Here’s a link to some of the photos from the party. Thanks again to Pizza Man for the great food, excellent service and being an important neighborhood anchor on Downer Avenue.
Packed house hears about Downer Avenue vacancies; residents and officials discuss possible solutions
A standing-room-only crowd attended a community meeting April 29, 2015, hosted by Ald. Nik Kovac and the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD) about foreclosures and vacancies plaguing the retail area on the 2500 and 2600 blocks of N. Downer Avenue.
City officials explained what they were willing — and not willing — to do financially for property owners and businesses on the street, and the owner of the majority of the properties told the audience why he wants a major city subsidy.
The meeting, at the Milwaukee Public Library – East Branch, followed a February 2015 forum at St Mark’s Episcopal Church and Journal Sentinel article that also focused on the foreclosures and related issues. We’ve posted the minutes from that meeting and the related JS story on our website.
The April meeting started with a detailed presentation by DCD’s Sam Leichtling on the retail area’s property owners, zoning, area demographics, past city support and other data. It showed $649,100 in city grants and $150,000 in city loans to Downer Avenue businesses from 2009 through 2014.
Ald. Kovac and DCD Commissioner Rocky Marcoux then took questions, many which focused on a request from the area’s main property owner, Joel Lee, for a city subsidy through a $2.5 million tax-incremental financing district.
The city officials acknowledged that they are opposing Lee’s request, prompting residents to ask, what the city plans to do instead. City officials said they were open to continuing to assist individual businesses. They noted that developers are interested in acquiring the foreclosed Lee properties if the bank auctions them off.
Meanwhile, the city is currently looking for input from residents on the situation. Kovac wrote the following in a news release issued after the meeting:
Thank you to the hundred-plus neighbors who attended the meeting at the East Library last Wednesday to discuss the Downer Avenue Commercial Corridor. In case you weren’t able to attend in person, or would like more time to review the information presented by our Department of City Development (DCD), all of the slides from the meeting can be viewed here.
Wednesday night was the beginning of a community process that I hope gives all of us confidence in the present and future of Downer Avenue.
In addition to the verbal and written feedback we received at the meeting, we are encouraging everyone to provide further input about the future of Downer Avenue via an online survey. Please click on the links below to provide input that will be incorporated into the Downer Avenue Commercial Corridor Snapshot that will be prepared by DCD over the coming weeks.
Once completed, this snapshot will guide the efforts of the city and our partners as we work to support investment on Downer Avenue that is consistent with the neighborhood’s vision for the corridor.
DCD will incorporate the online comments into the Snapshot, but if you would prefer to submit your comments by email, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3rd District Alderman
We encourage you to submit your opinions about the Historic Downer Avenue retail district via the links above.
Come to HWTN’s monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday May 6, 2015, to learn about the Historic Downer Avenue Business Improvement District’s exciting new plans for this vital retail street.
Our meeting will take place in Lake Park Pavilion’s Marcia Coles Community Room, beneath Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. Come a little early to chat with neighbors and for coffee and cookies courtesy of Bartolotta’s.
A task force looking at the future of the Downer Avenue commercial area is holding a community meeting to discuss retail conditions on the street and to get public input at 6 p.m. Wednesday April 29, 2015, at the East Side Library on E. North Avenue.
The meeting is open to the public, and anyone interested in Downer Avenue’s current conditions and potential revitalization is invited to attend.
The agenda for the meeting:
- Comprehensive analysis of retail conditions on Downer Avenue, including a summary of recent public and private investments.
- Public input and feedback on goals/wishes for Downer retail, City policy, potential solutions and future actions.
In February, a town hall meeting was held about Downer Avenue following publicity over bank foreclosures on a significant amount of the retail space in the commercial district. Ald. Nik Kovac was then invited to Historic Water Tower Neighborhood’s March meeting to provide more information and address member questions.
Subsequently, the HWTN Executive Committee met and recommended the formation of a task force, to be led by Ald. Kovac, to address the retail issues proactively. Kovac enthusiastically supported our recommendation, and has engaged both HWTN and the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association in the process. HWTN President Donna Neal and HWTN President-Elect Sally Peltz have been representing HWTN. The April 29 community meeting represents the next milestone in this process.
Minutes of the February town hall meeting and a recent Journal Sentinel story on the issue is posted on our website.
Lake Park Friends President Alice Wilson will share Lake Park’s origins and history, its status as a national historic landmark and the group’s 2015 initiatives at our next Historic Water Tower Neighborhood meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday March 4, 2015.
Alice will also discuss the Lake Park Youth Auxiliary launched last year and how young people are engaged in the care of the Park. And she’ll share details about the status of bridges and repair plans and answer other questions we might have.
Alice and her husband, Joe, have lived on the East Side since moving to Milwaukee in 1992. They live on the 2900 block of Summit Avenue with their three children. She graduated from Kenyon College with high honors in history. Most of her 30-year professional career has been advocating on behalf of nonprofit organizations, their missions, and the people they serve, as well as their funding sources. She has expertise in non-profit finance, accounting, endowments, and budget management.
Alice’s volunteer community work includes serving on governing boards, creating strategic plans, and coordinating special events. Currently, she serves as president of the Board of Directors of Lake Park Friends, on the development committee of the Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museums, as a Junior League Sustainer, and as a member of the Catholic East 2015 Gala Committee. Alice is also a HWTN member.
Also on our agenda is discussion of the foreclosure on Downer Avenue with Ald. Nik Kovac. Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and other East Side neighborhood organizations promoted a community meeting Feb. 4 at which city officials, including Ald Kovac, and the owner of foreclosed buildings on Downer Avenue, Joel Lee, discussed the state of this important commercial street in our area.
As always, our meetings take place in Lake Park’s Marcia Coles Community Room, beneath Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro. The meeting room’s entrance faces Lake Michigan. We begin at 7 p.m., but come a little early for cookies and coffee (courtesy of the Bistro).