Creative Placemaking

MKE United Statement Regarding Public Policy Forum Report

Published on July 25, 2017

Over the last year, MKE United has engaged in wide-ranging civic engagement efforts designed to create a shared and inclusive vision for Downtown Milwaukee and its adjacent neighborhoods. That process identified the City’s revenue framework as one of the key challenges limiting the City’s progress. As a result, the Greater Milwaukee Committee commissioned the Public Policy Forum to develop a report assessing the funding structures of peer cities around the country to inform a community discussion around various approaches.

The resulting report –“On the Money? The City of Milwaukee’s Uncommon Revenue Structure and How it Compares to Peer Cities” – demonstrates the need to consider a revised revenue structure that will reduce the burden on local property taxpayers and enable us to make the investments in our neighborhoods that will attract and retain inclusive and diverse businesses and jobs that benefit all Milwaukeeans.

City Funding Model Outdated

Milwaukee stands alone among its peers in its unusual funding approach:

  • Historically, state aid has been the City’s largest revenue source placing a significant burden on the State and the City’s budget;
  • Wisconsin is the only Midwestern state that property tax is the primary form of local municipal taxation;
  • Every other peer city has multiple local sources of revenue, with the vast majority including a combination of general and selective sales taxes; and
  • Other cities utilize funding mechanisms that reduce the local tax burden on property owners and secure revenue from the thousands of commuters and visitors that use City infrastructure and services every day.

Without significant change, Milwaukee will find it extraordinarily difficult to maintain existing services and impossible to invest in new, innovative approaches to expand economic development throughout the City.

Investing in Our City’s Future

MKE United is developing an ambitious vision for the future of our City that we are extremely excited about. But, we will not be able to make that vision a reality if we can’t develop a more effective and fair revenue structure for the City. This detailed report provides various approaches and roadmaps for all stakeholders – the City, State and broader community – to work together to develop a new and better solution.

We should take note of successful peer cities. As the report demonstrates, a more balanced approach to local taxation would lessen the burden on local property owners, provide greater flexibility in funding, generate revenue growth linked to the City’s economic growth, and lessen reliance on state funding.

We hope this report and subsequent media coverage will help kick-start a vibrant discussion regarding how to best fund vital City services. An effective funding structure will be able to not only leverage the City’s economic growth, but fuel that growth going forward, ensuring that prosperity extends throughout our City.


Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

A Letter from the President: June 2016

Taylor, JuliaAs we enter another beautiful Milwaukee summer, we’d like to share some updates on our key initiatives with you. We’re keeping busy at the GMC offices!

Scale Up Milwaukee

Scale Up Milwaukee recently launched a new membership program model; the very first quarterly members meeting took place at the end of June at the University Club with more than 70 individuals from about 50 organizations. Scale Up Milwaukee membership is the perfect way for everyone to directly engage with Milwaukee’s growth-oriented programs, network and culture. We encourage everyone to join and be a part of this exciting movement. For more information, reach out to Elmer Moore or check out the webpage here.

Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE)

MiKE is in the process of planning Walk the Talk 2016, a conference exploring the intersection of innovation and creativity. The conference is scheduled for Thursday, October 13th, and will be hosted in the Near West Side neighborhood. Leading up to the conference, MiKE will host a summer speaking series. The second speaker is in just a few short weeks on July 20th – check out more information and register here.

The Commons completed its spring 2016 session with another 75 students completing the program. The Commons has now served more than 285 students, and after completing the program, 90% of students feel more connected to our professional community and 81% are more likely to look for job opportunities in Wisconsin.

MKE Fellows

Forty-five high-achieving black male college students have been placed in paid summer internships at top companies through the MKE Fellows. Throughout the summer, we’re hosting professional development sessions and partnering with local companies for lunch and learns. Thank you to all the area companies participating!

Teachtown MKE

The GMC launched this important project in 2013 and since then has welcomed nearly 2,500 educators to our urban schools, helped relocate nearly 500 of them to this region and continues to serve hundreds each month in social and professional development activities. In fact, educators that participate in Teachtown MKE activities are 15% more likely to be retained in the classroom. The Teachtown MKE Key to the City, a card given to each educator, includes free admission and promotions to many of Milwaukee’s cultural institutions.

MPS and Bradley Tech

The Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council teamed up with Milwaukee Public Schools’ Bradley Tech High School recently to get more students interested in construction jobs and enter apprenticeships. Bradley Tech hosted its first Life Mentor Day, organized by local professional mentors and Bradley Tech students to celebrate five months of mentorship and working hands-on with welding, plumbing, tile-setting, heating, brick-laying, cement-laying and electrical wiring activities. Special thanks to Dan Bukewicz for his leadership with that program!

Reimagining High Schools

There is a lot going on throughout our high schools. Just last summer, 62 diverse Milwaukee leaders met at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago to reimagine what MPS high schools can and should be in order for all students to be successful and to create a vibrant Milwaukee community.  Ultimately, the SAS attendees collectively conceived a vision for the MPS high school of the future. This initiative has a strong commitment from the 60+ collaborators from the MPS High School SAS. The GMC, in partnership with Milwaukee Public schools continues to take on projects like the Super School grant with Morse Marshall High School and the Bradley Tech Redesign plan. These efforts are increasing educational opportunities, finding innovative ways to support our schools, and enhancing outcomes for our students.

Talent Dividend/Inspire Southeast Wisconsin

Following up on our Talent Dividend program, now known as Inspire Southeast Wisconsin, in its first year, the program flourished with 110 active companies, 138 active career coaches and 270 career-based learning activities. Thousands of students learned about companies and connected with professionals in the fields they’re interested in.

Downtown Action Agenda

In May, the team of consultants working with the Downtown Action Agenda was in town for Immersion Week. This included several days of meetings to connect the consultants with the planning efforts already underway or recently completed to ensure alignment and avoid duplicative work. The civic engagement phase of the project began just in the last month. The first round of focus groups is coming up in late July and early August, and will engage 100 key community stakeholders.

Creative Placemaking

The GMC’s efforts in creative placemaking were recently spotlighted during a panel discussion as part of the National Main Street Center’s annual conference held in Milwaukee in May. Looking ahead, the Beerline Trail Extension will soon kick off summer programming along the trail in the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods.


We encourage you to stay engaged with our projects this summer. If anything jumps out at you, let us know and we’ll get you hooked in.



Julia Taylor
Greater Milwaukee Committee

Transforming a South Side Neighborhood

Published June 1, 2016
From Urban Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s Clarke Square neighborhood was in the spotlight for one of the sessions at the National Main Street Center’s annual conference held in Milwaukee last week at the Wisconsin Center. The conference was billed as an event that “brings together a coast-to-coast network of city planners, community revitalization professionals, volunteers and elected officials working to sustain the future of America’s historic downtowns.” But the sessions ranged more widely, to include development beyond downtowns.

Sara Daleiden, a cultural production consultant with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, described several projects that have focused on reimagining West Wisconsin Avenue, including temporary installations, NEWaukee-hosted night markets and Creative Alliance Milwaukee’s The Spot4MKE project. Daleiden said these initiatives have shown the “public space is really wanted.” She hopes that development of a city-owned lot on Wisconsin between 4th and 5th streets will include a public space. She is also working with the GMC on projects relating to a citywide trail network that includes walkable city streets. GMC has also developed “The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking,” which Daleiden described as focusing on investing in public spaces, repurposing industrial areas and valuing neighborhoods.

All of the above initiatives focus on remaking places. The Project for Public Spaces has been using the term placemaking since the mid-1990s relating to efforts to create or enhance “places that people love.” The nonprofit, which works throughout the world, began in 1975 based on the ideas of William “Holly” Whyte and Jane Jacobs.  Simply bringing people to a place, whether for special events or on a regular basis, affects how a neighborhood evolves socially and economically.

Read the full article here.

MKE Discovers Chicago: New Video

As part of the research and exploration of best practices, a group of partners and participants working on creative placemaking in Milwaukee went on a discovery trip to Chicago to explore some of the leading work in the field.

Projects visited included the work of artist Theaster Gates and the development of the 606 Trail, which brings together arts, history, design, trails for bikers, runners, and walkers, event spaces, alternative transportation avenues, and green, open space.

Check out the video below!

Fund for Lake Michigan awards $1.4 million in grants

Published March 9, 2016
From BizTimes

The Fund for Lake Michigan this week awarded nearly $1.4 million in private grants aimed at improving beaches, reducing polluted runoff and restoring habitat in Wisconsin.

The fund was established in 2011 by We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and WPPI Energy to safeguard the lake and improve water quality in the region. This round of grants went to 26 different projects throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

A majority of the projects directly impact the Lake Michigan coastline and near shore areas. While other address needs in area watersheds that feed into the lake.

“With water problems increasingly in the news, the fund is delivering on its promise to help protect water resources right here in Wisconsin,” says Vicki Elkin, Fund for Lake Michigan executive director.

Other grants include:

  • City of Algoma ‐ $75,000 to improve water quality and reduce the number of beach closures at Crescent Beach.
  • Harbor District, Inc.  ‐ $40,000 to lead and coordinate efforts to sustainably redevelop and revitalize Milwaukee’s Inner Harbor.
  • Lakeshore Natural Resources Partnership ‐ $30,000 to increase the scope and scale of LNRP’s small grants program.
  • Ozaukee County ‐ $38,500 to identify sources of E. coli that are compromising water quality at Harrington Beach State Park.
  • Racine County ‐ $35,000 to evaluate the condition of existing infrastructure within the Racine Harbor and to identify opportunities for restoration and water quality improvements.
  • Natural Resources Foundation ‐ $60,000 to evaluate how coastal development affects shoreline erosion and how those impacts can be mitigated.
  • University of Wisconsin‐Sea Grant ‐ $17,000 to measure the impacts of beach restoration projects on local communities in Wisconsin.
  • Woodland Dunes Nature Center ‐ $100,000 to restore Forget‐Me‐Not Creek, a two‐mile stream that runs through the nature center’s 1,315‐acre preserve and flows into Lake Michigan just south of Two Rivers.
  • River Alliance of Wisconsin ‐ $84,000 to support the final phases of one of the largest fish passage projects in the country.
  • City of Glendale ‐ $20,000 to use green infrastructure to demonstrate the use of stormwater BMPs at the new Glendale‐Nicolet Recreational Park near the Milwaukee River.
  • City of Milwaukee ‐ $25,000 to design and test a new pilot program to encourage private property owners to retrofit existing parking lots with green infrastructure.
  • Greater Milwaukee Committee ‐ $60,000 to create a linear park along the recently‐completed Beerline Recreational Trail as part of the Beerline Trial Neighborhood Development Project.


For the full article, please click here.

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