American Planning Association
Press Release

Westlawn Gardens Receives National Planning Award

The 2018 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity & Empowerment Award recognizes the transformation of Wisconsin’s largest public housing community.

By - Mar 28th, 2018 12:01 am
Mixed Use Apartment Building in Westlawn Gardens

Mixed Use Apartment Building in Westlawn Gardens

CHICAGO – Westlawn Gardens will receive the American Planning Association’s 2018 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity & Empowerment Award for its redevelopment of Wisconsin’s largest public housing community in Milwaukee. The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee transformed the aged and stressed community into a vibrant, environmentally-friendly and sustainable mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhood. Furthermore, the Westlawn Gardens project has helped change public perception about public housing.

The HUD Secretary’s Opportunity & Empowerment Award is given in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A single award is given for an effort that demonstrates improved quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents. Emphasis is placed on how creative housing, economic development, and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to build social equity and empower individuals and families who reside in that community.

“We are delighted to have this recognition of Westlawn Gardens and the transformational impact it is having on Milwaukee’s Northwest side,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “We are proud of the innovative work of our Housing Authority, its planning team led by Torti Gallas + Partners, and the residents and other stakeholders who have been central to the neighborhood’s revitalization.”

“The collective effort of this team has achieved a triumph over the tyranny of monotony, and with it, hopefully, inspiration to those seeking to elevate the human spirit,” said Tony Pérez, HACM Secretary-Executive Director.

Formed more than 50 years ago, the original Westlawn neighborhood consisted of 726 barrack-style housing units on 75 acres to house nearly 1,800 minority and very-low-income residents. Superblocks were isolated from their surroundings, both physically and socially, and housing units were too small to accommodate growing families. Storm water drainage and energy systems were outdated and inefficient.

The focus of the redevelopment was to be financially, environmentally and socially sustainable. Multiple partnerships and collaborations with public and private organizations were established. The first phase created 250 new subsidized and unsubsidized housing units and was funded through the state’s largest Low-Income Housing Tax Credit award. A mix of townhomes and apartments accommodated the housing needs of different populations. Future phases will more than double current available housing and add additional market rate homes and rental units intermixed with affordable housing.

Every new home was designed to LEED standards. Durable, weather-resistant materials were used to reduce heating and maintenance costs as well as improve indoor and outdoor air quality.  A renovated elementary school, playground and community center are centrally located for residents.

Opportunities for job growth and economic development were also incorporated in the plan. A partnership with Growing Power created a 30,000 square foot community garden to educate and train residents about onsite local food production.

“Westlawn Gardens is inspiration for communities around the country looking to change the conversation and approach to public housing,” said W. Shedrick Coleman, AIA, chair of the 2018 Awards Jury. “The hard work and collaboration with residents has generated a strong and vibrant community for years to come.”

APA’s national awards program – the program’s highest honor – is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

This year’s five excellence and 20 achievement recipients will be recognized at a special luncheon during APA’s National Planning Conference in New Orleans on Monday, April 23, 2018. Award recipients also will be featured in the April issue of Planning magazine.

For a complete list of the APA’s 2018 National Planning and Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides vital leadership in creating communities of lasting value. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the profession of planning, offering better choices for where and how people work and live. The 38,000 APA members work in concert with community residents, civic leaders and business interests to create communities that enrich people’s lives. Through its philanthropic work, APA’s Foundation helps to reduce economic and social barriers to good planning. APA has offices in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. Learn more at

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