MKE United
Op Ed

New Vision For a Greater Downtown

MKE United Greater Downtown Action Agenda is soliciting input, creating a plan.

By - Aug 21st, 2018 12:09 pm
Downtown Milwaukee. Photo by Dave Reid.

Downtown Milwaukee. Photo by Dave Reid.

Milwaukee is experiencing once-in-a-generation development. New buildings, new jobs and new opportunities are moving our City forward in ways that are unprecedented and exciting. Talented people are moving to Milwaukee, drawn by the City’s development, excited by its evolving skyline. They’ll tell you, as will people born and raised here, that it’s a great time to be in Milwaukee.

We also recognize there is a need to ensure that those in the neighborhoods adjacent to Downtown benefit from this renaissance. We must figure out how our neighborhoods can work together and share resources, successes and best practices across geographic boundaries to create a “Greater Downtown” that moves all of Milwaukee forward. That’s precisely what we’re doing through MKE United.

The MKE United Greater Downtown Action Agenda (MKE United) is a comprehensive planning process through which we are creating a shared and inclusive vision for Downtown Milwaukee and its adjacent neighborhoods, supported by a strategic Action Agenda to make that vision a reality.

We believe now is the time to establish an authentic Greater Downtown identity, build connections, grow and strengthen businesses and jobs, increase density and create enthusiasm and pride for the Greater Downtown, and we need your help.

We started by creating the Downtown story. We analyzed data, numbers and studies to consider the current state of Greater Downtown and develop a vision. Armed with this information, we set out to bring it to life through a comprehensive and inclusive civic engagement effort, which included the input of thousands of Greater Downtown residents and stakeholders.

Our conversations, happy hours, meetings and workshops were inspiring and impactful, but we didn’t stop there. We are now moving from inspiration to action.

We’ve identified six key “transformative directions” based on community feedback that are at the heart of our vision for Greater Downtown. Our transformative directions create an aspirational vision for our Greater Downtown: how people move throughout the Greater Downtown; where people work, live, shop, eat and play in the Greater Downtown; and our shared capacity to engage and act through civic engagement. For each transformative direction, we’ve considered where we stand today, where we want to be in the future, the barriers and issues that may stand in our way and how we might overcome them through the MKE United effort.

So how do we make sure the MKE United vision doesn’t remain just that – a dream, a desire – but instead, becomes the reality for Greater Downtown? We’re doing everything we can to make that happen. Since February, more than 70 diverse leaders from a variety of entities, constituencies and demographics have come together to build out actionable steps for each transformative direction.

Some early actions underway include:

  • Establishment of an investment fund to support financing for catalytic neighborhood investments;
  • An advocacy effort calling for nonpartisan review of the state’s shared revenue structure and the needs of municipalities to drive consideration of state tax reform;
  • Pop-Up MKE, a public-private partnership supporting business owners who are looking to start or expand their business in vital commercial corridors; and
  • Creation of a local equity forum to build fluency and share a framework for how to think about and take action around equity.

While we’re proud of our progress and we want it to continue, we know we can do even more. We need your help to do it. We encourage you to visit to join the conversation and learn how you can get involved. While there, check out our calendar of upcoming events, engage with us on social media, or express interest in joining one of our working groups. We look forward to moving Milwaukee forward together.

By Mayor Tom Barrett, Linda Gorens-Levey, Ellen Gilligan, Dr. Eve Hall, Donsia Strong Hill, Julia Taylor and Greg Wesleymembers of the MKE United’s Executive Committee. To learn more about MKE United, visit

Categories: Business, Op-Ed, Real Estate

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