Michael Horne

Norquist promotes mixed-use development on Brady St.

By - Apr 19th, 2012 04:24 pm
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John Norquist spoke at the Tamarack Waldorf School, 1150 E. Brady St., which his son attended until 8th grade, for a community meeting entitled John Norquist and the Urban Community Vision.

But Brady Street is a very diverse place, as the mayor said, and you could be forgiven for thinking his speech was taking place at the Comedy Cafe, not a church basement.

“I just bought a whoopee cushion at Art Smart’s Dart Mart,” he said, to point out the breadth of product offerings there.

Norquist’s topic is the desirability of urban life, and he contrasted European, Canadian and American approaches. Those other places, he said, have robust public transportation, school choice, high rates of unionization and universal health care.

He traced the decline of Detroit to actions of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Michigan erased the complexity of downtown Detroit with freeways. They had a problem with congestion, and they sought to erase the problem of congestion.

“But any city that is successful is congested. Cities that have failed are not congested,” he added.

Norquist said the United States has the lowest percentage of union workers in the developed world, cautioning that “If unions are a problem, there won’t be any problems before long.”

Cities like Milwaukee, and neighborhoods like Brady Street offer choices. “If you go to Antigo your restaurant choice is limited. How much Walleye do you want to eat?” he asked, to the delight of the crowd.

About his new home state and city, he said, “without Chicago, Illinois would be Iowa.” Norquist also said that “right wing talk shows scare people. Milwaukee has some of the most obnoxious hosts in the country.”

They seek to frighten people away from urban areas into the safety of their suburban-bound automobiles.

But cities have great value. “Brady Street has beautiful architecture, a mix of people. It is near the lake, and near the river. It even has the best fire station,” he added, directing a glance in the direction of Capt. Frank Alioto, a neighborhood resident and historian.

The neighborhood made a good move in not spending $2.5 million to bury power lines during its streetscaping project. People like things a little dirty and jumbled, he said, and do not clamor for banners, planters and other impedimenta. The smaller family sizes of neighborhoods like Brady Street is good for business, as fewer meals are prepared at home. Also, retailers, including Wal-Mart now realize that they don’t need as much parking as they thought in the past.

He says his group is working to see that mixed-use developments — where the owner lives above the shop — be returned to the category of permitted uses in cities across the country, as they had been for hundreds of years.

He said developers like Julilly Kohler, and restaurant owners like Mimma Megna, who lives above her shop, cannot secure conventional financing when constructing the types of buildings that give a city its vitality.

“The good news is that nobody is building enclosed suburban shopping malls any more.”

0 thoughts on “Horne: Norquist promotes mixed-use development on Brady St.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I beg your pardon John, but what’s wrong with Iowa, my homestate?

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