What’s Happening in the New 9th?
Ald. Chantia Lewis plans a State-of-the-District speech focused on a new economic model.
Alderwoman Chantia Lewis has big plans for W. Brown Deer Rd. and N. 76th St. The two commercial corridors are anchors of the city’s ninth aldermanic district that she has represented since 2016.
“We have a couple of new projects that will change the face of the district, and I’m really excited about that,” said Lewis in a preview of her upcoming State of the District speech to Urban Milwaukee. Since being elected, the alderwoman has branded the district as the “The New 9th.” She’ll unveil a vision for the district in a speech on May 8th at the former JoAnn Fabrics store, now The Granville Connection, at 8633 W. Brown Deer Rd. at 6:00 p.m.
The biggest thing on her list to address is the future of the former Northridge Mall. The alderwoman said she gets questions about the failed shopping center every day.
“We have a model that I will be introducing that will change the way we’re looking at retail. It will also bring us into the new century,” said Lewis. “I have a feeling people will be really excited.”
Whatever it is, and she promises all questions will be answered in her speech, it will need to deal with the vacant, 900,000-square-foot mall. Lewis and Mayor Tom Barrett held a press conference in early April to announce the city was taking steps to demolish the structure and take control of the property from the China-based ownership group. But the group announced earlier this week it will appeal the raze order and wants to meet with city officials.
“They have said this nine times since I’ve been elected,” said Lewis of the group’s latest meeting request. “We will have a conversation with them and have a direction by the time we have the State-of-the-District next week.”
The alderwoman isn’t concerned about finding the $12 million it could cost to demolish the mall. “If we can find dollars for a streetcar we can find dollars for a neighborhood project that is just as important.”
In addition to the area around Northridge Mall, Lewis will provide an update on the Good Hope Library project, including information on renting the apartments, and other development projects in her district.
The alderwoman’s speech will also touch on recent legislation passed to increase punishments for those caught soliciting prostitutes. “The data shows that most people that are sex workers are forced into that, which is why it was important to turn the spotlight on those that demand that kind of service.” Lewis and many of her colleagues advocating for a program to “John shame” those convicted.
Lewis believes the effort will help stem the tide on human trafficking. Referencing a Medical College of Wisconsin study of the 340 Milwaukee victims of abduction age 25 or younger from 2013 to 2016, she noted that the issue affects her directly as a mother and member of the city’s Domestic Violence Commission, especially given that two-thirds of those abducted were black. Of those abducted, 81 percent reported being victims of sex trafficking.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Lewis. “We’re looking at getting recommendations from the Domestic Violence Commission and other groups to make sure we’re putting forth the right legislation and to make sure we don’t have unintended consequenes.”
Lewis also backs Governor Tony Evers‘ proposal to decriminalize marijuana. “I am a strong proponent of legalization and decriminalization,” she said. “This is one of those things where we can really stop the pipeline to prison by eliminating the marijuana arrests. A lot of people that are in jail are there over marijuana.”
She advocates a model of prevention. “One of the things that always baffles me is the amount of money we’re paying to send someone to prison,” said the alderwoman. “We could invest on the prevention side the same that that is equal to a Marquette degree. We can invest in education. We can invest in reducing disparities with poverty. We can reduce the pipeline to prison and we can create more productive citizens.”
There will be one key thing she won’t touch on – the state’s plan to build a youth correctional institute in her district. “There really is still no designated site in the district,” said Lewis. “I don’t want it to be a debate. We will have separate town halls for that.”
Lewis is the only one of her colleagues to hold a State-of-the-District speech. Why does she do it? “I think it’s important to do it because we’ve had such a drastic transition,” she said. “We were the second largest tax base in the city outside of Downtown. For us to go from number two to not on the map at all, it’s important for me to have one yearly.”
8633 W. Brown Deer Rd.
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