Big Plans for West Side Unveiled
Plan envisions public market and major grocery, movie theater and indoor sports complex.
The Harley-Davidson University, a 6th floor meeting site at the motorcycle factory, was the site of a multi-group community meeting Monday. Over 100 neighbors attended to hear a police department presentation of neighborhood crime trends that included a few comments from District Attorney John Chisholm, who has been much in evidence on the campaign trail of late.
But the highlight of the event was an unveiling of the results of a design charette conducted by the UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning in April.
Carolyn Esswein, director of Community Design Solutions at the university, gave a presentation that outlined the goals of the charette. First was the community input in April from which the research team was able to gauge neighbors’ concerns and wishes for the Near West Side area, which ranges roughly from Marquette University on the east to Harley-Davidson and Miller Brewery to the west.
The team runs the neighborhood data through a variety of formulae to provide workable design solutions that would translate to the metrics that developers, retailers, employers and others use to locate their projects, shops and workspaces.
The charette took a look at the strengths of the neighborhood, and came up with some intriguing results. The just-released report, with concepts created by various teams of architects, proposed these developments:
-a six-floor building on northeast corner of 27th and Wisconsin with a green roof, a first-floor restaurant and outdoor seating, along with a public plaza, art garden and bus stop;
-adaptive re-use of a large central block building on the west side of 27th St. between Kilbourn and Wells, with an interior maker market (with live/work spaces), an exterior farmers market and a greenhouse along the southwest side of the block, a new a mixed-use building at the corner of 27th and Kilbourn, plus adaptive re-use of a building at 27th and Wells;
-a public amphitheater on the southwest corner of 27th and Wisconsin, with open green space, plus a cinema with housing above it and new townhouses along 28th St.;
-a public market, the Vliet Street Market, at 35th and Vliet, along with a 15,000-square-foot grocery and a pocket park connecting the market and senior housing;
-adaptive reuse of a house at 35th and State for a coffeehouse, public plaza, neighborhood gateway, along with other intersection improvements;
-an indoor sports complex on 35th and Wisconsin with a climbing wall, second-floor space for basketball, volleyball and ice hockey, outdoor seating and a cafe bar.
Compared to previous charette locations like Bronzeville and MLK, the area encompassed here has seen over $200 million in new investment recently, with more on the way, thanks in large measure to Marquette University. This is far greater head start than the other areas have enjoyed.
What with MU, a major hospital and the seat of county government nearby, the area is also amply endowed with institutions, in the way that, say the Riverworks area (another charette), is decidedly not.
As the meeting progressed in the attractive meeting facility, lined with sculptural Harley gas tanks and other artifacts, Esswein mentioned, almost casually, a significant finding of the charette that resonated with the very history of the site at which she spoke.
She suggested that the neighborhood, plagued by high unemployment, could be a hub of the “Makerspace” economy. This is a term that reflects the growing trend toward live/work spaces.
Perhaps the sort of place where a couple of mechanical-minded brothers could tinker with some new invention of theirs, like the one to motorize a bicycle. It happened right on the site in 1903, as Harley historians will tell you, and there are plenty of places for similar innovations to happen again in 2016. This charette could provide a vision to completely transform the city’s Near West Side.