Archives for March 2012

More concerns raised about proposed changes to Milwaukee’s effective preservation ordinance

Opposition is growing from across the community to proposed harmful changes to Milwaukee’s successful historic preservation law.

Many see the proposed changes as largely weakening protections and share concerns about the non-inclusive process used to develop the proposal and the speedy approval being sought for the plan. (You can view the full video of the hearing this week at which Historic Preservation Commission members, residents and business leaders detailed numerous problems with the proposal.)

A well-reasoned Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, noting that “there’s not a lot that’s broken in Milwaukee’s process,” this week called on the city to delay any votes and instead hold a series of public forums to determine what changes are needed. We agree.

Whitney Gould, the paper’s retired urban affairs writer and current City Plan Commission, wrote a detailed letter to the city saying she feared the proposal could “gut historic preservation in Milwaukee” and create “a setback for economic development” The full email is worth reading.

Also, a large group of associations (including HWTN), businesses and individuals sent a joint letter to the city asking that the flawed proposal be given a thorough review and changed as needed before being vote on.

Reacting to concerns raised at the public hearing this week, Ald. Terry Witkowski, the rewrite’s author, has signalled he’ll pull the plan from the fast track. The plan was just shared with preservationist in the last week or two and had already been scheduled for a committee vote this coming week.

We’re hopeful that this flawed plan will be scrapped. We support a truly inclusive process to review the existing preservation ordinance and recommend any needed changes so we improve, not diminish, preservation efforts in the city.

By the way, be sure to check out an interesting interview with former Ald. Sandra Hoeh, who sponsored the city’s original preservation ordinance, about the proposed rewrite and the history of preservation in Milwaukee.

Important hearing held today on future of preservation

Advocates of historic preservation including members of HWTN attended a critical Milwaukee City Hall hearing today (that was covered by the Journal Sentinel) about a proposed ordinance that many believe will greatly weaken our effective and balanced historic preservation laws.

Members of the Historic Preservation Commission criticized the proposals at the hearing, as did a number of residents and business people who spoke. Preservationists including HWTN have made their concerns about the proposal public and are asking that Common Council action on the proposal be delayed to allow for more discussions and reviews. The proposal was only very recently introduced, but it is already scheduled for a committee vote in early April.

A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article lays out the benefits of historic preservation in our community and how the proposed ordinance changes would create barriers to saving historic structures. The National Trust for Historic Preservation even wrote a letter to city officials yesterday raising several grave concerns about the proposed ordinance, saying one of the proposed changes would “seriously compromise Milwaukee’s preservation program.”

The preservation community has only recently seen the proposal and is still in the process of reviewing it. HWTN is in the process of reviewing the ordinance. The current draft proposed ordinance and an analysis by city legislative staff are now available.

We’ll be posting more info from today’s hearing and on this important issue in the near future.

Pub crawl disappearance renews focus on events encouraging binge drinking

The tragic disappearance of a 28-year-old man last seen at a Water Street pub crawl reminds us of ongoing concerns about excessive drinking in the E. North Avenue entertainment district.

Our friends at Greenwich Village Neighborhood Association on Wednesday passed a resolution “opposed to new and existing liquor licenses for bars that participate in ad hoc drunken street events.”

According to this comprehensive story by WTMJ-TV, Ald. Nik Kovac is working on such a city ordinance. Greenwich Village Neighborhood Association has asked other neighborhood groups to pass simlar resolutions. Should HWTN join Greenwich Village? Let us know at

HWTN, Greenwich Village and other neighborhood groups signed a joint letter last year expressing serious concerns over this problem. While we strongly support the success of the E. North Avenue commercial district, we share the concern that allowing businesses to encourage excessive drinking is bad for young people, residents and the positive image that store owners need for success.

Mike from Greenwich Village recently received a message from an old friend that describes the chaos that some of have witnessed ourselves:

Mike, so sad about that missing boy. I was in Milwaukee last weekend. Arrived Friday night, left Monday morning. I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up wine and groceries for my friend and found myself in the middle of that pub crawl. I was there for a funeral and their Mardi Gras beads and drunken revelry was surreal to me. One of them swore at me as he crossed in front of my car. Easy to see how bad things could happen in that atmosphere. I hope he turns up unharmed.




New “Historic Water Tower Neighborhood” street signs installed

One of Milwaukee’s most beautiful and recognizable areas just got more attractive and identifiable with the recent installation of several dozen new street signs proclaiming us the “Historic Water Tower Neighborhood.”

The striking signs, designed by THIEL Design, were installed on area light poles late last year as part of a project led by our Historic Water Tower Neighborhood organization. Along with our neighborhood’s name, the signs include graphics of our namesake Water Tower and of  blue waves representing our lakeside locale. Nearly 40 signs have been placed at entry points and other locations around the neighborhood. (A number of extra signs are in storage to replace damaged signs in the future.)

Work on the project began under former president Andy Nunemaker and continued under presidents Sandra McSweeney, Jeff Bentoff and Dawn McCarthy. Special recognition and thanks is due to current Treasurer and President Elect Adrienne Houck and Trustee Sandra McSweeney, who both spent countless hours helping choose locations for the signs and working with the city and county for approvals.

In addition to reinforcing the historic nature of our area, the signs are meant to help identify our neighborhood and reflect the pride we feel about living here.

HWTN wants to publicly thank THIEL for its excellent design work and for helping support the project in another way: THIEL graciously gave our group a considerable discount. Norene Thiele, principal and operations director of the Milwaukee firm, said, “The whole Water Tower neighborhood is iconic within the city, and we were happy to be included in your project.”

The project cost about $5,000, including the design, construction and installation. HWTN contributed about $3,000, and a city program funded the remaining $2,000.