A parallel universe

President Message by John Scheer 

Imagine my surprise when I introduced myself to a guy next to me, and I find he's president of another neighborhood association.

The more we talked, the more amazed I was how similar his community in Milwaukee is to Chicago's East Village.

Milwaukee's historic Brewer’s Hill has many homes constructed in the late 1800s. Brewer's Hill and East Village both have landmark districts. They have received significant investments in renovation and restoration. Both are just north of downtown, a couple exits off the expressway to North Avenue. Both neighborhoods have permit parking, seemingly not to give residents priority but to aid city snow removal and revenue generation.

And the similarities continue. They both have beautiful commercial buildings on the major arterial streets. Brewer’s Hill buildings are being converted to residential, but most continue as commercial. There's a wonderful Crown Hardware store, an independent chocolate maker (Northern Chocolates), a museum, Walgreens, Value Village, Rainbow Fashion, Wendy’s, Foot Locker and hair and nail salons. The business model must be very Midwestern.

There's also a multiyear program to encourage further development alone the commercial corridor, King Drive. Since 1995, Brewer's Hill have been working on business improvement and investment in this major commercial street. They have been successful in securing more than $200 million in business development and have wooed a couple of corporate headquarters to relocate to this location. They call it a Business Improvement District. It’s not clear if this is anything like a Tax Increment Financing district, but it is similar to the efforts to encourage new businesses along our Chicago Avenue.

And we'd fit right into this diverse Milwaukee neighborhood. Neighbors are very diverse in several perspectives. They're working very hard to maintain their neighborhood as a good place to raise their family and earn a living. They are taking pride in their homes by maintaining and renovating buildings, whatever their vintage.

Business and residents work together. There was the August Brew City’s Best BBQ that included a family fun area, motorcycle-themed entertainment, barbecue and a live music stage. Other activities include street festivals, Juneteenth Day and the Garfield Avenue Jazz, Blues & Gospel Festival.

I have to believe that we can share some of our experiences in the growth of the East Village and learn from their challenges in historic Brewer’s Hill. Maybe we can even join forces and collectively achieve greater accomplishment by working together across state lines.
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