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Sustainable Milwaukee
Ruth Stafford, Student ASLA, Jennifer Strauss Hendrick, Student ASLA, and Veronica Meacham, Student ASLA

University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
Advisor: Dr. David Kovacic, Affiliate ASLA and Matthew Tucker.

Goals and Objectives
This studio project involves a multi-scale approach to redeveloping a blighted industrial corridor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 30th Street Industrial Corridor, located northwest of downtown Milwaukee, was a thriving manufacturing center during the first half of the 20th century, employing thousands of neighboring residents in this community. Like many other rustbelt cities of the northern United States, however, changes in industrial practices, combined with development incentives in the growing suburbs, resulted in massive business disinvestment from the area during the latter half of the 1900s. The consequences for the Corridor area include: 1) relatively high unemployment and low income; 2) loss of higher-wage jobs to outlying areas, as well as the changing nature of an industrial economy; 3) high crime, low home-ownership, and negative perceptions about the area from potential businesses; 4) lack of green space compared with other parts of Milwaukee; and 5) the presence of brownfield sites, often with unknown contamination status. In addition, there are city-wide concerns about excessive stormwater runoff, to which the Corridor contributes with its many impervious surfaces.

Our goal is creating a vision of Milwaukee as a new sustainable city, and then describing how this vision can be manifested at the scales of the 30th Street Industrial Corridor and an industrial site within the Corridor. Because we believe that city-wide policies and programs influence the Corridor area, and that the fate of Corridor businesses and neighborhoods in turn affect the city’s development and image, our goal and objectives integrate these telescoping scales: macro (city), meso (Corridor) and micro (site).

Our objectives at the city-scale are creating an image of Milwaukee as a sustainable city, in order to make the city more environmentally responsible, physically greener and to recruit more businesses in environmentally-oriented services, research and development, and manufacturing. These objectives include summarizing existing policies and funding for business recruitment and workforce training, identifying the need for the city to reconsider light rail to connect the Corridor with the rest of Milwaukee, and highlighting the importance of communication and marketing. At the Corridor scale, our objectives are to select zones in the Corridor with more immediate redevelopment potential for new green businesses and related educational opportunities, and to develop strategic plans for each of these redevelopment zones based on existing parcel conditions and surrounding land uses. Another Corridor-scale objective is proposing sites for more multi-purpose open space throughout the area. The site-scale objective is to demonstrate more detailed expression of our goal, through a proposal to integrate mixed uses on a 150-acre site for sale and now occupied by Tower Automotive Company. This includes a site plan that will act as a demonstration site which will epitomize the goals and objectives for ‘Sustainable Milwaukee.’ It addresses potential contamination while also accommodating new environmental businesses, education and training, and more integration between the site and surrounding community.

A major challenge of this studio project was its open-ended nature at the outset: there was no specific client, program, or scale of intervention. However, this challenge has resulted in the unique nature of our project. Because it was our responsibility to define the “site,” we learned to maintain a broad perspective and consider the interdependence of scales. As a result, the proposals for each of the scales are not intended to stand alone, but combine to offer our vision of Milwaukee in the future.

Kinds of environmental and social data collected and analyzed
City-scale data included information on business financing, brownfield policy, city green programs, and LEED. This information incorporated existing Milwaukee and Wisconsin programs (e.g., EPA Brownfield Grants, rain barrel and downspout disconnect programs, Main Street Milwaukee), as well as those in Seattle and Chicago that we considered applicable precedents (Seattle: city greening in South Lake Union; Chicago: Greencorps, and incentives for green roofs and minority-owned businesses). Corridor-scale data included demographic and economic information from the 2000 U.S. Census, parcel information from the City of Milwaukee Property Database, input from Milwaukee’s recent plan for the Fond du Lac-North neighborhood, information about environmental industries in the U.S., and data on potential contamination from Wisconsin databases for storage tanks, contamination risk sites, and remediated sites. Site-scale data considered additional site history derived from Sanborn Insurance maps, to suggest possible sources of contamination not necessarily in other databases, and also included information on fates and remediation strategies for different kinds of contaminants. In addition to these data, we gathered information and impressions during a site visit; this included learning about city economic development and storm sewer issues, and concerns of existing Corridor businesses.

Methods of analysis
At the city scale, analysis focused on identifying a comprehensive plan, programs, and funding sources to assist with the goal of a more sustainable Milwaukee. Corridor-scale analysis considered several issues: mapping demographic and economic factors of the Corridor in a city-wide context, selecting parcels for redevelopment based on combinations of features (parcels considered more readily available: currently for sale, owned by the city or by realtors/developers, tax-delinquent four or more years, relatively low assessed property value), and selecting from the various contamination databases those sites with more profound implications for land use (sites considered not closed, and remediated sites identified as having potential for residual soil or groundwater contamination). Site-scale analysis focused on demographic and physical features of surrounding neighborhoods, and explored the location and nature of possible contaminated areas.

How options were considered
At the city scale, we considered programs with demonstrated achievement in Milwaukee as well as the precedent cities of Chicago and Seattle, and that could support Corridor- and site-scale proposals. Corridor-scale options for redevelopment focused on devising strategies tailored to each of the three targeted zones; these strategies considered each zone’s parcel assemblage and features amenable to different kinds of environmental businesses, as well as the nature of adjacent businesses (e.g., commercial vs. industrial, type of industry, etc.) and land uses. At the site scale, we considered how the combination of environmental, employment, and educational concerns could be addressed with mixed uses on the Tower Automotive site.

How interested parties would be involved in the project
The interconnectedness of this project necessitates many players. We suggest that the City of Milwaukee have a strong role, not only in terms of policy and funding, but also by articulating a commitment to this vision that businesses and residents can believe in and support. Existing Corridor business interests, currently organized as the 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation, would be involved in business recruitment by facilitating property identification. Developing a green technology industry in the Corridor can also benefit from involvement of Milwaukee area universities, such as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University. Local neighborhood organizations, non-profit groups, and lending institutions would also aid the project’s community sustainability goal by assisting with home financing and neighborhood improvement. Additionally, residents would be involved at the individual scale.

How design was used in the process
Design at the Corridor scale focused on how redevelopment zones would complement existing businesses and accommodate new manufacturing, research and development, and service industries. We also considered how proposed green spaces could be sited to enhance the community with parks and gardens, remediate contamination, and buffer residential land use from more incompatible industrial uses. Site-scale design considered how proposed development and activities would work in tandem and support each other, in a spatial configuration reflecting the site’s physical attributes, existing structures, possible contamination, lack of green space, and surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. Finally, at the city-scale, policies were designed to support the overall goals and to tie the project together.

How the project would be implemented
This project would be phased in as funding becomes available and organizational linkages are established. The early stages include creating a task force to oversee the project, addressing contamination with low-cost and long-term strategies of phyto- and bio-remediation, developing the most readily available parcels in the Corridor soonest and targeting infrastructure improvements at these areas to recruit new businesses, and conducting a light rail feasibility study. This earlier phase should also establish the vocational school on the Tower Automotive site, and begin to develop job training programs for the many unemployed residents in the area, utilizing and building from existing job training funding sources. Later stages include developing parcels with longer-term availability in Corridor redevelopment zones, and consolidating public and private support for building the EcoTech Museum on the Tower Automotive site. Beyond this, we expect that Corridor businesses and neighborhoods will have the tools they need to reclaim and improve the community as they choose over time.

How the project would be administered and/or monitored
The project would be administered with the initial commitment of city agencies involved in community development, and supported by the broad array of other Corridor-area stakeholders.



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