposed and yet-unfunded route extensions.
This is the perfect location for a maintenance facility, said Dan Casanova of the Department of City Development, who added that his department has determined that “more and more people are coming to Milwaukee without a car.” Many of them are arriving by train, just a block away, so why not whisk them aboard the streetcar right at the station?
With the location of the train shed established, Polenske led the group on the streetcar’s route, which is to say, they headed east from the Intermodal Station directly toward the Milwaukee River, where the bridge had been taken out of service just days earlier for the St. Paul Vertical Lift Bridge Reconstruction project, set to run until June, 2014.
The tourists took the recommended detour over the river using the Clybourn bridge and made their first stop on the “Social” part of the walk at Thief Wine Shop & Bar at the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St. Like the proposed streetcar shed, the public market was built alongside the elevated freeway on otherwise wasted land, and it has certainly enlivened the Historic Third Ward since its dedication in October, 2005.
The southbound streetcar will bend the corner by the market, working its way down N. Broadway, but it will head northbound at N. Milwaukee St. as did the walkers, some fortified with wine.
Next stop was the Zen on Seven atop the Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St., which offered a rooftop view of the city in a leisurely setting. There, former Common Council aide Alex Runner, who had joined our group, announced that he would be leaving Northwestern Mutual after just a couple of years to take a new job at Johnson Controls, also downtown.
Lobbyist Gary R. Goyke, who represents pro-rail groups like All Aboard Wisconsin and Wisconsin Urban and Rail Transit Association, also visited with the streetcar supporters who included Ian Abston of NEWaukee. Guests dined on various hot and cold appetizers in the lounge. Most were average, interested citizens, judging from their small talk and social interactions. One outlier was a man in a red sweatshirt who made many, many comments about many, many subjects. These included the streetcar, which apparently he is agin’.
Kris Martinsek and Jeff Bentoff, consultants working on the streetcar project, handed out a map of the route and discussed the origins of the project dating back to the Mayor’s first proposal in 2006 through the current final engineering process.
Much of the extraordinary opposition to seemingly any form of public transit in Milwaukee stems from the local AM talk radio hosts. Other cities faced similar opposition, and their radio talkers found other things to complain about when those cities opened successful streetcar lines.
The rail situation today reminded Martinsek of the battles she underwent to get approval for Mayor John Norquist’s Riverwalk initiative.
“That was a long battle,” she reminisced. “People would say, ‘who is going to want to spend $45,000 on a condo on the river?”
Finally, the event was over — except for the unusual man in the red shirt, who asked the receptionist at the Hotel Metro, “could you tell me how to get to the Amtrak station?”
Odd, indeed, since he had just walked the route.
HGTV to Feature Urban Milwaukee Home
A crew from cable network HGTV was in town on Tuesday, September 10th to film an urban Milwaukee home for an upcoming 3-½ minute episode of its series, “You Live in What?” to be presented sometime during its third season.
Viewers are still on year two of the show, which has covered unusual residences nationwide including a lighthouse, brothel, train, cemetery [not that unusual, in fact], sugar mill and dumpster.
The Milwaukee home will introduce viewers to the straw bale residence of Julilly Kohler, located on the banks of the Milwaukee River at the Kane Commons development that occupied her for much of the last decade.
Producer Sean Whitley traveled from Dallas, where he is based, to a few locations in the Dairy State, including Milwaukee, where his stops included the Bronze Fonz, which he said on Facebook is “kinda creepy-looking.”
So the man has good taste, which is surely helpful in his job of entering people’s homes with the purpose of documenting their unusual characteristics and owners. The Kohler residence had a couple of features that apparently enchanted him, includingleftover bales of hay from the home’s 2008 construction. Whitley and his three-man crew spent a number of hours climbing through the home, including a foray up to the green roof of the building, a place I have felt no urge to explore. I’ll wait until I see it on TV.
Film Fever Strikes Town
Heather Aldrich, the Development and Marketing Director of Running Rebels, took a lunch break on Tuesday, September 10th to give some friend-to-friend advice to her good buddy and fellow-redhead Mary Freeman.
The pair gathered at Elsa’s on the Park, 833 N. Jefferson St. The spot, which has long defined urbanity in Milwaukee, is owned by Freeman’s boyfriend Karl Kopp.
Freeman is working on a documentary called “Zorba the Buddha,” she says. In it she calls for “the immediate legalization of cannabis,” reasoning that the anti-marijuana laws are causing disruption in the urban Milwaukee society and economy. “Black youth are singled out, especially” she said, adding that marijuana could prove to be a good cash crop here. We’ll see if she gets any attention during the upcoming 5th annual Milwaukee Film Festival.
Freeman’s message may have a political resonance in New York City, where Bill de Blasio took a surprise lead in the mayoral primary race there. He campaigned on a platform opposing the police department’s stop-and-frisk policies that have ensnared many — particularly minority male youths.
Aldrich said her interest in the matter is strictly personal, and has no bearing on her day-to-day duties.
Former Milwaukeean to Head NYC Museum
Dr. Glenn Adamson, the curator of Milwaukee’s Chipstone Foundation from 2000-2005, was named Director of the Museum of Art and Design in New York on September 4th. He will begin his duties there in October, after resettling from London where he has been heading the research department of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Adamson, while in Milwaukee, was also an adjunct curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where he worked on a number of projects including the award-winning Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World (2003). … Toby Kamps, a Milwaukeean by birth, has been the curator of modern art at the Menil Collection in Houston since 2010, but he still visits Milwaukee from time to time. His father, Charles Q. Kamps, is a retired partner at Quarles and Brady law firm. Care to guess what the “Q” in his middle name stands for? It is a small town, indeed, ain’a?
Scene on the Street
The reopening of the Pleasant Street bridge is welcome for urban Milwaukeeans, and should be a boon for two apartment buildings soon to open east of the bridge. Avante Apartments, at the northwest corner of N. Jackson and E. Pleasant streets, looks nearly ready for occupancy, while the East Terrace Apartments at 1530 N. Jackson St. is not far behind. Across from Avante, a gut-rehab is taking place at 1608 N. Jackson St. It is one of a number similar projects happening in the vicinity of the new developments.
“Gut Rehab” projects involve the complete reconstruction of a building, most often a frame duplex or single-family home, of which there is an abundance in this city. These are among the most expensive remodelings to undertake, but unlike the patch-and-repair method of incremental changes, these are much more substantial — and beneficial for the community. You don’t go through the expense of replacing all walls, floors, ceilings, plumbing and electricity just to rent the place out for keg parties, let’s put it that way.
Other similar projects underway in the immediate vicinity include a two-family residence under new ownership at the southeast corner of E. Pleasant and N. Cass streets, a single-family home in the 900 block of E. Kewaunee St., and another 19th century home in the 800 block of E. Kewaunee St. [In case the address does not ring a bell, Kewaunee Street, one of the oldest in the city, lies one block south of E. Brady Street and runs just four blocks, spanning N. Cass St. and N. Humboldt Blvd. Another project is underway in the 1100 block of E. Kane Pl.
Correction: The story originally indicated Karl Kopp was involved in the making of movie “Zorba the Buddha,” this was incorrect he is not involved in the film.