Edgar Mendez

The Future of Walker Square?

New DCD plan calls for bike lanes, greenery, diverse tenants on National Avenue.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Oct 26th, 2015 09:41 am
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Several recommendations in the preliminary Walker Square Action Plan involve improvements to West National Avenue. Photo by Edgar Mendez.

Several recommendations in the preliminary Walker Square Action Plan involve improvements to West National Avenue. Photo by Edgar Mendez.

If preliminary recommendations from the Department of City Development (DCD) for the future of the Walker Square neighborhood are adopted, West National Avenue would eventually feature bike lanes, greenery and a diverse tenant mix that could include health care facilities. The area also would be part of a Business Improvement District.

According to Sam Leichtling, program director of the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corp., West National Avenue is not pedestrian- or bike-friendly and doesn’t encourage drivers to stop and frequent the businesses there. Adding trees and bike lanes could make the street more inviting to visitors and encourage a more diverse mix of tenants, according to Leichtling.

The recommendations for West National Avenue come after months of meetings among DCD officials, residents, representatives of the Walker Square Neighborhood Association and other local stakeholders, including Alderman Jose Perez. The draft will be finalized and introduced to the Common Council in November, and if adopted would become part of the city’s overall comprehensive plan for the near South Side.

Representatives from the Department of City Development discuss preliminary recommendations for Walker Square with local residents. Photo by Edgar Mendez.

Representatives from the Department of City Development discuss preliminary recommendations for Walker Square with local residents. Photo by Edgar Mendez.

Once the proposal becomes official, “any new development or plans for the area will have to coincide with the spirit and vision of the neighborhood plan,” said Perez.

According to Leichtling, similar action plans have been utilized to propel other neighborhoods, including Walker’s Point and Menomonee Valley.

The preliminary plan was presented to the public during a recent meeting at the MATC Walker Square Campus, 816 W. National Ave. Residents were asked to provide feedback on the plans for National Avenue, as well as recommendations to locate an FaB Center of Excellence in the area, increase the availability of housing resources for tenants and potential homebuyers, and invest in Walker Square Park.

Last year, FaB Wisconsin, the state food and beverage industry consortium, and MATC proposed plans to open an MATC Food Maker School and FaB Center of Excellence in Walker Square. FaB Centers of Excellence are state-of-the-art food innovation and training facilities. Locating a center in Walker Square would be a boon to residents who could potentially receive training there, said Perez.

“We have a large population of residents who could train there and then bus, walk or bike to work in one of the many food companies in the Menomonee Valley,” he added.

Several people at the meeting agreed that investment in Walker Square Park is crucial.

“The park, as well as this neighborhood, have a lot of history with all the immigration and culture in the area,” said nearby resident Carmen Cabrera. Cabrera described the park as the local plaza, and said more social activities should be hosted there and the pavilion should be rehabilitated.

Perez said the action plan would play a key role in transforming the neighborhood.

“Within 3-4 years we’ll have some concrete plans for mixed-use development in this area that will benefit the residents here and improve their quality of life,” Perez said.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Walker Square?”

  1. Harrison says:

    The 8th district has not seen enrichment and investment in 20+ years. Yet the rents are high. Crime is, as it has always been- steady. The district is surrounded by development and investment on (3) sides. The valley(in the district, yet separate), Walkers Point and West Milwaukee’s 43rd Street have enjoyed the fruits of investment and community activities and initiatives. Yet the district is in perpetual “transition”. It’s time to turn the page.

  2. Tom says:

    With the expanding success of Walker’s point it only makes sense to push that momentum west to the other side of the freeway. Now if Bay View’s community investment could stretch into the Lincoln village, that would be something.

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