Going to Milwaukee, “the Gathering Place by the Waters” (2008)

Over the years Milwaukee has been called “the most German of American cities,” “the Machine Shop of the World,” “City of Steeples,” “City of Festivals,” “Cream City,” and “a Great Place on a Great Lake.” But its name comes from Natives who called it “the gathering place by the waters.”

On October 2-5, 2008, I led a group of 33 urban planning students and Chuck Connerly (who had just begun serving as Director of the Planning Program) on a field trip to the “gathering place,” the 22nd largest city in the U. S.

Like prior field trips to the Twin Cities, Louisville, Kansas City, and New Orleans, the trip was designed to give students a good opportunity to connect their course readings and discussions with one of the nation’s larger city-regions and, by enabling them to meet with various professionals and citizens, to give them a better sense of the kinds of work practicing planners (and others involved in the process of planning) actually do.

With the help of alumni Charlie Webb (’93), Sarah Slack (’05), and Ben Goldsworthy (’02), the group learned about the Park East Freeway, 30th St. Industrial Corridor, and Menomonee Valley redevelopment projects. With Sarah’s help, we met with Brenna Holly, Executive Director of the 30th St. ICC, and Benji Timm, Project Manger with the Milwaukee Department of City Development, and we toured the interior of Master Lock’s fabrication plant in the 30th St. corridor. A big thanks go to Dan Carey, General Manager of Master Lock’s Milwaukee Operations for helping us understand how things look from his operation’s point of view. We also met with Robert Greenstreet, who serves simultaneously as Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning and Director of Planning and Design for the City of Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, we were quite impressed by his efforts to improve the quality of design in the city.

In addition with meeting with these professionals and touring these redevelopment areas, we also explored various parts of the city, including the downtown, the Riverwalk, the mostly African-American neighborhood on the northwest side, the mostly Latino neighborhood on the south side, the Historic Third Ward, the New Deal-era “greenbelt town” of Greendale, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1959 Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. It was impossible not to notice the gap between the city’s focus on improving the overall quality of design and the economic problems facing many of the city’s neighborhoods.

We even had a chance to sample some great food at La Perla Restaurant, Serb Hall’s Friday night fish fry, and a variety of spots in the Third Ward.

It was a great trip!

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